This year marks 25 years since “Resident Evil” debuted.
Let me tell you a story…
The year is 1996 and I’m not even ten years old yet. The world of Horror to me is something that is still a taboo, with top shelf VHS tapes featuring covers of blood, monsters and suggestiveness of something a bit naughty and my only experiences of Horror are Ghost trains, trick or treating, kid friendly Horror basically.
Shows such as “AAAHH Real Monsters!”, “Goosebumps”, “Are You Afraid Of The Dark?”, were my foray into this world and it was a safe space. Now Horror gaming was something I never even knew existed at this point, when it came to the gaming world I knew Super Mario, Sonic The Hedgehog, etc, all that was about to change.
A friend of mine invited me over for a sleepover, after grabbing my stuff and heading over we made our way to his room, his room was in the attic, not one of these huge attic rooms you see on TV but an English attic room which if you don’t know are usually very cramped and dark.
Now this was during the English winter time so 90% of the time it’s dark and rainy. Whilst playing away on his brand new PlayStation, something I was dreaming of getting for Christmas, my friend pulled out a game I’d only heard murmurings about, that game was “Resident Evil”.
I’ll openly admit to you that in this moment I was terrified, not only was this my first foray into Horror gaming, I also felt I was in a situation I couldn’t get out of, male bravado at it’s finest eh. So there I was in a dark, cramped attic, rain pounding on the roof and I had no idea what was about to happen.
So far all we’d done was selected a character, ‘Jill Valentine’ if I remember correctly, and then a video started. That video would be seared into my brain as I’d never seen anything like this, this was a video for a game but it featured real life people. My mind was blown but also terrified as it turned out to be a mini Horror film.
Watching this video back now it sure does have a lot of nostalgic value to it, sure it hasn’t aged well and it’s not scary at all to watch now but for those who grew up in that era, that intro video became infamous for terrifying millions of kids worldwide and I was one of them.
Then we finally entered the mansion and we could now start playing the game, I remember thinking to myself “if that was only the beginning of the game what was the rest going to be like?!” I was seriously on edge but trying my best not to show it, I don’t know if I was successful though.
We played that game for hours and hours and hours, one jump scare after another, the games tension and suspense never seemed to let up. Just when you thought you were safe, you were suddenly reminded that you never are. This was so much for my young mind to take in.
I never got a wink of sleep that night, I was too petrified thinking that a zombie might crawl up the stairs and attack us. I couldn’t wait to get home and in my safe space and back to my world of cartoon monsters and my Super Nintendo games. Unfortunately I would have to wait.
It turned out my friend had begged his parents to let me stay another night as we were having so much fun playing his new game, they had agreed and so after ringing my parents and asking if it was okay I was told I could stay. So now I had one more night of “Resident Evil” ahead of me.
Between zombies, rabid dogs, giant tarantulas and slow tension filled scenes of just opening a door (I can still hear those footsteps and door creaks) I ended up having another sleepless night and the trauma had started to set in. I just wanted to go home and be in my comfort zone.
It sounds funny now looking back on it but you have to remember that this whole Horror gaming thing was a pretty new thing at the time, I didn’t sleep properly for a while after that weekend and the anxiety stayed with me for a while as well. I was legitimately mentally scarred by this game.
I didn’t play that game again for a very long time, in fact it would be years before I would attempt to play the game again. When I did finally go back to it I was surprised at how quickly I became obsessed with it, I was seriously hooked and spent hours roaming the mansion and enjoying the suspenseful atmosphere.
I was obviously way to young and not ready for the game the first time I played it, I know a lot of people who had similar experiences to mine where they were completely freaked out by the game. It truly was a case of’ you just had to be there’ to understand how scary this game was when it was released.
I tried to play the sequels but they never had the same magic for me and the less said about the films the better but that first game was something, it was a huge phenomenon at the time of it’s release and it also inspired a lot of other Horror based games including the highly successful “Silent Hill”.
That experience has stayed with me for all these years, 25 long years, every time I see something “Resident Evil” related I always think back to that fateful weekend. Sure the game hasn’t aged well and the series went on for too long but there’s no denying that the first game truly did make a cultural impact.