Posted on August 29, 2007,

Games Work Better as Horror than Films


Are your heart-stopping, terrifying pee-your-pants moments coming more these days from the games you play rather than the films you watch? You’re not alone.

An article in Wired online talks about the idea that video game makers have nailed the horror genre and propelled it in ways which the film industry has yet to explore. The conventions have gotten too, shall we say, cliche?

“The best scary-game designers have quietly perfected the interplay of tension and release that makes for a truly cardiac horror experience,” Clive Thompson writes. “They have, in a sense, become even more faithful interpreters of the horror tradition movies than Hollywood directors.”

It is true that in a sense you are given control of what the main character does–no more “I can’t believe they’re running back in the house” response to two-dimensional characters behaving irrationally on-screen. But then again, it’s not like you can completely run amok; there are boundaries, after all.

Nevertheless, it breaks down barriers.

“In a game, of course, the fourth wall is obliterated, and you actually do have the choice about whether to go into The Bad Room or to run screaming,” he writes. “If you’re a total coward (like me) this ability to control your fate induces considerably more suspense, because I head-game myself into a frenzy. I’ll start down a corridor, hear something freaky up ahead, then freeze in panic.”

The ride still has a fairly straightforward path, but there is a point to be made about how the element of control you do have over the situation brings you closer to it that much. It’s not reality, but it’s more real than you could ever imagine sitting in a dark room playing at home alone.

Video games have a tremendous ability to bring us in, and one of the complaints I had about Doom III was that they could have done so much more with the psychological element in the game. It was amazing to look into a mirror and see the world around you flash into a fiery, twisted dimension. At one point, I followed footsteps to nowhere and thought, is this really causing my sanity to slip?

Unfortunately, that’s about as far as it got with the game. It would have been great to have an all out battle with your own mind, that the demons didn’t actually exist out of the confines of your head. Alas, id Software’s shooter is what it is and will never be more.

But now for Bioshock…

via Wired

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2 Comments on Games Work Better as Horror than Films

Robert Satori

On August 29, 2007 at 7:32 am

More likely it is the failings of the modern (incestuous and autocannibalistic) film industry falling short than games being so all-fired masterful. Be honest, games are still at ‘fan fiction’ levels, though there is potential for more.


On August 29, 2007 at 10:41 am

I find games work a lot better at making you jump or getting your pulse speed up simply because they are more engaging than films. In a film you are watching someone explore a haunted house and getting a third party response to what happens whereas in a game you are exploring and getting the fright yourself.

I remember the first time I played a Resident Evil game (I cant remember which one it was) and while walking down a quite corridor something came smashing through the window next to me. I must have leaped about 3 feet in the air :lol: