Survival horror isn't as scary as it use to be. Yeah I said it. The problem being game developers choose not to attack the player on a subconscious level but on a physical one. The dawn of the current console generation has been pretty rough on the horror genre. The increase in demand of graphics and gameplay scare developers into trying anything different with the risk of it flopping. Developers want to create something that people will easily recognize and that their game will appeal to more consumers that currently play the latest and greatest. That's the biggest issue with survival horror these days, the fact that game developers will focus strongly on graphics. Games have high-definition lighting, bloom, etc, this causes horror games to lose their scariness and their overall fright factor. Each little detail needs to be bright and let the player know that they're there and fully rendered for your viewing pleasure.
The game above is Silent Hill Homecoming, an extremely disappointing game in general, but a good example of what's happening to horror games. Homecoming seemed more about fighting monsters, then running from them. You had a greater chance for success by challenging a monster to a fight to the death, then trying to avoid it. Monsters were also in great numbers at some points too, so approaching a situation with any monster the first thing that came to your head was "Can I take on these many?" not "What the fuck is that thing!?". Monsters become less and less scary the more times you see them. It's the mystery that delves into our inner souls wondering where is the creature, but more so what it looks like. This is what leads to my second point, survival horror games need mystery, god damn it.
Mystery is one of the key elements that scared us at the beginning of any horror game. When your dropped into a situation that makes you understand very little of your surroundings, and the game only drops vague demented hints about what's going on, your more compelled to continue to skulk through the shadows in order to understand why you were put here in the first place. The number one problem of horror games losing their mystery is franchises. The more and more sequels we have of the same game, the less it's about mystery but more about action. We understand what's going on already when we play a sequel, and don't want to learn more, we just want to kill the bad guys. Game studio's constantly milk out the same franchise again and again, because they understand they have the audience that will continue to buy them, and they constantly put mechanics into games that will appeal to a broader audience.
Now do mind you there are several studios out there that still understand the key elements on which good horror games are made upon. Frictional Game is one of them. Amnesia: The Dark Descent has to be on of the scariest games I have played in years. Why? Because it thrives on the players lack of knowledge. The enemies are constantly hiding around corners, and there are points where you 'think' theres some demonic hulking beast, but it's just a book falling off the table. Everything about Amnesia: The Dark Descent is amazing, the atmosphere, the enemy design, the gameplay, the story, just about everything capitalizes on key components that make the game scary or not.
So how can survival horror games come from from the dead? That might be harder then reviving the actual dead. We would have to let game studios know what the survival horror genre has done for us in the past, and what could be done in the future. Horror games are about letting the imagination run wild, so much that it actually causes us to shut down the game without even considering there might have been nothing there in the first place. Now I understand also in the past games were scarier because of the limitations of the consoles then, and now we can do about almost anything. Games developers need to recognize that even though they have the ability to create bright colorful detailed settings, doesn't mean they always have too. Hopefully somewhere in the future, the survival horror genre will reclaim it's rightful throne in the gaming world, but for now we will have to make do with what we have.
Thanks for reading my first blog on Destructoid, please critique it and leave a comment on areas I can improve. I know my writing can be a bit iffy at times, so if you have any suggestions please let me know.
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