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Big Damn Fire Exit

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"I was standing in the lobby of this hotel just minding my own business, and this guy came up to me and said, 'Sir, could you please move? You're blocking the fire exit.' As though if there was a fire, I wasn't going to run. If you are flammable and have legs, you are never 'blocking' a fire exit. Unless you're a table."

Maybe you just killed a Load-Bearing Boss, maybe the bad guy built his fortress out of explodium or maybe you're leaving the Castle of Doom, having thwarted the Big Bad's nefarious plot, or perhaps you're just in a spot of bother. Whatever the background to your current plight, the room you're in is now in bits, or is falling to bits and you're screwed. No, we mean really screwed. And with the building falling apart around you, it is no surprise that the sewage system outflow is now striking the HVAC intake.

There just has to be a way out, right? Well, yes. Because if there wasn't, the section would be Unwinnable. And we can't have that now, can we?

This trope basically relates to the necessity in video games (and other media) for an escape route to exist, no matter how improbable that might be in real life. When the building around you is exploding, collapsing, on fire, in the process of being destroyed or ''has already been'' destroyed, there will invariably be one surviving path you can use to make good your escape. If the building's on fire, there will be one (und precisely von) non-burning walkway. Because fire is nice and sporting like that; it lets you win. Collapsing tunnels, building-demolition traps, self-destruct devices, etc. can all fall under this trope. Whatever the cause of the destruction, it may have happened before you got there, or it may be a Scripted Event. Regardless, it's just asking for the player to execute a dramatic Indy Escape.

Note - this shouldn't be due to the game locking the door behind you or in front of you. It applies specifically to (apparently) random destruction of the environment. Almost as if the 'right' way to go is made out of the same material as the Empathy Doll, the escape route will in most cases never actually catch fire or disintegrate itself (or if it does, only after you've gone through), allowing you to Take Your Time.

Named after (and confrontable with) the trope Big Damn Heroes.

This trope is particularly prevalent in video games, though movies also have some examples. Video games have the possible advantage of an Acceptable Break from Reality.

See also Door to Before.


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    Adventure Game 
  • In Heavy Rain, escaping the fire in the Killer's Place requires you to find the one usable route through the apartment, though in their defense, it sometimes involved walking over furniture, or moving furniture out of the way - or even jumping across burning areas.
  • In the final level of Flashback, you set a bomb to destroy the alien planet, and thus have a limited time to escape.

    Action Adventure 
  • The Metroid series may be king (er, queen) of this trope. There are few if no games where Samus ends up calmly walking back to her ship; there's always a time bomb that goes off once the last boss has been thrashed and the exit path is always clear to navigate despite the common falling debris. Metroid Fusion has several Big Damn Fire Exits of the collapsing door/inaccessible wall variety, and the convenient exits largely involve Samus breaching security and angering her Federation clients.
    • Metroid Prime: Hunters takes this up to eleven. Every single one of the eight Octoliths will trigger an emergency countdown requiring a quick exit. None of the places fled from are actually destroyed, and all of them are actually revisited later, raising the question of just what Samus was running from. The Oubliette also blows itself to pieces in true Metroid fashion at the end, but the escape is skipped over in cutscene instead of being played.
  • Tomb Raider
    • In the original (and the Tomb Raider: Anniversary remake), after Lara destroys the Scion, the Atlantean pyramid starts to collapse all around her. A conveniently-intact exit allows Lara to flee to safety and confront antagonist Natla.
    • In Underworld, Lara has to escape the burning Croft Manor.

    First-Person Shooter 
  • FEAR - following the nuke that goes off in the first game, the expansion sees you clawing through the wreckage of a building your chopper just crashed into. Despite every other stairwell or gangway being wrecked, there is always one left conveniently open for you. This game does it in a number of areas, barricading all but one door for you to head through. Cue a long enemy-ridden trudge through a row of terraced-houses as you attempt to hook up with your teammates who are waiting on the floor above.
  • Halo
    • Halo: Combat Evolved: Oh wait, you just set off a chain reaction that will obliterate the ring. And you need to reach the Pillar of Autumn 's Longsword hangar, while the station's blowing up all around you? Oh, how convenient that no matter how much shit blows up you will always have a clear and workable route. Not to mention the Warthog conveniently laying around that hasn't been destroyed by oh, I don't know, a hundred thousand tons of starship crash-landing and being utterly gutted by fire, plasma and destruction. Then again, Warthogs are kinda built for that sort of thing.
    • Also happens in the ending of the Halo 3: The ring is blowing the fuck up, again, and the ground breaks under your feet. This one is slightly more plausible, in that if you screw around too long, the ground will fall out from under your feet, sending you to your death. There is still a clear path to the extraction point though.
    • Similar, but not so implausible - Combat Evolved's first level, "The Pillar of Autumn". You follow a guy down a corridor. He gets a bad case of dead when a doorway explodes in his face, but oh look - a passageway between the pipeways is there for you, so you can still reach The Bridge.
    • In Halo 4, the Forward Unto Dawn is being torn apart as it's being pulled into Requiem, yet while your path is highly unstable and racked with explosions, it's fairly simple to just sprint past all that as you run to the escape pods. But the trope is ultimately Averted. A Covie cruiser also caught in the gravity well sheers through the ship when you're mere yards away from the pods, and you end up taking Chief's usual route to the surface.
    • The finale of Halo 5: Guardians's Meridian segment has you running up a just-about-to-collapse space elevator to your Pelican; the structure holds together just long enough for you to make it to the dropship.
  • Half-Life
    • Half-Life has this happen a number of times — things will collapse or stuff will fall apart, but you'll always be able to find the (only) way around.
    • Arguably justified in Half-Life 2. You're under the supervision of the G-Man as he makes subtle "arrangements" to ensure you have everything you need to fulfill your "contract".
  • Singularity plays the trope straight. Walls will collapse during the fire but you'll find the exit.
  • Unreal does this, particularly in the single-player story-driven games. You walk down a corridor, *BOOM*, something blows up and gets in the way. Hmm, what about the air vent up there?
  • Modern Warfare
    • Modern Warfare 1 subverts this when escaping from a sinking ship. While there is a route back to the waiting escape chopper, the boat's not going to stop sinking to let you take your merry time. The path WILL collapse at certain places leaving you to drown.
    • Modern Warfare 2 does this two times: first in the Brazilian favelas, where a conveniently placed series of corridors through the huts allows you to reach the helicopter and escape from the onslaught of a gazillion angry militiamen. The second time it's in the Russian prison, where after the exit is blocked out by debris, Captain MacTavish says "Go back go back! We'll find another way out!" (which could be considered Lampshade Hanging, or simply being a kickass commander and motivator). And another way out is obviously found, allowing everyone to merrily head towards World War 3.
    • Modern Warfare 3 also has a moment where this occurs. The mission "Scorched Earth" starts with an ambush in which a burning building is dropped on the convoy. Later in the mission, Frost and the rest of his team make their way through the collapsed building, finding a way through. Could be Lampshade Hanging, since the exit is literally a fire exit door.
  • The first level of Left 4 Dead 2 sees the gang fighting their way out of a burning hotel, through the stairwells and corridors to a climactic race to the safe room in the lobby via the conveniently fireproof escape route.
  • At one point in Postal 2, you find yourself in a library that's just been set on fire. Predictably enough, there's only one safe route out.
  • BioShock begins with one: there's only one path through the flaming airplane wreckage, and it happens to lead directly to an island with a handy bathysphere...
  • Descent is possibly the ur-example from 1995. On each level you have to destroy a reactor, then escape through an emergency exit before being caught in the explosion. No matter how much time is left on the clock, the escape sequences always have the fire chasing right behind you through the escape.
  • Overload, a spiritual successor to Descent, carries over the exit mechanic, also preferring to add some intermediate exit doors that the player must also manually traverse through.
  • In the last level of Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, you have to escape from the exploding and collapsing Fort Schmerzen, with the fireball chasing you all the way.

  • In the MMO City of Heroes, the last mission of the "Hess Task Force" is set inside a volcano with a Load-Bearing Boss. There is an emergency exit that leads out, and 30 seconds to take it after the boss goes down. This is generally more than enough, unless a player gets lost or stuck. The real danger is that the message informing players of the time limit has a lower priority than message like 'mission complete', 'level up', and other messages that stick around for a few seconds—so a player who doesn't know about the mission's little trick may get the 30 second warning when there's actually less than 10.
  • Guild Wars has a couple in Prophecies, both also Get on the Boat moments. In the Sanctum Cay mission, your character's original boat off the island is captured, but conveniently, there is a powerful mage on the island to summon another one. In the Hell's Precipice mission, your characters escape an erupting volcano by running to a boat that is conveniently available at an empty enemy dock.
  • In World of Warcraft, the final boss of the new Heroic Deadmines, Vanessa VanCleef, begins to set off demolition charges aboard her (landbound) pirate ship when she senses her impending defeat. A conveniently placed set of ropes enables players to swing away from the explosion before landing back on the ship, shortly after which she detonates another set of charges. The players, once again, simply jump off the ship with the ropes and swing back. Rather than try this a third time (as she did in the initial release), after her hit points are depleted she instead pulls a Taking You with Me with a powder keg. Of course, there are conveniently a few safe places to hide from the blast amid the fires, after which you collect your loot.

    Platform Game 
  • The last sector of Jumper Two is the same tower from Sector 9 destroyed by OgmoBots and EvilBots. Doesn't seem to stop it from creating a path perfectly navigable with jumps, and there's a Pressure Plate puzzle out of nowhere that's still perfectly functional.
  • In Rockman 4 Minus Infinity, after beating the final boss, Wily activates the self-destruct mechanism and escapes. He also activates an anti-teleporting system, but Rock doesn't give up and uses the Hell Wheel to chase after Wily while escaping.

    Racing Game 
  • Even when not going on during a race, earthquakes in video games tend to leave ramps in the road right in front of gaps. The track would be all sorts of impossible in the other direction and all other routes are blocked off, but the actual racecourse is still viable. Examples include just about every track in MotorStorm Apocalypse and Spilskinanke in Wipeout.

    Real Time Strategy  
  • Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne: Subverted. Maiev and her allies are fleeing the collapsing temple that held the Eye of Sargeras. While they get a decent way despite the falling ceiling, demons, and native monsters, eventually they find their escape entirely blocked. Maiev has the ability to teleport short distances and uses it to escape, but everyone else dies.

    Role Playing Game 
  • Mass Effect: A number of times, in all games.
  • Knights of the Old Republic: Starship corridors are basically Made of Explodium. Except the right one.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines
    • The haunted hotel has it. Just tread carefully.
    • Also, the Grout mansion.
  • Persona 2 dumps the heroes inside an aerospace museum with a bunch of visiting a Time Bomb. Not only do you have to weave between the nonsensically-placed stairwells and get to the roof, but you have to rescue the kids stranded in various rooms. And then you get to do it all over again in the sequel!
  • Final Fantasy VI - When you're going to rescue Relm, there's conveniently a path that leads directly to her, even though the entire building is on fire and the roof is collapsing.
  • Mario And Luigi Super Star Saga has you go through Bowser's castle at the end. Of course, when you beat the villain, the place starts blowing up. You expect to have to walk through the entire pseudo-maze of Bowser's castle again, but then you realize that behind his throne is a door with a pair of stairs that leads to the front door. That's all it is. A pair of stairs.
    • Averted in Mario & Luigi: Dream Team. Bowser's new castle does collapse after the final boss, but the majority of the castle has fallen apart by the time you exit the tower, and that bit collapses with Mario and co still standing on it. Thankfully the Zeekeeper rescues them
  • Wasteland has an escape pod that appears after you set the self-destruct sequence.
  • An escape route becomes available in Paper Mario once Mount Lavalava starts erupting.
  • Averted in the NES port of Ultima III; after defeating the final boss, the castle starts to collapse, and it's entirely possible to have your only escape route cut off, making the game Unwinnable .

    Shoot 'em Up 
  • Air Fortress: In each fortress, you must locate and destroy the Reactor Boss, then reach your ship before the ensuing chain reaction causes the fortress to explode.
  • Star Fox 64: After you defeat Andross, you must fly through the maze you entered to reach him in reverse order. You must constantly boost throughout this or you will be consumed by the fire chasing you.

    Third-Person Shooter 
  • Max Payne has "escape from a burning building" sequences in all three games. That One Level for some as straying just a bit from the intended path or being too slow results in instant death. The first game actually has three, though only the first one really plays it straight; Max is tripping balls on Valkyr during the second one and only notices the building's on fire when he comes to outside, and the third actually involves replaying most of the first half of the Level in Reverse with added Stuff Blowing Up.
  • Enter the Matrix: The post office explodes but there's a way through. Of course, this being the Matrix, reality is a bit funky.

    Survival Horror 
  • Silent Hill: Origins - Travis has enough time to enter the burning Gillespie house and rescue Alessa from it. True to Silent Hill, however, his progress is balked by unopenable doors everywhere and occasionally bits of house collapse dramatically all around him.
  • Near the end of Penumbra Black Plague, Philip is forced to barricade himself into a chemical lab to keep the Tuurngait zombies from reaching him. After he gets what he needs, the only other way out is through an emergency corridor that doesn't unlock until he tampers with the lab's safety systems. This results in a series of tremors and explosions on the way through, coupled with the Shelter's intercom voice counting down the minutes before the whole lab collapses.

    Wide Open Sandbox 
  • Mafia II - The third mission takes place in a distillery that gets set ablaze; yet there is still one non-burning convenient path to the back entrance of the building, so all Vito need worry about are explosions and people shooting at him instead of avoiding flames.
  • There are also at least two sequences in the The Godfather: The Game where you have to find your way through a burning building - and yep, everything is burning, except that one path that leads straight to your goal. (In fact, this game is somewhat of a serial perpetrator of this - all of the Warehouse and Transport Hub missions use the same two-or-three warehouse-maps, but lock and block different doors and stairwells while placing the Racket Boss in different places to ensure that you always have just ONE route to take, but it's a different one each time.)
  • There's a hotel in Saints Row 2 that consists of a bunch of rooms located around a central shaft. In the climax of one Ronin mission you end up parachuting down this shaft while the hotel explodes around you.

    Non-Video Game Examples