Hi, Joseph here, and today I’m going to talk about videogame horror, and why it’s an entirely separate (and arguably superior) medium.
If you told a much younger Joseph that, one day, he would be playing a game where a giant hideous extra-terrestrial being would chase him down and impale him through the stomach, he would laugh at you and then ignore you while using Ryu to beat up a sedan in Street Fighter 2. That much younger Joseph would eventually learn about Alien Isolation, a game in which a relentless xenomorph hunts you down.
So why is Isolation more terrifying than, say, Prometheus?
Because you’re the one experiencing it. First person perspective games like Outlast, Amnesia, F.E.A.R. Doom 3 (and select content throughout the Doom franchise), Resident Evil 7, Paratopic, Condemned, Slenderman: The Eight Pages (I know, I know, but it needed to be in there), and Bioshock, among MANY others, give you this terrifying feeling of being in the protagonist’s shoes from beginning to end, with many taking advantage of darkness and the limited perspective to truly give you that adrenaline boost, as every creak and discordant violin could spell your death. Third person games do this as well (some pre and technically post Resident Evil 7 games, The Evil Within, Siren, Dead Space, Remothered, Deadly Premonition, and a ton of others, all give you this feeling of being a mildly helpful silent helper, who still suffers the same fate as the protagonist. The expanded perspective often only enhancing the dread the player felt.
Then there are the omni-perspective games, in which you watch from a distance or a semi-fixed perspective as the protagonist is terrorized by all sorts of things, with you being the one deciding their fate. Games like Little Nightmares, The Clock Tower, Until Dawn, some Resident Evil, some Silent Hill, Yomewari, Corpse Party, Oxenfree, Alone in the Dark (no, not the newer games), Fatal Frame, Eternal Darkness and that one slasher/home invasion game that was infamous for being kind of polarizing but also a cool concept, among many others that I am forgetting. I decided to not mention tank controls because I, personally, hated them. Cinematic angles are great and all, but I hate controlling a character like they’re a very slow moving RC car. Removes some fun from the experience.
All of these games keep you at least a bit scared, unless you’re the type of person who, like the legendary Brad “Chicken Heart” Vickers, ditched his friends while they were trying to escape zombie hordes. In case I have been too subtle, I am the Brad Vickers type, except that I press pause whenever a discordant violin spikes the air or some unseen entity growls. I absolutely love these games, but I’m also the chicken of chickens when playing them. I’m still at the beginning of the terrible Welcome to Hanwell. Added note, I’m not bringing up Kaiju games because those are more action-brawler than horror, same with the RPG Maker games which pop up almost as frequently as every the indie games that are based on the same creepypastas as every other creepypasta game (Slenderman sort of started that trend, hence why it’s the only one brought up). Also ignoring sprite horror because, much like RPG Maker horror, it’s an oversaturated area.
I can handle horror movies with ease, but when I play horror games my heart rate triples. This is why I find horror games to be the superior horror experience. They enhance the experience of movies, often have far more replay value, and give you an immersive experience unlike any other, and that’s not even counting the VR horror games. And there’s the added plus of playing while your friends laugh at you. The interactivity, as you guide these characters through puzzles, obstacles, monster-filled darkness, and sometimes just bizarro horror itself, is why these games are often quite superior to the movie-going experience. Putting you front and center of a horror, in which you decide the outcome, enhances every sensation, resulting in an experience that films will never be able to match.
The only disadvantage? It’s difficult to munch on popcorn while running away from a monstrosity. I’ve tried, and it always results in a Game Over screen, or me pausing while I try to pick up all of the popcorn off the floor.
That sums up my write up and argument of why horror videogames are the superior medium. Hater comments in 3, 2, 1…
Here, I’ll make it easier for you, just pretend that you’re Ryu and I’m the car.