The following is guest post written by the glorious Lily Xavier. You can check out her blog here.
You have to understand that I’m one of those old school horror gamers. I’ve played every title of horror game that has been presented to me (and I’ve watched a good deal of playthroughs of games that I can’t get my hands on). I’ve logged in hours on Clock Tower; I played Rule of Rose; I still go back and replay Fatal Frame II on occasion; in short, I love horror games. These days, however, when I’m looking for a title to spark my spooks, I’ve stopped looking for big name games. Instead, I’m playing things like The Path, or other small store, Indy based games. I can’t put my finger on why, but it seems so difficult to find a horror game these days from a big company that isn’t just a thinly veiled first person shooter.
I’ve studied horror as a genre extensively and honestly feel that the most effective vehicle for the horror narrative is a videogame. Timing, pacing, sound, and music can be carefully threaded together to provide an immersive experience that leaves players pulling their feet up off the floor and afraid to go get a glass of water from their dark kitchens. I’m sad to say that I haven’t found a big name game that’s done that for me in far too long. That’s not to say that I haven’t enjoyed all the new Resident Evils–I have, but to me, they just aren’t really horror games. Jump scares aren’t really that important when you’re trying to make someone really feel fear.
What is, however, is atmosphere. When everything is exploding around you, there isn’t time to take in the music, the sound effects, or even the scene that developers have set in front of you. Fatal Frame, for example, makes excellent use of its atmosphere. The music is deliberately set so that you never truly feel at ease. The baseline sounds are just a hair above your comfort zone and that unease is a key that many of the newer games are missing. Atmosphere doesn’t have to include gore, either. Honestly, less is more. For example, The Path is a game where you have very simple instruction that you’re then to ignore. The setting is simplistic, but the overall narrative is clear. The atmosphere is there.
The nuances of darkness against humor and cheekiness are somewhat lost it seems. It is true that making a horror game good is much more difficult than making a first person shooter good. One thing not being perfect can remove your players from the whole of your story in a horror game. Anomalies can be more easily forgiven in other genres. However, I’ve read some reviews and looked over some demos that lead me to believe that the horror game is heading to a renaissance. I’m absolutely seeing some titles that I’m going to try as soon as possible. Like in a truly good horror, all hope is never gone.
So what’s your favorite horror game? Fall is coming sooner than you think and I’m looking forward to hot cider and gaming under my covers.