Viewer Homework (8/25/08) - Horror Game Extremes
  • Over the last few days I've played and beaten the original F.E.A.R.

    It's a good solid shooter with some elements of the Survival Horror genre making it different from the MANY, MANY Fps games already on the market.

    But, I won't call it a survival horror game as some do, for a variety of reasons. Chief among these reasons is that, frankly, it wasn't very scary.

    So the new VH topic this week is...

    How far should Horror Games be allowed to go?

    Games are not like film, they are an interactive media and thus they have MUCH more immersing storytelling than any other kind of media has EVER had. You don't just watch a game, you are part of it. You are controlling the protagonist and while you are playing you are part of a whole different reality with your electronic hands and senses being the manipulators of this virtual world.

    So, the potentially for truly terrifying moments in horror games is certainly there. But, they seem VERY underutilized in most current games games. And, I think it's because the designers are afraid to go to far. To produce a game that will scare people away from playing it.

    When I think of the potential FEAR had or Resident Evil 4 had and didn't live up to, I wonder why?

    Now don't misunderstand me...

    Both games I just mentioned are EXCEPTIONAL games and very fun to play. But, I don't anyone here would label either game as excessively scary or horrific.

    So, before I go off rambling...

    I want to know what you guys think about this?

    This is your Viewer Homework Assignment. :D

    -Ray
  • Well, I think it should be no holds barred, no rules, taken to the extreme in every way. What FEAR and RE4 did wrong as far as scares go, is a combination of things.

    One thing I find always, ALWAYS heightens the suspense is the fact that your life is valuable. I'll say it again because this point is so true when it comes to horror - YOUR LIFE IS VALUABLE. Having a "save anywhere" feature like FEAR or copious checkpoints like Resident Evil 4 completely ruins that feeling - you are free to die as much as you like, continue, and move on. This goes hand in hand with the other thing that happened in those games, and that's...

    YOU ARE CAPABLE. You can control the character exactly how you want - you can run where you like, dispatch enemies in many different ways, and have full (or almost full) control. Why's this a problem?

    Well, take Fatal Frame - one of the scariest games I've ever played. Why? I'm not "in control" like I am in RE4. I run around but I have no guns. I fight ghosts with a camera. A camera I have to look through to hit the enemies. Ghosts can come from ANYWHERE. And you know what? MY LIFE IS VALUABLE in that game. I don't want to die, so I get frantic when I think something will happen! Movies, for instance, are a lot more terrifying when the protagonist is NOT a government agent with a gun - instead, someone who isn't used to fighting. It all carries over.

    We can talk for days about atmosphere, music (Akira Yamaoka in Silent Hill has the most effective sound design, to me) and more. However, the biggest fact of the matter are the ones I outlined above.

    Great Listener Homework!
  • Personally, I found Dead Rising to be the most fearful for me, and it had _nothing_ to do with all of the zombies, but more it's punishing save system. :)

    There's nothing like being a sliver of health away from death, and then see a sea of zombies between you and the nearest bathroom.

    Yw
  • yuzo said:


    There's nothing like being a sliver of health away from death, and then see a sea of zombies between you and the nearest bathroom.

    Yw


    This might well be the GREATEST line ever typed in this forum. :D

    -Ray
  • I think a lack of POWER makes a game scary.

    If I'm some bad-ass dude with a 12-gauge I can cruise through a game without fear. But if I were to be an unarmed girl with no combat skills I'd be playing the game with shaking hands.

    A LONG time ago, in a country far, far away.... England; I was playing the 3rd level of Timesplitters 2. Back then, I was even worse at FPSs than I am now, and because I had no confidence in my ability, I believed I could not kill these zombies which were moving ridiculously fast. That was probably one of the scariest video game moments for me.

    The graphics were crap and the zombies weren't creepy; but because I believed I did not have power, I was freaking scared.

    Another thing which makes a game scary is suspense/tension. If Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles didn't have spazzy techno music in the background and it didn't encourage you to fire a bullet at every picture frame you passed, it MIGHT have been a little more scary.

    Although I found killing the Ganados in RE4 a breeze, there was a point in the game that had my heart rate increase: When you're going through the lab area where they conducted sick experiments, and it's eerily quiet. The moment I heard the clang of the vent cover fall to the floor I thought "oh.... shit". Those Regenerators.... the combination of the uncomfortable silence, the small corridors and and the retarded noises the Regenerators made.... had I not got my Striker with me I'd be scared.
  • I agree that if they are to scary some people won't play it, I myself wouldn't but whatever.
    If the place you're in is a claustrophobic cubicle all covered in blood with disfigured corpses surrounding you that somehow breath, I would literally shit my pants...

    It's all just sales, if you make it to scary, less people would buy it.

    [spoiler:da441f0ebb]image
    I love you too.[/spoiler:da441f0ebb]
  • I concur with the majority of what you all have said, but allow me to put it in different terms. I wrote a journal article once on the nature of violence/horror/scary-stuff across multi-modal platforms. What struck me, after doing tons of research into the abyss, was that, for me personally, the more breathing room there is in a work, the more potential it has to induce a fear response. Let me explain (by way of a truncated version of my thesis):

    1. There must be a sense of disorientation. Waking up in the middle of the night, thinking someone has broken into your home, wandering around, turning on lights, certainly induces a sense of fear. The key here is that your sense of orientation is altered, skewed by a force that has yet to explain itself. Going for a job interview can induce the same response. It's not necessarily the fear of the unknown (though this often produces the same effect), but the sense of stability which allows us to function in the world is upended. The problem, which I often find in video games, is that they often fail to induce this sense of disorientation-whether they border on the fantastical (which fails to resemble any tangible reality we can grab on too), or they try to hard to skew your perception (in which case your senses are alerted to their attempts and you simply never get immersed in the game). This is not to be confused with anxiety, which is often a physical manifestation of disorientation. Games can easily boost the anxiety level, throw hordes of enemies at you and give you a slim chance of survival, but many games can do this--Mario could do this--but I would not say the anxiety they produce would be considered fear. However, wandering your house, a place you are familiar with, looking for an break in, gives a margin of breathing room--it's slow, methodical, disorienting.

    2. Related to the first point, but slightly different, is that games (though this includes many mediums--but I'm going to try to stick to games here for obvious reasons) give too much. Whether it's too many weapons, shots of enemies, etc. the fact is they want you to succeed on some level (it's good business). I'm not suggesting they should amp the level of difficulty up to the stratosphere and that you should be forced to navigate an entire game with a butter knife, but that simplicity is best. Stay within the realms of tangibility and let the player develop a sense of attachment to things. That way, when those attachments begin to deteriorate, there is a genuine sense of loss for the player. Take the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Universally the most lauded section of that film is the dinner table scene. The reason it's so powerful is that it both provides a sense of disorientation (the upending of the "traditional family" and eating--which is one of the closest/oldest traditions humans have), and it succeeds at not giving too much.

    3. Pacing and payoff (and I would tack atmosphere here as well). Hitchcock once said (and I'm paraphrasing) that he was so good at what he did because he took the ordinary, anticipated the audience's response to a situation, and then never gave them what they wanted. Games often go for the cheep thrills, the rushed pay off. They try to create too many moments of fear (again it's good business). But the more often they attempt to "scare" the individual, the less power it has each time. Thus, they try to concoct new, more intense scenes--usually by amping up anxiety. The problem here is that though amping up anxiety does have the potential to increase a players sense of fear, it will never have the power to really scare the living hell out of the player. The same holds true for the recent rise of "Splatter Porn" films--it's like disorientation, try to hard and you will clue the player/viewer/reader into what you are trying to do, when that happens, you run the risk of never getting the player back. Take Michael Haneke's (forgive the spelling) recent remake of his original 1997 production Funny Games. The most intense portion of that film, to me, is the first few scenes--especially the egg borrowing scene. Nothing happens, but the pacing, disorientation, payoff, and the amount it gives is brilliant.

    Though these are all more related that not, breathing room, IMHO, is the key to creating a sense of fear. It's not that games don't go far enough, it's that they often go too far to try and scare the individual. But, I could totally be off base here.

    Aaron
  • I think for a Survival Horror game to be properly scary they should remove any offensive capabilities for the player.

    Monsters aren't scary if you can just shoot them. Perhaps the player should be able to incapacitate them, but never remove them.
  • aarondbowen said:
    I concur with the majority of what you all have said, but allow me to put it in different terms. I wrote a journal article once on the nature of violence/horror/scary-stuff across multi-modal platforms. What struck me, after doing tons of research into the abyss, was that, for me personally, the more breathing room there is in a work, the more potential it has to induce a fear response. Let me explain (by way of a truncated version of my thesis):



    Wow, EXCELLENT post. Noobie for yu sir! Extremely well thought out and well written.

    -Ray
  • I think a good survial horror game should underpower you as a player.
    When you see a monster you should think as a player "oh shit"
    And its a weird feeling standing there wondering whether if you went to fight the monster
    wether or not you would survive.
    Because as Maxim said a monster stops being scary when you can simply kill it with a gun without a second thought.
    You should actually fear for your life when playing this type of game.
    A game that did this well was Silent Hill 2 because at the begining all you had was a pipe and in the mist you could see a zombie.
    But you would try to find ways around the zombie as there was small chance of you actually surviving a fight.
    This made the zombies even more frightening because you did fear for your life.
    And loads of games now days use Jack In The Box Tactics and special effects(im looking at you F.E.A.R.)to scare you and they just dont work.
  • J_Chip1691 said:

    This made the zombies even more frightening because you did fear for your life.
    And loads of games now days use Jack In The Box Tactics and special effects(im looking at you F.E.A.R.)to scare you and they just dont work.


    See, though, if FEAR had more Jack in the Box moments (as opposed to just those weird glimpses of ghosts that couldn't hurt you) it would have been a HELLA scary game.

    If I had been crawling around a vent with my flashlight and turned suddenly to get the squealing music and see some hideous thing that wanted to eat me, more often, that game would have been scary as all fuck.

    -Ray
  • What I find the most scary in a game is the sensation that you´re being chased. To feel something behind that will attack you at any moment is just horrifying. Like in RE4 the monster that attacked you from the ceiling until you entered a room was horrible...until I fired a rocket to his face
  • cooleo1208 said:
    What I find the most scary in a game is the sensation that you´re being chased. To feel something behind that will attack you at any moment is just horrifying. Like in RE4 the monster that attacked you from the ceiling until you entered a room was horrible...until I fired a rocket to his face


    Your post reminded me of one of the first games that people were scared of...

    3D Monster Maze



    It had no sound, but it did have that text that kept urging you to run. That's what made it scary. You had nothing, but a need to escape.

    The game awarded you points for how close you could get to the monster before escaping the dungeon. So you first had to hunt the thing down, defenslessly, and then run liek hell to get away from it.

    Then there was Atari's Haunted House...



    These games seem silly nd not at all scary now. But, at the time Video Games required imagination and I remember being a young kid and being kind of spooked by Haunted House, which many call the original Survivial Horror Game.

    -Ray
  • That advert for Haunted House...

    Why are Morecambe and Wise advertising Atari? I mean, it's cool and all, but did my memories of amazing entertainers need to be posthumously tarnished by knowing they advertised video games on the side? XD
  • pocketmego said:
    These games seem silly nd not at all scary now. But, at the time Video Games required imagination and I remember being a young kid and being kind of spooked by Haunted House, which many call the original Survivial Horror Game.


    Speaking of which, did you ever play the old rouge hack games, the old ASCII games? I've never been more afraid of a D, t, d, g, etc. in any of my other gaming experience, nor my life for that matter. Though, I've never been more happy to see a % either.
  • Talking about scary mazes...

    [spoiler:f0d8280e5d][/spoiler:f0d8280e5d]

    Who has not scared the shit out with this?? If a friend told you about this game, he´s not your friend. :D
  • Magenta said:
    That advert for Haunted House...

    Why are Morecambe and Wise advertising Atari? I mean, it's cool and all, but did my memories of amazing entertainers need to be posthumously tarnished by knowing they advertised video games on the side? XD


    That wasn't even their only one..





    -Ray
  • I am suffering a mental breakdown ;.;
  • I love horror games and I have to agree with Pocket that both FEAR and Resident Evil 4 (RE4 from here in) are not that scary. I found with both of these games they are more of an action game than a horror game. When you are able to kill everything, because you have more than enough weapons/ammo at your disposal - this takes away from the horror experience and turns it into a killing spree. When you can't kill everything, or you are forced to either run or figure out other ways to get through a level in a horror game - that is what makes it scary.

    I am also a big fan of ambiance, environment, and sound in a horror game. Sunflower got it right when he referenced Fatal Frame, and I must give my regards to Silent Hill. The whole experience in Silent Hill comes from the unknown, and is enhanced by the sound and ambiance to make a complete horror package.

    Something like condemned is borderline, as I find you are able to kill everything in the level - but you do feel underpowered, as you only have melee weapons at your disposal...and the occasional gun. Condenmed is scary because of the jack in the box tactics which is VERY different from Silent Hill and Fatal Frame. I still can appreciate what they did, as Condemned plays much like a thriller movie - so you are always on your toes.

    Being immersed in a horror game should bring out raw emotion and I think that this is done when a person feels they are isolated, feeble, and have the notion that they are unsafe - when these elements come together I find that I really do get scared in a game.
  • Some excellent points made so far. I'm not a big fan of horror games, but the one I remember most fondly was Eternal Darkness because of it's unique sanity system. See too many terrifying (for your character at least) monsters and their sanity starts to dip. At first the effects are a bit goofy, like your limbs suddenly falling off, but they quickly ramp up to more effective methods. The camera starts to tilt at an angle but in a way that's so subtle you don't notice until your neck starts to hurt. You begin to hear noises of running footsteps in adjacent rooms, people crying, or something banging very loudly on the door you're about to walk through. Even though I knew these things couldn't hurt me, more often than not I would do my best to get my sanity back up because they made me so uncomfortable whilst playing.

    The real genius of Eternal Darkness, though, was when it broke the fourth wall and went directly after the player. Pretending someone was turning down the volume on the TV, emptying your inventory or making flies walk across the screen. At one point while playing one of the triggers on the controller seized up. It may have just been a coincidence, as I didn't know the game could actually do that, but the fact that I was sure at the time that it was the game screwing with me demonstrates how effective it was. This is a great example of how good games can be in thinking outside the box when it comes to scary experiences.
  • aarondbowen said:
    [quote=pocketmego] These games seem silly nd not at all scary now. But, at the time Video Games required imagination and I remember being a young kid and being kind of spooked by Haunted House, which many call the original Survivial Horror Game.


    Speaking of which, did you ever play the old rouge hack games, the old ASCII games? I've never been more afraid of a D, t, d, g, etc. in any of my other gaming experience, nor my life for that matter. Though, I've never been more happy to see a % either.[/quote]

    No I never have, but tey sound interestring. I always liked the fact that REALLY classic computer games made use of all they had available to them in terms of code. programed in basic and sold in baggies, very grass roots.

    As for what Locke said...

    My roomate and I had this very discussion tonight. he goes so far as to say that the adddition of all the guns and ammo make RE4 and RE5 not even effectively abale to be categorized as Survival horror anymore.

    -Ray
  • Jam Enslaver said:
    Some excellent points made so far. I'm not a big fan of horror games, but the one I remember most fondly was Eternal Darkness because of it's unique sanity system. See too many terrifying (for your character at least) monsters and their sanity starts to dip. At first the effects are a bit goofy, like your limbs suddenly falling off, but they quickly ramp up to more effective methods. The camera starts to tilt at an angle but in a way that's so subtle you don't notice until your neck starts to hurt. You begin to hear noises of running footsteps in adjacent rooms, people crying, or something banging very loudly on the door you're about to walk through. Even though I knew these things couldn't hurt me, more often than not I would do my best to get my sanity back up because they made me so uncomfortable whilst playing.

    The real genius of Eternal Darkness, though, was when it broke the fourth wall and went directly after the player. Pretending someone was turning down the volume on the TV, emptying your inventory or making flies walk across the screen. At one point while playing one of the triggers on the controller seized up. It may have just been a coincidence, as I didn't know the game could actually do that, but the fact that I was sure at the time that it was the game screwing with me demonstrates how effective it was. This is a great example of how good games can be in thinking outside the box when it comes to scary experiences.


    :) Thank you for bringing that dreadful game back to me. In fact, I really enjoyed the sanity system because it made me value both the sanity and my health. If you tried to run across the room without killing the zombies, you became mad in no time. Good post Jam!
  • Pocketmego said:
    My roomate and I had this very discussion tonight. he goes so far as to say that the adddition of all the guns and ammo make RE4 and RE5 not even effectively able to be categorized as Survival horror anymore.

    ...I think he's right, in some way.

    There's this game called 'Sanitarium' , and there you are this dude, who is trying to regain his sanity. So in this game you don't have any kind of power... And you constantly watch how inmates are smashing their heads against a brickwall, leaving bloodstains all over it, or biting their own hands.... [spoiler:dc269c9b9d]FUCK[/spoiler:dc269c9b9d] that's scary.... And you can't do anything. Sometimes one attacks you biting your leg... It's... very weird. And you can't do shit!!!
  • Close_Smile said:
    [quote=Pocketmego]My roomate and I had this very discussion tonight. he goes so far as to say that the adddition of all the guns and ammo make RE4 and RE5 not even effectively able to be categorized as Survival horror anymore.

    ...I think he's right, in some way.

    There's this game called 'Sanitarium' , and there you are this dude, who is trying to regain his sanity. So in this game you don't have any kind of power... And you constantly watch how inmates are smashing their heads against a brickwall, leaving bloodstains all over it, or biting their own hands.... [spoiler:b092123f7d]FUCK[/spoiler:b092123f7d] that's scary.... And you can't do anything. Sometimes one attacks you biting your leg... It's... very weird. And you can't do shit!!![/quote]

    That is pretty freakin' disturbing. What system was this game on?

    Also...

    I thought this was midly connected to the topic at hand. Plus, I'm bored...so humor me...



    -Ray
  • Mad props to Jam for bringing up Eternal Darkness. This is one of the few games I remember beating to completion on the Gamecube, and it was a great ride.

    What's funny is that the same folks who did that also did Too Human. I'm not sure what happened :)

    Yw
  • yuzo said:
    Mad props to Jam for bringing up Eternal Darkness. This is one of the few games I remember beating to completion on the Gamecube, and it was a great ride.

    What's funny is that the same folks who did that also did Too Human. I'm not sure what happened :)

    Yw


    I've always said that some developers just have that one good game in them and that's that.

    Then again having they been working on Too Human since the days of the PS1??

    -Ray

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