Spiders, maggots, excrement – all things that we are usually very disgusted with. In fact, this defense reaction is not only related to other feelings such as fear or joy, but also fascinates a great many people. Disgusting images have a very idiosyncratic effect on lovers of gore and slasher films. These groups like to drag in derailing violence, abnormal mutilations and worse. The appeal of these genres is the physical reaction to what is shown. As in horror, comedy or tragedy, the body reacts independently to what has been experienced and we are only passengers, while our chests constrict and we involuntarily turn up our noses.
Disgust as an amplifier of emotions
The reason that not all people are disgusted by the same things is that disgust is not an innate trait. Although newborns grimace when they try bitter or sour things, the brown stuff in their pants is far from repulsive. Disgust is
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instead, educated and the more socialized a society, the more disgusting stimuli there are. Slaughtering an animal or emptying a chamber pot has only become disgusting since the urban population no longer needs it: Only the taboo establishes a physical defensive reaction.
And where there is a taboo, there is always a game developer who wants to break it. There's Poop In My Soup and Genital Jousting are just the most obvious representatives of this trend. But it usually only gets really disgusting in horror games and genre-related titles. In The Witcher 3, for example, in view of the aunts and half-rotting corpses, we thought it wasn't going to get worse – until we had to deal with a botchling.
An orphaned premature birth and unwanted pregnancy are probably not enough broken taboos for CD Project, instead we are presented with a blood-sucking, half-decayed red mass. The shock moment works and it is difficult for us at first to empathize with the creature. But it is precisely the physical aversion to the premature baby that makes what is happening all the more tragic when the bloody baron finally recognizes the child.
As Geralt, the disgusting moment catches us quite cold, after all, the world and the many people in it don't seem as gloomy and daunting as in other games that build up real expectations. The rather harmless Bioshock, for example, established the mind game early on, what happened when a cosmetic surgeon called for the next Picasso. The art connoisseur should flinch at this point and in fact the results do not really resemble our current ideals of beauty.
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The scenery is accompanied by an audio track for the aforementioned surgery – 2K Games brings madness, disgust, art and beauty into perfect harmony and spices the whole thing up with a pinch of goosebumps. It is indisputable that the women who have been operated on trigger strong repugnance in us. And the disfigured faces are examples of moral disgust. We do not react to our sensory stimuli, but to the contradiction to our ideas of "right" action.
Of course, every soul-like can come up with individual disgusting monsters and laugh at the little blood, sweat and tears of other titles. But while the bosses in Dark Souls are mostly "badass" and intimidating, in Bloodborne we are meticulous not to memorize too many details of the nightmare creatures. Heated debates about which boss is causing greater horror are by no means settled: Although Ludwig's half-decayed mutant carcass is very disturbing, the spider Rom, as a deformed tarantula, manages to freeze the blood of every arachnophobe.
In The Evil Within we not only experience some proper jumpscares, but also regularly flinch at the explicit depictions of intestines, body fluids and mutated tissue. The disgusting factor spider, pus and chainsaw is joined by psychological terror and the moment of shock of a womanly arachn figure rising from a puddle of blood. Laura may have been a beautiful woman before im
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Play experiencing its reawakening as a six-armed creature. Now her burned skin and her overlong fingernails are a clear signal to us: Disgusting – don't touch. Laura is not even the most deformed and deviant creature in the game series, because Obscura is allowed to celebrate her debut in The Evil Within 2. The living camera consists of three legs sewn together and an innumerable number of metal rods.
The ballerina shoes and the cruel spirit of this construction are symbols of the dead women from which Obscura arose and their perversion. Although we also feel moral aversion, the spider movements evoke defensive reactions of their own. Because disgust often develops through associations – no one would voluntarily consume apple juice from urine test tubes and chocolate pudding in the form of feces. And something that crawls like a spider has eight eyes and a large jaw when in doubt. Laura? No thanks.
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