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VenusInFurs avatar 5:27 PM on 10.08.2011  (server time)
Are you afraid of the dark?

Two years ago I decided to read 120 Days of Sodom by Marquis De Sade. I only made it halfway through the book before I decided not to finish it - the book was simply too disturbing to read. I thought I can handle the dark tale of four French libertines kidnapping a set of underage boys and girls. But to my surprise, I couldn't. You see, I have an ego; an ego of being undisturbed by anything. I would like to think my generation is the reason for this, and not because Iím insane. The film adaptation of 120 Days of Sodom by Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini had absolutely no effect on me. This supposedly ďcontroversialĒ and ďdisturbingĒ film simply hasnít aged well, not because itís bad, but because its shock value has been conquered by other films over the years. For instance, A Clockwork Orange was set to shock you, but now, itís simply an average film with average violence Ė the violence doesnít have the same effect and in return the film suffers greatly for it.

Video games, like literature, seem to be the only shining hope of true violence and genuine scares, but as the years go by, Iím noticing games are following the same path as films - the desensitization of gamers is what I worry about. Itís something we should try to keep intact before itís ultimately gone.

In Dark Souls thereís an elevator that takes you down to an underground cavern (you can reach this area at the start of the game). This cavern is dark and filled with enemies not interested in attacking you. Instead, the enemies are scattered around crying, pacing back and forth, or sitting with their head down. Thereís barely any light and the only sound you hear is of heavy breathing. I spent about five minutes there until I decided to leave. This level had an eerie feeling of hopelessness and itís the main reason why I love the game. But Iím scared that soon enough this will be absent, only replace wholesale by staleness and the absurd religious inhabitants of typical cliches that currently infest films.

I would like to point out three games that rival this typicalness of violence and horror: Condemned 2, Amnesia, and Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth.

At the start of Condemned 2, the player controls a drunk officer in an alleyway. Heís unarmed and completely confused as to what is happening around him Ė only seeing bizarre images on broken TVís and fighting off black liquid monsters. This level, which is essentially a prologue, is brief, slow; dark to the point you think youíre going blind and effective in its violence and scares. Like Dark Souls, Condemned 2 brings in the violence and scares slowly, it builds it up, sets an atmosphere, and indulge itself in romantics before the main event. Unfortunately, the rest of the game fails to live up to its prologue.

Games, like films, love to show extreme violence. I have no problem with this, but I do have a problem when itís desensitizing its audience Ė it kills the immersion and ultimate goal of the game. Dark Souls has a way of scaring you not only with its levels, but with its controls. Like Amnesia, Dark Souls has limited gameplay options. For me, this adds to the horror. Iíve been desensitize to violence and horror, but the possibility of death still gets to me Ė itís the reason why I left the underground cavern in the first place. The atmosphere was amazing, but it was the thought of losing all my souls, equipment, experience points, etc that truly ended up disturbing me.

Horror by gameplay is what I preach and itís used perfectly in Dark Souls, Amnesia, and Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. Limiting the gamer is the next best thing in horror: take the gun away and replace it with a flashlight, have your currency be used in the same vain as your experience points, let there be limited check points, have every decision you make be the final one because the game saves itself every five seconds. And also, let the game be hard.

Amnesia has you starting and ending the game with nothing Ė you have no weapons. When an enemy arrives, your goal is to hide until they have left. This, while boring on paper, is simply a delight to experience. Games have gone so far with its gore that Iím no longer scared or shocked by it. I give a bad look to games that apply blood and gore as a way to unsettle you (Iím looking at you, Dead Space 2). I champion the bizarre, not because itís different, but because itís effective (well, when it is effective), and so should you.

The first two hours of Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth has you going around a town questioning people about a murder. This all builds up to the actual ďgameplayĒ of the game: RunningÖ yes, all you do is run. Let me explain, after the two hours of investigating, you go back to your hotel room only to be awaken by the sound of someone trying to get into you room. Every room is connected by doors and your goal is to escape. Youíre chased by two sharply dressed gentlemen; one with an axe, another with shotgun. You run to the door, turn around, lock it, or move a book shelf to cover the door Ė you only have a few seconds to do this or they will break the door down and you will die. This goes on for about 20 minutes until you escape. Like Dark Souls many gamers have never gotten past the first 3 hours and some even fail to see the fun in it. But for the few that do see the fun; they get a special sense of fright, scare, and blood pumping action!

This all goes to my point of gameplay replacing visuals in horror. Because gore has been used so many times, developers must find a different way of scaring you. In a way, I thank games like Dead Space and Gears of War, not because I enjoyed them, but because they encouraged developers to find a more creative way to scare the shit out of you.

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