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May 05

Derren Brown’s disturbing video game stunt

Do You See17 comments • 6,251 views

I’ve openly admired most everything Derren Brown has done, with the exception of the silly Russian Roulette show. There was a so-so counting trick on tonight’s show with the episode’s “guest celeb” Jo Whiley which i could have done without, but the highlight of the show was a stunt that managed to appall me. He appears to send an unsuspecting man playing a (made up) zombie-shooting video game into a trance. Then he pops out of hiding and takes the mark and two of his friends to a building down the street. The building has the same layout as the game – obv the game is modelled on it. He then places a paint-ball rifle in the mark’s hand and hides again with the mark’s friends as they watch on TV. The mark comes out of his trance and looks around disorientated, but then actors start to shamble towards him in zombie make up.

The mark freaks out. Surprise. He acts immensely scared, running for, and banging on, (locked) doors, then goes Full Metal Jacket shooting the zombies. This went on for some time. I wanted it to stop. And when it did, as Derren sent him back under, he was clearly deeply scared or upset.

The “punchline” is DB then takes the mark back down the street to the video game in the pub, gets his friends to stand just as before and mark comes out of trance. When asked about the game by the “game’s designer” he calmly explains how great the game was.

I’ve not worked through exactly why I found this distasteful, but my first instinct is that it seems like a more mentally exploitative version of a Candid Camera trick. Derren’s marks are usually aware of their involvement – and this didn’t appear to be the case this time. Perhaps there was a reason for this, but I can’t see why the trick couldn’t have been otherwise staged. Even had that been the case it would have been a lot less “improper”, but still to some degree disturbing. Getting someone to manifest the appearance of being SHIT scared, though later they seem quite calm, seems out of place from the rest of the stunts in the series. Even in the fantastic seance he staged last year, the subjects only scared themselves – there is a difference in the subject’s volition. Perhaps this is the very point that does vanish under the extreme psychological states the show covers. Like I say, I’m still undecided on this. It is just a stage hypnotist’s trick, and i’m not one to be hating on the fun. Hmm.

One extra worry remains – this was a situation that deliberately appeared to blur fantasy and reality (though like I say, after the fact, the reality of that seemed to be largely forgotten). Isn’t this the core of psychosis? Again, perhaps I’m over-reacting, the simple definition of “the perception of reality is distorted” pretty much sums up a lot of DB’s tricks.

It would be unfair of me to omit the fact that DB later shows the mark the video of the full episode which he takes with much humour and appears to be enjoying.

Maybe I wouldn’t have been so upset if he’d sprung the trick on Jo Whiley.

Comments

  1. 1
    Lord_Darkclaw on 23 Feb 2007 #

    Having being very freaked out by D.B since the first time I saw his TV show, I am pleased to say that the “video game” hypnosis trick is nothing more than that – a trick, and NO HYPNOSIS INVOLVED!

    I’ve looked into the subject of hypnosis for years and I can say with confidence that there is absolutely no scientific evidence that hypnosis is real; as has been demonstrated many times, people will do outrageous things when they are on stage – either because it is an excuse to shed their inhibitions or because they don’t want to embarrass the “hypnotist” or dissapoint the audience by being the party-pooper who says “no”.

    As to D.B’s (I still can’t bear to write his name!)other tricks, they are all variations of old tricks that have been doing the rounds for decades. When he claims on his TV show that everything you see him do is for real and no trickery involved, it’s a half-truth at best.

    You might be wondering why I should have been so freaked out by him; well, I know a few psychological tricks myself that could cause upset to people – I can tell them secrets about themselves that they would never believe anyone could know. So when a professional like D.B makes claimed to be able to read/control people’s minds, of course I was frightened by it because I knew it might be possible.

    Some of the tricks still have me a little baffled – the “which hand is the coin in?” trick for example where D.B guesses correctly every time and can even say whether it will be heads or tails. I do know however, that it is based on reading body language and facial expressions.

    I find it a little disturbing (or a lot, if the truth be known) that anyone should have the ability to tell so easily and I would very much like to know exactly how it is done so that I can defend against it ( I should mention that I have a major phobia about lie-detectors but a bit of reading on the subject revealed that polygraph-tests are a con – check out Anti-Polygraph.org – so at least I don’t have to afraid of them now)but I am not willing to spend money on books learning about it; the truth about the “Magician’s Code of Secrecy” is that they make money selling very expensive books that reveal the tricks – sometimes magicians can be very greedy and will stoke up curiosity about a trick in order to sell more.

    I really seriously don’t like D.B.

  2. 2
    Alan on 23 Feb 2007 #

    He actually mentions the video-game stunt in his book (in a footnote as I mention here). In the same book he discusses the nature of hypnotism from a positive and sceptical position, and it’s well worth reading just for his opinion and some of the anecdotes surrounding the reality, or not, of hypnotism. You are very much in agreement with him on the “people will do outrageous things when they are on stage” bit.

    You are in a bind if you “would very much like to know exactly how it is done so that I can defend against it” but don’t want to pony up for an expensive book by a greedy magician. So I will save you the hassle:

    First up, I think you’ve got the wrong end of the stick with DB – he’s on your side. He knows you can beat polygraphs for insance. And you’ve got it slightly wrong when you say his show is “for real and no trickery” – the line DB uses at the start of most shows is “I mix magic, suggestion, psychology, misdirection and showmanship”. So he’s saying up front that there IS trickery.

    Nor does DB claim any great originality – he often reproduces old tricks on purpose – did you see him do table spinning?! – in order to demonstrate that such tricks have NO supernatural basis at all, just pure human physiology and psychology.

    A new trick in magic is a rare thing – it’s dressing it up and recombining them in novel ways that gets someone noticed.

  3. 3
    Lord_Darkclaw on 23 Feb 2007 #

    “I mix magic, suggestion, psychology, misdirection and showmanship”

    Yes, he does say that, but in the opening to the first show I saw, he said something to the effect of “THAT was a trick, but everything else you will see in this show is REAL”.

    I don’t remember the exact wording, but I’m pretty sure that that was more or less what he said, because I paid particular attention to it.

    “Suggestion and psychology” are both methods of manipulating people; they are not tricks, you could call them tricks in the sense that there is no magic involved, but this is a guy who would have the shirt off your back in a game of poker – you would never have a hope of beating him unless perhaps you wore dark glasses all the time.

    I don’t like it when people can use psychology to take advantage of me or learn things about me that I would prefer to keep secret.
    It wasn’t so many years ago that people didn’t give a thought to how they crossed their legs, but now, everyone is concious of what it tells the person they are sitting next to.

  4. 4
    Admin on 24 Feb 2007 #

    only pretty sure, “more or less”. i wouldn’t spend much more time worrying about it – DB’s techniques aren’t as powerful as you seem to think – nobody can find things about you that you want to keep secret. The trick is making it SEEM like that is the case to the point of miraculousness – that is the essence of his act.

  5. 5
    Lord_Darkclaw on 24 Feb 2007 #

    I don’t know.. does anyone remember the trick where he lays out five or six playing-cards and challenges a guy to take away all but one of the cards – one of the cards will win him £20,000 but the card he leaves on the table of course IS that card.

    Was it just a trick? I don’t understand how it could be possible and DB swore that it was NOT a trick.

  6. 6
    Admin on 24 Feb 2007 #

    Of course it is a trick.

  7. 7
    Lord_Darkclaw on 24 Feb 2007 #

    Are you sure? I mean, I know it’s a trick of some kind – DB wouldn’t have bet £20,000 if he thought he might lose; but was it a psychological trick?

    From what I recall, the cards were simply laid out on a table and only one card was marked. DB didn’t touch the cards after he put them down and the other guy picked up all but that one card.

    The only trick that would work is an old fashioned card-switch at the last second when he flips the card over, but as stated at the beginning of the show: “no tricks”. As I understand it, DB promises that he doesn’t use sleight of hand in the show.

    Come to think of it, I think it was the other guy who flipped the card himself.

  8. 8
    Admin on 25 Feb 2007 #

    “Was it a psychological trick?” but you said that he said it wasn’t a trick?! Go back and I expect he did not say “it’s not a trick” (it patently is) – perhaps he said something more specific (a youtube link would be nice). Also don’t forget you don’t necessarily see the whole setup for his tricks – like in the zombie stunt, the show neglected to show important prior shenanigans, specifically the subject’s effective collusion and softening up for the spectacle.

    An important part of a magician’s repertoire is being able to leave people with false recollections of what was said at what point. DB readily admits that all his so-called mind reading is down to nothing more than reading body language, practice and magician’s traditional ‘forcing’ techniques.

  9. 9
    Lord_Darkclaw on 25 Feb 2007 #

    Well, if it was a card trick and not a demonstration of using psychology to influence which cards a person will pick, then he was lying.

    So, any idea how he did the Orson Wells portrait trick – the one where he tosses a paper-ball to a crowd to pick a person out at random to guess what the painting under the cover is?

    Again, this was not portrayed as a trick – if it were a trick then the simplest solution would be to use a half-dozen stooges. As far as I could tell, that was not the case. So how did he plant the name “Orson Wells” into the mind of a person picked at random?

  10. 10
    Alan on 25 Feb 2007 #

    Like I say you’d have to show me the clip. You actually seem to have seen more of his telly than I have. Sorry, but I’m not privy to how he does all his tricks. My background in magic is purely amateur and from some time ago. That give me enough insight into knowing that its enough to understand the limits of the possible and not infer anything more than clever.

  11. 11
    Lord_Darkclaw on 25 Feb 2007 #

    I can’t bear to watch him, so I have no idea where to find a clip from –
    I only saw two of the early shows.

  12. 12
    V on 25 Feb 2007 #

    For someone who can’t bear to watch him, you don’t half seem interested in talking about him.

    I know sod all about magic, but I’ve spotted him phrase a few things weirdly that have ended up having something to do with the result before (eg. talking to someone about supermarket layout and how supermarkets arrange crisps to get you to buy a certain flavour “like ready salted, or salt and…..you know, whatever.” For a start, supermarkets do do that but by brand/product, not so much flavour, and who the hell forgets the word “vinegar”? Anyway, the person chose a bottle of vinegar out of everything in the supermarket and Derron magically guesses.) Suggestion must come into it a lot, maybe he mentioned (or almost mentioned) the word Rosebud or said something else that reminded people of Orson Wells, in a way that was obvious enough for people to want to say it (maybe not saying vinegar made the person want to correct him at the time, but they couldn’t get a word in edgeways at the time and the desire to do that just stuck), but not obvious enough to actually remember. I suppose not all of the pre-trick talking will be shown on the telly either, the person editing might not know how it’s done and won’t know what’s important to keep in.

  13. 13
    Lord_Darkclaw on 25 Feb 2007 #

    Thanks V, I know I do keep coming back to this – it’s something I’m scared by so I feel better talking about it.

    I heard there was another trick in a supermarket where he makes a whole crowd of strangers suddenly stop and raise their hands in their air.. was that in the same episode?

  14. 14
    Ash on 16 Feb 2008 #

    I was scared for that guy in this trick. I think he should have picked subjects voluntarily and not just a random person.

  15. 15
    Alan on 16 Feb 2008 #

    if you look in one of the related articles you’ll see that in his book:

    “in a long footnote, Brown expresses regret about the way his Zombie stunt was edited. He makes it clear here that the mark was definitely involved before hand”

  16. 16
    Cerebrial_Manipulator on 2 Oct 2008 #

    This is a response to the so-called, “Lord_Darkclaw”. Either you are just a complete half-brain or you just really do not know your research well enough on the subject of hypnosis. I don’t care how many years you claim you looked into the subject of hypnosis, because the true fact of the matter is that you don’t know CRAP about hypnosis! That being said, I advice that you take your little pseudo-confidence that you try so desperately to surround yourself with in order to hide your heavy fears about hypnosis and bury it down into the gutter. It’s really pathetic just how quickly you develop a false sense of confidence that gives you the highly insecure nerve to say that hypnosis is not real. Your claim of years of experience in hypnosis research are an absolute laugh! That phony kangaroo research method you claim you did on hypnosis for years means nothing! All of those alleged years of research and all you end up clinging to is scientific evidence? If I were standing in front of you I would just laugh! Your mind is so small that you have to end up resorting to scientific evidence as the only means to find answers?? Pardon the phrase, but you sound like you were born just yesterday! Here is some actual facts for you, Mr. “Lord_Darkclaw”, that I suggest you take into serious account and etch deep into your brain: YOU DO NOT NEED ANY SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE TO PROVE THAT THE ACT OF HYPNOSIS OR MIND CONTROL IS REAL! The act of hypnosis and mind control ARE REAL regardless of whether science has evidence about it or not! Science is narrow and very limited, therefore, it does NOT have the capability to prove or to even show evidence on something so advanced like hypnosis! Just because science cannot provide any evidence on hypnosis DOES NOT mean that hypnosis is not real, and you would really have to be a seriously stupid and moronic human being to actually believe that hypnosis is not real just because mere science cannot provide evidence! Hypnosis is literally thousands and thousands of years old! Science is only a mere three or four hundred years old! What can science possibly do? Science only deals with physical evidence! Hypnosis lies in the realm of the non-physical, therefore, how can you possibly expect to find physical evidence to something that is not even physical?? Only an idiot resorts to science as the sole and only method of providing answers to our mysteries and phenomenon. I already know FOR A FACT that hypnosis is real, so I don’t need science to come up with any type of evidence to prove it! I know that hypnosis is VERY REAL, because I have personally experienced it myself, like many others have, and I don’t give a goddamn crap whether you believe it or not. Your claims are all based on misinformation. You are so gullible to believe and to absorb such false information that feeds you lies and brainwashed nonsense, so it can program your mind and make you convinced that hypnosis is not real. Your misinformed disbelief in hypnosis is nothing more than that – a total misinformation, and it has no bearing nor consequence whatsoever. Hypnosis is a reality, whether you like it or not. Hypnosis is REAL whether science can prove it or not. The facts are that simple!

    It’s really amusing the way you so blindly come across acting as if you definitely know for sure that hypnosis is not real. It’s so overboard the amount of effort you put into it only to demonstrate just how ignorant you are on the subject. It’s just incredibly hilarious! Maybe it’s just the way you write. Though, what’s really pathetic about the whole thing is that you actually think that because science has been unable to provide any scientific evidence on hypnosis, even demonstrating it many times over, as you so claim, that it proves hypnosis for sure doesn’t exist. Wow! What a seriously ridiculous feeble mind you have there. It’s just incredibly shocking! I don’t care how many times in a century science demonstrates they cannot come up with evidence on hypnosis. That does NOT prove a damn thing whatsoever! Hypnosis is a reality, a powerful phenomenon that is real and that works, I don’t care how many times science fails to prove it. Scientific evidence means CRAP when it comes to hypnosis, mind control, and any other type of phenomenon. Science going out to find evidence on the existence of hypnosis is like a 5 year-old trying to find traces of a power plant motor part that his 70 year-old grandfather locked inside a steel vault that is built into a wall. Do you think that 5 year-old is ever going to find that hidden motor part as long as he always remains 5 years old?? Here’s another hypothetical example for you. If I find a real pink crystal rock that shoots beams of red lasers in a 2-square mile radius when held under the sun at a particular hot temperature, and I hide it securely somewhere inside a huge castle or a mansion, then I tell you about it and ten, twenty, or thirty years go by and you are still not able to find the pink crystal rock inside the mansion, does that mean that the pink crystal rock doesn’t exist, when I know I have it and have been checking on it periodically during the last 30 years?

    It’s so amusing how you spend so much time trying to figure out how great illusionists, mentalists, and hypnotists like D. Brown do their acts, which for some reason they disturb you so much, that you totally miss the point and fail to put your mind on the paranormal realm where hypnosis truly lies to figure it out. You waste so much time wanting to figure out so bad how DB does his acts, just so you can defend yourself against it, because you are so frightened by his superior mental abilities, so you feel you have to defend yourself against it. Why are you so easily disturbed with DB’s acts, which you like to call them “tricks”, to begin with? Why do you so quickly feel the need to have to defend yourself against it, when there is nothing to defend yourself against in the first place? You feel a total loss of mental control and personal security when DB performs his abilities, and that’s what frightens you, not knowing something that he knows very well and that he can manipulate around you. Well, this proves just how really phobic you are, which, by the way, the phobia element makes you a perfect candidate and an easy target for a hypnosis or phenomenon test subject.

    You are so easily disturbed by these advanced mental phenomenon that you latch yourself onto the most easily accessible safety net by dismissing DB’s acts as just tricks in order to make yourself feel less frightened of the lingering thought that it all might be real. You react this way as a cover up to ease your phobia, just in case you’re wrong about hypnosis. It’s not enough for you to dismiss just DB’s hypnosis as not real, but the entire hypnosis kingdom has to be unreal, too! Sorry to be the part-pooper, but fact of the matter is that you are WRONG, so don’t be so quick to try and please yourself by thinking that DB’s video game phenomena is only a trick, because all the other phenomenon acts he performs are DEFINITELY NOT just tricks. You like to say they’re all just tricks, because that’s what you want to believe, just so you can make yourself feel better and ease the wretched phobia you have to what you cannot understand. I don’t care how many times you need to try to convince yourself that hypnosis is not real just so you can ease your thumping fears, the truth is that HYPNOSIS IS 100% REAL, and in some of DB’s phenomenon acts that he performs, THERE CLEARLY IS REAL HYPNOSIS INVOLVED!!

    It’s funny. The ridiculous comments that you make when you try so hard to dismiss the reality of hypnosis as a mere trick are so laughable. Not only are you trying to dismiss the reality of hypnosis as just a trick, but you are also trying really hard to convince yourself in your mind that it’s all a trick as well, just so you can ease your excruciating phobia. Somewhere in the back of your mind you fear that it all may be real, but you reject that thought, so you quickly react against it, because you have a pre-conceived notion in your head that all this just cannot be real, that it just has to be a trick, and because your pre-programmed mind does not know how to think otherwise, and is also very afraid to think otherwise, you resort to weakness and fear and take it all as a threat, so you think that you have to defend yourself.

    Well, it’s too bad in your case, because you are just going to have to keep feeling fearful and threatened by DB’s true mental abilities, since you will NEVER get to figure out exactly how he does what he does, getting it right each and every time, while you keep on going the same limited small-minded road you’re on.

    You know, Lord_Darkclaw (interesting name for a pre-programmed non-believer), it’s ironic you should think that the only way to prove anything that is still rendered into the category of mystery is by looking onto science for proof, as if only science can prove or disprove every single mystery in the Universe. Funny you should believe that total absolute nonsense that has been proven time and again to be such crap, because by you believing that, you are practically saying clearly and straightforwardly that you believe something is real only if it has been scientifically proven with evidence, that if it has not been scientifically proven or given scientific evidence, then it’s simply not real. That is clearly what you are admitting publicly in your comment. So, here is a mind twister for you. Do you love your parents? Do you love your children? Do you love your brother, your sister, your intimate partner, or your friend? I bet that you do, and I bet that you would immediately answer yes to at least one of these questions, if not all or most. Well, here comes the ironic part. Interesting you should answer yes to any of these questions and actually admit that you do feel love towards one or more persons in your life, because throughout history, people have looked into the subject of love, not just for a few years, but for several hundreds of years, and I can certainly say with true confidence that there is absolutely no scientific evidence whatsoever that “love” is real. As a matter of fact, there is clearly no scientific evidence to prove that love is real, so that means that whatever love you claim to feel for someone you know in your family is purely fake. The love you say you feel for someone in your family is purely fake, because until this date, science has not yet provided any solid evidence that love is a real phenomenon, so whatever love you say you have for a family member of yours, it’s not real.

    You think that hypnosis is not real, just because there is no scientific evidence? Well, then the love you claim to feel for any member of your family is also not real, there is absolutely no scientific evidence that love is real either. Think about this one, then tell me if you honestly think it makes any sense at all not to believe in hypnosis because science fails to prove it, but to believe in love instead, even though science fails to prove that, also!

    ~Donnie Darko

    P.S. By the way, Lord_Darkclaw, the only true party-poopers are those cheap-for-hire corporate geeks who’ll do outrageous contradictory things onstage just to please the obsessed skeptic “debunker” that is trying so hard to demonstrate to his audiences that hypnosis is not real, and they do these outrageous contradictory things onstage that makes hypnosis appear to be fake just as an excuse to shed their inhibitions, because they don’t want to embarrass the skeptic “debunker”, and because they don’t want to disappoint the audience of non-believers by being the party-pooper who says that hypnosis is real.

    P.S.S. Maybe I shouldn’t be a party-pooper to you, Lord_Darkclaw. Maybe I should just let you continue on wandering into your own world believing that there is no such thing as hypnosis.

  17. 17
    pete on 5 Oct 2008 #

    This is a response to the so-called, “Cerebrial Manipulator”. Either you are just a complete half-brain or you just really do not know your research well enough on the subject of hypnosis. I don’t care how many years you claim you looked into the subject of hypnosis, because the true fact of the matter is that you don’t know CRAP about hypnosis! That being said, I advice that you take your little pseudo-confidence that you try so desperately to surround yourself with in order to bolster your claims for hypnosis and bury it down into the gutter. It’s really pathetic just how quickly you develop a false sense of confidence that gives you the highly insecure nerve to say that hypnosis is real. Your claim of years of experience in ignoring hypnosis research are an absolute laugh! That phony kangaroo research method you disregard on hypnosis for years means nothing! All of those alleged years of ignoring research and all you end up clinging to is ignoring scientific evidence? If I were standing in front of you I would just laugh! Your mind is so small that you have to end up resorting to ignoring scientific evidence as the only means to find answers?? Pardon the phrase, but you sound like you were born just yesterday! Here is some actual facts for you, Mr. “Cerebrial Manipulator”, that I suggest you take into serious account and etch deep into your brain: YOU DO NOT NEED TO USE CAPITAL LETTERS TO PROVE THAT THE ACT OF HYPNOSIS OR MIND CONTROL IS REAL! The act of hypnosis and mind control ARE CURRENTLY NOT SUPPORTED because science has evidence about it or not! Ignoring science is narrow-minded and results in very limited opinions, therefore, you do NOT have the capability to prove or to even have a qualified opinion on something so contentious like hypnosis! Just because science cannot provide any evidence on hypnosis DOES NOT mean that hypnosis is not real, but equally using this as a reason to believe hypnosis is real would be drawing unsubstantiated conclusions. You would really have to be a seriously stupid and moronic human being to actually believe that hypnosis is real just because mere science cannot provide evidence! Stories of hypnosis are literally thousands and thousands of years old! Western Science is only a mere three or four hundred years old! What can science possibly do? Science only deals with physical evidence! Hypnosis lies in the realm of the non-physical, therefore, surely cannot have physical effects. And yet it seems to have physical effects which would therefore leave physical evidence to something that is not even physical?? Only an idiot ignores science as a method of providing answers to our mysteries and phenomenon. I already know FOR A FACT that scientific method is real, and the most reliable test as to the cause of any phenomenon which is why I believe hypnosis is not real, so I need science to come up with any type of evidence to disprove this thesis! I cannot know that hypnosis is VERY REAL until I have this proof, because if I had personally experienced it myself then it would give me a way of scientifically verifying it in a repeatable lab conditions. Like many others have I don’t give a goddamn crap whether anyone believes it or not, I want the most verifyable, repeatable tests possible to prove its existence. Your claims are all based on misinformation. You are so gullible to believe and to absorb such false information that feeds you lies and brainwashed nonsense, so it can program your mind and make you convinced that hypnosis is real. Your misinformed belief in hypnosis is nothing more than that – a total misinformation, and it has no bearing nor consequence whatsoever. Belief in hypnosis is a reality, whether you like it or not. Belief in hypnosis is REAL whether science can prove it or not. There are no facts , simple!

    Etc etc…

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