I love Horror. Everyone that knows me can attest to that fact. The cheesy feeling of a Friday The 13th, the comedic tidings of Evil Dead, and the more recent mind melting Cabin in the Woods leave a feeling within my stomach that I cannot get in any other genre. Video Games are no different. My favorite games of all time include Silent Hill 2, Resident Evil 2, and Fatal Frame. The experience of actually interacting with the Horror induces a horror that no movie or novel can come close to, and I truly love it. However, the genre has become tattered in more recent times. With all horror inching more toward action than genuine scares, the days of true fear, in my opinion, has become a way of the past. That is until the more recent resurgence of horror games that all started with Amnesia: The Dark Decent.
Mindless self promotion
The game that arguably initiated the horror resurgence in the gaming community, is also a testament on how to make a great interactive horror. Although the two Penumbra games, from Frictional Games, came before Amnesia, they both didn't have quite the charm or the polish that Amnesia did. Amnesia had polish, and induced a dread and foreboding that Penumbra couldn't quite achieve. Amnesia scared the crap out of me. It was something that has long not happened to me while playing a video game, without the use of cheap jump scares, and it was highly refreshing. I found myself tearing the gripping my mouse hard enough to start ripping through the plastic, as I stifled through the dark mansion corridors. More than once, had I hit the the alt-f4 shortcut, out of sheer instinct whenever something creeped into my vision. I became a nervous wreck as I jumped from box to box, trying to avoid that unseen monster in the water. It really was love. I couldn't bring myself to play, yet I couldn't stop playing. It was really a sign of a truly great horror game, and it lead to inspiration of many more indie games to come.
Within the next year and a half, indie horror games skyrocketed. New horror games where coming out left and right, and maybe because of the success of Amnesia and Minecraft, people where not afraid to put their time into making these games. Two games in a particular stood amount among the masses. One was a game that took the internet by storm. It was a game based on a popular creepypasta about a tall, skinny, man in a suit who kidnaps children. This game was named Slender. The game puts you into a role of, what people assume to be, a little girl, as she scavenges around a forest looking for mysterious frightening journal pages. After getting the first page, a thundering drum hits to signal that Slenderman is coming after you. The tension only riles up from there, as the more pages you get, the more aggressive the entity becomes. What makes this experience so frightening however, isn't the actual guy, who is poorly modeled, but is the stress it builds in the player as they make their way through the forest. As the player makes their way through the forest they are constantly looking for (or trying to avoid looking at) Slenderman, and the slight glimpses of him from behind a tree or off in the distance increase the anxiety ten-fold. The music is expertly applied and increases anxiety. Slender's constant teleportation and jump scares can even make a brave person like me come close to emptying their bowels. It really is a game that is so simple, but embodies horror, and provides a great example that a game doesn't need an elaborate plot to be good.
Another game that stood out upon the masses, was a small game called SCP Containment Breach. Unlike Slender, this game had a massive back story the came along with it that included conspiracy, a corrupted corporation, and the supernatural. The game itself, is just as simple as Slender. You play as a lab worker who shot right into an experiment with other lab workers to observe a specimen that the corporation had captured. Everything, of course, goes wrong as everyone but you is killed and the specimen has disappeared. This is where the horror starts. The game employs a mechanic, that your eyes get watery as you move and you must blink every few seconds. The problem with this is that the specimen that was released can only move when no one is looking at it. So one second you can be moving along, then the game forces you to blink the specimen can appear in front of you and break your neck. It's this sense of dread that makes this game horrifying. You never know when something will come and get you, and the randomly generated maps do not make anything easier. Some of the scariest moments in the game come, when you get trapped in a room and blink, and the specimen has appeared right in front of you, but not close enough to kill you. At this point I found myself panicking as I needed to find a way out, but of course could not take my eyes off of him. As my eye meter decreased, I couldn't help but panic. In these situations, more times that not, the game would end up forcibly closed instead of me actually dying in the game, That is how frightening it was. This was true horror.
The time we are in now, is truly the resurgence of horror games. It is a time where instead of trying to fit the next set-piece in the game (I'm looking at you Resident Evil 6) indie developers are looking to really scare the player. If all goes right, the big name developers will look to implore this tactic as well, and create games that are truly frightening again. With this influx of great horror games, as well as some awesome looking ones coming out soon such as Amnesia 2 and Slender: The Arrival, it really is quite an amazing time to be a Horror fan.
About Michael Dangelo One of us since 12:16 AM on 05.24.2010
A horror fan, a video game fan, a movie fan, and a everything fan. I love everything that is good, and some things that are bad. Willing to watch, play, or read everything that is recommended to me, I show no discrimination. If someone hands me a barbie novel and says "Hey, this is amazing!" I will at least give it a try.