In my review of The Medium, I talked about the biggest issue I had with the game. Today, I want to delve into that more, discuss more clearly why I took issue with it, and talk about how it could have been handled better. A lot of people use gaming as an escape, but sometimes that other world can be too real. A lot of people won’t really be affected by this, and I understand that. But for everyone who isn’t bothered, there could be someone who is. The game does feature a trigger warning, but sometimes a trigger warning isn’t enough.
We are all human, we all face difficulties in life, and sometimes we descend into dark places. It is great to see this portrayed in the media, but there are also ways for things NOT to be portrayed. There are a lot of implications throughout The Medium, things aren’t exactly said outright. For example, it is implied that a child was abused, however it isn’t directly said. It’s something you more so gather from context in character dialogue. This is an insanely uncomfortable and messed up thing across all forms of media, regardless.
The section I want to discuss, however, happens early enough in the game. I did talk about this in my review, but not properly. After some exploration and movement using the out of body experience, you enter a room with a bathtub. A tub totally filled with blood. Upon reaching in, you pull out a razor blade. It’s hard not to see the implication here. Unfortunately, it looks as though someone may have taken their own life. This isn’t even the first time this has been in a game.
I realise, I may being picky with this. After collecting the blade, we come face to face with a wall that is explicitly described as skin. Of course, the blade is needed to slice through. Look, it’s not the first time in gaming we’ve had to do something like this. I get it, I do. It’s a horror game, it’s not going to be all sunshine and daisies. It’s the slow, graphic manual cutting of the skin, followed by the line “that was oddly satisfying.” This did not sit well with me, and it made me so uncomfortable. The problem is the implications from the bathtub, combined with that line. Honestly, it wouldn’t be half as bad without the line.
I am an open book, and I am also a gorefiend. It’s not easy to unsettle me. Give me a proper gory horror movie and I am a happy sloth. However there was something about the actual action of cutting through the skin that felt so wrong. This is how you know I’m not a serial killer. It wasn’t even skin on a person, it was just a thick layer of skin blocking a door. I even feel weird writing about this, because I know how it may come across to some people. After an implied suicide to come straight into skin being called satisfying to cut through? It doesn’t sit right with me.
I’m six years clean, friends. But I still remember all the thoughts that used to come into my mind, and all the triggers. I also remember how easy it was for harm to be encouraged in that dark place. That’s why I’m writing this now. We are our own worst enemy. I do fully believe that Bloober Team, the developers of The Medium, meant no harm with the inclusion of all this content. They were simply trying to make a compelling game. But I also want the people who did find this upsetting, or triggering, or who may be hurt by this in the future to know this: you are not alone. Your feelings are valid.
A Parting Word on The Medium
This piece is not intended to bad mouth The Medium or Bloober Team. All I would like to achieve from this is to remind everyone, especially now, in these terrible times that we live in, you are going to be okay. There is a silver lining on every rain cloud. You can pull through this and the sun will shine again. Sometimes, in the midst of trying to create something, it can be easy to forget how something may upset your audience. These things do happen, in all forms of media. Hopefully, through all of this, we can all learn to step back for a moment and say “can this be done any better?” Perhaps if given more time in a non global pandemic scenario, this scene in The Medium could have been improved upon.
This experience gave me a chance to talk a little about mental health awareness, and I want to end this by reiterating one thing. You are never alone in this world, you are loved, and you are important.
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