Be afraid, be very afraid
As Halloween fast approaches some of us here at Resolution and our friends share with you the horrors we’ve experienced in games.
FEAR IS a vast emotion triggered by countless things, and it’s an emotion that evolves with you throughout your life. During your childhood you start off innocent and blissful, you’re irrationally scared of everything because it’s new and beyond comprehension but at the same time it feels fun to explore. It’s not all fun however, and as the years pass, you fear less irrational things and instead develop legitimate ones, ones that are no fun whatsoever. Despite the onset of the reality of life creeping in, you still have the odd irrational fear, and occasionally something will trigger that same scary fun you used to feel. Games can be that trigger, and the following accounts are a few of our experiences, the games that affected us, the fear they induced and the reasons why.
I used to think I was the sort of blubbering ninny who avoided scary games. I watched my cousin playing through the first Resident Evil, whinged to my parents to buy it for me, received it, and gave up after the first zombie. But looking back, perhaps that was because I was about 10.
As I’ve grown into a less blubbery ninny, I’ve come to embrace horror games and am rarely scared by them any more. Gore? Delicious! Psychopaths? Charming! Hideously malformed grotesqueries from the twisted mind of some deviant? Huggable! All the visual stuff is creepy, but its not scary any more.
The sound, though, that can die in a fire.
Atmosphere is what freaks me out, something that can drag me into the game world. With the best will in the world, the visuals can’t really do that. I know I’m looking at a screen, I can see the borders, and I can’t help but be aware that there is this impermeable border separating me from the horrors on the screen. I’m safe, and so fear doesn’t really factor into this.
But the sound changes things. It’s ethereal, creeping through the spaces between worlds and sliding some nebulous tendrils into my brain. It’s subtle, like a stolen breath, and it pulls me into the world so stealthily that I have no idea it has happened until sudden demon attack.
The last time this happened was Heavy Rain, a game that had already set me on edge through the knowledge that the usual trappings of game design don’t really apply. All your characters can die at seemingly any moment, but failing a series of inputs may not necessarily lead to their death. You can fail loads of inputs and still keep going, but fail the wrong one and suddenly you’re a protagonist down. Then comes the finger chop.
If you’ve played the game, you’ll know of this bit. If not, let me illuminate you. The Origami killer has set you a challenge to prove how much you love your son, whether you love him more than your own body. He wants you to cut off the end of one of your fingers in a burnt out husk of a building. You have 5 minutes.
There are various instruments of appendage removal around the room, from axes to saws to a pair of secateurs, but making the choice is just a way of killing time. You can heat the blade, or find a piece of wood to bite on, but ultimately this is also just killing time. You take your tool of choice and sit in front of the killer’s webcam, ready to prove your devotion to your son.
Then your character starts to breathe. It is a nervous, panicked rattle. It overwhelms everything and, suddenly, you’re there. Before it was just a game, a well mo-capped but visually average doll picking up polygons to chop off more polygons. But it’s not any more, it’s you deciding if you have it in you to make this choice. You have to psyche yourself up, practice the swing once, twice, three times, the breathing getting more and more ragged and oppressive. The character doesn’t want to do it, you don’t want to do it, and all the while the killer is counting down on his webcam, cold and uninterested in anything other than whether you’re going to do it or not.