I’m actually afraid of how brutally unnerving horror games could be in the next few years. As mediums for entertainment become more advanced, technology is now able to bring truly nightmarish scenes to your living room.
The current problem is that developers are now starting to water down horror games with elements of action/adventure in the hopes of broadening appeal and boosting sales.
Whilst I have no problem with actually being capable in a survival horror game, too much power spoils the basic fear.
Protagonists in this year’s survival horror titles have been pretty beefy, and I’m worried that this trend is going to begin debilitating the essence and quality of survival horror.
Since Outlast, I haven’t been that scared playing recent horror titles (other than Alien: Isolation), particularly this year’s range.
It seems that since that mental illness orgy came out, a lot of developers have gone down the FPS path when it comes to trying to make you scream in prepubescent style.
There also seems to be a large influence of shooting and hack and slash in recent horror games, turning the hapless Joe Soap into a marauding commando.
Probably because only a few twisted creeps subscribe to survival horror games, compared to a majority that prefer FPS, RPGs, GTA, etc.
Sure, Dying Light definitely made me leave a few human Snickers on the couch. Eventually though, I was dismembering every drooling undead denizen with my overpowered weapons.
The Evil Within also had me getting the shivers, but again that was just in the beginning before I had a pimping arsenal of upgraded toys. SOMA was also pretty eerie, but I enjoyed it more for the story and intriguing mystery.
As a huge survival horror fan, one of a smaller legion of gamers, I am advocating for the extreme nervousness that makes us so thrilled and giddy to not fade away. I refuse to see this creative genre reduced to mindless action games.
We want to feel helpless, pursued, running for our lives; the ecstatic relief and sense of achievement that floods the system after making it past a particularly nefarious situation.
That is the essence of human existence: being presented with seemingly unconquerable, terrifying odds and making it through wiser and more in control, before being presented almost too soon with more crushing obstacles.
In a world where mystery and the supernatural are ridiculed, survival horror allows one to explore the darker regions of the mind you get slapped on the wrist for expressing.
We are mean by nature. We are cruel and desire punishment. Survival Horror, to me, is a healthy medium for blowing off some of this more obscure steam.
Sure, shooting aliens and throwing grannies out of their cars can reach new heights of realism, but nothing grabs the attention and nerves like survival horror. Nothing gets under the skin or deeper into the mind than fear, our most savage and primal of emotions.
The survival horror genre could really take off in a way that would get everyone dumping their hard-earned credits. Utilising things like Virtual Reality and tapping into phenomena like Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, we could see people going crazy to jump into a simulated hell-zone.
The Oculus Rift is something that developers have been testing a lot of horror games out on. Choosing experience-based sensation over story and narrative, we are now entering true levels of senseless anxiety.
Dan Pinchbeck, creative director of Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs had this to say:
I think if you want to do an experience purely to elicit fear, then you have to not care about story too much. If you are going to try and max out how terrifying the experience is, then you accept that what you are basically trying to do is make people freak out so badly they stop playing.
Obviously you don’t want to create an experience that is too jarring that repulses many potential players, but I think we can raise the bar a bit higher than this year’s standards.
Horror is something that is so easily capitalized on in the film industry. Something so low-budget and inherently retarded like Paranormal Activity bent the box-office over and rammed its $11,000 budget up its corn-hole.
Why can’t the gaming industry do the same? Obviously AAA games cost a lot more than $11,000 to make, but think what a horrifically ingenious independent mastermind could do with a reasonable budget. It doesn’t take much to make people afraid if it’s done right.
Something like the supremely promising Silent Hills was unplugged by Konami because it was perceived as unprofitable and financially wasteful. The funny thing is – most of us would have gone mental for a new Silent Hill that didn’t suck.
Survival Horror is one of the pillars that uphold creativity and ingenuity in the gaming industry. It pushes developers to try harder scaring us in increasingly demented and warped ways.
It also upholds difficulty, puzzles and realistic gameplay and combat. It is an essential moderating mechanism in a world progressively flooded with mundane trite. It must be preserved, honoured and continuously diversified.