It's a cliche but it's true. The more attractive your characters are the more likely you are to catch a viewer's interest long enough to draw them in, get them interested in the rest of your 'product'.
This rules applies just as much to horror games as it does anything else.
But is there such a thing as too pretty to die? I mean the whole point of horror is that we expose ourselves to the things we like least, not the things we desire. Is there a point at which the attractiveness of a character becomes so absurd as to completely absolve a scene of any power over the viewer or player?
I was pondering this as I watched the trailer for the new Fatal Frame game the other day and the conclusion I came to was pretty much: Err... yeah.
While I do think it's a matter of degree and intention with horror – if you're going for something a little softer or your intention is more to shock than to probe the depths of the human psyche then obviously you don't really need to be as concerned with how ugly your game world is, I do think regardless of what your angle is if your intention is to make horror that people can relate to, can be affected by, then you need characters who are relatable. Those characters need to look like real people, it's human nature that the characters we'll want to see most in our fiction and entertainment are more attractive versions of ourselves but there is a line there to be crossed, a limit to how attractive a character can be before it becomes absurd. If your characters look like they're wearing bizarre lingerie then I think you've probably crossed that line.
For me at least this is what I took from the Fatal Frame trailer, a reminder that regardless of whatever your horror game may be about, whether it be ghosts, or zombies, or creatures from the depths of the darkest ocean, if you forget that the point of horror is to connect your audience with relatable characters and stories then you kind of lose whatever impact anything else in the game could've had.
Real horror is ugly, and that's not really something you can escape, no matter how hard you try.
LOOK WHO CAME: