Andrew Rambles – Horror in Games

Warning: Stream of consciousness ahead!

Horror really should be one of gaming’s strongest genres.

There’s probably a little bit of bias here, given that I consider Silent Hill 2 one of the better video games out there, and Shattered Memories as a similarly strong contender.

Functionally, I think part of it is that horror is actually pretty conceptually sound for intellectual grounding. The ability to easily go surreal and explore elements of the human psyche (quite a few of the dark ones) just inherently lends itself to being generally artistic. Plus, you can load down the entire thing with shit loads of symbolism and watch the idiot fanboys do things like read hundred page documents all about Silent Hill multiple times because they love mulling over it so much.

Shut up.

Anyhow, the reason I’m here is to say that horror works so well for gaming, in theory, because its a genre that is really enhanced by the interactivity that games provide, moreso than any others.

The logic behind it is really quite simple. By putting you in the pilot seat in horror, it really is severely amplifying the effect. I mean, its one thing to cringe as you watch the movie, dreading every second as you know something horrible is going to happen or that the main character is going to be brutalized by some horrific entity from the nth dimension. Its entirely another to have to be the one walking down that corridor. The effect is pretty much like night and day.

Its the difference between being passive and being active, really.

Silent Hill 2 is a pretty sexy example off this, honestly. It has a lot of them, honestly! Reaching into the toilet to retrieve the wallet is… unpleasant. Really, most things James chooses to do are actually kind of unpleasant to the player, which creates a wonderous contrast with exactly how fucked up James is in that he does these things with very little second thought. The best part is that the effect of the game is enhanced in that, by the end, when this shit is just as blase to you as it is to James? You have synced up fully with the character! Its honestly pretty genius.

Fatal Frame does a pretty awesome job with this in its core conceit as well. The combat system? Is uncool. It restricts your vision painfully. Its tense. Its actually fairly hectic. And it puts you face to face with terrible ghosts that want to rip out your soul.

Plus it makes you play as tiny asian schoolgirls, and there is pretty much nothing scarier than that.

So yeah.


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