by Origami Killer
Fear is a horrible feeling. All of us have our own deepest fears, along with those instinctual ones we share. Fear has the power to manipulate and twist our minds into believing and seeing the worst things imaginable. Applying the feeling of fear into videogames gives us vivid and compelling experiences. With fear being instinctive as part of our human nature, it connects us in a unique way to the medium we’re engaged with.
My greatest fear is not the usual convention of a specific object or supernatural being of sorts but a concept. It’s a fear I share with many others: the concept of not knowing what lies ahead. More simply put, my greatest fear is the unknown.
This combination gives developers the perfect starting blocks for a horror game, even though death may not be permanent, the connection we build with a character makes us fearsome on their behalf and it’s expected that there will be plenty of unknown quantities in a videogame. It’s a perfect storm for the ghoulish.
I’m attracted to horror games and films. I enjoy a good scare, even if the feeling lingers for some time after.
Some of my favourite gaming experiences have originated from horror games or those that scare me. Dead Space 2 is a prime example. When those necromorphs start jumping out from the dark everything becomes a little intense and I get a little rush.
However, my greatest scare in gaming actually came from Demon’s Souls. The level was gloomy and dark with distant sounds of screeches. These three things set up such a nail biting atmosphere. Added to that was the sense that I didn’t actually know what lay ahead of me; the topography or the beings. Anthropomorphised insects and perilous falls into the abyss caught me out in the dark. I really didn’t like this area of the game and as a result I did get hallucinations. The consequence of fear for me.
Different fears or our scariest gaming moments are not the only thing I wanted to discuss though. What really puzzles me, and interests me more, is how developers manage to create a game that scares people.
Fear and horror must be hard to convey in interactive media, it is certainly much easier to script in action than a tense atmosphere. For this reason I always find myself appreciating a horror game more than an action game.[videoyoutube]Maybe even Resident Evil’s and, by the looks of it, Dead Space 3’s decision to make their games more action orientated is down to the fact it’s easier to script and present to the player.
The unknown entity that is the player doesn’t have quite so much scope to be in an unexpected place or looking in the wrong direction for the horror to really get a good payoff. I certainly hope that isn’t the case, I’d rather developers struggled to build emotions than gave up and opted for an easier method of providing thrills.
What I want to know is how do developers make a game scary? Do they add in their own separate fears in the hope we share it or instead add in a commonly shared fear or fright which most will find scary? This is something I really would love to find out.
In my opinion, to make a great horror game preset fears and frights don’t need to be added. Instead the gamer should be able to fill the game with their own fears.
This must be near impossible to achieve.
However, a certain game comes close: Slender. What works well for slender is the underlying atmosphere and the simplicity. When you play, the thought of being followed or the idea of isolation isn’t forced upon you but it develops as you play.
This, I think, is the strategy all horror games should take.
Heading off topic I hope everyone enjoys Halloween, I myself have a Scarecrow costume at the ready – “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.