The prevailing theme in October is usually horror games due to the strong influence of Halloween on pop culture. In Dtoid yearly tradition of blog writing in October, the theme is invariably related to scary games just as this year’s “Hello Darkness” prompt suggested, games that solicit feelings of dread and horror. However, are games of this genre the only games that solicit these types of feelings?
If you think about it, scary games are designed to be one thing above all, and that is to be as uncomfortable for the player as possible, while at the same time providing enough room for the players to willingly delve deep into the non-comfort zone.
It is clear that horror games are not the only games that can extract you from your comfort game. Many games of different genres attempt their best to upset and cajole the player, to invoke alternate feelings of frustration and helplessness, while also providing moments of pure joy and victory. Some games, like Papers Please, don’t provide the slightest form of joy or release.
Outside of challenging games, which is a form of discomfort that is pivotal to gameplay to a certain degree, there are those games that aim to harass the player in unique and inventive ways.
The survival genre is built on the concepts of scarcity and continuous maintenance. The idea that resources must be scavenged to be consumed regularly, and that there may be a possible shortage that leads to failure. Note that the possibility of shortage may simply be suggested and could be a very remote possibility, but it will affect how the player reacts to the game.
This concept is brilliantly used in a game I am just playing, The Banner Saga. In the game, you oversee a caravan of warriors for most of the game. This caravan consumes resources that deplete with each passing day. Resources can be bought using experience points, which can be used to buy items and upgrade characters as well. This scarce resource is used to juggle three different priorities, creating a situation where the player must debate within themselves. When an event happens that notes that half the supplies could be poisoned, you must debate between the risks of that being true vs. the risk that poisoned supplies would kill off some of your warriors. There is a distinct possibility that none of this could matter, that supplies could be always plentiful. However, until I know for sure, the illusion of scarcity raises the stakes so much that I become more invested in the game.
Other games aim to be emotionally, morally, or even viscerally uncomfortable.
Sometimes, these games try to transmit these feelings through the gameplay itself. Adding layers that cause tensions, difficulty, discomfort, or any other negative feeling. Often, this is where receptions can widely mix.
For instance, the animal character in The Last Guardian was designed to ignore the player in the early game, becoming more responsive as trust is built between the two. This is the feeling I got from the game, and one I think was true to its message and concept. However, some people found that degree of unresponsiveness annoying, and they didn’t appreciate this relationship between story concepts and gameplay.
I found the way the boy's relationship with Trico developed to be organic, others found it confusing and tedious
This is usually where developers need to be careful to differentiate between being difficult or uncomfortable, and being plain tedious.
Like with horror games, you usually fail if you scare players away from playing your game. You want to be scary, but also provide enough hope so that the player can progress.
Recently, Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding was released to mixed reviews despite is respectable 84 Metacritic score, where even reviewers who gave it high scores use adjectives such as “boring”, “tedious”, or “pretentious” to describe its gameplay and story. Since I did not play the game, I will not attempt to make any statement about the game itself, but rather its reception.
I think similar to how The Last Guardian was received, not all players will engage with Death Stranding’s gameplay with the way some of the reviewers (or even Kojima himself) wished them to engage with. How someone can receive a game and interact with it is difficult to control (which is why some games opt for over-long tutorials that ensure the players know how to best play the game).
In the end, games that aim to discomfort, horrify, or otherwise upend the established norms, all face an uphill battle. By definition, their attempts could fall flat, be too successful and off-putting, or simply become tedious to go through.
It is a tight balance, and I don’t think you can include every demographic in that balance, but I think games that push that envelope all make gaming more interesting as a result, even if I end up being bored to tears playing Death Stranding three years from now.
*- I am guilty of not commenting much on Chris Hovermale's incredibly detailed and well-written front-page material, but that's because I don't comment much on the front page stuff. This blog is his goodbye as he seeks other things in life. You will be missed.
*- LaTerry's Band of Bloggers blog perfectly encapsulates the feeling of overcoming something that seemed daunting to you at first. In his case, it was finishing Dragon Quest's first three games (the Eldric trilogy) after failing to do so in his youth.
B- Other than Band of Bloggers, the Bloggers Wanted prompt is back as well, and it also deals with scary games:
Amnesia is a horror game that made me so uncomfortable I couldn't finish it
A- I guess Agent9 is fed-up by people giving Game Freak any excuse for nixing the National dex from their latest Pokemon game. Frankly, I don't think Game Freak can do anything to satisfy everyone, so they shouldn't even bother with excuses. Wallets speak louder than words my friends.
S- It looks like Kerrik52 is back with his weekly reviews of past games in his "Traveller in Playtime" series:
S- Lord Spencer continues reviewing the supposed best games of the Sega Saturn system:
S- Nior is doing a Command & Conquer retrospective series of blogs:
Many people enjoy survival games, some find them incredibly tedious, and different games sometimes get different reactions from fans and detractors of the genre
The Banner Saga wouldn't be as good if not for its elements of scarcity and the uncomfortable choices it asks you to make
D- In an epic (and possibly fruitless) quest, ABowlOfCeareal continues writing some interesting balancing suggestions for the Super Smash Bros. cast:
M- PhilsPhindings continues his excellent series where he looks for similarities between famous videogame tunes and other music from different sources:
Some people will enjoy awkward controls and massive backtracking, others will be bore out of their mind
To celebrate the recap of the entire month, give a hand to the following bloggers:
Comments of the Week and Band of Bloggers Team of This Month:
Blog Count: 64