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4:33 PM on 11.05.2013

I Think There's Something Wrong With Me: Comparison of Movie and Game Horror

When I see a horror movie (which isn’t very often, as I tend to avoid them at all costs) I can’t get the disturbing, haunting scenes out of my head. For the next couple of days I find myself running by windows in fear of something being out there, waiting to grab me as I pass. I cringe and leave the room when I see something extremely violent and gory in a movie. But when I play video games I take pride in the number of dismembered body parts I can spread across the battlefield. I get a rush when I cause an enemy’s head to turn into a red cloud at the end of a shotgun or baseball bat. I bask in the creepy environments of horror games and afterwards can calmly walk around my dark apartment, even after being terrified out of my mind. I just don’t understand why. How is it that I’m so disturbed by violence and horror in movies, but not in video games?

The first horror movie that I saw was “The Grudge” when I was about ten years old. I went to see it after my older brother and I saw previews for it on TV. At this point in my life I had no idea that “horror movies” were even a thing that existed in this universe, and I guess I expected to see a creepy-as-hell, contorted, dead woman crawling down a set of stairs, then a guy running into the room with a machine gun and spraying it with bullets as he yells “Booyah! Take that, you silly-ass dead lady!” But that doesn’t happen http:// in horror movies. And that shouldn’t happen in a horror movie. And it didn’t happen. I guess you could say that I was disappointed by this at the time, but it did open my eyes to the fact that “horror” was a movie genre (that I hated).

I did see “Resident Evil” before “The Grudge”, but this didn’t really scare me. What it did do was introduce me to death and violence in movies. This bothered me at first because my babysitter at the time who allowed me to see this movie without my parents’ knowledge told me that actors who died in movies were actually killed. What an asshole. I never went to confirm this with any parent in fear of being punished, and it wasn’t until a week or two later that my babysitter told me that it was a joke. While this could seem like a possible reason for me to hate seeing violence in movies, I really don’t believe that it’s the correct reason as I got over this pretty quickly.

In an article by Charlie Barratt, the Microsoft Editor on GamesRadar, titled “Why scary games are never scary”, Barratt mentions that the consequences in horror games are all wrong. He says that when we are attacked in a game “we don’t scream out of pain; we curse out of anger that we might have to replay the level all over again.” While I don’t completely agree with the title, as I know some people who can’t play horror games purely out of fear, I do think that he makes a great point about the consequences of dying in a game. Why should we be afraid of something that’s simply going to force us to redo a previous action and face it again under the same circumstances?

The mechanics of games in general definitely has something to do with the reduction of fear in horror games. With a movie you are constantly at the mercy of the director and are presented with camera angles that are positioned in the best way to frighten a viewer. The older “Resident Evil” games always seemed exceptionally creepy to me as a kid, probably due to their rather interesting camera angles. Depending on the position of your character the camera angle would change to a specified static position that would not change unless you moved far enough off the screen, causing it to change to a new camera angle. In other words you could hear the shuffling and moaning of a zombie, but you don’t know if it’s a foot away from you or ten yards away from you until you move off of the current screen (which may be a devastating mistake).

The ability to pause a game or look at a map or organize your inventory are all mechanics that can temporarily take a player away from the frightening environment. As Barratt puts it, “the mere knowledge that you could pause if you wanted to is enough of a psychological safety blanket on its own.” We can change the pacing of a video game. Movies are a constant roller-coaster-ride of terrifying events while games give us the freedom to pause or even get lost for twenty minutes until we reach whatever goal will trigger a monster to hunt us down or jump out and shock us.

Also it is impossible to “win” at a movie. When we progress in video games, no matter how frightening it is we’ve “made progress”. Even if the protagonist is killed in some horrific way at the end of a video game’s story we think “Yay! I won!” (or in some cases “What? It’s over already? I want my money back.”).

Maybe it’s simply the fact that I’ve played horror games so much, and understand how everything is assembled to frighten me. This could be the same for people who see a lot of horror movies, especially if it’s the same one over and over. When I first played “Amnesia: The Dark Descent” by Frictional Games, I found it to be absolutely horrifying. Being in the dark or seeing monsters would cause the protagonist’s vision to blur as he goes insane, and these hideous creatures would aimlessly patrol hallways until they spotted you and gave chase. After many hours of playing I stopped carefully peeking around corners and turning off my lantern when an enemy passed. My new strategy involved jumping around the monsters like a moron and throwing barrels all over the place because I stopped being scared.

My numbness to violence in video games I find much easier to look into. The reason for hating violence in movies is probably due to the fact that movies often focus on characters for long periods and their pain and suffering is largely played on during gruesome scenes, while in video games every violent kill is done against some random enemy that we don’t really give a shit about, and when the kill is performed we see an experience bar increase or points flash on the screen (and it feels so good).

For example, if I were to play any “Call of Duty” game I wouldn’t mind the violence at all because it is so repetitive. When I play the story mode of one of these games I quickly get bored no matter how many people I shoot and I don’t really care about the violence; I feel like I’m being prodded forward with a stick held by an eager Michael Bay as he shouts “C’mon! Shoot stuff! Do more explosions!” When I see a character tortured or killed I don’t really care because throughout all of the incessant gunfire and pointless fights there isn’t a whole lot of room for me to care about the characters or really see them develop. When I play the multiplayer of one of these games I have a good time, as each kill rewards me with points, and the violence is fast-paced and fun so I don’t really mind it; controlling the actions of a character makes it feel less real. With the controller in my hands I can sense that I am simply killing an AI who has no emotions or feelings, or that I’m getting points by forcing another player somewhere else in the world to simply re-spawn and try again (not a very severe punishment).

Compare this to the “Saw” movies or the 2011 film, “Drive”. The “Saw” movies are horrendously gruesome and show us long, agonizing scenes of people being tortured and killed in brutal ways. I can’t stand this because I actually sympathize with these people and find it difficult to watch. When I see somebody have their arm cut off or their eyes stabbed out the screams of pain, gory details, and intense focus on the scene almost makes me feel the pain. I’ll admit that I never really saw the movie “Drive”, but I did get a few glimpses of it when my girlfriend was watching it and I was rather disturbed by the extremely graphic deaths that I saw. Video games tend to push more toward lots of action and don’t focus on the same details that movies do, such as the suffering of characters that are killed, and obviously there is no way to feel like you’ve accomplished something when a character in a movie is killed.

Overall I think that my numbness to horror and violence in video games is simply from exposure, although there are some downfalls to horror and violence in games in the sense that it’s not as easy to make a player feel the way that a movie can make its viewers feel. I think that anybody who constantly watches violent or scary movies will become numb to it, just as I’ve become numb to it in video games.  Numbness to being disturbed or repelled by something can happen with any activity, and while some may feel that numbness to violence in games and movies is harmful to society, I don’t think that we’ll be seeing too many murderous rampages simply because somebody shot an AI in a video game or saw a violent movie.

Thanks for reading! Share your experiences and opinions on this topic below. I’d love to hear it.   read

11:54 AM on 10.03.2013

But, wait! Guys! Why aren't you playing Awesomenauts with me?

What Is a Awesomenauts?

I first found out about Awesomenauts when visiting a friend’s house. When I looked at the TV I saw a monkey with a jetpack dropping bombs onto robots and a cowboy throwing dynamite at a frog, and thought “What the hell is this?” This was when it was first released for the Xbox 360, and I quickly became hooked. Eventually Ronimo, the game’s developer stopped supporting it for the Xbox and I ended up buying it on Steam. I don’t regret this decision at all, as the extra characters, new map, and constant updates were well worth the $10 that went toward this purchase, and I can understand the budget constrictions that such a small company can face when releasing a game.

Awesomenauts is the most fun I’ve ever had in a MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena). And for those of you who don’t know this game, yes, it’s a MOBA. But what makes it so different than other MOBAs is the 2-dimensional, side-scrolling play style that makes it more fast-paced than League of Legends or Dota. And I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy LoL or Dota. I’m just saying that this game is different in a very fresh, fun way.

The game’s playable characters have distinct and often hilarious personalities, which is expected in any MOBA, but this game absolutely nails it. Not only do they have their own phrases and personalities, they also have ridiculous theme songs that play during the loading screen before a game and when that character gets a killing spree. Some of the characters are even voiced by gamers you may know; TotalBiscuit, Jesse Cox, and Ashly Burch have all voiced a character.

The buyable items in Awesomenauts are simply character upgrades to be purchased throughout the game, and are the only way to improve a character, making the game a lot less technical than other MOBAs. What’s great about this game (or maybe not for some people) is that it requires a lot of skill with aiming and maneuvering. Battles are fast-paced and action-packed, and tremendously satisfying.

And don’t think that because I love this game that I’m skilled at it. This game has a pretty great learning curve that I can’t seem to overcome. Even though I’ve currently played for almost 200 hours, I still manage to lose about 75% of the matches I play, but at least I have fun doing it.

I’m really hoping that the game’s community will grow tremendously in the future because this game should not be ignored. There are some players who will complain about unbalanced characters, but that is generally to be expected in a MOBA. Ronimo, being such a small group, has done an amazing job thus far at keeping the characters well-balanced and constantly updated.

Game Objective

For those of you who don’t know how the game plays and would like to know, I’ll gladly tell you. There are two teams of three players on a symmetrical map. Each team is trying to destroy the enemy team’s turrets in order to destroy their base and win the game.

Small droids constantly come out of each base to traverse the map at regular intervals. Enemy droids can be killed in order to gain 5 solar (the game’s currency) and your droids create a meat-shield so that you can attack an enemy turret without being annihilated.

When an enemy is killed your entire team gets 30 solar, and the person who got the kill gets an extra 30 (if a turret or droid gets the kill then 30 solar drops to the ground). Dying causes the individual to lose solar also. Solar is only used to buy upgrades at base, and the total of your current solar and solar spent affects your level (100 solar = 1 level). Having a higher level does nothing but show that you have more spending money and more badass upgrades.

So the general idea is to strategically chip away at turrets or get enemies into ganks so that they will die and make your team stronger than the other. Use whatever advantage you have, whether it be your superior combat prowess, your higher level, or your unique strategy to reach their base before they reach yours (and destroy it; that’s important too).

So, If You Do Not Own This Game…

Just go get it already and join the community. The hilarious characters, unique character builds and strategies, and fast-paced battles make this game so much fun. I just can’t stop playing! If you want to play as a slug-like alien in a mech-suit that shoots out cats, a gangster frog who uses his hip-hop dancing skills in combat, or a worm riding a flying puffer-fish that yells “You’ll be sleeping with the fishies! Myah!” then you should at least check this game out.


8:26 PM on 10.02.2013

Outlast Review: How to Properly Shit Your Pants

When a fan of horror games hears the phrase "scariest game ever" spill out of somebody's mouth, they quickly turn around in shock and anger with their fists at the ready to defend their favorite horror classics. While classic horror games are great and all, a title that is constantly being hyped as the "scariest game ever" is impossible to ignore.

Outlast, a new horror game developed by the popped-up-out-of-nowhere company Red Barrels, is sure to scare the shit out of you no matter what your overall opinion on the game is. While some may see this game as a rollercoaster ride of cheap jump-scares, there are many unique aspects of this game that make it so enjoyable (that is if you find being absolutely terrified enjoyable).

You play as journalist Miles Upshur, who is investigating Mount Massive Asylum. There is something about this journalist that makes him stand out in the world of first-person video games: he is not a floating head with telekinetic powers. Outlast puts the player into an actual human body; as in, if the player were to look down they would see a torso and legs and feet and all sorts of neat body parts. Look down right now! That's what you see, correct?

This feeling of actually being in the body of a character deepens the game's feeling of immersion. Like I mentioned before: no telekinetic powers! This means that Miles has to reach out with his delicate little hands to open each door. Such a simple detail provides the player with an overwhelming feeling of vulnerability.

Another neat-o feature is the fact that when Miles is frightened he begins to whimper (like a scared human would do), making the player say "Why are you scared Miles? Now I'm scared because there is clearly something to be afraid of that I don't know about!" Something about making the character really come to life and feel like more of a physical being gives players a heightened sense of fear and insecurity.

An important thing to mention about this game (something that may piss many players off) is the fact that the game is very linear. Every enemy is a scripted encounter, and most doors are locked, forcing the player to take a very obvious path laid out before them. This aspect of the game sort of craps on the game's replay value.

Linear-as-shit gameplay aside, Outlast brings a whole array of unforgettable gameplay moments. At one point during my playthrough I saw a creepy-ass figure with a sharp object at the opposite end of a narrow hallway, and in one of those "Nope! Fuck that!" moments I backed up only to have Miles look down at a large blade sticking out of his stomach before falling to the ground without getting the slightest glimpse of his killer. For me, this moment was a huge success in game mechanics; I had myself a fresh new kind of death instead of running away and having my character go "Urgh!" and "Gack!" as my screen flashed red upon each hit from my pursuer until I died.

This game provides one of the creepiest atmospheres I've encountered in a horror game. The gory details of bodies and entrails strewn throughout the asylum is only the tip of the iceberg. During your visit to Mount Massive Asylum, you can expect to meet plenty of patients with great personalities! Patients that simply stare at you or stand in place without moving, muttering strange phrases can make the player feel very insecure, as they can't really tell which of them are going to do something threatening.

A unique feature that makes this game stand out is Miles' choice of the modern horror game's ever-so-popular personal light source. It's not a torch. Nor is it a flashlight. It's a camcorder! Miles holds this device up to his face, casting a green, eerie glow over everything. Viewing the world in this lens causes the eyes of patients to glow and the static of the camcorder creates a slight obstruction of an otherwise clear view.

The game's sound has a large impact on the atmosphere and the player's feeling of safety (not that the player should ever feel safe). It quickly becomes difficult to tell if you're more comfortable with or without the ominous noises, as the silence can be just as terrifying. When those creepy-ass noises stop playing you'll wish they'd come back!

One of the game's many strong points are its heart-pounding chase scenes. The eerie atmosphere is occasionally broken when some scary-ass dude explodes through a door in pursuit of Miles. This often employs fun little parkour tactics that are sort of reminiscent of Mirror's Edge, but not quite as over-the-top or badass.

The other use of enemies in Outlast comes up when there are small areas with an important objective or destination. Enemies will skulk around these areas aimlessly, but will give chase upon finding the player, which makes the player peek around corners, hide in lockers, or simply run like hell. This feeling of being hunted is an important feature in any horror game, and Outlast nails it (to a certain degree).

That certain degree comes from the minuscule lethality of the enemies. While there are some cool (and clearly specifically scripted) deaths that can be had in this game when a seemingly docile patient shanks you for an instant kill, enemies during these badass chase scenes and hunting areas tend to lack the ability to kill anything. You may find yourself jumping around an enemy as he lacerates you with a machete. After four or five hits you run off and quickly hide so that your health can regenerate Call of Duty style.

One of the game's enemies wants nothing more than to grab Miles by his scrawny neck and throw him. That's all he does. Ever. It seems to deal damage but I never stuck around to find out how many throws it takes to kill a Miles Upshur. Being able to dance around an enemy as they swing at you until you decide to run off into a locker makes the enemies a hell of a lot less menacing.

While the game has a few drawbacks, the overall experience is absolutely amazing for those who enjoy horror games. For me this game was a 6-hour long terrifying adventure that occasionally found me leaving my dark cave for light while I let my heart settle down. The creepy atmosphere and intense chases never seem to let up (and why would you want them to?).

Despite the short-lived, linear gameplay and low replay value, Outlast is a definite must for players who are looking for a great horror game. This game, even with its flaws, manages to be a shining example for modern horror video games. Although the title states that this is a review, don't expect me to throw out any numbers (as I don't want to come off as a douche, and don't believe that a game can be summed up as a number). I do hope that this review has helped individuals come to a decision on whether or not this game is right for them, and I also hope that I have given insight on the game's mechanics regarding what is or isn't effective.   read

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