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Five of the Best: Hands


Five of the Best is a series. Every Friday lunchtime, UK time, when you’ve mentally clocked out for the week (but want to look like you’re still working), we’re going to celebrate a different incidental detail from the world of games. How lovely. Last week, we talked about potions. They’re the kind of things you don’t appreciate at the time but get all excited about when someone brings them up later – like, well, now.

Hands! We love them. We paint them, we put metal rings on them, we wave them. And, oh my, those opposable thumbs, aren’t we special. You wouldn’t see a cow drinking a cup of tea would you? Hoofy hooligans.

I see my hands now, flopped on the keyboard, awaiting orders, just like a set of hands in a game. Weird to think of it like that, but think how many hands we’ve seen in games. So many! Hands thrusting into gauntlets and flexing before our eyes, hands holding guns, hands swinging swords, hands casting spells.

They’re so important, particularly in first-person games. They’re often the only part of a character we see – for a long time at least – so they need to convey a lot. Think of the hands in Overwatch and all the work they do, all the character they bring. Moira’s pointy evil science hands; Sombra’s free twiddly hacker hand; Torbjorn’s chunky crank hand. They evoke so much.

But do you ever stop to celebrate them? I bet you don’t so today we will, we’ll give them a hand (I have not even a hint of remorse). Here are Five of the Best according to me. I hope it sparks your memory and you have some to share with me – I’m sure I have overlooked so many hands. Let’s talk in the comments below.

BioShock

There are slight BioShock spoilers below. Nothing gratuitous but it could dampen a plot point so beware.

BioShock’s hands are brilliant because they’re cemented to the story itself. The whole game, you stare at them, from the cinematic introduction onwards, intrigued by the clue in front of you. Then, when the twist is eventually revealed, it’s all the stronger for it. Quite subversive, really, playing on an element we take for granted and hiding a surprise there. And it’s not, of course, the only one in the game.

That’s the big reason, but I’m also a fan of the main character’s left hand scrunching like a claw. The plasmid hand, the power hand, which releases lightning or fire or whatever other super-power you’ve injected yourself with. A constant reminder of the game’s central conceit – a conceit which makes both your character, and BioShock, stand out.