Monday, October 28, 2013

My Hate-Hate Relationship with Horror Games

October is well under way, and if you’re like me and live in the Midwest United States, this means a number of things: leaves changing colors, apple cider & donuts, and of course, Halloween (okay, that one isn't exactly Midwest-specific). For one of the most beautiful times of the year, October has the (mis?)fortune of being mostly associated with the grim and the grisly.

As a result, everything that happens during the month of October is tied to some horror theme or another. You've got your monster movie marathons, new scary releases in everything from movies to books to theatrical performances, and of course, there are your survival/horror video games. If I were to pick a genre that I liked the least and played the least, it would be this one. I can’t exactly pinpoint why this came to be, but when everyone was “enjoying” being scared to death by Resident Evil and Silent Hill, I was content playing Harvest Moon 64 or Final Fantasy IX.

Do you like scary video games? My answer is always "no".

Still, it is intriguing that I've nearly avoided an entire genre of games over 20+ years of gaming. When I think about it, I can only name a few titles that I've played that might be considered a part of the survival and/or horror genre: Friday the 13th, Devil May Cry, and Bioshock. Even those are a stretch, especially when there are truly terrifying games out there, from the critically acclaimed Dead Space, to the indie and just as chilling One Late Night. While I proclaim my inexperience with the horror genre with a small amount of pride, I’m also aware that to truly be a gamer, I should probably experience all types of games, at least to give them a fair shake.

But seriously, why don’t I like survival/horror games? It’s a good question, and I don’t have a straight answer, only a few theories. Growing up I had a very bad experience with the horror classic A Nightmare on Elm Street. I was 12 when I saw the movie for the first time, and it scared me so much that I had trouble sleeping for weeks. I was convinced that Freddy Krueger was going to kill me in my dreams and as a result became quite gun-shy (no-pun intended) around horror flicks. While I soon got over this fear and now thoroughly enjoy horror movies, I still find the idea of playing games in the same vein a little too much to handle.

I do have an idea that for me, my fear comes down to an emotional attachment in gaming. While watching a movie, I’m okay with some people dying – hell, if the victim is a total idiot I can claim that they “deserve it” and even root for the killer. They’re actors on a screen and I have no control over their fates whatsoever; for me it’s a completely bystander experience where I feel safely removed from whatever terror is plaguing the screen. However, when I’m gaming I actually control what happens on the screen. My actions have a direct effect on a character’s fate, whether good or bad. This creates an emotional attachment, and the character becomes somewhat of an avatar. It’s this connection that is possibly why I have a tough time playing scary games. I know they’re meant to make players jump and I know that I’m not in any physical danger, but it still feels all too real to me. It’s more personal and I even find myself getting goosebumps and chills just thinking about playing games like Outlast <shudder>.

This is me after playing horror games for any amount of time.

However, being a gamer at heart and now a writer/blogger in the gaming community, the time was bound to come when I would have to succumb to the pressures of October’s theme and delve into a genre I've done well to avoid. For the month of October, I’m going to finally immerse myself into the horror/survival genre. I plan on reviewing at least two games before the end of the month: Silent Hill and Maere - When Lights Die. The first will be tough enough to deal with, but the second may just be the end of me, as there’s a good possibility that I’ll be playing it with the Oculus Rift system (I’ll likely be updating my living will just in case thing go terribly wrong). Until then, I’ll just continue to mentally prepare myself for the most terrifying gaming experience of my life. What in the hell have I gotten myself into?


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