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Resident Evil 2 Is How We Feel Inside

I’m not a fan of big groups. Or even small groups. I guess I’m just quietly expecting people to turn on me. Especially church people—we have a terrible reputation for eating our own. Resident Evil 2 turns that subconscious fear into visible reality: even the most helpful people are all trying to eat me. Especially the law enforcement. When I try to get my bearings in a safe room and come up with a basic survival plan, I hear the relentless stomps of authority figure, Mr. X, hunting me from two rooms away.

It confirms my suspicions. Resident Evil 2 is my real emotional state—visualized.

I can’t think. I can barely breathe. My only instinct is “RUN!” It’s my second scenario. I’m now Leon after finishing as Claire, thinking it’s going to be a little easier now that I know the Raccoon City Police Department layout. But I find myself sprinting for the darkroom under the staircase, limping after a licker attack. I’m not sure I’ll make it past the new zombies pouring in through the window I forgot to board up. I just need to clear a path. I use up my last seven rounds of 9mm when I hear Mr. X’s footsteps coming down the hall. My grip tightens. I lock up.

This is exactly how I feel when my six week old daughter starts screaming because of acid reflux.

Resident Evil 2 is my real emotional state—visualized.

That’s an exaggeration. I’d take three Mr. Xs coming to kill me instead of another hour of my baby’s screams, where I feel like I can do nothing but endure my daughter’s pained cries. I want to run but there’s nowhere to go. I work from home. My kids need me.

Why am I playing this video game when I’m already shaking from other anxieties? Maybe it’s because I at least have a gun—a tool to deal with my symbolic fears. It’s the single encouragement in the survival horror genre: you can beat the game. There’s no such guarantee with parenthood. Those little humans could very well kill you.

I start wondering if this stressed-out headspace is just temporary. Then I remember when I picked up Resident Evil 2 the first time in 1999. Not to be too horror-romantic but I received the game in a darkened storefront after our town lost power. My coworker picked up a copy for me before the start of our shift (and before we lost power). By spotty passing car lights, I pored over the manual wearing my Subway uniform, hoping the power wouldn’t come back on and force us to face the truly terrifying: customers. Back then I didn’t have the self-awareness to recognize the metaphor for the uncertainty of human encounters—or my own terror of interpersonal confrontation. I did know that I hated when people were unhappy with me. So I got used to using whatever tools I could scavenge to keep them from turning on me.

If there was ever a metaphor for “I can’t deal with this,” it’s Mr. X.

He has set Twitter on fire. This fedora-wearing giant’s five-hundred-pound footsteps send a clear message: you need to run. My personal favorite is this meme, which personifies Mr. X as pure anxiety.

Oh, I wish I couldn’t relate.

Maybe I’m just late to the terror party. It took me this long to recognize that the horror genre externalizes our grossest emotions. This is how we look our fears in the exposed skeletal face.

This last few months have drawn out the worst emotions in me. Dealing with our newborn daughter’s health issues has set our whole family scrounging. Last month when I played Ashen, it provided some windows of respite. Now delving into Resident Evil 2’s mega-horror, I’ve found myself confronted with my own ugliest desires to run from that which terrifies me (my infant daughter’s cries for relief). But now that I can name the thing I’m terrified of, perhaps I have some ammo to deal with it.

M. Joshua crafts indie game trailers. He loves games that capture the feeling of going on a date, or process the loss of loved ones — especially games that do both. He resides in Red Lion, PA with his wife, son, and dog, Luna Lovegood.

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