Anxiety ASMR: Resident Evil 2 as Relaxation
Every lock has a key. Every question has an answer. Every puzzle has a solution. These are the things that Resident Evil 2 teaches you. Admittedly the first game along with Zero, Nemesis and a multitude of others did the same but it’s nice to go back and relearn these things. The Resident Evil 2 remake is terrifying from start to finish but I find a great deal of it strangely calming. The putrid boss battles and Mr X’s booming footsteps notwithstanding Resident Evil 2 has a lot to offer to those that really need a break.
Some studies say that, for some people, horror movies can help us deal with anxiety or stress better. After all nothing helps you feel better about your own situation than seeing a fictional character go through an even worse one. The Resident Evil 2 remake is my version of this. Don’t get me wrong I like horror films but I don’t necessarily find them calming. It’s the acts of repetition and problem solving throughout Resident Evil 2 that help take away the stresses of the day for me.
It all started with the Resident Evil remake that’s available pretty cheaply on the PS4 marketplace. I’d never really played the games before so at the tender age of 21 I dipped my toe in those dark waters. An hour on and I had dived straight in. Despite the grasping undead, ferocious dogs and mutant plants I found myself more relaxed than frightened and more attentive than panicked. More than anything I was surprised.
My lack of patience and ineptitude with puzzles in games is legendary, at least to me it is, so I was amazed at how relaxed I felt. The suits of armour puzzle killed me at least three times before I fully figured it out. Deaths cost in Resident Evil. It means repetition and often dealing with resurrected enemies who would complicate the already arbitrary aiming system. Yet I wasn’t annoyed. The best comparison I have is an ASMR video or calming background noise.
If I’m honest the save room theme helped. An eerily calming piano melody the lilting one minute track always helped calm my nerves before I ventured back out into the dangerous halls of the Spencer Mansion. Every time a zombie or a Hunter or a dog got Jill Valentine – my preferred character – I’d usually respawn in the save room to that music.
But everywhere else was deathly quiet except for the ambient noises of the world around you. The howl of wind and lash of rain. The groans of those brought back by the T-Virus. The crash of breaking glass as those fucking dogs attack. It’s a great piece of design knowing that in only certain parts of the Mansion, often very far apart, are you safe. Yet I found it soothing rather than scary. It takes all sorts I suppose.
Suggested Reading: Nightmares Now and Forever: Resident Evil at 20.
After Resident Evil I played every game in the series I could get my hands on. Some I loved like Resident Evil Zero and others I hated such as Resident Evil 5. But Resident Evil 2 always eluded me. Until two weeks ago that is. Playing as Riverdale character Leon Kennedy is entertaining just for how bland he is. That said every “Holy shit” he yells after a zombie gets back up is extremely relatable. Claire Redfield has a better story and character with the running theme of motherhood and her tough-as-nails attitude. Still I love both equally although I don’t care for Ada. (That’s not really true I just wanted to get the Arrested Development reference in there).
Resident Evil 2 lacks a lot of the more difficult puzzles that I enjoyed so much in the first game. Still that sense of repetition is still there and the setting of the police station gives the location a connect-the-dots feel. Figuring out what keys I need, how to get them, where to avoid and which doors the Lickers are behind is more than enough problem solving especially as the game goes on and the station begins to open up.
I’ve just completed my third playthrough. The second run for both characters is tougher with there being more zombies and Mr X showing up earlier than usual but that just makes the odd kill and regular avoidance all the more satisfying. Resident Evil 2 will reward your knowledge and punish your ignorance but that’s par for the course. There are times though when Mr X is nowhere to be found and the halls of the elaborate Raccoon City Police Department are eerily quiet that Resident Evil 2 feels like a twisted version of Gone Home.
Walking Simulators get a bad rap. Admittedly Gone Home did not deserve to be hailed as an epoch-shattering game changer because it wasn’t. But it was a fun ride all the same. The spooky atmosphere, the calming sound of rain on window panes and the knowledge that you can go at your own pace was a nice change. Resident Evil 2 occasionally gives off that feeling. Before I went into the end game of every playthrough I took one more stroll around the police station.
I went at my own pace. Enjoying the peace and quiet of the station. Trying my best to avoid the mutilated bodies of the zombies, dogs and Lickers I had killed to afford myself this opportunity. I took the time to appreciate the artwork and architecture. I went back to the puzzles and, like a criminal obsessively returning to the scene of a crime, I conjured up the feeling of satisfaction that comes with a puzzle solved. It might not be the right way to play Resident Evil 2 but it’s mine and that’s all that matters.