I have been employed as a security guard and bouncer for approximately 20 years, initially wearing the dark uniform shortly after the release of Tenchu: Stealth Assassins on the original PlayStation in 1998. Similar to the game, my work often entails extended periods of surveillance and navigating through dimly lit areas, with occasional bursts of intense effort to avoid harm (fortunately, not from an arrow from the Sengoku era – although I did have a man throw a temporary bus stop sign through a window while guarding a building).
I have always been fascinated by the contrast between the trespassers I encounter in my line of work and the infiltrators we portray in stealth video games. These infiltrators seem to effortlessly evade guards, while the ones I deal with will fight to the death if caught. It makes me question my own determination, especially considering we are both paid the same hourly rate of £12.03. Perhaps they were trained differently than I was, as I recall being taught that it is more valuable to keep a witness alive rather than being a heroic martyr.
The priority of games is for them to be enjoyable, but the difference between realistic security and stealth games cannot be overlooked. This is particularly evident in combat and pickpocketing scenarios. Despite having to use physical force at times, such as wrestling with individuals who have lost their rationality, I have never encountered someone who could easily steal the master keys from my belt like protagonist Emily Kaldwin can in Dishonored 2.
I have never witnessed anyone attempting to sneak a fiber-optic camera under a door, similar to how Sam Fisher does it. It may be simpler to do so now with the availability of snake inspection cameras for £20, but the closest I have come to unauthorized surveillance was when I saw a man suspiciously lingering outside a building we were guarding. He was hunched over and inspecting ground-floor windows for any openings in the curtains. However, before we could approach him, someone leaving the nearby pub had already knocked him unconscious.
One misconception I want to dispel is that our clothes are not as easy to remove as they are in the strip dance scene in The Full Monty. (This could also explain why I’ve never had my uniform stolen after being tranquilized, something that Agent 47 in IO’s Hitman franchise can do with a simple button press.) While these games are among my favorites in the stealth genre – who doesn’t enjoy dressing up in medieval armor and infiltrating a cocktail party? – one aspect of the series that bothers me is how effortlessly our protagonist can manipulate a limp body.
Agent 47 can effortlessly pull his targets up stairs or deposit them into a chest by simply grabbing one limb. I did not feel as smooth or efficient when assisting my coworker in lifting an unconscious person out of a car park.
I often yearn for a game where the main protagonist is the hired muscle and has the freedom to choose how they handle intruders. While the remastered Metal Gear Solid series and this year’s RoboCop: Rogue City have elements of this, they still heavily rely on the use of a gun to resolve conflicts. Despite some stealth and tactical thinking, the gameplay can feel like a rail shooter at times.
As an individual equipped with only a flashlight and medical supplies, I must approach conflicts with greater caution compared to a mercenary wearing a bandana or a cyborg with bombproof armor. A game centered around my profession may feel similar to levels where you are stripped of all your equipment after being captured. These moments blur the lines between stealth games and realistic security situations. Unless you are working as a bouncer at an axe-throwing establishment, it is unlikely that you will have a significant advantage over a lone attacker. I appreciated the use of this gameplay mechanic in 2017’s Echo, where you must outsmart and defeat a mirrored version of yourself.
There have been moments while on the job when I have hoped for the ability to freely explore the game’s world and quickly move to different locations when feeling overwhelmed. While it may be a common occurrence in Grand Theft Auto, I cannot help but envy the game’s handling of police response. As a guard, we are often the first responders to incidents such as drug overdoses, stabbings, suicides, and car crimes. It would be reassuring to know that I could immediately receive backup from the police if a suspect were to damage a vehicle.
Surprisingly, it is one of Rockstar’s earlier games, Manhunt, that feels the most authentic to me in terms of spending hours protecting people and structures. In this game, you assume the role of a death row inmate who is coerced into sneaking around junkyards and murdering individuals for the sake of reality TV ratings. It may not seem like a typical guard’s duty, but observing the killer’s behavior as they are followed by a camera crew reminds me of how people’s actions change when they know they are being recorded – in my case, by the body-worn camera on my protective vest. I am certain that this camera has saved me more than once.
I am reminded that all of my actions in my job could potentially be presented to a jury. Unlike the ruthless stealth character in Untitled Goose Game, I make an effort to behave in a kind manner.