Horror Video Games – An Introduction
Confession: I get scared playing Myst! And Riven. It’s true. Something about slowly exploring an abandoned ANYTHING creeps me out. I get frightened oh-so-easily and it’s absolutely horrible and yet I keep coming back for more. What can I say? As long as it’s all in good fun, right? So the collection of video games I’ve put together for this post is made up exclusively of games I personally have played and been terrified by. It is by no means complete. BUT!! If you know of a scary game NOT on this list that you think I might “hate” for it’s terrorizing nature, please let me know in the comments below. I’m always on the hunt for a new fright.
What Makes Them Not Scary
Okay, let’s start with the negative. I’ve played plenty of games that are meant to be frightening but somehow aren’t (as well a few that aren’t meant to be scary but somehow are…) and it’s always a source of frustration for me. This phenomenon occurs with horror films, too, and at least for me, the reasons are often the same:
1) Disgusting visuals – If you gross me out, I’ll stop being scared. The moment I become distracted by my desire not to gag, the fear dissipates. I’m taken right out of the moment. Done.
2) Lots of action – I love action movies as much as the next human, and supernatural or scifi or horror action movies can be fantastic fun…but I don’t find them as frightening. I think the sense that the characters can and are actually DOING things takes away that horrible helpless feeling that is so scary to me. That or it’s distracting. Either way, I chill out when people start doing lots of stuff. Same holds true for games. If I’ve got lots of stuff to do and a gun to shoot, I’m WAY less scared than I would be otherwise.
3) Harming animals and/or children – Yup, take it too far in this direction and I’m not scared anymore: I’m angry. I can think of a particular movie I watched part of last year and I’m STILL angry they killed a poor little dog for no reason. It wasn’t scary, it didn’t add to the story, they just did it. It was a cheap move and made me really sad and I turned it off. I have zero tolerance for this stuff. Thankfully, video games aren’t as guilty of this trope as films can be, but the principle is the same. Hurt the innocents, and the experience is ruined for me.
What Makes Them Scary
Now for the good stuff! The top things that video games super scary (to me):
1) Nothing happens – Yup, if you include long stretches of me expecting horrible things and nothing really horrible happening…I’m a goner. Case in point: Slender Man: The Arrival. *shudder*
2) Sound effects – Oh, man. Whispers, creepy voices, far away screams. Done well these nuances just KILL my courage and reduce me to a puddle of frightened tears on my keyboard/controller. I HATE CREEPY WHISPERS, MAN. Except on Ghost Adventures, when they suddenly become awesome, but I digress…
3) Ghosts. – This should shock…no-one who has read any of my previous posts on horror/the supernatural. I love ghost stories/films/games/TV shows, and they absolutely TERRIFY me. Don’t really know why. But they do.
4) Vulnerability – Ask me to explore a haunted house armed only with a camera or to roam the countryside viewing the world through a malfunctioning video camera or, I don’t know, ask me to sit in an office and just WATCH THE FREAKING SECURITY CAMERAS WHILE ANIMATRONIC CREATURES COME TO EAT MY FACE…well, I’ll be scared if you do those things. I will. And I’ll keep playing.
Dino Crisis – I loved this game on PS1. It was like living the terror of the first Jurassic Park film way back when…and yeah, those raptors were super scary. I was always out of ammo or almost out, and you just never knew when something powerful and frightening would burst through the door next to you. Also, WOO HOO for female protag wearing clothes! Good stuff.
Fatal Frame(s) – I have a real soft spot for this game, in spite of its terrible horrible frighteningness. My older brother (B1) rented this game from Blockbuster back when we were in high school. He turned out all the lights in his room, played it for maaaaaaaybe 10 minutes, then emerged from the darkness all a-tremble. He returned it without playing it again. It took a few years for me to summon the courage to tackle it myself and boy, let me tell ya. ‘Tis a frightening ride. Oh, and they’re making another one!
Silent Hill(s) – Do these guys even need an introduction? I mean, really. *shiver* Plus, my cousin just informed me that these games are based on a real place right here in the U.S. of A.: Centralia, PA. Go on, Google that nonsense. I might never stop shivering. *shiver*
Resident Evil(s) – Honestly, this franchise never really scared me, though I know they frightened many of my peers. I think it’s the whole zombie thing. I’ve always loved zombie stuff, but it has never really gotten under my skin the way that ghosts do. *shrug* Don’t know why. I file these games under “Much Fun” rather than “Such Scare.” The jump-scares still get me every time, however. Every. Time.
The Next Generation
Dead Space(s) – You know all that scary stuff I listed above? Yeah, I’m pretty sure it’s ALL in the Dead Space games in one place or another, just in, you know, space. Where you can’t escape. Nowhere to run. *whimper* Take the creepy singing in this trailer, for instance. Like, is that necessary? I have to try and sleep tonight. *shiver*
Left 4 Dead and L4D2 – Okay, this game really isn’t scary. Really. I spent many a late night in graduate school playing these games online with B3. Nothing helps restore your precious sanity like shooting undead things, am I right? Wait, I take that back…the witches are scary. Every time. NOBODY LIKES TO HEAR CRAZY-GIRL CRYING IN THE DARKNESS, MMK?? But yeah, love me some L4D, guys. These aren’t perfect games, and we ran through all the levels pretty quickly, but for what they are, I love them.
Five Nights at Freddy’s – So I never liked the animatronic characters at Chuck E. Cheese. I just…didn’t. Something about their blank stares and jerky movements struck 6 year-old me as more menacing than charming. But hey, I was a kid, right? Kids are scared of all kinds of silly things. Surely I’ve outgrown this one! Yeah, nope. Nope, nope, nope. I hate everything about these stupid games. Childhood fear + near powerlessness + a ticking clock = All the NOPE. I survived the first one. Haven’t played the second. I’m…pacing myself. I’ll get there. Eventually. Or I won’t.
Slender: The Arrival – I saved the worst for last. If you follow me on twitter, you already know how my attempt at playing this game went. If you don’t, well…I couldn’t play it in my apartment. That would be impossible. So I went for the safety of B3’s room at my parents’ house. Only that wasn’t enough. B3 was too scared to be a comfort for me. So we recruited my dad as a third player and took the first part of the game in 30 minute shifts while shouting a lot of very frightened “encouragement” at each other. Guys…it was still too scary. We couldn’t handle it. We played maybe three hours and called it quits, and we haven’t tried again since. So, yeah. This game beat me. Play at your own risk.
Alrighty, LadyNerders, it’s your turn! Share your favorite scary games in the comments below!