Bacteria, Blood, Dirty Bathtubs: These Video Games Are A Germaphobe’s Nightmare
Video game worlds are not good places for germaphobes. It’s pretty rare that a major game takes place in a sanitised area where nothing unclean happens. You’re generally outside and/or bleeding. While I don’t consider myself a germaphobe (I am merely germ-aware, thank you very much), some people who have witnessed me wearing rubber gloves to handle a remote in a hotel room might suggest otherwise.
So, here is my (in no way exhaustive) list of game worlds germaphobes would hate.
Tom Clancy’s The Division
What happens: America tries to deal with a biological attack the only way it knows how: With guns.
Why it’s not OK: If there’s one thing we, as a society, can agree on, it’s that cash money is disgusting. Everyone has touched it, children put it up their nose, people drop it in the toilet, and generally unspeakable things have happened to it.
A study in the US found Propionibacterium acnes and Streptococcus oralis on dollar bills – a bacteria that causes acne, and one that’s normally found in the mouth. 80 percent of US bills have cocaine on them, but not enough to be worth risking the other germs. US coins have been shown to allow survival for bacteria like salmonella and E.coli.
What I’m saying is that maybe the pivot to debit cards is a good thing.
This is especially brought home by the plot of the first Division game, which included weaponised bank notes. While Australia’s plastic notes are less hospitable to germs, the Americans use a cotton blend. In the game, likely inspired by colonists early interactions with America’s First Nations people, that cotton is weaponised to spread smallpox.
You’d have to be pretty pissed off if you broke your long-standing no-cash rule just to get some delicious Japanese curry, only to die of smallpox. Also vindicated, because you knew cash was evil.
Resident Evil 2
What happens: A Rookie cop has a bad first day at work when he (and a woman looking for her brother) stumble across the zombie apocalypse.
Why it’s not OK: 90s writers gave kids some unrealistic expectations for adulthood. We grew up knowing to be wary of quicksand, which was obviously waiting around every corner. And we also know that the best way to find a shortcut through the city is to go via sewer.
While I’m sure that everyone who has ever negotiated Swanston Street at peak hour has at least briefly considered that it might be worth the smell, anyone who is afraid of the poo-content of a $5 bill is certainly never, ever going down there.
So, the sequences where Leon was chased through an alarmingly full sewer by a monster were among the scariest of the game. And not because of the monster. He sure did open his mouth a lot during that chase. Can you imagine the splashback? He also wasn’t wearing eye protection.
Fun fact: If you hold onto a railing on a train or tram (which is a great way to catch gastro or the common cold), and then rub your eye, it actually would have been healthier for you to lick the railing instead. Your mouth is far better at fighting off germs than your poor, naive eyeballs. Please enjoy that knowledge as much as I do.
What happens: Kind of like The Hunger Games, but one on one. Has people from different worlds rather than districts. And more violent.
Why it’s not OK: As creative as they are, not a single one of those fatalities follows safe blood exposure protocols prescribed by the CDC. You never see them properly bagging up those organs as medical waste, either, which is just rude. They sure are opening themselves up to a lot of infections for a little petty, violent revenge.
The Last Of Us
What happens: In the not-too-distant future, the world has been ravaged by bacteria that takes over the brains of humans and turns them into creatures not-too-dissimilar to zombies.
Why it’s not OK: Most of the germaphobic issues with The Last of Us likely apply to all post-apocalyptic video games. Like, how do they bathe? How clean is the water they’re drinking? There aren’t any fridges anymore, so how fresh is their food? Toilets probably don’t work still, so that’s gotta be gross.
There is some vindication, in that the initial infection came from mutated bacteria, and those of us who are careful about coming into contact with bacteria likely fared better than those who didn’t.
But just the sight of a Bloater, let alone the aftermath of their death is enough to make your very soul shudder. There isn’t enough Dettol in the world to deal with that whole situation.
Tomb Raider (2013)
What happens: In the reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise, we get to see Lara go from being a meek archaeologist to a nigh-unkillable woman of action.
Why it’s not OK: While many were focused on the big action set pieces, and her fragile emotional state, the germaphobes among us were noticing one other thing: her poor wound care procedures. See, Lara lived through a lot, much of which involved her sustaining open wounds. Unfortunately, being stranded in a variety of exotic locales where the locals want you dead doesn’t lend itself to the use of disinfectant and waterproof bandages. So, poor Lara was dragging herself through sewers and pools of standing water with open wounds.
While it was impressive that she survived the crash and all that came after that, it’s even more impressive that she didn’t die of sepsis.
Almost any game with Yoshi
What happens: Mario has a dinosaur friend, who he sometimes ride/sometimes plays tennis with.
Why he’s not OK: Look, I love Yoshi and his multi-coloured family. But the little bastard’s primary weapon is his mouth, and I am not OK with that. He sticks out his tongue to put things in his mouth and then spits them out, never once considering the consequences of putting an unwashed enemy creature in the same place as he puts his food. He’ll even carry his friends in there sometimes, and that’s just not hygienic.
I appreciate that, as a reptile, he’s likely a lot cleaner than creatures with fur, and less likely to have lice or whatever, but we never once see any evidence that he bathes.
What happens: Addict tries to escape his demons while attempting to collect all the pills and cherries.
Why it’s not OK: We’ve all seen the PSAs about how drugs are made in toilets and unclean bathtubs. Manufacturers supposedly just aren’t into cleaning their illegal drug labs. I’m sure we’re all concerned about PAC-Man’s drug problem, but he’s uncontrollably eating those unclean drugs off the floor, and then being killed by his hallucinations, which is just gross and deeply tragic.
What happens: 100 people are dropped in a warzone, and you have to play extreme hide and seek to be the last one to survive.
Why it’s not OK: You just put on clothes you find on the ground? You pick up a stranger’s weapons without wiping them clean first? You drive the cars of strangers with cloth seats – and anyone who has accidentally gotten in a cab with cloth seats knows that squishy feeling of accumulated stranger germs.
Worse still, you hide in the bathtubs of abandoned houses. Do you know who doesn’t clean their bathtub? Someone who is fleeing forever.
Alice Clarke is a journalist, game reviewer, presenter, scriptwriter, TV lover, PAX Aus Diversity Lounge co-curator, & frozen pea fan. You can find her tweeting here.