Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Do Horror Games Scare You?

This popped into my head recently, reminiscing about all of the games I’ve played. And I’ve been prodding Left 4 Dead. There was a deal on Steam and it was gifted to me. I’m not turning down a free game.

I know I ragged on it in my last post for having pointless achievements (which it does), but that doesn’t detract from the inherit fun in the game, particularly with multiplayer. L4D does zombie shoot-em-up multiplayer right, where Resident Evil sometimes fails.

But that’s neither here nor there. What I want to talk about is how scary this game is.

Or rather, the lack of scary.

I remember when this first released people at work (GameStop back in the old days mind you) were talking about how freaked out they would get when they see a Witch, or the sounds of the Boomers and Spitters. And these were men who didn’t seem like the type to get easily jarred.

You know what? Sorry guys. I heart you as friends and we'll be BFB (Best Facebook Buds) for as long as the website is up, but I wasn't scared. I may have dropped a few F-bombs but only because we were getting swarmed by multiple zombies that I couldn't shoot them all effectively with the weapon I had in hand. It wasnt "F! I'm so scared!" It was "F! I just got belched on and we're already in a swarm!"    (massive apologies for the Blogger fail on the previous editing of that one. Apparently it doesn't like emoticons.)
More of an "ew" and less of an "ahhhhhh!"

I laughed and cursed my way through the game. I didn’t feel afraid in the way the game was probably intending.

Horror games are a tricky niche. Much like horror movies, their evolution has been one from “scary” to “gross out”. Resident Evil is a great example of this. The first 3 games focused on making you jump out of your seat. The unexpected happened and you maybe wet your pants in fear. By the 4th game, it became more about strategy and nastier looking enemies. That fear factor wasn’t as dominate. Still fun games that I enjoy playing, but trying to scare me wasn’t happening anymore.

The exception being the RE5 add-on with Chris and Jill where you go through the Mansion and tap into the history of RE. You didn’t get swarmed by zombies. Music didn’t queue you when one was hiding around the corner. A bird flew through a window and that made us jump a little. It was very unexpected. That add-on was way more scarier than the game.

The first Silent Hill and Fatal Frame did the scary thing too. Fatal Frame is one of the few that still holds on to its roots, but Silent Hill has focused more on the gross out factor. Kind of like the movies. You know what some awesome Horror movies are? The original Nightmare on Elm Street, Poltergeist, Halloween, even The Thing. Anything Hitchcock! Those were about making you jump out of your seat and scream. I refuse to watch Poltergeist ever again. Once was enough.
Again. Not scary.  But sure as hell nasty.

Today’s movies are all about grossing you out. Saw? Not scary. Disgusting and disturbing, sure. But not scary. Chop off your leg and I’ll let you go, or sit here and die. Is the choice suppose to be the scary part? Otherwise you’re just making me not want to buy popcorn while this guy cuts away at his leg. The myriad of “horror” movies these days are about blood, guts, and making you sick to your stomach.

Video games are starting to follow that path. You know what’s fun about L4D and L4D2? Finding new ways to make Zombie’s heads explode. I ran head-first into a swarm with a chainsaw just to see if I could lop off a few heads. Scary wasn’t a word. It was about dismembering the enemy in as violent and humorous of a manner as possible.
Damn dogs! I didn't know you were coming!
There wasn't any music!

In short, and long, horror games aren’t what they use to be. I miss that “jumping from your seat” factor. I don’t like music guiding me along to let me know that there’s an enemy from behind the door. It’s fine from a tactical stand point, but in the real world no music would be playing if zombies were attacking.

If anyone has a new game out there that might scare me, bring it on.


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