Follow TV Tropes

Hands-Free Handlamp

Go To

The handheld light source doesn't need to be held on hand to be used.

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
REV6Pilot on May 25th 2017 at 7:45:27 AM
Last Edited By:
REV6Pilot on Jun 13th 2018 at 9:24:59 AM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/flange.PNG
But how is she holding the light up there?note 

Commonly, in video games, especially first-person ones, the lighting item doesn't have to be held in his hand, even if it's a big Maglite-style flashlight, a candle (especially if it's the nuclear type), or a photographer's floodlight set. In a variation, the light source might not even appear on the character model, though the light beam certainly does.

Depending on the developer's view on how the lighting is supposed to affect gameplay, can be an example of Acceptable Breaks from Reality. Compare Hollywood Darkness, where the lighting juggle is simplified for similar reasons.

Please note that true hands-free lights like headlamps, tactical gunlights or equippable items like clothing and armor enchanted with a light-giving spell don't fit this trope, even as aversionsnote ; after all, hands-free lighting items providing hands-free light like they're supposed to is just something that happens, not a trope. This is exclusively for light sources that are meant to be handheld but for some very unusual or just plain unexplained reason simply aren't, like in the page image.


Examples:


    open/close all folders 

    Action Games 

    Action-Adventure 

    First-Person Shooters 
  • Nightmare House. The flashlight itself plays it straight, but the flares avert it. They're props as far as the Source engine goes, not equipment, so you have to pick them up to carry them, and you can't use a weapon while you're doing it; to compensate at least a little, they themselves can be used as weapons by setting enemies on fire.
  • Prey (2006): how exactly Tommy holds his Zippo without burning himself if he can keep it lit while holding a gun is unknown. It doesn't show up even when he's using one-handed hardware like the wrench.
  • In both Left 4 Dead games, the only flashlights that the survivors possess are on the guns. That doesn't stop you from still having a light, perfectly centered on the screen at that, when wielding non-gun items like medkits and grenades. There are flashlights and floodlights in certain maps for Mood Lighting or indicating something important, usually around corpses, but they're impossible to pick up even if they do work.
  • Downplayed almost to full aversion in Contagion. The light sources available are tactical lights on certain firearms, the cell phone (which you can't wield at the same time as a gun or item), and the rare angle-head pocket light. That last one does allow a survivor to have a light while wielding other items, but it takes up one precious inventory slot out of four total, and even then, it's subpar: when you're using it alongside a light-less gun it points awkwardly in a fixed direction that is rarely where you're looking or aiming at and it bobs everywhere when you're movingnote ; to have it point where you want it, you have to hold it in your hand, and you already have the phone for thatnote . The only aspects played straight are that the Player Characters don't have to move their hands to operate the light in their pocketnote , and the pocket light isn't modeled on the character's pocket when it's being used as such.
  • In Far Cry, the beam of the angle-head light you can find is always on the center of the screen like it's being worn as a headlamp. It's never shown in Jack's character model when it can be seen in cutscenes either.
  • Played straight with Barney in Half-Life: Blue Shift. He's shown from Gordon's perspective at the start of the core game clearly holding a flashlight, but when you play as him his light is exactly the same as Gordon's suit-mounted lamp, including the hands-free operation.
  • In Serious Sam 3: BFE, Sam has a light that he turns on regardless of player input in basements and crypts where the sunlight doesn't reach. It's never shown where he carries it in his person or how he operates it. In an odd twist, the assault rifle has a mounted flashlight that Sam never uses.
    "Let there be light!"

    Hack and Slash 
  • In Bloodborne, the Hand Lantern is hung onto the user's belt, leaving both hands free to hold weapons while illuminating the surrounding area. However, it provides a weaker source of light than the always-handheld torches.

    Survival Horror 
  • Silent Hill:
    • Heather plays it straight in Silent Hill 3 when she's using an alternate costume. Normally her light is an angle-head that goes into her breast pocket, as usual in the series, but when she's wearing anything else, her chest projects a beam with no material source.
    • Averted in Silent Hill: Downpour. Murphy can clip the floodlight to the side of his belt by its handle, but it'll only shine straight ahead. He has to hold it in his hand to point it in another direction.
  • Cry of Fear zig-zags it. When Simon holds the phone in his hand, it works with a typical flashlight beam; on the other hand, he can store it in his bag and light will shine around him like a dim lantern, though it's considerably brighter than one might expect from a phone's LED shining through the canvas of a dark-colored backpack. Dual Wielding is a major mechanic that allows Simon to use the phone light (and later on, a proper flashlight) alongside the Glock pistol, but it's unwieldy - you can only fire from the hip for whatever reason and accuracy is greatly reduced. The only truly hands-free lighting item is a tactical light that fits the Glock.
  • Resident Evil 7 plays it straight with Ethan's and Mia's lights. They're never shown to have one on them, and can hold their weapons totally unencumbered by it.
  • Zig-zagged in The Last of Us. Allies keep their flashlights in their hands, while Joel keeps his taped to his backpack's straps. Later when you get to play Ellie, she also tapes her flashlight to her backpack, despite holding it in her hands as an NPC.
  • Played straight in The Evil Within 2: the flashlight clipped to Sebastian's body always points to wherever the camera's looking. Then again, the game does take place within the mental realm created by the STEM system.
  • Averted in No More Room In Hell. The only light sources are a Zippo lighter and a big Maglite torch (that also takes up inventory space), and both have to be held to be used. To have a light shining while you're using another weapon, you must have the Maglite, and even then the weapon has to be one-handed, like a smaller melee weapon or a handgun, because the left hand is shown holding the Maglite.

    Wide Open Sandbox 
  • Stranded Deep used to play it straight, but later alphas came to avert it. Now both the floodlight and the lantern have to be handheld, though the lantern can be dropped on the ground as a static light source.
  • Deadly Premonition: York has a regular tactical light, as can be seen in the morgue when he's examining Anna Graham's corpse. During gameplay, however, the beam just projects out of his front with no source.

Non-Video Game Examples


    Comic Books 
  • Robin Series: At one point Tim held a small flashlight in his mouth in order to keep his hands free while dangling upside down from a skylight and trying to see what records were stolen from an old phone company database. When his line was cut he lost the flashlight as he opened his mouth to yell.

    Fan Works 
  • The metafictional My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fic Daring Do and the Secret of the Fourth Wall mixes this trope with deliberate Plot Holes. In a few scenes, Rainbow Dash finds herself carrying a torch—even though there's no logical way she could have been carrying it for the last few minutes, and she can't remember picking it up. As the scene goes, Dash relights the torch after it was extinguished, then tries to pick it up in her mouth and tastes how disgusting it is. This gets her wondering how she held the torch before. It definitely wasn't in her mouth, or she would have tasted it, and both of her forelegs were occupied with a floor tile that she was examining—with the torch's light. So there's no way she could have been holding the torch, but it was just there somehow. It's one of several clues that she's somehow gotten stuck inside a fictional story.

    Tabletop Games 

    Webcomics 
  • Florence Ambrose of Freefall attached a rubber flange to a standard cylindrical flashlight in the Friday, 10 March 2000 strip. This allows her to hold the device in her teeth while keeping the light shining forward, which, as the page image shows, makes it seem like the torch is just hovering by the side of her muzzle.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • A smaller flashlight can be attached to the brim of a hat like a baseball cap or hard hat if its pocket clip is bezel-upnote . How well it works varies depending on the length and toughness of the pocket clip, the size and weight of the light, and how tough or flexible the hat's brim is.
  • Much like Florence's example above, holding a light in your mouth if it's a small one is common practice among repairmen, plumbers and so on. The fact that aluminium, especially if it has a knurled texture, is murder on tooth enamel and dentures alike leads the people that do it often to wrap the part they bite down on with a softer material, going from rubber flanges and gaskets to duct tape.

Feedback: 32 replies

Dec 12th 2017 at 11:39:28 AM

Additional examples and constructive criticism are more welcome than hats at this time, if you're willing. So please, contribute!

Also, the trope is exceptionally widespread; should we keep it for special examples like aversions, justifications, zig-zags and such?

(EDIT 29/05/2017: More examples are always welcome, but I think the concept is fully realized by this point. So if you feel this deserves a hat, then please be my guest! lol)

May 25th 2017 at 8:44:00 AM

I'm not sure if I understand this. Do you mean video games with lighting effects that act as though the character is holding a flashlight, except the in-game model isn't actually holding one? Or do you just mean "in first-person games it looks like the character is holding a flashlight, only they couldn't possibly be doing so because their hands are already occupied with the gun"?

May 25th 2017 at 12:16:06 PM

Webcomics

  • Florence Ambrose of Freefall has attached a rubber flange to a standard cylindrical flashlight in the Friday 10 March 2000 strip. This allows her to hold the device in her teeth while keeping the light shining forward. It's one of many instances of Florence's Gadgeteer Genius status.

May 25th 2017 at 12:57:35 PM

"impossible illumination" is a neat title with Added Alliterative Appeal. "pocketful of Sunshine" also works well

May 26th 2017 at 1:08:22 AM

  • The protagonist of Firewatch can have his flashlight on and pointing in the front even when holding a compass and a map in each hand. It is implied, however, that the flashlight is specifically constructed to be attached to a chest pocket for this purpose.
  • Dark Souls I has two light sources that do not occupy a hand slot: the DLC-only Cast Light spell and the Sunlight Maggot helm, both of which project an orb of light over the user's head, illuminating their surroundings. The spell, however, only lasts for five minutes per casting, and the helm has some very unsavory lore attached to it (albeit without any effect on the gameplay).

May 26th 2017 at 4:22:02 AM

  • Twilight Princess: The lantern only needs to be held to burn webs or light torches, Link can hook it into his belt when using other items or weapons.
  • Avatar The Last Airbender: Sokka and Katara find themselves underground, using luminescent rocks to see. Katara holds it in her hand, while Sokka straps his to his head, leaving his hands free... to hold up his pants, as his belt is currently holding the rock on his forehead.

May 26th 2017 at 7:19:15 AM

Nate The Great: Both, actually. You got it more right than you thought!

h31r-of-l1f3: "impossible illumination", I think, is too generic. "Pocketful of Sunshine" doesn't explain it clear enough. Getta: Bit too generic. That title could include the exceptions I listed, like headlamps. I went with this exact title because of both Added Alliterative Appeal that it has and because it explains the trope well: a handlamp (real term for a handheld flashlight) that is somehow held without the user's hands.

Koveras, Chabal2, oneuglybunny: Examples added. Thanks!

May 26th 2017 at 7:11:27 AM

Well, my two scenarios seem like different tropes, but that's just me.

May 26th 2017 at 7:55:04 AM

I guess you could say they're subtropes.

May 26th 2017 at 11:27:50 AM

@OP: You seem to have only added the Dark Souls example, and in a very truncated form, too. Why don't you just copy over my entire formatting, which I have gone to lengths to prepare?

May 27th 2017 at 4:42:47 AM

Because those are not examples. Did you see the part in boldface?

I appreciate the effort, Koveras, but enchanted helms and angle-head flashlights that can be clipped to a chest pocket or shirt collar aren't handheld items. Hands-free objects providing hands-free light is People Sit On Chairs, not a trope.

May 26th 2017 at 8:05:33 PM

This shouldn't count, right?

  • Alien Shooter: You can purchase handlights so you can see in the dark; you can also wield weapons while using it. Justified, though, as it's strapped to your hip instead of carried by hand.

May 27th 2017 at 4:45:26 AM

Getta: Depends. Does it have an in-game model at the store or on the Player Character's body? Because if it doesn't appear at all, I think it qualifies (based on the Silent Hill 3 example).

May 27th 2017 at 12:48:48 PM

  • In The Last Of Us your allies keep their flashlights in their hands, but joels is taped to his backpack straps. Later when you get to play Ellie she also tapes her föashlight to her backpack, despite holding it in her hands for the rest of the game.

May 27th 2017 at 1:35:13 PM

May 27th 2017 at 1:48:55 PM

@OP: OK, but if you don't count the aversions, why do you have a confusingly-worded Dark Souls I example listed as an aversion, anyway?

May 27th 2017 at 2:46:21 PM

Fan fiction:

May 27th 2017 at 2:50:28 PM

"Depends. Does it have an in-game model at the store or on the Player Character's body? Because if it doesn't appear at all, I think it qualifies (based on the Silent Hill 3 example)."

Well it does have the model, it's not a FPS game but a top-down shooter. But again, it's not held by the hand, and you can still shoot while having it active.

May 27th 2017 at 7:56:24 PM

Getta: It doesn't have to be an FPS. See how I included Devil May Cry and mentioned Silent Hill 3 in my reply to you? The trope description says "most commonly", not exclusively. Also, what does the model look like? If you could post an image or link to it, it'd help a lot.

Koveras: I re-worded the example. Tell me if it's clearer now, and if it isn't, gimme some feedback on how you see the trope yourself. Your doubts are a big help shaping this, believe it or not.

Meta Four: By "there's no logical way she could have been carrying it for the last few minutes", is it because of the torch's ergonomics not fitting a pony's grasp with a foreleg or wing? And in other scenes, did Dash happen to have light in a dark place without an explained source? Either way, example fitting or not, that's Mind Screw-y as heck.

May 28th 2017 at 3:57:41 PM

@REV: Basically, the torch is supposed to be hoof-held, but the "author" forgets that she doesn't have any free hooves to carry it.

As the scene goes, Dash relights the torch after it was extinguished, then tries to pick it up in her mouth and tastes how disgusting it is. This gets her wondering how she held the torch before. It definitely wasn't in her mouth, or she would have tasted it, and both of her forelegs were occupied with a floor tile that she was examining—with the torch's light. So there's no way she could have been holding the torch, but it was just there somehow.

There's a bunch of other inconsistencies, too. Pretty much everything about the torch is a deliberate plot hole.

May 28th 2017 at 8:21:10 PM

Possible page image: [1], y'know, if it'll help.

May 29th 2017 at 1:33:08 PM

Meta Four: Man, that's insane. Added with gusto.

oneuglybunny: That's exactly what I had in mind. You rock!

Apr 20th 2018 at 8:30:40 PM

Am I going crazy? Did I imagine a whole ton of people commenting that this was People Sit On Chairs and bombing this draft? I could have sworn that I objected to those people but I'm not seeing any trace of them...

Apr 21st 2018 at 9:06:35 AM

  • An urban legend from the Darwin Award website involves a burglar who held a flashlight in his mouth while breaking into a store via the skylight. He fell and landed on his face, driving the flashlight through the back of his throat like a bullet.

Apr 22nd 2018 at 8:04:26 PM

Wasn't this discarded? I could have sworn it was.

May 3rd 2018 at 5:42:27 AM

Miss_Desperado: I don't know nothin' about that, ma'am. The only discussion regarding People Sit On Chairs is what I chatted with Koveras about, and even then I was the one to call it up. If there ever was a draft for this trope concept that got bombed, then I wasn't the one to write it.

Meta Four: Added. Thanks, fam!

Pichu-kun: Nope, it's alive and going. Just waiting for more people to find it trope-worthy.

Jun 5th 2018 at 8:06:30 AM

  • In Bloodborne, the Hand Lantern is hung onto the user's belt, leaving both hands free to hold weapons while illuminating the surrounding area. However, it provides a weaker source of light than the torches.

Jun 5th 2018 at 3:57:07 PM

  • Robin Series: At one point Tim held a small flashlight in his mouth in order to keep his hands free while dangling upside down from a skylight and trying to see what records were stolen from an old phone company database. When his line was cut he lost the flashlight as he opened his mouth to yell.

Jun 12th 2018 at 5:52:38 AM

Alright, I think we're good for launch. Thanks, everyone, and see you all in the wiki orbit! o/

Jun 13th 2018 at 9:24:59 AM

  • Franchise/Fallout: The wrist mounted pip-boy can make a light in dark areas that makes it easier to see but also makes you more easy to spot if you're trying to be stealthy.
    • In Fallout 4 when wearing Power Armor the pip-boy light is replaced with a light attached to the helmet.
  • Steven Universe: It's shown that the gems can make beams of light from their gemstones.

Top