Posted on September 27, 2012, Phil Hornshaw Don’t Blink While Exploring the Strangeness of SCP
HorrorScope is a recurring feature exploring the horror genre in gaming and drawing attention to its elements, its tropes, and its lesser-known but still scary titles.
There exist in the world a group of strange, unexplainable phenomena, entities, locations and objects. These various things cause a danger to humanity, and they must be contained and studied — which is why the SCP Foundation was created.
That’s the simple premise behind a group of strange horror stories, all of which operate on similar tenants. SCP, or Special Containment Protocols, refers to the special operations through which these various evil things can be shut away, often because they are too horrible to allow to roam free.
You might have heard of the SCP Foundation — if not, you should spend a few hours reading its official site — but if not, you’re missing out on something exceedingly strange and awful: specifically, SCP files that have spawned some horrifying games.
A word of spoilery warning: We’ll be talking about the creepiness of the SCP titles from here on out. If you’d rather experience them unspoiled, you might want to stop reading and just download them — they’re SCP-087, SCP-087-B and SCP Containment Breach. All are free and in various states of development.
Dark Halls, Evil Creatures
Much like Parsec Productions’ Slender: The Arrival, the SCP titles rely heavily on a few key elements — darkness, mundane repetition, and sound design. They generally concern ominous places and allow the player’s imagination to do the heavy lifting of creating horror.
SCP-087 and SCP-087-B might be the quirkier of the two titles. The file delivering the backstory of 087 explains its unassuming but frightening nature — it’s a descending staircase that never ends, hidden in the walls of an undisclosed college campus somewhere in the U.S. It’s unlit and the darkness seems to swallow light, but there is a sound to be heard: a crying child, calling for help, somewhere below in the darkness.
In both versions of 087, your only task, and your only real control, is to walk. The ostensible lore is that the SCP Foundation has sent you in as a test subject to see how far you can descend and what might be down there. You know there’s something to expect, eventually — something has to happen to break up the monotony. But nothing presents itself, and the only sensory input the player has are foreboding music and the occasional stinging sound effect.
Knowing that an encounter with some horror is coming plays in the favor of the game, as well. It’s designed to get you thinking about what you might actually run into. The tension grows, building until it’s unbearable. The 087 titles are made so that you’ll want something to happen, but they’ll make you dread it, because you know it can’t be good.