Unlike the stereotypical prepubescent boy, I wasn't interested in chasing after mature content when I was a kid. In fact, I'd say I had a bit of an aversion to the stuff. Back then, I got the chance to be interviewed by my local newspaper in a section where kids got to talk about their hobbies. Being me, I of course repped video games with no shame. I remember being particular about mentioning how there's no blood in Ratchet & Clank and how good it was that enemies only blinked red when hit instead.
Back then, I think I associated mature content with realism, which felt boring compared to the more fantastical games I was used to. Whenever I was exposed to friends playing GTA (who were very much not of appropriate age at the time, but that's a different topic), I just wasn't as spellbound as I would be by something with more imagination at play. I still hold a form of that belief today, as there is a lot of AAA stuff that I can't even be arsed to look at twice due to their realistic settings. Still, there were a few games like Soul Reaver that manages to capture my interest in spite of how violent they were.
But come seventh gen, things started to change, though not immediately so. When I was hunting for more delicious footage of Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction to gawk over, I accidentally found my way to some footage of Insomiac's other title at the time, Resistance: Fall of man (which I recently reviewed in preparation for this). I was frankly disgusted by the blood and colour palette on display and wrote off the game as boring garbage. I have since come to like the game, in spite of how difficult and drab it is.
But that didn't happen until two other factors began affecting me. The first was Uncharted: Drake's Fortune (which I also reviewed this month) for reasons that should be obvious to people who have played it. While the game is generally like an action movie and about as violent, I still played it out of curiosity (and probably due to how few good games were on PS3 at the time). I dealt with the game just fine, until the game took a surprise horror turn for two chapters.
I was very much mentally unprepared to suddenly find myself in a horror game shooting at monsters back then. It was really scary to have a game turn on me like that. I scrambled through the rest of the game and ended up beating it. Even going back to it this year it managed to raise my pulse a bit during the horror section. While I can't say the experience was a revelation of any kind, It did manage to normalize mature content for me a little bit. It wasn't something to hate, just something that's exciting in the proper dosage.
And speaking of the proper dosage, the second factor at play was my budding addiction to gaming videos. I watched justabout anything and found myself being particularly interested in watching other people play horror games. Not playing them myself took the edge off enough for me to realize how interesting they can be. I got so into Silent Hill that I even dug through the TV Tropes pages for the games to read about the horrific stuff in them. Having to not see it took the edge off even more and made it downright approachable.
I was amused to see an indexed web search for "silent hill tv tropes" when I restored my PSP earlier this year. Especially since highlighting invisible text on TV Tropes with a PSP is more of a nightmare than Silent Hill is.
So when I got my hands on Resistance 2, Uncharted 2 and inFamous around 2009 or 2010, I didn't have this innate disdain for the mature content and could instead judge the games for what they were. The first two weren't much to my liking, but inFamous gets points for doing the whole super hero thing without being burdened by DC/Marvel history.
But I don't think I passed the threshold proper until I got my hands on Resident Evil 4 and Devil May Cry a few years later. Amusingly enough from the same supermarket. I've actually managed to make an impressive amount of finds at supermarkets. Of course, those days are over now, as even my local game stores have closed down. Online shopping is convenient, but nowhere near as exciting as rummaging through sport games in the vain hope of finding a cool JRPG.
I highlight those two games in particular because DMC1 is horror-adjacent (the atmosphere is really good) and because RE4 is a really good entry-level horror game due to how goddamn silly it is most of the time. Together, they do a good job of normalizing the horror aesthetic and showing how rad it can be.
With those games under my belt, I started to include horror games in my collection efforts during highschool. Getting through the Silent Hill and Dead Space games wasn't as bad as I thought it would be and proved to be very engaging experiences. Though knowing the scares beforehand certainly made it easier.
So now in present time, I'm borderline immune to violent imagery in games (unless it's torture porn levels of violent) and quite resistant to horror as well. It's not as exciting as it once was, but now my pool of potential games to enjoy is a lot bigger, so I make do. The thought of not beeing able to enjoy games like Doom 2016 or Fatal Frame 2 makes me happy I was able to get over myself and figure out that guns and monsters are cool and I just dislike when they're used in a boring way.
Direction and setting does a lot for a game, as the same weapons or locations can result in varying levels of engagament depending on how they're used. I couldn't care less about the rifles in Battlefield 1, but good god is the bolt-action rifle from RE4 the best thing ever. Makes me sad that there is so much effort put into games that don't interest me at all, but I suppose I should be thankful. My poor backlog would just explode if my tastes widened to include the majority of AAA games released every year.