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Game Face

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Which witch do you wish to bewitch?
"A vampire appears to be a normal person until the feed is upon them. Only then do they reveal their true demonic visages."

Most supernatural monstrosities and scientific sins against nature that maintain a Masquerade can hide their true nature with a glamour, or otherwise shapeshift into a nearly seamless human disguise.

Sometimes, though, they just want to play with their food. They drop the façade and show their true form, getting scary eyes, growing fangs, horns, Pointy Ears and Femme Fatalons or even claws. The changes can range from the purely cosmetic to the practical. In video games or RPGs, this usually affords attack bonuses or new forms of attack altogether. In film, TV, or literature it usually means any Innocent Bystanders nearby just dropped a rung in the food chain.

This is a common trick for vampires, demons, werewolves, and other monsters. Think of it as a super-fast One-Winged Angel act, but typically without the power of a full transformation (though they might effectively gain strength by not spending power to maintain an illusion).

Truth in Television, but most clearly seen in the small, practically harmless animals whose only means of defense is to suddenly flash vivid colors or markings, or seemingly double in size, or otherwise appear to suddenly change into frightening monsters. Many of them couple this with making sudden terrifying noises for further scaring-the-crap-out-of-enemies-ery.

Compare Demon Head, Face-Revealing Turn and Nightmare Face.


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    Comic Books 
  • The mages in Birthright usually assume a more monstrous and inhuman form when using their magical powers, for example Kylen looks like a Caucasian man with blonde hair, but his "mage" form is a bearded, horned demon with purple skin.
  • Bernie of Death Vigil has one, with her appearance becoming much more skeletal.
  • In Excalibur (Marvel Comics), Rachel Summers (avatar of the Phoenix Force) gets scary-looking lines on her face when she gets serious. They're actually scars that are always there, and she uses her telepathy to make others see an undamaged face. When she has to use her full power for butt-kicking, she can't spare any for the illusion and lets it drop. Or sometimes she's just too pissed off to concentrate on it.
  • Judge Dredd: While possessing a human host in "Dark Justice", Judge Death is disturbed in his work by one of his host's colleagues. He shuts the door and gives the man a brief flash of his skull-face before murdering him.
  • Somewhat toned down in Les Légendaires, where villain Abyss, when revealing his true identity after posing as Professor Kallisto Vangelis, gets Red Eyes, pale skin and a Slasher Smile, but otherwise remains quite human-like.
  • Marvel Comics' nearly-omnipotent pseudo-villain Molecule Man has something (very) similar: a pattern of lightning-shaped scars (caused by the accident which gave him his powers) across his face which seem to appear or disappear when he is either relaxed and mentally balanced, or furious and/or about to break down and cry. As the scars also make his lips appear serrated, it is a pretty creepy game face considering he normally looks rather nerdy.
  • Robin (1993): After being brought back from the dead, Darla Aquista can maintain her human appearance most of the time, but if she wants to use her new powers for anything more extensive than a Jedi Mind Trick her appearance shifts to have solid yellow eyes, deathly pale skin, and blood-red lips.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Candorville, vampires have several levels of Game Face. The lowest has Cute Little Fangs. The highest Looks Like Orlok and has red eyes. Incidentally, this seems to differ from one character to another—it may be that the oldest are the ugliest or that Saxon's Dhampyr status is why he gets Milky White Eyes instead of red ones.
  • Garfield:
    • Garfield uses one on Halloween to scare trick-or-treaters. Unfortunately, true to his mother's warnings, it sticks.
    • In one series of strips, Garfield is talking to a mouse who poses for anti-vermin ads for a living. When Garfield asks how ("A cute mouse like you?") the mouse assumes a vicious Game Face. ("That's pretty good," says Garfield.)
    • Nermal has an "extra-cute" Game Face to pose for cat food ads. ("Cute is my life" he says.)

    Films — Animated 
  • About halfway through the plot of Coraline, when Coraline confronts The Other Mother, she pulls a You're Not My Mother and demands to leave The Other World. The Other Mother responds by growing from a copy of Coraline's real mother with black button eyes into an inhumanly tall, skeletally thin woman. By the end of the movie, The Other Mother's illusions have been completely dispelled. Her true form is essentially the aforementioned Game Face, but her formerly human hands have turned into metallic sewing needles, her face has become covered in cracks, and her legs have become spider's legs.
  • In Hotel Transylvania, Dracula occasionally gets mad and shows his scary face, which involves Red Eyes, Take Warning, baring his fangs for all to see, and menacing growling.
    • His daughter, Mavis, can also do this as can his grandson, Little Dennis.
  • Nonvillain example: In How to Train Your Dragon, Toothless got his name because his teeth are retractable, and he only shows them when he's eating or snarling at something.
  • Princess Unikitty from The LEGO Movie is a cheerful Ridiculously Cute Critter, but barely 5 minutes of her introduction, we get to see a glimpse of her inner rage, dubbed 'Angry Kitty'. In the climax, she gave into her rage and went onto a rampage.

  • The Irish folk hero Cuchulain had his "warp spasm", which is lovingly and nauseatingly described in The Cattle Raid of Cooley. You can read the relevant part here.

  • In Bram Stoker's Dracula, whenever you get Bat Mode, Dracula will turn into his bat form. When you get all the castle locks, the brides will show their monstrous faces.

  • The Silent One in Dark Dice sometimes shapeshifts into members of the party for purposes of infiltration, but reverts into its true monstrous form either right before or right after attacking one of them.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons 3.5th Edition had Pale Night, an ancient demon/Eldritch Abomination. She's apparently so evil that reality itself has to shield itself from her. Evil enough that her strongest attack is to show her face, instantly killing all but the strongest-willed, and even those that survive do so by not comprehending her true form.
    • Shifters, from the Eberron campaign setting, have a small touch of lycanthrope heritage. For a brief time each day, they can "shift" into a slightly bestial but physically more powerful form.
    • D&D also has a monster called a Krenshar that looks like a type of great cat, but it has very loose skin around its face. Thus, when it wants to scare off predators, is turns its face inside out.
  • The Dawn Caste Solar anima power in Exalted includes an effect of this sort. It causes the Solar to appear larger, more glorious, and terrifying with Glowing Eyes of Doom and a fully active Battle Aura. Interestingly, this particular Game Face can be both activated deliberately or go off on its own simply through expending enough power in combat.
    • The Dusk Caste Abyssals and Slayer Caste Infernals, as counterparts to the Dawns, have a similar power.
  • Feng Shui's monsters all have a horrific appearance, and monsters (both PCs and bad guys) can choose to take a Creature Power called "Brain Shredder", which basically provides one of these and weaponizes it to cause damage through fear.
  • The... the everything in KULT. Justified, as reality is a lie and literally everything isn't what they seem to be.
  • Scion actually has an Appearance knack called Game Face. This is when a beautiful Scion (ugly Scions have their own knack) has decided they have had enough of their enemy's BS and flash their best I'm-going-to-kill-you grin or grit their teeth in stony determination. Most Mooks flee on sight and those who don't have to struggle to hold their ground.
  • Lahmian- and Von Carstein-clan Vampires in Warhammer Fantasy are often said to be extremely beautiful and/or handsome. You would never tell this by the models. however, because they're always sculpted with their Game Faces on.
  • The World of Darkness games are full of monsters that look like normal humans until it's time to get dangerous.
    • Werewolves and other shapeshifters have several Game Faces somewhere between man and their animal form, up to the ultimate Crinos (or Gauru, or whatever) man-wolf (or whatever half-animal) form. But in Werewolf: The Apocalypse they can't display the Game Face to ordinary humans — there's a thing called Delirium, which instinctively makes the human explain away or forget what they saw, and potentially go a little insane as well. In Forsaken, they will go insane most of the time(temporarily) but there's a small chance they can turn into a wolf-blooded or remember it. Furthermore, there are some powers that allow you to control it in a way
    • Old World of Darkness:
      • Vampires can extend their fangs at will, but, depending on their Discipline set, can turn into wolves, hideous monstrosities, or even snakes. It has been speculated that turning into a snake never helps. The most common "Game Face" among the Kindred is the Presence power "Dread Gaze," which serves to terrify the hell out of most of the mortals that vampires encounter.
      • Kindred of the East, the East Asian counterparts to western vampires, have even more and increasingly bizarre demon forms.
      • Fomori, being corrupt nature spirits inhabiting human bodies, can take a Merit that allows them to hide their powers and putrescence, but generally they are always in their Game Face.
      • Demons all have Apocalyptic Forms that resemble either angels or demons, depending on how Tormented the demon in question is. The transformation is instantaneous, but might not happen at all if witnessing humans' disbelief is strong enough.
      • Wraiths with the Moliate Arcanos can reshape their Corpus into an armored and weaponized war form; however, this is usually unsubtle as all hell. However, the Masquers Guild, who specialize in Moliate, can learn a trick that allow them to craft a normal Corpus "sleeve" onto someone who's been crafted for war, so that they look perfectly normal - only to rip the skin off when damage needs to be done.
    • In the New World of Darkness:
      • Mages can draw on the Supernal Realm to increase their Aura and cause an effect like this. The precise appearance varies depending on the Mage's Path. Thyrsus (Shamans) make everything around them seem alive, while Mastigos (Warlocks) can make things go dark and sound like howling demons.
      • Changelings can burn all their Glamour at once in order to drop the Mask and reveal what they truly look like. This is not a recommended course of action, as now you're all out of magic juice, people will likely think you're a monster, and doing so risks damaging the Sanity Meter. The only real feasible use of this tactic is if you're a low-Clarity Autumn Court member who then proceeds to feed on their tasty, tasty fear. There are, however, Contracts that will allow a similar effect without risking your mental stability. 2E of the book upgrades the ability to drop the Mask by reducing its cost to 1 Glamour and making it come with a power boost for all Contracts, effectively making it actually useful, if still risky.
      • Vampires with the Nightmare Discipline have Game Face as a starting power — Monstrous Countenance, which allows you to unleash the full and terrible visage of the Beast. Most mortals flee on sight. In the Second Edition, one of the possible bans they can develop, "Face of Hunger", also causes them to develop an obviously monstrous face (typically red eyes and more corpse-like features) whenever they are starving.
      • Demons can assume their true forms at will. Like their oWOD counterparts, they resemble angels or demons — though it's not dependent on their psyche — and add biomechanical horror to the mix as well. However, doing so is risky, as it may draw the attention of their former master, the God-Machine.
      • Prometheans usually appear humans thanks to the Azoth disguising them, but using Pyros too blatantly will result in them briefly revealing disfigurements betraying their nature.

    Visual Novels 

    Web Animation 
  • Hazbin Hotel: Being the princess of Hell, Charlie can take on more than one version of a genuinely demonic appearance with features like flames, red eyes and horns, though being Charlie, she demonstrates this while singing a ridiculously optimistic song about demons becoming nice.
  • Helluva Boss: Though rarely seen, Stolas has a truly terrifying "demon form" where he looks like a massive, shadowy owl with fanged beaks. And so far, he has only shown it when his loved ones are in danger.
  • Funny or Die: In The Animated Tales of GWAR, Oderus Urungus makes a particularly scary game face when he's injected with dinosaur blood and brought back to his original, objectionable self. At the expense of a kid's birthday party.

  • Dracula: Ruler of the Night: Downplayed example. When not hunting, vampires look normal enough. But when they are, their eyes turn completely red, their fangs come out and their ears grow more pointed. Drac himself is subject to "bump face" when he really turns feral.
  • In El Goonish Shive, some Aberrations such as Scarf or the French vampire only change their eyes and teeth when they assume their monstrous forms instead of their whole bodies.
  • Goblins: The titular goblins, like many above examples, have eyes that go solid black when their game faces come on.
  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, Jeanne's ghost, despite superficially resembling her living self most of the time, has a rather terrifying visage while she's in killing mode. She's been down there so long that her ghost has started to rot.
  • Hanna Is Not a Boy's Name: Casimiro turns into some kind of bleach-white skeletal bat-person thing when he's threatening Hanna, which may be on purpose to intimidate him or just because the guy's a Mood-Swinger.
  • Kill Six Billion Demons:
    • God Empress Mottom looks like a youthful beauty in public, but she can also look her age (which is a lot, so she barely looks human) when she wants to be intimidating or just let her hair down. In one big battle, it's almost inverted, as she starts out old-looking and turns beautiful when she really gets serious.
    • The angel 6 Juggernaut Star Scours the Universe turns out to have a game face: It's the form we initially see it in. As long as it remains focused, 6 Juggernaut Star looks like a flaming, spiked skeleton when in its spirit form in the Void Between the Worlds, but when its attention slips it shows its true form of a Broken Angel with burned-away wings and a very human-looking face.
  • Looking for Group: "And Maikos?...This is no time for masks."
  • Heroic example from Misfile, when it's time to do the hero stuff the angels break out their Halos and Wings.
  • A thing with vampires in The Night Belongs to Us. Ada is afraid hers will scare Hank.
  • At least some vampires in Sluggy Freelance can switch between normal human and pale, pointy-eared, glow-eyed appearances. Hell Mouth and Vrykolakas vampires seem to look unusual all the time, but at least Lysinda Circle vampires have this power. In "Boys' Night Out", Torg is shown with the same kind of appearance change even though he only thinks he's become a vampire.
    • Chapter 68 shows a Lysinda Circle vampire magically adopting different appearances, at least in other people's eyes, so perhaps these vampires are using this power to appear normal when pretending to be human.
  • In Yokoka's Quest, Copycat has game facial features rather than a game face per se - he occasionally reveals additional glowing, stylized eyes, which float around him. He's shown these when being menacing, irritated, or when travelling through shadows.
  • Vampires in Zelfia have a Buffy-inspired game face.

    Web Original 
  • There is a meme named "Show Me Your War Face" that is quite close to this. It became a deadmeme when the faces chosen were just derpy enough to miss the target for over-the-top-hamminess, and people left it alone. There are some good ones, though, usually screencaps of a Game Face. Others just are.
  • Whateley Universe: Like Leland Gaunt, Carmilla only looks human. She's a budding cosmic entity. In "The Turks and the Geek", she holds Shadowolf with dozens of tentacles and splits her face open down the middle, revealing something so horrific that he wets himself.

    Real Life 
  • As mentioned above, real animals do this all the time, usually by making themselves look bigger. For example, cats arch their backs and make their fur stand up, pufferfish suck up water to inflate themselves, and cobras look like any other snake until they open their telltale hoods for intimidation purposes. Seeing a guinea pig fluff up to look intimidating is probably one of the funniest things in nature.
  • The porcupine is able to exploit the above better than most. When calm, the porcupine's trademark quills (an adaptation of hair) lay back and flat so they don't interfere with its movement. When under threat, the porcupine then reflexively makes its hair stand on end, meaning its quills do the same, creating its signature defensive look.
  • Hunch over. Bare your teeth. Raise your hands up in position that makes you look like you're about to grab whatever's in front of you. Watch pets and people cower and run as you approach them.
    • A more subtle version is for people to hold up their heads, puff out their chests, and hold their arms out slightly in a sort of bodybuilder pose. There is a whole stereotype about short people who use this to try and compensate around taller people, to varying degrees of success.
    • Even our unconscious physiology plays a part in this trope, as people who are enraged experience a rush of blood to the skin that can turn one's face and neck more reddish and make veins in the eyes stand out. This plus enlarged pupils offer visible signs that someone is genuinely furious, not just bluffing or performing as such.
  • An excellent juxtaposition between Game Face (predation front) and play face (social front) can be seen seen at TED during Stuart Brown's lecture on Serious Play in the interactions between a polar bear and a wolf. The scenario is at 00:01:27.
  • Behold the Eastern Hognose Snake, a harmless serpent (if you're not a frog) that puts on a heck of a show if anyone tries to eat it.
  • Armadillos, aka "Texas Speedbumps," have poor eye-sight, so when they realize an automobile is bearing down on them, they rise up on their hind legs to be more intimidating. Which makes them just as tall as the car's bumper.
  • Horny toads (okay, okay, desert horned lizards) are rather known for this. When threatened, they will not only puff themselves up to appear larger, they also squirt blood out of their eyes to ward any attacker off.
  • The desert rain frog, when frightened, can inflate itself and let out a loud scream. However, due to their diminutive size and comparatively "chibi" proportions, their appearance come off as more adorable than intimidating, and their "war cry" sounds like a squeak-toy.
  • Speaking of memetic amphibians, this frog would be a bit more successful in the "war cry" department if not for the fact that it also serves as the progenitor of a meme, meaning it's no less funny than the DRF.
  • Enforced in military training (ex. the United States Marines, as can be seen in "Full Metal Jacket") which asks their trainees to develop a "war face" to increase intimidation factor.


"It's beautiful!"

Turns out the ghosts from within the Ark of the Covenant may think otherwise.

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