Lunchtime Discussion: Isolation

Isolation is a very powerful feeling. I may be either a scaredy cat or a bit paranoid but I hate walking back from a club by myself, and I easily get freaked out when my flatmates are away on holiday. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has these feelings, it’s probably an evolutionary thing. When you look at human society it’s obvious that we evolved to live in groups, probably to avoid predators. It’s the same reason that birds fly in flocks and buffaloes move in herds, it’s much harder for a predator to pick you off when you’re surrounded by a group.

Given that I’ve talked in the past about how poorly games can convey emotion, it’s actually surprising how isolated a game can make you feel. I’m not a huge fan of survival horror games, quite often I get frustrated by the puzzles that dominate the genre. However there are a few I like and a big part of that is just how completely and utterly alone these games can make you feel, coupled with the despair of fighting off a huge army of the undead or dinosaurs (and why hasn’t there been a zombie dinosaur game?).

Dead Space 2 is probably a stand out in this regard; Dead Space may also be but I haven’t played that. I’ve only played Dead Space 2 once, for about ten minutes in the middle of the very, very crowded Eurogamer Expo. Even in that situation it managed to make me feel cut off and extremely scared. When a game can do that then it’s truly something special.

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There are some games outside of the survival horror genre that manage to instil the same feeling of being completely and utterly alone, Halo: ODST being one that sticks in my head. Whilst I didn’t actually like the game overall, the over-world sections managed to make you feel that you may well be the last human left on the planet. There’s a section in Reach that manages to convey something very similar, but amplified a hundred fold. I don’t want to give too much away, but if you’ve played the campaign you’ll know the part I mean.

So do you love games that manage to feel you alone? Does it enhance the fear factor a lot? Are there some games that just don’t manage to pull it off?

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25 Comments

  1. Project Zero 2 has to be the scariest game I’ve played, half the time you are alone and terrified, the other half you are with your sister and terrified in case she wigs out again. The Thing was good for that as well. I think it is scarier to be in a group with the threat of them changing and turning on you, as you let your guard drop and then BAM!

  2. As strange as this may sound, I found Super Mario Galaxy to be very isolated. Something about the vastness of space I guess.Portal I found to feel very isolated, except of course for my weighted companion cube =]

  3. I thought that Alan Wake did a good job of building the atmosphere with the gloomy forests and deserted town. Walking the dog, at night, on the local park was not the best thing to do after playing.

    The original Bioshock also worked well in making you feel cut off and alone against the inhabitants of Rapture.

  4. better to be alone than having a dumb-ass team mate who accidentally shoots you in the back or won’t shut up

  5. Metroid Prime 1 and 2 always made me feel quite lonely… In fact I remember thinking that Samus’ only real friend in those two games was her loyal space ship.

  6. i would love to play a real horror game but none interest me a the mo

  7. Games that feel like your isolated tend to come in either survival horror games which is generally the case or when you are a one man army like in uncharted lol :P…quite looking forward to dead space 2 tho :)

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