Well I’ve been promising a look at the horror genre for some time, and I haven’t managed to come up with a better title for it so here goes. Over at the igda forums there is a discussion about the best horror examples in games, and what makes a good horror title (link). It’s interesting to read the responses and pants wetting moments from other gamers. As someone who now fears hospitals, schools, office buildings, and just about everything in a town thanks to Silent Hill, I have to wonder how I would design a horror title.
The horror genre has been around for some time, you could say that Alone in the Dark was the first example in the US, while technically Japanese gamers had Sweet Home a horror/rpg title as their first taste of it. There are some common elements between horror titles, usually some kind of disturbing sound track and creatures that fall on the “wtf” list. With the numerous titles over the years, there are a few complaints that are still around.
First are the controls, I know it’s not exactly terrifying to control a character with a quad rocket launcher, Hulk like strength, and martial arts prow less, but can we get away from the ten year old girls with dementia, vertigo, depth perception issues, and a broken leg? I no longer find it scary to put 14 year old girls up against nightmarish ghouls and demons, I like that Silent Hill gives us adults most of the time. Then we have games that still make our characters control like tanks, and that has yet to change for the majority of horror titles. I should be scared by the fact that something bad is around the corner, not that my character can’t turn around in less then 3 seconds. The horror genre for the most part seems to be stuck in a rut, relying on the same tricks and elements to scare us with rare exception.
I’ve yet to play the Condemned series, it’s on my list (or someone could send me a free copy) but I think that is where I like the horror genre to move onto. Give me characters that can hold their own for the most part , and put them up against creatures or people who are as strong or stronger then they are. Don’t make me weaker by messing with my controls, work on the enemies. I’ve been playing around in my head for a first person horror game idea. The player is alone on a space station with at least 10 alien creatures, each one different in every way. The player needs to find a way to escape and/or fight them while out maneuvering them. The player can use the station’s gravity controls or even escape into space for a few minutes to try to evade them. The really powerful weapons are few and far between with a few shots for them leaving the player to flee, or fight to wound the enemy long enough to get away for the most part. Another issue I have is that game designers over saturate us to the various beasts, by half way through the game we’ve seen the same 3 armed 2 headed creature so many times that it no longer scares us. I should be constantly saying “what the hell is that thing, and why is it trying to bite me?”
On the igda forums I gave an example of a moment I would like to see put into a video game which I’ll be quoting now “One example I saw that I would love to work into a game is from Evil Dead 2 (the movie not the game). Near the end of the movie Ash is heading down into the cellar with a shotgun in one hand and a chainsaw for his other arm. In most horror games with a set up like this, there would be no need to feel scared. Yet this a tense moment, even with these weapons Ash is still afraid of something attacking from behind or even fighting something period.” I want to see characters who are bad asses, yet completely terrified or unnerved at the events that are happening.
Resident Evil 4 is considered to be the best game in the series so far and a great step forward for the franchise in my opinion. My only problem is that the tank like controls of the series are still there. I would love to be able to move and shoot in a Resident Evil game. I do have high hopes for the new Fatal Frame game, not only because it’s being done by GrassHopper Studios (makers of Killer 7 and No More Heroes), but it will use the Wii-Mote for aiming at all the creepy ghosts .
Maybe it’s just me, after all the zombies, ghosts, demons, whatever the hells from Silent Hill I’m just not as scared anymore by the horror genre. I was reasonably calm playing BioShock except for a few fits of anger but I’ve talked about that already. This does raise an important question ,given my own disturbed psyche and what would scare me, what would people say about a horror game designed by me? I figure one of two options, either it will be so scary that it will make grown men go back to nightlights for awhile, or no one would be scared and they would question my sanity(more so then normal).
So I leave you with two important pieces of information, if your in a Japanese village and a girl in a kimono starting laughing hysterically at you, get the hell out of there, there’s a possibility that she is an evil spirit who wants to use your soul for some kind evil ritual. Also if your radio starts making static for no reason, be afraid, be very afraid
Josh (who finally came up with a decent title for this entry)