Thursday, 1 October 2015

Horror Games Are Scary!

I started playing horror games when I was 18. I’d watched my friend play through most of Silent Hill and day before my birthday in 2001, Silent Hill 2 was released. A game can have the best graphics, the best story, the best game mechanics but still mean nothing to me unless it is based in a well realised world and Silent Hill sure is. It’s not always an obvious world where you know all the answers, the everything makes sense within that world and it pulls you in with mystery and lore. Silent Hill is still unexplained as a concept and there is an abundance of theory and fan fiction out there offering up opinion on what the Hell is going on. But I like not knowing. It makes it scarier.

I used to love scaring myself shitless of an evening, in an empty house with the lights off, playing Silent Hill 2. One memorable moment just came flooding back to me as I was in my parents house one evening, on my own, lights off. A tense moment in the game… And my cat (aptly named Dopey) simply lost his balance and fell of the back of the chair. I jumped a mile high, switched on the lights, my heart pounding. I loved it! I remember playing it in college every night and then have to walk down the hill from my house to the train station to meet my girlfriend. I’d have to walk past an old hospital that had some kind of air filtration system near the road that consisted of large rusty pipes that clanged randomly. It made every night an adventure, I can tell you.

A seminal moment for me came with Silent Hill 3. To start with, the player character being a teenage girl made the whole experience more scary. But walking through the graveyard in to the church and things popped out at you in real time! In Silent Hill and Silent Hill 2, whenever something in the built in background needed to move, the screen would fade to black and a cut scene would play. Ah here come the scary bit, I’d think to myself and have a little jump when an in game cat would jump out of a cupboard (bloody cats). But now there were no loading screens, things would instantly happen and change around you. That was a big moment in horror for me. It definitely drew you in to the game a little bit more and helped with the scare factor.

Then something happened to me. I still don’t know what. But I couldn’t finish Silent Hill: The Room. It was too scary. My heart beat so fast, I thought I’d have a heart attack. I got pretty far but one day as I was wondering around the apartment block that had now all fallen in to the Hell realm, I got a bit stuck and didn’t know what to do. So I used this excuse never to back to Silent Hill…

A few years later and a game that combined sci-fi and horror, two of my favourite genres, was slated for release. It was hailed as Silent Hill in space. I lapped it up and bought my copy of Dead Space. I think I played it for about half an hour. Wow. I tried going back a few times, but as soon as I died I’d switch off thinking “This is too hard”. A few years later and I somehow managed to get a free copy of Dead Space 2. I never played it. Then again, a free copy of Dead Space 3. This time for PC. I had played the demo on PS4 and was amazed as the whole environment changed around me as the player character had in game flashbacks. It reminded me of the feeling I got when first walking through the graveyard in Silent Hill 3. Another amazing advancement in horror story telling. I started wondering whether this was a good thing. When I played the actual game, the PC level graphics and the fact that I had to play in the dark with headphones, not to scare my children, made it all the worse. Maybe twenty minutes this time?

That was my last foray in the to the world of game horror. Almost…

P.T. The playable trailer for the doom ridden Silent Hills from the “what the Hell is going on over there?!” Konami studios. I really wanted to dip my toe back in to the horror game genre. I girded myself. I turned the lights off. I enjoyed the sensation of expectation. I walked through the same house about three times. I opened a door and a hand reached out and closed it in my face. “Right. That’s it!” Controler down. Light on. I’m playing Disney Infinity from now on!

I still enjoy the odd horror film. But games add that extra element of you being the protagonist in the story and you having to fight or run your way out of situations. With a film you can just think, yeah they’ll do it, they’re the main character. Or shout at the screen thinking, you idiot, why would you go that way!? With a game, the responsibility for the safety of the character is yours and yours alone. Is it that sense of responsibility that has increased in me with age and especially so with having children, that is stopping me from enjoying my old favourite? Or is it simply that graphics and technology have got so much better that they just seem real? Is it the fact that I vier towards the sub genre of psychological horror rather than gore fests like Resident Evil or The Evil Within. I’m definitely buying the new Doom when it comes out next year. That doesn’t look the slightest bit scary to me.

I don’t know the answer but I know I won't be going near any horror games again any time soon. Which is a massive shame. I love what I’ve seen of the likes of Until Dawn and SOMA. But I think I’ll have to stick with watching PewDiePie playthroughs as his comedy commentary makes it a little easier to bare. And I’m not responsible for the characters inevitable deaths.

by BloggyDave

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