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Maniac Mansion
Growing up (and to this day), I've always had a taste for horror movies. I can remember sneaking to watch Friday the 13th Part 4: The Final Chapter when it aired one summer night on HBO. As my mother and older brother sat enjoying the Vorhees carnage, I peered from the laundry room of the basement, amazed at the titties and blood and murder and titties. Unable to cope with my boner and tears of terror, I ended the night crying myself to sleep with visions of Jason's head sliding down the machete Tommy just lodged upside it…and a wave or two of some titties. As strange as it is to say, I watched so many horror movies before I honestly should have, that I just got used to on-screen, live action dismemberment. Movies, horror, gore…they all seemed to connect in a manner that, while scary as all hell to the average 5-13 year old, did not effect me to the extent of shitting on everything and everyone. I was not immersed in video games (at the time) in the same way I was movies, so I was never struck with what I considered being fear while playing. It was always about saving the princess, finding the princess, or some other mundane task I so eagerly took on back in the day. Until the survival horror genre is born, in my opinion, with Maniac Mansion for the C64. I like to call it "The Pant Shitter". That was the first time a video game scared me, without being scary at all. For those readers unfamiliar with Maniac Mansion, it was a point and click adventure/comedy/horror game released by Lucasfilm Games in 1987. Keep in mind this was a time before Lucasfilm Games would become LucasArts. The people made great games and had fellatio worthy talent as developers, such as Tim Schafer. They had not reached their Star Wars pimpin plateau of shitty licensed games just yet. Maniac Mansion saw several platform releases, but I only played the C64 version so deal with it. 

Now, the story was typical of the 80s – a badly named character affair focused on rescuing the damsel in distress. In this case, cheerleader Sandy Pantz. Some 20 years before Sandy's abduction, a purple meteor, crashed in the front lawn of the Edison Family (the game's antagonists). Legend has it that, since the meteor's arrival, Dr. Fred, his wife Nurse Edna, and their son Weird Ed withdrew even more from society. Their home went to shit; no one ever saw them and patients started disappearing from the local hospital. The police could not see a connection between it and the creepy, reclusive Dr. Fred and Nurse  Edna. Once Sandy has been taken, it is up to her boyfriend Dave to save the day. As a 10yr old gamer at the time, I remember how inviting the box art was, how it did not come off as scary or intimidating. Just a group of school kid stereotypes in front of a cartoon "scary" mansion with some guy grinning in the background, Saturday morning cartoon stuff. That managed to change, with one classic scene…the goddamn kitchen! Upon entering the mansion and beginning my journey from one end of the kitchen to the other, a collection of pain inflicting items are attached to the wall above the sink. Smeared on the wall besides the items (which included a chainsaw) was what appeared to be blood. The further I continued a refrigerator came into view, a refrigerator with the same blood-like liquid seeping from the bottom of the closed door. What seemed like out of nowhere, Nurse Edna popped up and started chasing my character. Not only did I scream out loud, I quit the game. I know readers are thinking I wear frilly laced panties in an x-tra large, but they are large so neener neener neeeee-ner! 

The Kitchen

When I finally did return to playing, I returned to the kitchen to find Nurse Edna had gone, but the fridge was still there. Should I see what was leaking from within or should I just ignore that shit and get to steppin'? Decision, decisions. I opted for the first and opened the fridge. OH. MY. GOD. It is…KETCHUP! It was just a broken bottle of ketchup. All the tension and apprehension I endured was over a fucking broken bottle of ketchup…brilliant! I understand my quitting, in part, was simply due to my age at the time. There were not many "horror" games available to me in '87, so Bowser was about the scariest thing I'd encountered. I think the remaining aspects are partly the reason I'm writing this to begin with; it was the birth of survival horror genre. Even after playing Alone in the Dark or Resident Evil or Silent Hill, I was never effected the same way. I've played games that startled me or incorporated horror elements in them, but I'm guessing the level or horror I intake numbs me to the scares many developers try to deliver. While Maniac Mansion was mostly a comedic and lighthearted affair, the scares it provided were so well done and unexpected, I'm still surprised it is not mentioned more often. It has things like the blood/ketchup misdirection that make Maniac Mansion such a standout. There was not any blood or killing, but it had an extraordinary way of leading the player to believe there was. Rather than just startle players to death, it was a game that allowed the player's imagination to be their own worst enemy. Off in the shadows, sitting by itself reading an "O" magazine, Maniac Mansion has become nothing more than a distant memory to most. In my opinion, the contributions to gaming go beyond being one of the five LucasFilm/Arts Games worth a damn, it is quite simply, a classic.