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Author Topic: This Idea of Horror and Games  (Read 2255 times)

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Online InkiduTopic starter

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This Idea of Horror and Games
« on: April 10, 2011, 07:27:06 PM »
I'm sure you can ask anyone and they'll have their own ideas about what "real horror" is. It varies from the "If you can actually fight back it's not scary at all, arbitrarily speaking." and the "If you ever glimpse the baddie for more than the corner of your eye's worth of seconds it's not scary at all, arbitrarily speaking." Now what one person finds scary and what one doesn't is entirely up to that person, and I'm obviously not here to correct anyone's way of thinking. I just want to point out (and am now ruining it for myself to further discussion) some things I find scary about horror that usually get dropped on the corner of un-cerebral and parody-afied way.

Also this contains massive amounts of spoilers for various horror games most notably Dead Space 2. I will not be using spoiler tags because the reasons they are, as you say, obvious.

I was genuinely horrified by the majority of Dead Space 2. It's not the Cthulu horror, it's the back-brained, poo-flinging monkey horror, and that works, but not if you're dead set on hating it from the start (a.k.a. meta-gaming or want to raise everything in Japan to the West's new cultural standard--more on that-later.)

Guns do not drain all the horror out of Dead Space 2. If they do simply ramp the difficulty up a notch or two and you'll suddenly find yourself with nothing. The walls of the giant space station took more rounds than the necromorphs because it. It's horror that speaks to the flight-of-flight response, not the hide in a cupboard response (which I'm fully aware is the latter half of that response... elaboration ahead). It speaks to the make your decision now part of your reasoning sensors which are by now effectively fired and you're running around the room looking for the way out only to find them all locked. How can that not be terrifying. Well, as good as Dead Space is at drawing you into the blood-stained industrial doom there is simply one glaring flaw in video games. You're not actually going to die, this is true for all horror mediums. The ultimate penalty for losing is not really present. All you lose is time, and do it enough and it's not so much horrifying as frustrating (if you throw a remote, dial the difficulty back down until equilibrium is met). This does not make good horror. I don't see horror something so much to experience as something to be endured.

This is why Dead Space is absolutely bone-chilling and horrifying. It's like why you white-knuckle a roller coaster's safety bar. If you have ever played Dead Space or any horror game and have been stiff and tight-wound after the ordeal to where it feels like your body is trying to crush your own bones and joints. You were scared, you were so absolutely petrified that your conscious mind didn't even notice.

For those of you psychological horror fans I found Dead Space had that too. Not just Issac's dementia, but the whole ending (which really wasn't that horrifying, but it wasn't meant to be really) smacks of psychology. Issac is finally ready to confront his fears. Now, for the "unexplained evil" okay yes you know it's the marker, yes you kind of know how it works, but damn the whole stony realization is what kind of alien race builds something like this, what is it and who built it and where the hell did it come from. It's only made worse by the fact that all of Issac's present dealings with it are those made by man, the alien one just has to be worse.

Personally, I don't like the never-explained, omniscient, and basically unbeatable evil. Some would have you believe it's the most sublime horror out there, and it's horror, but I'm going to break it down too. Cthulu doesn't get his powers from some godlike ability, he gets them because he's the exact opposite of a god, of being human. Nothing will drive you crazier than a land where the geometry is wrong. Cthulu isn't just that scary, he's scary because he's the exact opposite of what it means to be and live as a human. Still, I don't like the unbeatable evil. Why, it kind of really shatters the horror for me when I know I can't beat it. Standing it, facing it, and then having it be unbeatable is one thing, but Silent Hill's evil town was just a load to me. I found myself getting scared by jumps and twitches and long narrow hallways, because in the back of my mind I know I'm not going to beat whatever evil is there. Again this works for some people well, me it doesn't, but I wanted to show the other side.

Onto Japanese horror. This is actually an easy way to scare non-Japanese people. It's just easier (not worse or better than, just easier). We had a meet-and-great horror movie night with the exchange students at my old university and I couldn't help but notice that they were absolutely terrified of horror movies that would go on to spawn so many numbers (the original good starters) and were able to almost yawn of Ju-On and Ringu. Why is this? Simple, it's the "other". It is scary because it is alien in culture.

I hope this kind of balances out the whole, "This, this, and this is scary and nothing else." argument. Plus, I always wanted to write something like this for a paper, but never get the chance.
« Last Edit: April 26, 2011, 07:15:42 PM by Inkidu »

Offline Oniya

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Re: This Idea of Horror and Games
« Reply #1 on: April 11, 2011, 09:04:33 AM »
I played a little browser game the other day called 'The Infinite Ocean'.  There was no shooting, nothing jumping out at me at all, and yet there was the most unsettling, slowly-dawning horror in it.  Not terror, which is a different beast entirely, in my opinion, but horror.  I think the ratio between horror and terror is where the difference in most of the 'horror games' I've seen described comes in.  The two are not incompatible, just very different.  Terror is the sudden shot of adrenaline, where horror is a gnawing sensation at the base of the reptilian brain that something is very, very, indescribably wrong.  Horror can evolve into terror as the suspected 'wrongness' becomes more clear, and terror can evolve into horror as the mind tries (and fails) to come up with a rational explanation for what just jumped out at you.  Mutated monster dropping from the ceiling?  Terror.  Working your way through these creatures and discovering evidence that they used to be human?  Horror.  Discovering that as you destroy them, you yourself are changing into something like them?  Combination.

Mind you, I've never played any of the so-called 'horror games' on any of the consoles.  The closest I've gotten was Doom (which I understand doesn't really count on anyone's radar), and an ancient thing called Dark Seed for the PC (and that one glitched up on me, so I never finished).  As far as horror novels, I'm much more likely to pick up Lovecraft than King or Barker (both of whom have moved from horror to splatterporn in my opinion - 'Salem's Lot scared the pants off me, but Christine was just another gore-fest).  Where this puts me on the 'horror aficionado' scale, I don't know, but it might be interesting to look at the terror vs. horror qualities of these games as a way to compare them.

Offline Koren

Re: This Idea of Horror and Games
« Reply #2 on: April 11, 2011, 09:09:55 AM »
Very nicely put.

Dead space for me was scary as hell. I spent so much time looking around corners and avoiding vents on the off chance the next dude would come popping out of it. That at the fact that when I got swarmed by necros i swore alot

for me though, more scary then dead space has always been silent hill. I remember playing the first one and when you saw a monster you instantly freaked because you had no idea what was next. i died so many times in that game because i just froze up from shock. :D Even thinks like in the later games how shadows would move across walls not attached to anything and how the radio static would just roar to life out of no where. Those games make me so paranoid.

The only other thing I can think of right now (not so much horror but the sheer instantanious scared out of pants feeling) is the part in Bioshock when you turn around and there is a guy standing half an inch from you taking up your whole screen. I freaked out so badly when that happened

Offline Hemingway

Re: This Idea of Horror and Games
« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2011, 10:50:07 AM »
My problem with a lot of horror games is that, at a certain point, I simply become numb to the horror. I'm always expecting something terrifying, so when it comes, it's not actually that terrifying.

I feel I should mention Alan Wake here, as it might just be the best horror game I've ever played. Amnesia doesn't count, because I'm actually too scared to play it - go figure.

The problem is that Alan Wake, like a lot of Stephen King's work ( which it is very much inspired by ), is that it's not scary in the sense that it makes you jump or clutch your chest with abject terror. I mean, sure, there are absolutely terrifying moments in some of Stephen King's work, and there certainly are intense moments in Alan Wake. The real scare, in my eyes, is much more subtle than that. It's very hard to describe, especially as it's been a while since I played the game. I do remember one of the scariest moments of the Stephen King novel Insomnia, though. A scene in which the protagonist, suffering from insomnia ( duh ) and up late at night sees a pair of dwarf doctors with garden shears, or something along those lines. Nothing else happens, as I recall. They don't see him, or anything like that. It's just that the description of them and just their presence is so unnerving. The same is true of a lot of H. P. Lovecraft's work.

That said, I'm not suggesting less subtle things can't be terrifying, but I still thing a certain degree of subtlety is necessary. In F.E.A.R., there are scenes in which the antagonist Alma appears for only a split second, or appears just as you turn to climb down a ladder, or things like that, without actually doing anything to do. Those are terrifying, in my opinion. The scenes in which she appears and tries to kill you, and you have to shoot her or escape, those were not nearly as scary. Still scary, but not to the point where it made me jump, or anything like that.

Offline Remiel

Re: This Idea of Horror and Games
« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2011, 12:35:02 PM »
This is a very intriguing topic, and I wish I had more time to respond to it thoroughly.  I tend to agree with Zero Punctuation on the subject, as defined by his review of Amnesia: the Dark Descent here.   Namely, that the best way for games (and films, and books for that matter) to convey horror in the true sense is to leave most of it up to your own imagination.  Horror writers throughout the centuries, from Poe to Lovecraft to King, are well familiar with this fact.  The best way to scare the bejeezus out of someone is to give them the suggestion of the monster--a silhouette, a heavy footstep upon the stair, the sound of heavy breathing on the phone--and then let the audience's own imagination fill in the details.  The reason is that whatever nightmare they come up with, without fail, will be several orders of magnitude scarier than anything you could possibly create.

I won't disagree with Inkidu entirely, but I have played both Dead Spaces and my personal opinion is that both fail to convey horror as well as, say, Amnesia or the Silent Hill Series.  It succeeds at terror, yes (thank you, Oniya!) -- who wouldn't be terrified when a necromorph leaps out of a wall at you! -- but the gore is just so over the top, very literally in your face, that you become desensitized quickly about the second or third Necromorph and then it becomes mundane.  I did enjoy the first Dead Space, but I found myself yawning throughout the second one until Isaac returned to the Ishimura.

Amnesia was a wonderful little game, in that it took away entirely any pretense of being able to fight, leaving you with just the options of (a) Run, or (b) Hide.   Brilliant.  However, its shortcoming  was exactly that that Inkidu mentioned, in that if you died, there was no real penalty.  You just started in the same place, with the same equipment you had before, ready to give it another go.   In some places this makes sense--the Water Lurker levels, for example--but in the catacomb levels it robs both the horror and the terror from the game.  If you had to revert all the way to the last point at which you saved--which could have been an hour or so ago--then it would really give you a reason to run like a headless chicken at the first glimpse of a monster.   

Silent Hill 2 is upheld as one of the benchmarks of what a real horror (not terror) game should be.  The interface is clunky, and the graphics are, by today's standards, primitive;  but in addition to one of the most dread-inspiring, soul-withering plots I've ever seen in a computer game (which includes elements of euthanasia, child abuse, rape, infidelity, and suicide) it successfully inflicts upon the player the growing sense of existential dread that comes from realizing that, yes, the entire town--including the buildings, the houses, the streets themselves--really does hate you.  It hates you with a pervasive, alien resentment that is, for the most part, passive-aggressive; but it doesn't just want you to die, it wants you to suffer.  And it will reach into your head and pull out anything it needs to accomplish this.

The best horror scenes are those which turn the safe and familiar into the unfamiliar and threatening.  The best example I can think of was in the game Resident Evil 2 (yes, Resident Evil!).  As the rookie police officer Leon Kennedy, you have to navigate through the Raccoon city Police Department headquarters, now crawling with zombies and other creatures.   Pretty standard fare so far.  But there was this hallway that you have to run down a few times in order to access some of the other rooms; halfway down the hall the camera view changes abruptly to show you a window--a typical, ordinary window--that you have to walk past.   And, when you do, absolutely nothing happens.  You shrug, keep moving, and promptly forget about it.

This happens about two or three times as you have to re-trace your route as new doors become unlocked, new paths open, etc.  And then, after the fifth or sixth time of running down this hallway, you pass by this window, and--BAM!  The glass shatters, and a dozen zombie hands grab onto you and try to drag you out into the street.  I believe I literally screamed and fell out of my chair when that happened.  I fell into the game's trap hook, line and sinker.  It lulled me into a false sense of security, and then it pounced.

But, yes, I maintain that in terms of existential dread and horror, you can't beat Silent Hill.    Perhaps the best line in the series is in Silent Hill 3, when Heather describes to Vincent some of the bizarre and grotesque monsters that she killed, and Vincent stares at her and says:

"Monsters? They looked like monsters to you?!?"

Of course, in the next breath he admits that he was only kidding; but even so, for a moment, it makes you (and Heather) draw back in horror while you consider the horrible ramifications of the statement.  Pure genius.

Offline Remiel

Re: This Idea of Horror and Games
« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2011, 12:35:41 PM »
And yes, Kora, that bit in Bioshock got me too.  ;)

Offline consortium11

Re: This Idea of Horror and Games
« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2011, 04:23:40 PM »
I think in terms of game design and pacing Resident Evil 2 often gets an undeserved bad rep... it did both horror and terror (to use the very appropriate distinction) well, at least to begin with.

One segment stuck out in my mind... walking down a corridor knowing that something was going to jump out. I was playing with friends and we all knew it was coming, me creeping along the screen as slowly as possible, ready to gun everything down, them waiting for whatever it was to jump out and eat me. I crept and I crept and there was nothing. It was a pretty long corridor and I was moving so slowly knowing that something was coming that it must have been a good 3 or 4 minutes, constantly looking back, looking around, wondering if I'd missed something. Then we all thought we'd been troped... the designers knew we'd think there was something so they deliberately didn't have anything spawn here. We all chuckled a bit and I finished the corridor by moving at a far more normal speed.

Just for a bunch of those demon dogs to burst out as I reach the door, sending us all screaming and panicking.

It was a nigh on perfect use of timing, the players awareness and scripting that built the horror through the build-up before somewhat defusing it... but used that to make the terror oh so much sweeter... and meaning the horror was there for later corridors.

I can't remember if it was a mod or simply one of the game modes but I seem to recall Resident Evil 2 (or one of the RE games from around that period) also had a survivor type mode with 1 life and much more limited ammo that changed the entire way you played it... from essentially a third person shooter it became a genuine survival horror type game with running away from combat often becoming the only way to play and each choice to fire a gun being a real decision that requires thought... or blind panic.

Offline DarklingAlice

Re: This Idea of Horror and Games
« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2011, 05:55:24 PM »
Musing on a bit of a tangent:

The fear of death in modern games is vastly underplayed. At the most extreme you have those pieces like Bioshock that remove any consequences from character death (One of the many reasons I did not find that game horrific or challenging at all. Although in the interests of fairness System Shock 2 had a similar system of nano-reconstruction and managed to utterly horrify me, so it wasn't just that). But it applies to most any game with that kind of save anywhere feel. Which is the problem: save=safe. The idea of risk and consequences seems to have been slowly drained out of gaming, and nowhere is this more apparent than the horror genre.

One of the reasons, I feel, that tabletop Call of Cthulhu sessions (with a good keeper) can carry with them more tension and fear than most any video game title is that there is a real possibility of permanent character death. Now, if it occurs, does it mean the story is over? Or that you as a player have to stop playing? Certainly not. But there is a very real sense of the fragility of this character you have created and invested with your creativity who will now be plunged into a world of madness and fear. It allows for there to be something with emotional investment for the player to lose permanently. In that way I think you can tap into and approximate in microcosm the players' fear of death-like consequences.

But the gaming industry does not apply its creativity to capitalizing on this rich well of fear. Which is a shame because I am sure there is an effective way to do so and not alienate their audience. Roguelikes, for instance, tend to do pretty well with the concept of perma-death, however, few if any are dedicated to the horror genre. The first time I introduced a friend to a roguelike (ADOM), he had the good fortune to have a character survive for four hours before his elvish archer met doom at the hand of an ogre mage. The following exchange occured: "Wait...so, what do I do now?" "Nothing, you're dead." "Dead?" "Yes, your character died, what did you expect?" "Thats...terrible. You play these things for fun?" Which made me laugh, but at the same time I think it says something kind of odd about the expectations of the modern gamer.

Offline Remiel

Re: This Idea of Horror and Games
« Reply #8 on: April 11, 2011, 06:14:52 PM »
Well, to be fair, it's a very fine tightrope to walk.  On the one hand, you want to create the actual fear of death (so that you don't do as I did in Amnesia, namely intentionally walking up to monsters in order to see what they looked like up close); on the other, you don't want to make the process so frustrating that your players don't throw their controllers down in silent fury after they get gibbed for the nth time.

Perhaps, at the very beginning, an option to either make death permanent, or only allow the player to save at specified points?  I know that Bioshock had a Hardcore mode that allowed you to turn off the Revita-chambers if you wished.  Then again, I didn't really go into Bioshock expecting a horror game; I went into it expecting a first-person adventure, and was not disappointed.


Offline Koren

Re: This Idea of Horror and Games
« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2011, 10:25:01 PM »
And yes, Kora, that bit in Bioshock got me too.  ;)

Yeah I defy ANYONE to say they werent scared shitless with that. It still makes me jump even when I'm expecting it


Hemingway, im on your side with Amnesia. not only do I not have the computer to run it but it would make me so goddamn paranoid, especially when you cant even look at the monsters and stuff. -shivers-

Offline Hemingway

Re: This Idea of Horror and Games
« Reply #10 on: April 12, 2011, 10:05:31 AM »
Hemingway, im on your side with Amnesia. not only do I not have the computer to run it but it would make me so goddamn paranoid, especially when you cant even look at the monsters and stuff. -shivers-

What really scares me is I understand part of the game takes place in a watery environment. Flooded cellar, or whatever. Water, in short, scares me witless. I mean, not swimming IRL or anything, but murky water in games.

With that in mind, imagine how I felt during the one quest in Oblivion that has you swimming through a dark, twisting cave, literally in a nightmare? Oh god I swear I've never been so scared. I had to do it!

It's also part of what makes Alan Wake good. Not that the lake in and of itself scares me, it's really only being in the water that does, but I still find dark forest lakes very sinister.

Offline Koren

Re: This Idea of Horror and Games
« Reply #11 on: April 12, 2011, 10:14:23 AM »
Yeah their are invisible water monster things certainly dont help in that bit either.
 I watched my friend play through the first of those bits and he got so twitchy and everything. He spent more time watching the water then doing what be needed to just get the hell up out of there. Took him almost and hour to get through it because he kept having to stop and remember to breathe. I didn't watch much after that.

wow, i can just imagine your reaction. That would be bad. Admittedly I didn't like that bit much either.

apparently the new Silent Hill game is partially going to be based around the rain and the heavy water in the game. Interetsing to see how that played out. I wanna see if they can make it even more scary :D


Offline jcsimpson

Re: This Idea of Horror and Games
« Reply #12 on: April 12, 2011, 02:20:51 PM »
I find the music and ambiance in Red Dead Redemption un-settling. When exploring a ghost town like Tumbleweed I always get freaked out (especially if it's night in the game) and I always jump when a Cougar comes out of nowhere and starts mauling me.

Offline Star Safyre

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Re: This Idea of Horror and Games
« Reply #13 on: April 12, 2011, 03:23:22 PM »
I was actually on a panel on this very topic a few months ago at a con.  While we focused mainly on tabletop role-playing games, I think most of what was said applies here as well.  The panel first made the distinction between a game being simply scary (shocking the nervous system with jumps) and being horrifying (shocking the morality of the player).  Plenty of games are scary.  Most of the Horror genre is made up of scary games.  It takes great writing and aesthetics which invite full immersion to make a scary game truly horrifying.  The player needs to feel a real sense of jeopardy for the character and the antagonist's threat must be something which taps into the player's primal or metaphysical fears.  How horrifying can a game be when death just means pressing Continue or rolling up a new character?  Death cannot be the threat.  The threat in a horror game must be something more than death, and the character suffering that fate must have some connection with the player.  We don't care if Mario falls down the hole because we're not emotionally attached to his struggle and we can just get another green mushroom and it's all good.  But what if we're out of extra lives and we watch him drown?  That is the very germ of horror.

Online InkiduTopic starter

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Re: This Idea of Horror and Games
« Reply #14 on: April 12, 2011, 06:01:45 PM »
Well, I always cared about Issac. Even though in the first game he was about as expressive as a ear of corn. Just the idea of him only being their because Nicole is is enough to compel a kind of emotional link. Still, it's not all about caring about the person. The mystery that's also key in horror. Dead Space does this remarkably well despite it all being the Marker. There is this greater sense of mystery which gets more or less tied up neatly for the cathartic ending. Something horror needs, by the way. There's still these unanswered questions that I must know, and I'll brave whatever hell I need to to find out.

Still, you can do too much mystery. If you never give away anything you risk losing your audience. That's why they kind of half-and-half it. Like The Shining. Is it just the hotel and the horrible goings on there or is it something darker?

Seriously, how fun would a horror game be if you never revealed anything?

Offline Hemingway

Re: This Idea of Horror and Games
« Reply #15 on: April 12, 2011, 06:44:20 PM »
I'm not sure I agree. I know a lot of people will disagree with me, but I loved the ending of Alan Wake. It ends at a very natural break in the story, a point where it's in balance, so to speak. It doesn't reveal anything, however. You don't find out why things are happening or what's doing it or anything like that. I think the story would've suffered if it had. I think if the Alan Wake series ends without the "true" nature of the enemy being revealed, the story will be better for it.

Offline Ironwolf85

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Re: This Idea of Horror and Games
« Reply #16 on: April 13, 2011, 12:32:24 PM »
Resident evil didn't scare me much, shocked me, made me jump, sure... and that Nemisis guy in number three, was the only enemey to make me sit up and go "OH SHIT!" zombies... meh, dodge em, shoot'em, mutant creatures, eat shotgun, I AM BADASS... then suddenly the low mumble of "staaaarrrrrs...." and in the back of my brain I'd just freak, and run like hell looking around the screen wondering where that black coated monster would come from, it was kinda like facing Jason, or Micheal Voorhees, but their cheezy now... nemisis... there was somthing about him, the way they presented him in the game, the atmosphere when he would hunt you down, that low mumble never enraged...
it made my spine freeze up, you could fight back of course, electrocoute him, shoot him, blow him up because of a gas leak... it always came across as some desprate move to slow him down.
he just made my spine freeze up.

the Japanese Siren game did that as well... I didn't understand most of it, but I got the terrifying part down, i shared it with my friends and the shibito scared them too.

Alan Wake was a fun ride too.

the other horror game I was exposed to was ravenloft in D&D, where the heroes are kinda doomed, and the players know it,evil has the upper hand and the world is seriously fucked up!
my character Jacques thrived in that horror game, where it was so hard to be a good guy.

Offline Shjade

Re: This Idea of Horror and Games
« Reply #17 on: April 14, 2011, 01:56:41 AM »
Yeah I defy ANYONE to say they werent scared shitless with that. It still makes me jump even when I'm expecting it
Given I can't even remember the incident you describe, I have to assume it didn't make much of an impression on me.

<--person who struggles to relate to horror/terror game atmospheres due to lacking suspension of disbelief.

Offline Remiel

Re: This Idea of Horror and Games
« Reply #18 on: April 14, 2011, 11:46:26 AM »
Shjade, I assume Kora was referring to the room (I can't remember if it was in Arcadia or Fort Frolic) where, as you enter, you hear somebody splashing around, but can not subsequently find any trace of them, as the room is completely empty.  Then you notice there's a desk with a Plasmid on it.  You go to get it, and when you turn around, there's a Splicer standing literally right behind you.  I mean he's practically looking over your shoulder.

It's not very horrible, but it does produce a good "Gotcha!" moment.

Offline Shjade

Re: This Idea of Horror and Games
« Reply #19 on: April 14, 2011, 12:13:22 PM »
Given my main horror-related gaming fare is the Left 4 Dead series, I tend to respond to "Gotcha!" moments by shotgunning things in the face. Somehow it takes the terror out of the experience. >.>;

Offline Jude

Re: This Idea of Horror and Games
« Reply #20 on: April 14, 2011, 12:44:18 PM »
My favorite kind of horror is the sensation that I'm hopelessly outnumbered and backed into a corner.  I prefer the "survival crunch" to frightening imagery and sounds any day.  The latter is typically consequence free (as the game's difficulty is designed with that frightening scene in mind) whereas the former taps into something psychological.  That's why I've always disliked Left4Dead.  I find its infinite ammunition pistols and levels designed around moving fast as a group strategically to be dull compared to cautious resource management, carefully executed combat maneuvers, and an emphasis on awareness and reaction.

Take Resident Evil 4 for example.  It had a few moments that were a little unsettling (such as the freaky monks in the Castle level), but was generally not very scary.  The game did an amazing job of creating tension however.  Playing it was a very stressful experience because you knew if you got sloppy and wasted ammunition or healing items you'd find yourself backed against a wall pretty easily.  As such, it became important to really focus on aiming your shots well so that you could exploit the QTE system and your knife.  And the more conservative you were, the better you were rewarded.

I loved trying to take out groups of enemies with as few shots as possible, so that I could sell excess ammunition and supplies.  I always managed to fully upgrade my weapons by the end of my playthroughs in RE4, which probably appealed to the completionist in me.  And of course professional mode took it to an all-new level.

Then came along RE5... backtracking, ability to purchase health ammo and farm items with ease.  And all of the tension melted away.  Use too much ammunition on a stage?  Well, go back and do the first again.  Tada, you're restocked with enough to continue on.  You never have to push through a bad situation you got yourself into.  RE5 took away the survival feeling and added a co-op partner so that you never feel like your back was up against the wall.  It was very disappointing.

Offline Hemingway

Re: This Idea of Horror and Games
« Reply #21 on: April 14, 2011, 01:10:12 PM »
Speaking of co-op and horror. F.E.A.R. had some exceptionally frightening moments. F.E.A.R. 2 had fewer, but still had some. F.E.A.R. 3 is introducing co-op. I somehow can't imagine the game being scary at that point. It seems to me like the moment you're no longer alone, a lot of the horror disappears.

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Re: This Idea of Horror and Games
« Reply #22 on: April 14, 2011, 01:17:20 PM »
But is that scraping noise behind you from your partner, or from the thing that just ate him?  And then there's the horror survival rule about splitting up - which the game could easily require in some way (player A has to flip a switch in another room in order for player B to got through the one-way door to get to the widget that will enable player A to access the doohickey that gets both of them into the next area.)

Offline Jude

Re: This Idea of Horror and Games
« Reply #23 on: April 14, 2011, 01:21:58 PM »
It doesn't work that way in practice though because:

A)  Playing co-op with someone when you can't talk to them is a horrific experience in terms of frustration.
B)  If you don't make the mistake of doing A) you know exactly what's going on from communication.

Now, if someone took the principles in the soon-to-be-released Journey (PSN title, I suggest resting about their take on cooperative gameplay if you haven't heard of it) and brought them into a horror game?  That would be neat.

Speaking of that survival, alone, cornered feeling, Demon Souls anyone?  I thought that game was surprisingly scary for an action RPG.

Offline Shjade

Re: This Idea of Horror and Games
« Reply #24 on: April 14, 2011, 01:25:36 PM »
Take Resident Evil 4 for example.  It had a few moments that were a little unsettling (such as the freaky monks in the Castle level), but was generally not very scary.  The game did an amazing job of creating tension however.  Playing it was a very stressful experience because you knew if you got sloppy and wasted ammunition or healing items you'd find yourself backed against a wall pretty easily.  As such, it became important to really focus on aiming your shots well so that you could exploit the QTE system and your knife.  And the more conservative you were, the better you were rewarded.
Different tactical approach. I barely used the QTE kicks/slams at all through RE4 except against the things that required it; I preferred mobility abuse. The majority of baddies in that game couldn't come close to keeping up with you so it was as simple as running from one side of a space to the other, turn, fire, run to the far side of the room when they start closing in, repeat. I still aimed, of course, because, well, headshots, but the only time I remember being pressured involved multiple chainsaw freaks rushing around. Oh, and the tiny falling cage trap with the armored guy inside (as I recall I managed to just get out of the cage without killing it and ran...not sure, it's been years).

RE2 was harder, mainly because mobility options sucked in it, and tended to make for a more stressful gameplay experience, I'd argue. Of course, that stress didn't translate into entertaining tension for me, but it was there. RE4 was...well, it was just too easy most of the time to feel particularly endangered by what was going on. L4D's access to munitions is a problem from an atmospheric point of view, but playing through it on expert, especially playing with only bots for support (good lord do they suck sometimes), certainly makes you recognize your frailty. Low margin for error.

Regarding F.E.A.R. - I only just started playing this a month or so back (and haven't been keeping up with it - been playing other games I found more fun), but already had an amusing demonstration of what Yahtzee pointed out about the problem with the horror elements in these games: you can completely miss them. I was crawling along in a ventilation duct with my flashlight on and spotted a girl ahead. Cue spooky music, girl scuttles away. Okay, whatever. On a whim, I saved there, quickloaded to a few seconds earlier, and did it again without my flashlight on. ... ... Cue spooky music! ... ... >.> Wonder what that was about. Oh well.

I just find it sorta funny they include these things and you can go by without even noticing them if you don't have a light source or you're looking the wrong direction at the time or something.