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Being Scared in Games is Needed 266

zombieinthebackofyourcar writes "The Escapist has done an entire issue on why we love and need horror games. Jon Schnaars, an expert in psychology and mental health issues, writes about how we need to be scared to generate pleasure from the game. From the article: 'Perhaps the most important change made in the game mechanics of RE4 was fixing the camera behind Leon, providing a tight third-person shot through which the player could experience the action. Through this move, Leon has become every protagonist from every horror film ever made. He is the lone survivor; steadily trudging into the dark when all our instincts tell us it's a bad idea. And as the player, it is actually us proceeding into the dark, receiving (when we're not getting beheaded) our genre pleasure.'"
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Being Scared in Games is Needed

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  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @03:08PM (#15614935) Homepage Journal

    I don't know about Horror being needed. I sometimes like the idea of playing the monster, when the opportunity presents itself. Heck, I've certainly been one in the online games I play, where I go around slaughtering things to gain experience levels and take the victim's treasures. See it from their point of view. "Horrors, here comes that damn human again! Is there no end for it's thirst for blood? It'll probably go after our shaman some day, then were will we be as a people?"

    Really, what we already know is that variety is what games need. If every game was based upon something jumping out of the shadows and ripping your lungs out, we'd have someone telling us what is needed is the safe-and-secure game genre where no harm comes to our valiant little avatar as he/she zips around collecting rings or what have you without repressing some proletariat.

    My own take is I have long had a preference for games where the player explores the unknown. There may be danger, there may be reward, but cooling your heels doesn't do much for the sense of intrigue. Exploring dungeons and wiping out baddies, or going on raids day after day, to achieve enough levels to used some object or spell is, as a topic some time back pointed out, is work (you know, that four letter word.)

    Ages ago I was totally wrapped up in the old fortran game Empire (eventually released as a PC game), until I'd played it enough to know what to expect. Nothing quite like the first time you're marching your little a into the black unknown only to find the enemy well entrenched, then to gear up your production for an assault. Eventually it was too slow and tedius. Same went for Seven Cities of Gold when you rolled your own New World (which wouldn't be at all like what you see on a normal globe) Exploring the unknown and facing risk is what gets the heart rate going, Grue or no Grue.

    • by voice_of_all_reason ( 926702 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @03:17PM (#15615014)
      See it from their point of view. "Horrors, here comes that damn human again! Is there no end for it's thirst for blood?

      Muds/mmorpgs can do this really well with custom NPC responses. Have your orc wander into Hobbiton. At first all the little tweens are curious and interested. When you start slaughtering a few, they begin running after you initiate combat. Before long, simply entering the town brings area-shouts of "Look out, it's $N, the deathbringer!"
    • Let me just come out and state what you're trying to say: The article is full of it.

      Horror is not necessary to a video game and more than it's necessary to Chess. A video game is about a goal that you wish to acheive. Generally, obtaining the goal should imply some sort of challenge, otherwise there would be little point.

      Now if one dives into the challenge portion of video games, one does realize that these challenges do cause stress. Usually we're talking about a raised heartrate, higher state of alertness, and concentration. But it can also mean fear, angst, and concern. It all depends on the type of game, and the goal that the player wishes to achieve.

      If horror games are do it for you, is there any surprise that the player will expect to be scared out of the wits? But where's the fear in Super Mario Bros? Or Tetris? Wing Commander? Honestly, there's none to speak of. In the case of Wing Commander, the fantasy aspect of becoming a star fighter pilot is the overriding aspect that makes the challenge interesting. All these games are interesting without any hint of fear. Humans need to be stressed, but different people have different stress needs. Recognizing that when creating a game can help a designer make it much more accessable to the target audience.

      In short, beware of the pop psychologists.
      • by thatguywhoiam ( 524290 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @03:55PM (#15615355)
        But where's the fear in Super Mario Bros? Or Tetris? Wing Commander? Honestly, there's none to speak of.

        If you have to ask where the fear is in Super Mario Bros.... then I just can't explain it to you. :)

      • by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @04:09PM (#15615481) Homepage Journal

        You've never felt the mereist twing of terror seeing a huge block toppling from the sky, crashing down onto a large pile of such blocks with such force that every block in the same row is instantly vapourized?

        For that, my friend, is the horror that awaits you in Tetris, the most frightening game known to human kind.

      • by joshsisk ( 161347 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @04:19PM (#15615579)
        The article isn't really full of it... because the article doesn't say what the synopsis seems to think it does. I read the article, and it basically is a academic analysis of Resident Evil 4, and why it works as a horror game. No mention anywhere that I saw of every game needing horror, or even that every gamer needs horror games. It's simply an analysis of RE4 as a part of the horror genre, with some information about the genre.
        • by stunt_penguin ( 906223 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @08:17PM (#15617299)
          The main point of the article was that the identificaion of a game or movie as fitting within a particular genre informs the player and explains in-game/movie actions, such as the example of the lone female character insisting on going alone into those dark woods when 2 of her friends have just been murdered by some knife wielding lunatic, or why infantry in RTS games love standing near explosive barrels and enemies in FPS games generally can't shoot for shit.

          The article takes the horror genre and R.Evil 4 as a good example of ways in which identifying with a particular genre informs and explains actions taken on-screen, and really actually saves the storytellers and the viewer some legwork in understanding the character's compulsion to go it alone. In this way, games tend to benefit from this genrefication and this is the point the article indends to make; games need (or benefit greatly from) belonging to a genre.

          What idiot posted this to /. and reinterpreted the whole article as being about horror?
      • by vertinox ( 846076 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @04:33PM (#15615710)
        Horror is not necessary to a video game and more than it's necessary to Chess.

        Horror as a genre is not needed unless you like that, but fear is.

        I could think of a high emotion chess champion game in which you fear loosing in front of thousands of people for example or perhaps a chess game where you have your house or family lives on the line or if you loose that atomic weapons will be unleashed on your nation. Ok... That is a bit extreme. Lets just say you play a game of virtual chess for 1,000,000 of your gold pieces in World of War craft.

        Well... Depending on how much you value your virtual gold, you will be sweating it and seriously thinking about each piece you move. Fear is the main reason behind gambling. It makes the game serious and ups the stakes.

        Take if like this... Back in the good old days of Ultima Online, I would be dungeon crawling and then a player killer shows up. Now I could run or fight or I could die and loose my things...

        Since I know dying will set me back a bit and make me try a frantic run for my gear and loot after I get rezzed, I have to weigh in my options to whether or not running or fighting will be fun.

        And if I do run how much of a chance of actually making it out of the dungeon alive?

        Of course throughout the years of playing UO there are plenty of times where I have fought and won, ran away, and sometimes died and had my things taken from me.

        But the heat of the battle and the knowledge all my loot was on the line was exciting much more so than say fighting an AI monster who I knew I could simply walk away from if I lost too much health.

        Also this applies to FPS games... Everyone was used to the Quake system in which you died and then you instantly respawned without much fear of dying.

        However, when Counter-Strike came along you actually got scared of dying because not only did you loose the weapons you saved up money for buying, but you had to sit the rest of the round out until one side one.

        That is the best formula for playing any game that is for those who want to fill that "gambler's buzz". The player must have some type of risk in where if they loose they will be punished and loose whatever they had previously worked on.

        Personally, as comforting as save games and not loosing your items in MMOGs, a player must face some type of punishment for loosing.

        There must be some fear of loosing otherwise we will get bored of a game like it had god mode turned on.

        But I would also like to point out if that punishment for loosing is too great, then the game gets pretty tedious pretty fast (otherwise known as loosing over 15 hours worth of leveling when you die at level 59 in EQ arrrrgh!!!!)
        • Looser (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          if I lost too much health.

          There must be some fear of loosing

          Where'd that extra O come from? The word is lose. Past tense is lost. Current tense is losing. One O. Loosing is not a word.
        • by Tired_Blood ( 582679 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @10:08PM (#15617777)
          But I would also like to point out if that punishment for loosing is too great, then the game gets pretty tedious pretty fast (otherwise known as loosing over 15 hours worth of leveling when you die at level 59 in EQ arrrrgh!!!!)
          Perhaps you don't realize that some people actually enjoy such punishment [nethack.org].
    • by happyemoticon ( 543015 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @03:45PM (#15615272) Homepage
      Ages ago I was totally wrapped up in the old fortran game Empire (eventually released as a PC game), until I'd played it enough to know what to expect. Nothing quite like the first time you're marching your little a into the black unknown only to find the enemy well entrenched, then to gear up your production for an assault. Eventually it was too slow and tedius.

      When I started playing Doom 3, I thought, "They've finally done it. id has returned to their former glory." However, as I progressed through the game, though the visuals remained impressive and the baddies remained gross, I could predict with absolute certainty when an imp was going to jump out from behind me. I'd look at a doorway, see a few places where a hidden door could open up, back up through the doorway, and give the imp a mouthfull of buckshot. This started to become agonizing beyond belief and I cheated my way through the last four levels or so.

      The other sin that Doom 3 committed was the same one that has been used in survival horror games since Resident Evil: You are in a place where there should be more ammo than you could possibly imagine (America, a military research facility), and there are exactly 9 bullets. Clive Barker's The Undying used this cheap tactic, and I blazed through most of the game with only a haste spell and the Scythe just to spite the developers. Whenever a first person shooter makes you want to not bother and just use a melee weapon, it's just because their monsters are so pathetic they would be trivial if you had sufficient ammunition to kill them all. But that's another topic entirely.

      • Clive Barker's The Undying used this cheap tactic, and I blazed through most of the game with only a haste spell and the Scythe just to spite the developers. Whenever a first person shooter makes you want to not bother and just use a melee weapon, it's just because their monsters are so pathetic they would be trivial if you had sufficient ammunition to kill them all. But that's another topic entirely.

        No, it's about the game designers designing the game to be played with a variety of weapons, including me
  • I don't think the fear and scares were the only things that made Resi 4 great, but if more fear = more games of that calibre then I'm all for it.
    • Re:A good start (Score:3, Informative)

      by FortKnox ( 169099 ) *
      Dude... System Shock 2.
      I guarantee it'll scare the pants off of you if you get the mod that upgrades the models. Play at night, no lights, turn the sound up.
      • I remember back when the demo first came out, I think I was in my early teens. I think I didn't play it because it was around the time I'd scared myself shitless at the zombies suddenly chasing you (so sloooooowly) in the first Gabriel Knight. Consider your suggestion noted, though :)
  • by Cheapy ( 809643 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @03:11PM (#15614956)
    Real horror is seeing these in close proximity to each other:

    L h R
        H >

    I still have nightmares about that.
  • Doom (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I used to get genuinely, properly scared playing Doom as a 13 year old on my 486 in the 90s. No game since has done it - why? I think the answer is that we're moving the post all the time and we simply take more and more stimuli to scare ourselves - I'm not sure if the current technology is capable of it any more.
    • Re:Doom (Score:5, Funny)

      by Slovenian6474 ( 964968 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @03:17PM (#15615009) Homepage
      possibly cuz you're not 13 anymore
    • Re:Doom (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Skye16 ( 685048 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @03:17PM (#15615012)
      I'd disagree completely. Both Doom 3 and, to a lesser extent, F.E.A.R. scared me. Granted, in Doom 3, I was in a jet black room and had my sound up to extreme levels, but when demons jumped out all up ons at times, I would scream.

      Really, it all depends on how much you allow yourself to be immersed in the game. Pick a scary movie - any scary movie - and I won't bat an eyelash (provided there are no spiders, of course). It just doesn't phase me. Doom 3 scared the absolute shit out of me at times - which made me love it all the more.
      • by Faw ( 33935 )
        Doom 3 was scary for the first few levels, afterwards you knew that when you enter a room the first thing you do is look behind you cause a hidden door opened and there's a bad guy there. I found F.E.A.R. scarier from beginning to end, the hallucinations were awesome, or when youre in the elevator and the creepy girl is suddenly there... cool...
        • Pft, Far Cry was scarier than Doom 3. At least once you got about halfway through the game--up to that point, it's just plain fun as hell.

          Well, that's two things it has going for it that Doom 3 doesn't: it has some scary parts, and it's fun.

          And yes, F.E.A.R. was scarier than both of them.
          • Re:Doom (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Skye16 ( 685048 )
            I think that, just from these few comments, it's pretty apparent that it all depends on the person. I didn't get scared in the slightest while playing Far Cry. I didn't even get overly anxious, and I never had that surge of adrenaline during a particularly tricky/difficult part. It was a lot like Quake 4 in that regard. Play through once, not so bad, toss it in the box of games, never play it again. Doom 3 and F.E.A.R. were different, for me. Different strokes for different folks and whatnot, I guess.
            • by Faw ( 33935 )
              Well there are 2 kinds of scares as I see it cheap scares and creepy scares.

              Cheap: Doom 3 or any movie where a cat jumps on the hood or the car. These ones work on surprising you, Doom 3, works until you figure out how it works. Half way through it it didn't scare me as much.

              Creepy: F.E.A.R., Silent Hill, or for movies The Ring, Exorcist, Omen, etc. I personally like these better, I guess they use anxiety instead of surprise. In F.E.A.R. when you enter the hallway where the door closes (you know the one), i
      • When my brother and I first got ahold of the game, we went through the trouble of setting the PC up to run on the 32 inch TV with the surround sound on high in the dark before we even installed it. Scared the holy fuck out of us a few times, but it was lots of fun.
    • Re:Doom (Score:2, Informative)

      by Das Modell ( 969371 )
      System Shock 2 is really scary. The random enemy spawns ensure that you are never at ease. There's never a moment when you can relax because you've "cleared" an area. There was a room that I never went to because the sounds coming from the other side scared me away. There were also occasions when I just ran into a corner, equipped my biggest weapon and waited (spiders are scary).
    • Re:Doom (Score:3, Funny)

      by _tognus ( 903491 )
      I'm not sure if the current technology is capable of it any more.

      Not sure about you, but the price of the PS3 scares the shit out of me. :)

  • disagree (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JeanBaptiste ( 537955 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @03:15PM (#15615001)
    i'm no 'expert' on any brain-stuff, but I'd have to disagree on this. Sports games are incredibly successful, and none of this fear stuff applies here whatsoever. Madden, Tiger Woods, MLB, NBA, FIFA, Tony Hawk PS, and so on...
    • Re:disagree (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rtconner ( 544309 )
      I disagree also, but for different reasoning. I hate scary things, games, movies, rollercoasters.. anything that scares me I hate and try to stay away from. I dont want it, need it, or care for it, and would be perfectly happy if I was never scared.

      And no amount or research by anybody can change that, and I doubt I'm alone.
    • Re:disagree (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Fear doesn't have to come from zombies. If you are running for a touch down and no one is near you, it's not exciting. If someone is gaining on you and you fear you are going to be tackled before you get to the line, but make it, the pleasure it many times better. More fear means more pleasure, even in sports games.
  • LOL (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @03:16PM (#15615005)
    In one of Jack Vance [wikipedia.org]'s novels someone has determined that society has made things too safe in comparison to most of our evolutionary history, and people suffer some kind of debilitating angst as a result. So there's an organization whose members go around scaring the sh*t out of random people, in order to restore our species' cognitive balance.
    • Yea and the name of that organization was evening news or something like that. Ohh and it wasn't a book it was real life. Be afraid, be very afraid.
    • So there's an organization whose members go around scaring the sh*t out of random people, in order to restore our species' cognitive balance.

      If only they were really doing that [dhs.gov] for 'cognitive balance' and not for blind allegiance...

  • I think if a game is able to scare you, that's just a sign that the game has successfully pulled you in. Rather than being an outside observer to the bame, you become the character. I still remember play Half-Life for the first time, after a long battle with soldiers on the cliff-side, and climbing the ladder into the last tube only to have the crap scared out of me by a sudden, jumping head-crab. That fright is part of the reason I knew Half-Life was a great game...I wasn't playing as Gordon Freeman, I was
  • RE4 wasn't scary (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rik Sweeney ( 471717 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @03:17PM (#15615017) Homepage
    It has tense moments in it, but it's certainly more of a thriller than a horror game. If you want to play a disturbing video game, try Fatal Frame 1, Fatal Frame 2 or Resident Evil 4.

    And for God's sake turn off the light, otherwise it's like watching The Grudge during the day with the light streaming onto the TV screen.
    • or Resident Evil 4.

      Ah, the man's a genius. I meant Silent Hill 2.

      I'll show myself out...
    • I'm a little way into RE4 because a friend lent it to me and everyone says it's really good. But frankly, the game makes me uncomfortable when I play it. This is quite obviously intended, but I'm pretty sure I don't play games in order to be made uncomfortable. I have plenty of that in real life.
  • such as MMOs.

    Gain without potential for loss makes gain worthless. The adrenaline pumped when you're in a situation to lose your 'stuff' is more potent than the scant ammount pumped when you're in a situation where you have to run back to your body, losing maybe 10 minutes of playtime.

    Of course, this wouldn't be feasible in current MMOs where your equipment makes up a majority of your combat prowress.

    And in other games, where you lose experience instead of equipment.. well, that's just plain discouraging. I
    • I killed a mob but I died... corpse becomes publicly lootable after a few minutes.

      Will I get back in time to loot it?

      Will it have dropped that zonewide uber item I wanted?

      Will someone have just snagged the leet random drop, but left everything else on? I'll never know...

    • Experience loss is generally more hurtful than gear loss if you play a magic-user of any kind, or anything but a warrior-derived class. Gear loss is not a real obstacle to getting a bigger fireball or another d6 on the backstab, while not advancing a level is.

      Then, you can take the unimaginative route and play a melee character (whose power only varies incrementally from level to level), but in that case you're probably not in it for the challenge anyhow.

      The other advantage of the exp loss system is that
  • People love adrenaline. I'd think people pay more money for this drug then most others combined. Most of western cultures' pasttimes stimulate your body to produce adrenaline one way or another.

  • Horror PC Games (Score:3, Informative)

    by Digitus1337 ( 671442 ) <lk_digitus&hotmail,com> on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @03:18PM (#15615029) Homepage
    System Shock 2, a true classic, was extremely scary. The player finds himself (or herself, but let's not kid ourselves) on a derelict spacecraft on which something has gone terribly wrong. The game is not to be missed.
  • Subtle Horror (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thatguywhoiam ( 524290 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @03:21PM (#15615051)
    I know there's going to be many many comments to this effect, but there is one game that scared the bejeezus out of me: Silent Hill.

    And it wasn't any kind of gore, or zombies, or anything like that. Well, lots of things like that, but that wasn't the main cause -- it was the foreboding atmosphere.

    Abandoned schools are scary. It taps into childhood fears. Seeing the 'regular' world turned upside down and redecorated with body parts and rust is deeply unsettling. The lack of regular communication with other characters in the game, the ambient sound effects - my god, the sound effects work in that game was good. I remember standing in what I think used to be a gymnasium but in the 'other' world, and just standing there, listening to this distant clank-clank-clank of some unseen machinery. I left my character standing there for awhile, just taking in the sound, and I truly began to feel disturbed.

    It was shortly after that I descended the ladder to the first full-on satanic ritual looking setpiece in the game. This gigantic cucumber with four legs ran out and split in half as it opened its mouth, revealing about a million teeth, and i swear to fucking god I actually dropped my controller and shrieked like a little girl.

    Good times.

    • Ahh, the Silent Hills,

      I'll always have a thousand fond memories of playing (or actually, watching) those games in the dark with a few of my close friends. Truely haunting, and truely a blast.
    • Re:Subtle Horror (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Maradine ( 194191 ) * on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @04:06PM (#15615457) Homepage
      === SPOILERS BELOW ===

      I strongly recommend you play Silent Hill 2, regardless of your genre preferences. It will be worth every minute and dollar spent.

      === YOU WERE WARNED ===

      I would wholeheartedly agree, and add the following points --

      - Silent Hill and its immediate sequel gave me nightmares for months. Some combination of factors and elements resonated very strongly with something in me that's probably quite broken.

      - Your comment re: the unseen machinery touches on something psychological that I haven't been able to identify. Even when you were utterly alone, you could always hear something else - footsteps just beyond your vision in the fog, a murmered conversation from a source you can't quite locate, distant subway cars from a platform you can't seem to find - Silent Hill worked hard to reinforce the point that you weren't just alone in an uncaring Hell -- you were cut off.

      - The story in the first game was pretty crazy. I had to read some plot analyses before I could take it all in. After I did, I regretted my curiousity. The second game, however, truly floored me. I will always remember, right before the end when James finds Angela ascending the flaming staircase in the middle of the inferno, as it is the one time the player (and James) is let in on the extent and nature of Angela's personal hell:

      *The tone of Angela's voice suddenly changes.*

      Angela: Or maybe you think you can save me? Will you love me? Take care of
                        me? Heal all my pain?

      *James doesn't respond.*

      Angela: That's what I thought. James. Give me back that knife.

      *Angela reaches her hand out towards James.*

      James: No... I, I won't.

      Angela: Saving it for yourself?

      *Angela begins to walk up the fiery staircase.*

      James: Me? No... I'd never kill myself....
                      It's hot as hell in here.

      Angela: You see it too? For me, it's always like this.

      It's important to understand the context of what Silent Hill (the place) is in order to understand the characters' reactions to it. Silent Hill is not a simple Hell, but an extremely personal one - every person in it perceives it differently. Where as James sees (while lucid, anyway) a colorless, abandoned, dusty shell of the Silent Hill of his memories (reflecting the loss of color and definition in his life when his wife passed away), Angela perceives every detail as a reflection of her horrific victimization - everything on fire, bloody pistons oscillating in and out of the walls, automatic assumption of shame and guilt in any lengthy conversation. It's amazing how it all gets woven together into the same place.

      And the manequins and the pyramid heads? Cripes, don't get me started.

  • Rescue on Fractalus (Score:4, Informative)

    by the_skywise ( 189793 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @03:22PM (#15615060)
    First "scary" game.

    3:15 am in front of a 12" television with all the lights off and sound cranked up.

    Land spaceship to pick up survivor.
    Survivor has a pink helmet on... white = good guy, green = evil alien, pink = ???
    well we're not going to let him in until I get a better look.


    "gonna have to..."

    Big alien head appears on my cockpit and starts trying to bash in the window.

    AUUUUUUUUGGGHHH!! TURN ON THE SHIELDS TURN ON THE SHIELDS as in my haste, my hand bashes my Pepsi(tm) can knocking it across the room until I can hit 's' and fry the sucker.

    "Boo" horror we pretty much have down. Besides "Rescue..." this has been used in Resident Evil, Doom, Unreal, etc to great effect.

    "Creepy" horror we got with Silent Hill to great effect.

    But the kind of deep "horror" that makes you lie awake at night? I dunno. I submit that that's only doable in books/movies because it's passive entertainment and so the viewer/reader is dragged along. But in interactive entertainment it's like negative reinforcement. You're going to have to do something to keep the player wanting to go forward while whacking them with things they dislike. (Unless you're into that sort of thing... or Goth... Kinda like that HR Giger game way back when... or... heh... Beyond the Forbidden Forest. Okay game but most of the fun was watching the grotesque ways you would die)

    • Beyond the Forbidden Forest. Okay game but most of the fun was watching the grotesque ways you would die)

      Ok, thanks. Thanks a lot for that. I thought I had forgotten that fucking spider. Ughgghghghg

    • by Bodrius ( 191265 )
      I'm not sure "creepy" and "deep" horror are qualitatively different; causing this on an interactive environment may be a matter of expertise in the art more than an impossibility. But I do agree that the "passivity" of other mediums has some advantages.

      I found the System Shock series pretty scary, and I'm having great fun playing "Call of Cthulu" right now (more than I expected, actually). Both mix traditional plot techniques in the gameplay pretty seamlessly, and I'd have a hard time finding 'deeper' horro
  • by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @03:22PM (#15615062) Homepage
    I haven't played a lot of videogames in a long time, but the summary made me think of something that could be pretty cool in a horror game, if any game designers are out there.

    You, as the player, control a character who is seen in a third-person view like what's described in the summary. This character is actually moving ahead of "you," though. The POV of the game is actually that of another character that walks behind the character that you control. That other character is basically defenseless, however -- think screaming chick from a horror movie. It's the job of the character you control to protect the POV character. So you fight the zombies and what-not with the character from a third-person POV, but every so often the zombies are trying to reach over the shoulder of the character you control, to claw at the POV. Cue all sorts of nasty death scenes where you get to watch your protector be overrun and killed, even as your own POV camera flips sideways to the floor...
    • In manhunt you have to protect a bum and then a reporter in the end to complete missions in the game. And it is done well. The bum keeps wandering off.

      On a side note the reporters voice was debbie from Sealab 2021.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    "[...]And as the player, it is actually us proceeding into the dark, receiving (when we're not getting beheaded) our genre pleasure."

    So essentially he's saying "This bitch gives good behead."
  • 'Perhaps the most important change made in the game mechanics of RE4 was fixing the camera behind Leon, providing a tight third-person shot through which the player could experience the action. Through this move, Leon has become every protagonist from every horror film ever made.

    I saw it as exactly the opposite. Resident Evil was never known for it's camera freedom, but placing it in a fixed position behind Leon essentially removed all the fright from any live action moments (at least for me), relegatin
    • I just do not get the fond memories some of you guys express for RE1. I hated the game. The voice acting was horrible, the scripting was worse, the game play was decent, and the "scary" moments just weren't. And the camera angles did nothing more than piss me off; I died several times because I simply couldn't see the zombie standing two feet in front of me, because the angle was bad. And then there's the slowest-firing Beretta EVER MADE. Suspension of disbelief was simply impossible.

      I've since played RE2 t
    • Resident Evil 1: Entering the first room with the dogs. The view is low to the ground as you enter and stop. You hear a new sound -- a strange clicking sound. Before you take a few steps in, a black shape lunges into frame from behind your perspective and starts eating Jill's face.

      Couldn't agree with you more. This was the first moment I remember ever when playing video games where I literally jumped. Loved the game ... loved to play it in the dark after midnight when the house was silent.
  • Ever Was It Thus (Score:2, Insightful)

    by vain gloria ( 831093 )
    I remember Inky charging down the corridor after me, his hot ghost/monster breath on my neck. In the distance was the glow of the power pill, promising heavenly salvation. Nearly there. Nearly there. Only have to get past this last, dark side-corridor... Clyde, nooooo!

    Hell, the horror of just thinking about it now makes me want to shrivel up and die.
  • Emotions in media (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @03:27PM (#15615107) Homepage
    If a game can draw any emotion out of you, then it is doing something right. Games are like stories - if they don't make you think, or love, or hate, or fear, or SOMETHING then they are just dumbing you down by staring at pretty pixels.

    When Doom 3 came out, I upgraded my video card, setup my 5.1 sound system, and dimmed the theater lights. My friends would gather round as I played. People would fidget, jump, dodge, and squeal as things jumped out at them. The game was truly emotional for the people playing and watching. Now THAT is entertainment.

    I had a similar experience with Shadow of the Colossus and Half-Life 2. Shadow made you hate what you were doing to those beautiful creatures. Half-Life 2 made you feel like you were in 1984 (the book, not the year!).

    The biggest problem is getting enoug content without making the game repetitive. Shadow and Doom 3 both had this problem. But overall, making a provocative interactive story is difficult to do, but it is definitely a winning formula.
  • It's fear of the KNOWN dangers. Because you KNOW that whenever you enter that basement, an ugly bloody looking thing is going to follow you making screeching noises.

    So you step in, and suddenly your radio begins generating static. You ran out of health drinks, and then you hear the screeching noises. You turn to the left, and it's a dead end. On the other side of the fence there's these arachnid creatures, and you only got your gun. Shoot the wrong target, and you'll get slain. Ah, isn't that beautiful... more dogs cut in half and they just started howling.

    But wait, the horror's not finished. The horror only starts when you turn off the game and go to sleep, and notice how your clothes mysteriously resemble a beheaded bloody mannequin, and the noises out the street remind you of the radio static ringing. You try to sleep, read a book, and slowly you get tired.

    But wait, the horror's not finished. Because you start dreaming about the game you were just playing a few hours ago...

    You wake up and try to sleep again and have a heck of a stomach ache.

    But wait, the horror's not finished. You remember that your mother asked you to show her your school grades, and you get them today.
  • We don't need to be scared at all to enjoy a game. Many years ago the most popular games around, and arguably some of the most inventive, were adventure games, a la Lucasarts, including Grim Fandango [lucasarts.com], Curse of Monkey Island [lucasarts.com], etc. These games were engaging, funny, and downright pleasant to play. Immersive as hell, too. I recently tried Quake 4 [quake4game.com] and was blown away by the stupidity of the game. Get bigger guns. Get ammo. Throw grenade. Shoot and kill. How bloody novel. Hour after hour after hour of th
  • 7th Guest and 11th Hour.
    I played those for hours on end and kept getting drawn back in by the story and fear and wanting to know what was next.

    I grew up a horror-loving kid - watching all the B flicks with my friend in our dark basements. IT, The People Under the Stairs, Wax Museum, House, all the Nightmare's that plagued Elm Street ... they all drew me in. I think a big part of the pleasure is seeing how tough you are. You want to keep watching until the next scary part and see if you'll still jump or
  • by frogstar_robot ( 926792 ) <frogstar_robot@yahoo.com> on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @03:35PM (#15615179)
    Those type of scenes never scared me. What they did do was exasperate the hell out of me. "You moron! The psycopathic killer from beyond the grave is going to bash your skull with an axe as soon as you step in there."

    "Don't these friggin' idiots EVER look behind them? Especially after four of their friends bought it that way."

    And don't get me started on body disposal methods for supernatural psycho killers. These numbdumbs just bury Jason then act all surprised when he comes back a month or two later. HELLO!, you had to kill him ten times over just get him in the grave.

    You can only heavily stun such a creature at best. Should one of non-idiot characters manage this then the correct thing to do is to bind ankles and wrists with HEAVY chain or rope then thoroughly dismember and slice and dice the creature. If intelligence was employed in the binding then the fact that the creature lives through this should pose no problem. Don't let a hack writer take your life at the last minute. The pieces should then be thoroughly burned and the ashes scattered in separate bodies of water. Any solid pieces should be encased in concrete and likewise scattered. Throughly soaking any remaining pieces in holy water is optional but can't hurt. NOTE: Do NOT put holy water on an intact Creature; it'll just wake up angry.

    The case of the Liquid Metal Terminator was one of the rare cases of correct Super Creature Body Disposal. Sumbitch probably wound up in 40 different cars. RoboCop 2 had a good Creature Dismantling but they botched the job by dumping the pieces where his buddies could put him back together again. And those IDIOTS who thought running Christine through a car-crusher was sufficient, they should have checked with the Connors.

    Maybe I should start one of those Evil Overlord type lists for Super Evil Creature Combat.
  • by digitalhermit ( 113459 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @03:36PM (#15615190) Homepage
    OK, you know you're a nethack addict when & and D scares you.

    I've been there.
    • Lots of nethack love/fear in this thread, it seems. And the usual nightmares. It seems that tetris and nethack often appear in people's dreams.

      I've had nightmares with a yellow lowercase 'c' when I was a beginner. The funny thing is, it was a giant threedimensional lowercase yellow 'c' chasing me.
  • I admit, when I play horror games - I should say, when I played horror games, since I've gotten so bored with them - they do startle me. They scare me when I'm not bored to tears by their pathetic hackneyed plots stolen from B horror movies. So basically what I get out of it is a bunch of boredom punctuated by occasional moments when my heart is wondering what the fuck I'm doing to it.

    YOU may need horror games. The author of the article may need horror games. I'll pass. What I need is more racing games that don't suck :)

  • If you don't do nightsight and stick to a torch, Oblivion's dungeons are kinda creepy. As I level up I quickly become the most scary thing in the game and kind of wish the NPCs would treat me as such. As a silent killer who can kill the guy they're talking to without them even noticing, you'd think I'd get more respect than I do...
  • by WidescreenFreak ( 830043 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @03:40PM (#15615224) Homepage Journal
    I don't think that the summary was accurate to the article itself. The article talked about the need to have a level of satisfaction when our expectations are met from having an immersive environment. That's not restricted to the horror genre of games as the summary implies. Every genre of games requires a level of satisfaction when our expectations are met or the game will get panned by players and critics. I use that abomination of Ultima: Ascension as the prime example of a game that completely failed to meet expectations and therefore generated no satisfaction. That article also mentions GTA. I wouldn't exactly call that a horror game.

    There are some classic games that are so much fun, not so much from a playability standpoint but from an entire experience. I am a great fan of the Max Payne, Thief, and Splinter Cell series. Lots of great suspense and dark gameplay, but they pulled you into their environments, which is one of the key factors in the success of games of that nature.

    Honestly, I think that the editors need to be a bit more accurate in the description of the articles. I was about to go on a huge rant about the bullsh*t that we need to be scared in order to derive pleasure from games until I actually RTFA.
  • I was playing Resident Evil 2, and when all the crows busted through the glass, my date jumped into my lap and wrapped her arms around me in fear. It felt pretty nice.
  • Won't have reached hollywood cannon or audience expectations until a few things have been achieved:

    Characters insist on staying in a dangerous situation or location - like an abandonded summer camp - until every single person (save one) is killed by a single protagonist.

    When characters find a basement, they proceed to go down regardless of whether it's important to waste time with the basement at all.

    If there is a basement, there should be no lights available.

    When a toolshed, garage, or cache of supplies is
  • by zymurgy_cat ( 627260 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @03:43PM (#15615253) Homepage
    Stephen King once commented about why horror books and movies do so well. His point was that we need to feel fear in order to process the emotion without our real fears paralyzing us. He pointed out real fears: that we'll get cancer, our loved ones will die in car accidents, that our children will be kidnapped or molested. These are all very real fears that could actually come true. Yet, we read books and watch movies in which bad things (both plausible and unplausible) happen. Why intentionally scare yourself? Because the experience (as the article somewhat mentions) lets you live out or experience the emotion and yet go on with your everyday life.
  • by SomeoneGotMyNick ( 200685 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @03:47PM (#15615287) Journal
    Run your console off of a battery only source. Then hope and pray you can get to the next save point before the battery runs out. Or worse yet, that the memory card isn't being written to when the power failure occurs.

    You've been on that game for two hours straight? I just DARE you to go past the boss battle, after you defeated it, without saving.

    For even more thrill, tie some catnip and a string to the memory card while it's still in the system. Set the game to autosave and then let the cat play with the string.
  • by omeomi ( 675045 )
    While RE4 was my favorite in the series, I think some of the other ones were actually quite a bit scarier. RE0, for instance. The old model of RE games was able to do more psychologically, especially with camera position, taking cues from Hitchcock and other Horror film directors, while RE4 ended up being more of a less-frightening FPS in a lot of instances. Either way, it's one of my favorite series of games.
  • Ultima Underworld (Score:2, Insightful)

    by krusadr ( 679804 )
    I remember playing Ultima Underworld "The Stygian Abyss" on my old 486DX with an early Soundblaster back in 1989 or 1990 (whenever it was). Possibly the first ever first-person game it had creepy shadows and scary music. That one was so great because of the atmosphere, it was edge of seat stuff.

    Then later Ultima Online was scary because dying actually cost you something. I agree with the article. If a game can scare you then so much the better.
  • ...as a genre. It's mainly just sudden startling noises and visuals.

    I play World of Warcraft on a PvP server. I like the element that while I'm playing the game, at any moment I can be attacked from behind by the oposing faction (and very frequently am). It adds a whole dimension of threat and urgency to quests, and makes the game less mechanical to play because at any time, my plans to quest can be turned into PvP action.
  • by Allison Geode ( 598914 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @04:30PM (#15615684)
    Everblue 2 for ps2. everblue 1 never came out in US, but i picked the sequel up on a whim, because it sounded like a wierd enough game that it might just be awesome. Everblue 2 is a scuba-diving RPG, actually, and you wouldn't think that would sound scary.... a game where you dive to the bottom of the ocean and take photos of fish or salvage things, in order to gain money, to buy better scuba equipment....... BUT....

    there are a few very scary moments in it.

    there's a scene where you are diving into the wreckage of a sunken cruise ship, and you get inside of it and its pitch black, no sunlight can filter down that deep, and when you're actually in the ship, all light is blocked out. the water is murky. your flashlight allows you to see only a scant few feet in front of you. you know there are sharks in the area, and in the gameplay segments, there is actually only one music: a theme that plays when sharks (which can eat you) are around. so, as you explore the ship, you come across a doorway, and you open it, and its an old indoor swimming pool... and you hear the shark theme, which, as a gamer playing it, lets you know that there are threats nearby, and that you should be very very cautious and try not to panic, and that something big and scary could lunge for my throat at any moment.....

    my experience with this area was one of the few times a game has honestly scared me. its one of those moments where I was so immersed that I forget i was playing a game. its a tight, enclosed level, and i hear the sharks, and I know that i need to be on the lookout for threats.... and then, all of a sudden, i run smack into a ghostly white face, illuminated by my flashlight and made more scary by the murky water.......

    after jumping up and dropping my controller, because i totally wasn't expecting to find any ghastly apparitions, i realize that what I'm looking at is not a ghost, but a statue, remnants of the luxurious decorations of the cruiseliner. nothing as out of the ordinary as I'd thought, but the atmosphere, and the fact that I knew i was in dangerous waters, and then the running smack into the thing just made me jump and still gives me the heebeejeebees. truly effective game design... and unfortunately, in a game that almost nobody has ever played.

  • I did not know that Redhat Enterprise 4 was a game.

    I can see it now, "Hey, dude, did you see that killer init script I just fragged?"
  • Wow, I thought that I'd really been enjoying playing through New Super Mario Bros and Mario Kart DS since getting my DS lite, finding all the secrets, unlocking all the karts, etc., but now I realize that since I wasn't scared I was actually bored the entire time, and not completely engrossed as I had thought.

    Come to think of it, this article rules out all of my favorite games, except the original Half Life.

    I guess I'd better go play a real entertaining game, like Doom 3... that's unfortunate, the last

  • by VeeCee ( 693453 )
    I was so scared of PKs while playing Ultima in 98 that no other game has every provided me with as many thrills.
  • The pricetags of games are scary enough
  • by tm2b ( 42473 ) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @12:02AM (#15618303) Journal
    The Resident Evil games just don't work for me - to me, they're too "arcadish" in that I find the story flimsy, an excuse for the gameplay. The gameplay should serve the story, not vice versa.

    On the other end of things, there's Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem . The Gamecube was an odd choice of platforms for this grown-up title, but this game alone is nearly enough to justify picking up an old used 'cube. The gameplay was solid and fun, but it was always in service to the story: even your most basic actions were affected by a choice that you make in the first few minutes (which God you're aligned with affects how you interact with different monsters).

    On top of that, they had a brilliant sanity system - as you lost sanity, they'd introduce subtle audio effects (using the surround sound to do so), and introduce visual distortions and hallucinations (like blood dripping and statues' heads turning to follow you). As you truly lost it, they'd gradually escalate to doing things like playing tricks where you'd hallucinate walking on the ceiling of a room you've just entered - or even alarm you by simulating a system crash, or pretending that you've just reached the end of the game, without resolution (showing you an add for the fictional sequel). There's another one where they simulate someone playing with the volume control on your TV's remote - first you think, "Hey! Where's the remote?" before thinking a split second later, "Hey, that's not what the volume control feedback looks like on my TV!" There are dozens more, they're truly inspired and some of them will get you.

    If you have not played this game and you want a truly scary experience, give it a look. It's the best game I've played since Deus Ex (for a different genre game with a brilliant, driving story line). It's one of maybe 5 reasonably modern games that I'd say are truly don't-miss masterworks.

"If the code and the comments disagree, then both are probably wrong." -- Norm Schryer