Hey there, Gamers and Game Makers!
With Halloween just about upon us, I thought it only appropriate to talk about my favorite topic, horror! Halloween is easily my favorite time of year. It's the perfect time binge watch some scary movies, read some terrifying tales or step into the shoes of the main character of a horror game in a brutal and tense struggle to survive. So, what is it about horror that we love so much? Why do we like to scare ourselves?
Most people like to experience horror through media such as movies, books and games because it affords them the opportunity to face some of their greatest fears in a safe way. While the experience may be frightening, in the back of our minds ultimately we know we are safe and no harm can come to us. Afterwards you often have a good laugh at it wondering why you even got scared in the first place. And boy, do we love to point out the flawed logic in horror situations!
For me personally, I love psychological horror. It requires so much more to scare the audience than sudden loud noses and things popping up on screen. Psychological horror relies more on mental and emotional states to scare the audience. If you feel uneasy, then it's working. A game that does this very well is Silent Hill 2. It's one of my favorite games of all time and for good reason. It manages to put the player in a state of constant unease and fear using very dark themes that are delivered in very subtle ways. When you think back on the game, it's not the monsters or the location that terrified you the most. It was that feeling in the back of your mind that you understood what was going on with these characters and that even you as the player could be a horrible person. Everyone has their own demons, their own darkness inside them. A nature that we all know we have but so rarely want to admit we have. A truly good horror won't just scare you, it'll show you that darkness that we all have and it'll make you think about it.
So when it comes to creating a horror experience, no matter what medium you choose, the key is not shock value but rather not shying away from the dark themes that is our own human nature. We have such a great capacity for good but we also have the capacity for such evil and true psychological horror is about exposing that harsh truth and forcing the audience to question themselves somewhat. The difference between good psychological horror and a scary monster movie or game is with the scary monster experience you come away having a laugh at how scared you got at the jump scares and that feel good feeling of knowing none of it was real and you're safe. A truly good psychological horror however will leave you coming away from the experience with a little bit of an uneasy feeling for a while. That sense of dread because while that experience was a work of fiction, you know deep down that there was a truth to that horror. A reflection of yourself you don't want to see but once you've seen that reflection, it takes a little bit of time for it to fade from your mind.
A good example of a psychological horror movie from the past year that I really enjoyed is The Void. Under the vale of monsters lurks that same dark reflection of human nature that we don't want to admit we have.
That just about does it for my ramblings on the topic of horror. As always, I hope you've enjoyed reading and have a happy and scary Halloween.
Until next time!