Last night the psychological illusionist Derren Brown pulled off an amazing stunt on his current TV series which makes an interesting example on the effects of violent games and the appeal of frightening entertainment experiences. He’d commissioned an arcade game to be made called ‘Waking Dead’ which looked like your average House of the Dead zombie shooter. The difference was that it had been designed to induce a catatonic state in people – basically put them to sleep standing up. They set it up in a bar and waited for someone to have a game. Eventually someone did, and after being ‘flashed’ a few times with a white screen his head and gun arm drooped, much to his friends’ bemusement.
Derren and his camera crew rushed in and carried the guy onto a waiting stretcher before wheeling him into a nearby building which, as they entered it, was obviously what the game’s level was based on – the layout and lighting was exactly the same. They left their victim standing in the replica of the room that he was in when he went under and put a fake gun in his hand, then went and hid in an adjacent control room and woke him up.
He was obviously shocked when he woke up in a strange room with a gun in his hand and a dead body on the floor, and then he found that all the doors were locked. People dressed up in as zombies started shambling in from the far side of the room. The guy, obviously terrified, was shouting at them to stay away as he ran around before picking up the gun and threatening them with it. When they wouldn’t stop he started firing at them and squibs attached to them exploded with stage blood to make it look like he was shooting them. This went on for a while with the ones he’d shot getting back up, and by now the guy was hysterical and screaming with terror (the arms groping at the windows didn’t help). When he tried to barricade himself in a small room and force open a window before being overwhelmed by the zombies Derren intervened and put him back to sleep so that they could take him back to the bar.
He was set up with the lightgun in his hand in front of the game and woke up as if nothing had happened. A camera crew burst in and posed as the game’s developers conducting market research to see what he thought of the game, and they found that he was raving about how incredible and immersive it was. He was then shown the video of what he did and was OK with everything.
If it’s shown again I’m going to try to capture it because it really was very interesting. Possibly cruel, but interesting and gripping television nonetheless.