Saturday, 26 October 2013

Why I Don't Like Horror Games

Hello, sexy people

Alyxx here again with yet another kind of blog'y post about a subject I just wanna talk about and analyze a bit. Don't worry, more game reviews are coming but for now I just wanna talk a little about a subject that I find interesting cause that's how I roll.
Anyway, with Halloween coming up I see a lot of people playing and reviewing horror games and it kind of reminds me that I really don't like horror games. At all. Why? Well, that's what I plan to write about. Now keep in mind I haven't played that many horror games for, well, the sole reason I don't really like horror games. They are not my cup of tea and never will be. What I have played though I will talk about here and bring up the reasons these games are, well, bad to me.

For me, horror relies on two distinct things. Immersion and subtlety. Immersion is needed because you need to feel threatened, you need to feel like something is actually at stake and something gets under your skin. Now, the problem with the horror games I've played recently, specifically Amnesia, which touts itself as a very highly immersive experience, is that it isn't immersive at all. Same with for instance Slender which also isn't that immersive. While you could argue that the first person perspective of these games are what makes them immersive, they do have some things that actually really broke and ruined the immersion for me. With Amnesia for instance, the character's personality was actually too strong and most of the time, HE reacted to the stuff happening around him, and it didn't feel like it was me doing it. It didn't feel genuine or natural and felt very forced and it was at that point I pretty much put down the game, uninstalled it and never touched it again because at that point any immersion I had was gone entirely and the game was ruined for me. I'll probably never be able to play the game because it constantly bothered and annoyed the crap out of me. To me it was kind of like being raped. Some people might find this scary and frightening, but I just wanna punch the guy in the balls so he cannot procreate. I had the same reaction to Amnesia pretty much. The whole thing about him going insane felt forced, the whole thing about having to constantly gather lamp oil and tinder felt forced, the clunky controls for even something as basic as opening a door felt forced. Everything felt very manipulative and not very immersive at all. All these things are supposed to add to the immersion but to me, it had the opposite effect.

While these freaks are creepy-looking, there's nothing subtle about them or genuinely creepy about them. Amnesia and a lot of modern horror games rely way too much on a very shallow form of horror in my opinion.
In the case of Slender I know the game is free, I know it is just a tech demo but for fuck's sake... there's NO in-game story, there's no explanation who this guy is, why you are gathering pages and just who you are or where you are. The game expects you to know all this beforehand and to me that really ruins the experience as well. Not to mention the game was full of nonsensical buildings and models that in no way felt like real life and hell, there were missing textures at one point so immersion clearly was thrown out the window there.

I honestly find something like DooM more immersive than these games because in DooM, you are in total 100% control of your character the entire time. He doesn't speak, doesn't do anything unless it's you doing it and that way, you feel more scared when you see flashing lights or hear noises because it feels like you are in the game and it is you doing these things. The Black Mesa mod that released recently was actually one of the scariest experiences I've had lately because you don't get any powerful weapons in the very beginning of the game and I actually felt really immersed and genuinely creeped out by the headcrab zombies (which by the way are a LOT scarier in Black Mesa than in Half-Life 2).

I dunno about you but any game with the line "you were almost a Jill sandwich" I just can't find scary...
That is also the problem with for instance the Resident Evil games which has been hailed as the inventor of survival  horror. But to be honest, the cheesy dialogue, horrible camera angles, the fact the game isn't even first person and you spend most of it shooting zombies with a goddamn shotgun makes me feel like I'm watching an interactive b-movie instead of going through a haunted house and to me, the Resident Evil games, especially the early ones can more be classified as action/adventure games with horror elements.

And like I mentioned, subtlety is the other important thing about horror. Horror ALWAYS works best when it is unexpected and catches you off guard, and especially if it's lurking in the atmosphere of a game and isn't in broad daylight. That is also my main problem with games like Amnesia, Slender or Resident Evil, they are about as subtle as a slab of meat to the face. To be honest the scariest experiences I've had in gaming have always come from games where I didn't expect it. Like in Pokémon where there are actually ghost pokémon. At first, this might seem like a childish fun game but seriously, this implies that pokémon CAN and WILL die eventually and it is something you as a trainer have to deal with as you get attached to these creatures. Lavender Town is legendary for its creepy atmosphere (mostly due to the music) and because it has a Pokémon cemetary. Again, just bringing something as dark and real as death into a fun game like Pokémon is legitimately creepy and gets under your skin in a way no horror games have to me.

Or take the Mother games for instance. At first they seem like silly nonsensical childish games but once you dig under the surface you find a lot of seriously disturbing stuff that really gets under your skin and a big reason the games have such a cult following. The games are really emotional and know how to get to you in a way few games have and to me, the tragedy of these games is what really makes me love them, and also feel kind of disturbed.

Giygas has scared Mother fans since long before Resident Evil or any horror game. Mostly because you have no clue what the flying fuck you're seeing so it conjures up all kinds of horrific images in your mind. It's deep emotional psychological terror that nothing can come close to in my opinion.
Recently I played through Alien Colonial Marines with some friends. Now, take into consideration the AI in this game is broken as f*ck and it's really unpredictable and you can die EASILY even on easy difficulty because of how much it cheats so I was already ready to die a lot. Then you get to a part where you have NO GUNS, giving you no choice but to sneak your way through an alien infested area and my friends that I played with left me behind and I was genuinely scared because they had alerted the aliens, they were coming for me and my friends blocked me away and I felt not only immersed because I felt in total control of my character, but I also felt scared because I had no way of defending myself. It was easily my favourite moment from the game and a big reason I actually kinda like it despite its flaws.

So all in all, I do get scared, I am not some kind of machine that doesn't get scared but to me, games like Amnesia, Slender or Resident Evil just don't work because you go into them knowing exactly what you're gonna get, and to me that just isn't scary. And for me, the horror always comes when it's subtle, when I'm connected to the game, and don't expect it.

Have a happy Halloween!

- Alyxx