As gaming becomes a cultural pursuit that passes through the decades and comes to be studied as a cultural phenomenon, exactly like music and film, more attention is being paid to the question of how exactly people's gaming tastes develop. We're at a stage now where a large amount of people get into gaming as children, and so their interests are shaped by the environment around them at that age, much like whether they watched Disney films or heard Bowie records as a youngster.
Back when I was a child in the mid-late 90s in northern England, girls did play a lot of video games, but boys seemed to be introduced to it much younger. However, the biggest determinant of your tastes seemed to be whether you had an older brother or not. All of the lads at primary school seemed to talk a lot about playing Resident Evil with their older siblings, or the older siblings of their friends, and through that experience they were slowly introduced to survival horror games.
I never had that experience really. My introduction to gaming came through visits to my Grandma's, where there was a Sega MegaDrive and later a PS1. I eventually got my own PS1 and then a Gameboy Color, and the rest was history. But my time under the watch of older relatives, rather than sneakily playing something forbidden in an older sibling's room, meant I grew up on simulators such as Theme Park and platformers such as Sonic & Knuckles and Crash Bandicoot, not Resident Evil or Silent Hill. I never really came across anything even slightly spooky until I hit secondary school and everyone in my chemistry class was talking about the trailers for the upcoming Resident Evil 4.
About a year later one of my good guy friends at the time, Chris, leant me his tin-case copy of RE4 for the PS2; I was so excited to go home and face off with "chainsaw sack face guy". I put the copy on top of all my textbooks which I kept in the pantry downstairs...and refused to pick it up again for 2 whole months, before I decided not to be a greedy little shit and give it back to him.
You see, I just can't do scary video games.
I don't mean I tense up and jump at all the spooky parts. I don't mean I have to go for Easy Mode every time or I get myself bloodily terminated every 5 seconds. I mean I can't even put the damn disc in half the time without chickening out. I got a little further with the original Silent Hill, which I promised about 8 months ago to review for another blog series I write - I got to the garage scene where you follow Cheryl about 5 minutes in, then powered my PS2 down with the TV screen switched off. This is coming from a person who watches gory Let's Plays on a semi-regular basis and who counts Battle Royale as one of her favourite films, so there's obviously a bit of a contradiction going on there.
I consider myself a horror enthusiast when it comes to the films I watch and even the games I'm interested in; however, I can't actually get involved in anything horror-themed if it's interactive. Being able to CONTROL the character potentially getting violently killed is something I experience as a mental block. It's also not universal in what I can't handle; for example, I'm fine with the Walking Dead series by Telltale, because the interactivity is limited to QTEs and the like a lot of the time. Also, action games such as Sleeping Dogs which involve bloody gunfights are something I can really get into, so it's seemingly linked to the supernatural aspect.
I write this half as a confession, half as self-encouragement to break into playing "scary games". I picked up a copy of Silent Hill 4: The Room the other day while at a retro games shop in Schleswig-Holstein with my boyfriend, and we both were pretty excited; but I put it back down right away, as he's not got an excessively strong stomach for horror either, and I would be a mess. That's the goal though: one of these days I'll be able to put that in the disc drive without hurling my PS2 out of my bedroom window. One of these days.