Life bars, hit points, vitality, health or (if your Zelda fan) hearts...regardless of what you call them video games almost always use abstract numbers or HUD indicators to quantify how much physical punishment can be absorbed before suffering from a critical existence failure. It's a simple system that has roots in 30+ year old tabletop games like Dungeons and Dragons. I think the reason it has endured so long has to do with its simplicity. I can relate to that, but I also think the time has come for this particular game mechanic to receive a healthy dose of innovation.
Deep Ones to twisted ankles from falls. All these injuries can and often do handicap the player, which is fitting for a horror game. However, there is one notable drawback to the way it was implemented. Whenever a player suffers cuts, bruises or sprains they must essentially pause the game, by going to the menu screen, and use the appropriate treatment from their medicine kit. After a short animation all debilitating injuries are instantly repaired.
So, there have been a few attempts to change things up over the years, but so far nothing has really stuck. Not a big deal except recent games attempting to capture a strong feeling of verisimilitude suffer from hit point based abstractions. Further compounding this problem is the overused rebounding health meter. Lara Croft's latest outing was one such example, prompting a suggestion in this quicklook that maybe a bullet avoidance luck meter would be more appropriate than a bog standard regeneration health bar. While another abstraction in its own right at least under the suggested mechanic the new more realistic(ally proportioned) Lara wouldn't be shrugging of gunshot wounds like insect bites.
Personally, my hope is that someone will decided to capitalize on the processing power of the next generation of console hardware to simulate physical trauma in innovative ways. While the idea of seeing your character suffer from shock, pain and blood loss might make you feel a bit queasy it could also bring a new (and much needed) dynamic to games trying to capture a realistic vibe. Of course having fun is important too, so some may find the concept of death spirals inherent frustrating. However, setting specific details such as magical healing in a fantasy setting or consciousness uploading into clone bodies in a sci-fi setting (The 6th Day in video game form?) could be used to balance between gameplay needs and story trappings. At the very least though, I hope players will wince when they see their poor onscreen character take a hit knowing that the consequences of injury are something that can't be resolved with a few seconds of rest.