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The Truth Behind The Infamous Eye-Poke Scene In Dead Space 2

Potentially one of the most cringe-inducing sights in video game history is that moment, near the end of Dead Space 2, when protagonist Isaac Clarke steps into a surgical tube and has a needle driven into his brain – through his eye. The in-game goal, of course, is to extract information, but that image remains deeply ingrained in many players' memories because it looks so freaking painful, and it's pretty clear that Isaac is anticipating the moment with true panic. And that's not to mention the reaction that ensues if, in fact, the eye operation fails, a brutal ending if ever there was one.


The sci-fi horror survival title from Visceral Games came out in 2011, complete with a creepy atmosphere, evocative music, heart-pounding moments, and an internally unraveling main character, all of which together made for quite a ride. Still, this one shocking scene remains a dominant visual. And it turns out there's a story behind it, too. Here's the truth about the infamous eye-poke scene from Dead Space 2

Dead Space 2's eye-poke scene was inspired by a nursery rhyme

Dead Space 2's developers decided to use nursery rhymes as a motif to symbolize Isaac's descent into insanity. They appear in the title's marketing as well as inside the game, as with "Ring Around the Rosie" (which didn't make it into the actual game) and "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," which appears in numerous places during Isaac's journey.


So you can easily bring to mind the children's rhyme that inspired the eye-poke moment: "Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye." Creative designer of Dead Space 2 Wright Bagwell told Polygon that, while trying to work out the game's final scenes, one producer threw out the idea of that rhyme, and someone else suggested that they turn it into a moment inside the game.

Bagwell ran with the idea, creating a minigame without any cutscenes. This was designed to be intuitive so that no tutorial would be needed and the player would stay fully immersed in the story. He said, "I wanted the player to get a really deep sense of anxiety about this, which I thought would come naturally from the fact that you are driving a needle into your eyeball, but I wanted to amplify it by having Isaac on the screen, reflecting his anxiety, too." 


Hmm. Seems like he accomplished his mission, all right.

Even the scene's creator had a hard time watching it

Bagwell called the scene a "fun thing to work on," pointing out that when scenes are first built and seen in a rough state, they "tend to look almost comical." But the eye-poke scene never felt lame or silly, not even at the start.


"The first time we saw it — the first time I saw it, anyways — I could barely watch it," he said in his Polygon interview. And, at the end of the Visceral Games meeting that followed the screening, he remembers that everyone in the room was still cringing.

This is saying something, for a crew that has been desensitized to jump scares and gore just by virtue of working on a game like Dead Space 2 all day. Bagwell said that he still has trouble watching that scene.

But he also says he knew it was gold, just because of the level of discomfort it still gives everyone — even though he called it a fairly straightforward and simple game design. Of all the elements in Dead Space 2 designed to scare gamers to death, this short scene succeeds beyond its creators' wildest dreams.