Fraidy Cat

It's a typical late night session at the computer.  I'm rounding up my game before I hit the sack.  A startling noise comes from the hallway.  Should I check it out?  Nah, it was nothing.  I'll just keep staring at my monitor.  It certainly wasn't anything out of the ordinary.  I mean, who else would be in the house to make noise?  The dog is sleeping at my feet, I'm in here, who else could it be?  Certainly if there was someone else in the house, my dog would notice.  Then again, the intruder could be almost silent.  Maybe it doesn't have footsteps?  Maybe it doesn't have feet?  If I turn around, will I see some horrible creation float into view?  Or maybe it drags itself along the ground, waiting for me to look down before it shambles up my leg in order to devour my still beating heart!

This is why I can't play horror games.


Don't get me wrong, I try to play tons of horror games.  My desk is littered with the evidence of my horror game failures, most recently where I failed to get past the intro to Silent Hill 4.  There are many horror games that are widely considered to be really great games.  Oddly enough, I happen to enjoy really great games.  So I continue to buy them, promising that this time I'll only play them during the day.  At noon.  With giant 1,000 watt lamps surrounding my computer desk.  It's the same result each time though - it gets dark, I try to play it, then I find out I have the constitution of an 8 year old girl - and the cycle continues.

What's odd is that I can watch most horror movies without any problem.  The trick has nothing to do with my horror movie constitution but simply knowing the formula.  At the beginning of any horror movie, I subconsciously pick out which characters are going to die.  It's like a stupidity test.  You watch the characters being introduced and whenever a character passes below a certain stupidity threshold you know they will end up dead.  Probably at the hands of some supernatural force, a mask-wearing psychopath or some otherworldly parasitic infestation.  It's a given part of the formula that most of these characters will die.  When it happens, I may be surprised by how they die, but it doesn't emotionally scar me.

With horror games though, there's no switch I can pull to stop caring about my character.  That's me in there in the inexplicably short mini skirt and tall boots, surrounded by flesh eating zombies.  Why the hell did I wear that anyway?  Is that standard issue zombie hunting gear where I'm from?  It doesn't matter, a zombie just tore a chunk out of my skull.  There is no predefined set of things that will happen to me.  What if I turn left instead of right?  Do I run into the zombie nurse or the flaming skull?  There is no pre-existing destiny for me to face.  Not to malign a famous phrase, but there's no fate for me but the one I make.  And that scares the hell out of me.

And when I finally do succumb to the evil, I finally bite it, that's not the end.  I can die 1,000 times and the road ahead is still there, waiting.  The evil can still be defeated, if only I jump right back in with it.  The tension in most horror movies comes from the fact that the main character might die, but doesn't.  That tension exists in horror games, but you can always start again and still save the day.  It just doesn't feel as pressing.  The tension I feel most strongly in horror games is the fear that things will never get better.  I won't be able to defeat the source of the evil, or I won't be able to save someone.  The fear that I might fail is a thick fog over everything I accomplish in the game.

That fear grinds my attempts to play the game to a halt.  I sit almost petrified to open a door in fear that whatever is on the other side will be unstoppable.  I'll fail to find the weak point behind the knee or the magic weapon to defeat it and it will roam free forever, with me powerless to do anything about it.  Or I won't be quick enough, a monster will leap at me out of nowhere for a cheap "jump scare".  I'll end up getting killed repeatedly by the same damn monster, too dumbstruck to fight back or even run away.

With most games, I always feel that I can kill every enemy in the game if I really put some effort into it.  All I need is a gun and I can climb straight up that pompous little tower and smack Dr. Breen right in the head.  With horror games though, that's just not enough.  The goal isn't defeating the enemy, it's just survival.  Often, there are terrible things that happen in horror games that I just cannot stop.  I'm supposed to be more worried about getting out alive than defeating the enemy, and in the end I just can't stop them all.  I always end up in the same situation, stuck.  I can't change the way things are because I'm too slow or not clever enough, and I always end up staring down some monstrously horrible situation helpless to stop it.  It frightens me to the point that I don't even want to pick up the game anymore.  To me, the only thing worse than getting killed by crazy ghouls in straight jackets is knowing I can never stop them all.

So next time I get the urge to buy a horror game, I think I'll just go outside.  In the sun.  Where the vampires can't get you.

Comments

I can totally relate to this article. I get very interested in the potential scare of experiencing pc/console horror games, but most of them go unfinished, ironically, due to the scare factor itself. To this day ones I own that I want to finish but just never get around to include:

Clive Barkers Undying - I am sure this is a classic, I just stalled early on. Got some good scares out of it.

Land of the Dead and Nosferatu - I actually think the non-cutting edge graphics really add to the scariness of these games somehow. I want to finish these, but honestly they spook the heck out of me.

RE:4 - Must complete, but those villagers freaked me out.

Even PC Doom3 - Sudden monster appearances had me jumping in my chair. I love/hate monster closets and stopped this one before it gave me a heart attack. Strangely I felt more comfortable playing it on the XBOX, maybe cause the levels are a bit brighter.

So anyways, I really get into the spirit of horror games, but the jump in my chair moments somehow drive me away from completing them.

Spooky games I can say I completed include:
1. The original Alone in the Dark (must count for something)
2. FEAR - proof positive it wasn't as scary as the hype
3. Sanitarium - this adventure was absolutely disturbing and awesome.
4. Aliens versus Predator 2 - There were a few creepy moments
5. Haunted Mansion on the Atari 2600 - Those eyes, those eyes! I can still hear the footsteps.

Awesome:

That's me in there in the inexplicably short mini skirt and tall boots, surrounded by flesh eating zombies. Why the hell did I wear that anyway? Is that standard issue zombie hunting gear where I'm from? It doesn't matter, a zombie just tore a chunk out of my skull.

Sig!

I will admit that Doom3 got me this way the first hour or so. And I will also say that my first time playing Half Life (the original) involved me pushing my chair back from the desk and turning on the lights more than once. Facehuggers!!! Oi!

I made the mistake of playing Silent Hill in the basement in the dark at night when it first came out. I literally couldn't walk around in the dark for a week or so without getting completely freaked out.

Call me a mashochist, but that feeling is exactly why I love playing horror games. I love that chilly sliver of fear I get when I play them, and how it affects me after i've put the controller down.

Same here, but if you are a real men, try downloading and playing penumbra, i did and only last for five minutes, great game BTW

I bought Resident Evil 2 the day it came out, without having ever played the first one. I brought the game ad my PS over to a friends house where we proceeded to play the game starting at about 11:00 PM during a massive lightning storm/monsoon.

It freaking rocked!

Hello, my name is GTNissanFan and I'm a Fraidy Cat. I have learned to not even try to play scary games. I can handle machine-gun wielding Terrorists and Ninjas with swords, but throw in a monster/zombie/ghost and I'm ready to call it quits. I barely made it through Halo because the Flood gave me nightmares. Maybe we should start a club.

I've had Fatal Frame 2: Director's Cut sitting on top of my entertainment center for a month now. I'm afraid to play it.

The last truly scary game I played was Silent Hill 2, and it was just too much. Interactivity adds a whole new layer of freakiness to horror, I think. It's one of those genres that, when done right, really works well in games.

The Fly wrote:

I've had Fatal Frame 2: Director's Cut sitting on top of my entertainment center for a month now. I'm afraid to play it.

As you should be. That game is creepy.

Mmm, horror games. I started a thread asking for horror game recommendations a long time ago and never got around to playing any of them. I'll have to dig that up.

I sympathize, Pyro, and I've noticed the horror-game scariness > horror-movie scariness thing myself. Maybe that's why I'm so jaded about horror movies now (when I've always been a huge fan), but I love the concept of horror games.

Rabbit beat me to the sig!

This article reminded me of Swaydora's Box

System shock 2 was the scariest game for me - I find I respond to creepy sounds more than visuals and the sounds in that game were just terrifying.

The reason you don't finish horror games is the reason I can't stop playing them. My favorite experiences playing games have come from being able to fully suspend my disbelief and really get into the experience. Apart from the Tribes and Battlefield series, horror games never fail to suck me into their twisted little worlds.

Someone get a stapler and reattach Pyro's sack.------------->Just kidding. I just noticed I'm a Consultant now. I have no clue what that means but I thought I'd try on the big boy pants.

Now, if you want me, I'll return to the kiddie table. They have Mac N Cheese anyway.

Nahguag wrote:

System shock 2 was the scariest game for me - I find I respond to creepy sounds more than visuals and the sounds in that game were just terrifying.

The audio work in that game was completely astounding I thought. Freaked me out so damn much it's not even funny! I seriously contemplated writing the audio engineer to find out how he did it all and how I could learn to do it too.

Congrats on the dottage: Slashdot Loves You

At the beginning of any horror movie, I subconsciously pick out which characters are going to die. It's like a stupidity test. You watch the characters being introduced and whenever a character passes below a certain stupidity threshold you know they will end up dead.

Simple solution:

Realize from the outset that you suck at this game and you're going to die.

Hmmm... first quote in re-affirms why I left slashdot and never went back. What is it with some nerds and always having to belittle other people?

Nice article Pyro.

I agree with games being scarier than movies, and think that part of it it's that you have more time and freedom to picture in your head what's about to come, you know what scares you so you picture that. We also usually watch movies on the theater or at home with people around.

On a movie you're just sitting there waiting for the main character to come up with something, but on games you have to decide and react. You have to escape, reload or maybe get a different gun, all while those creepy things are getting closer. I love it.

The original Doom. Every time I hear the *grunt,grunt* from around a corner it still freaks me out!

Well it should, since there's apparently a creepy guy touching himself back there.

JoeBedurndurn wrote:

Well it should, since there's apparently a creepy guy touching himself back there.

Wasn't that Leisure Suit Larry?

I guess I am a totally different species to you fraidy cats. I quite like horror games, wallow in their dark atmosphere and music and enjoy an occasional strike of fear. But I am never afraid as such. The only exception is System Shock 2 - it happened more than once that I quit to desktop after a mutant came running after me on a long, dark, quiet, deserted corridor. Yummy. I highly enjoy Resident Evil 4 and recently bought an excellent Silent Hill Collection, but they never made me turn it off in fear. I would call it a controlled fear environment - there is certain fear to be derived from the horror games, but it never overwhelms me. A sudden cry "Detras de ti, imbecil!" certainly rises my adrenaline in RE4, but does not make me afraid.
Also, I do not scream on rollercoasters, I contentedly enjoy it with a satisfied smile on my face.

So Pyro, Irongut, gtnissanfan...
Do you find your panties bunch up in an uncomfortable wedgie while you play?

I keed, I keed.

I'm in the same boat as wanderingtaoist, but it wasn't always this way. The game that was truly scary for me was Resident Evil 1 on the gamecube. Once I played that for 12 hours straight though, the fear of the unknown, which as you so aptly described is truly the greatest fear, disappeared. Once you aren't scared of what's beyond the next door the only thing to fear is running out of shotgun shells

Stylez wrote:

So Pyro, Irongut, gtnissanfan...
Do you find your panties bunch up in an uncomfortable wedgie while you play?

I keed, I keed.

'Depends' lining is too bulky to result in a wedgie. They do a good job of handling terror shock induced movements though. I still regret and lament the loss of all those Spiderman and Hulk underoo's Doom 3 cost me.

I should also fess up that Fatal Frame 1 and 2 are sitting on the to-do shelf in my closet, so my list of unfinished ones is a bit longer than I originally let on. I like creepy scary though, just not ridiculous jolts of terror.

I think I have a love/hate relationship with scary games. I absolutely love scary games... but I almost always get to a point where I hate to play them. Lucky for me I can watch someone else play them for me. Like Silent Hill 2: did I play it all the way through? No! I watched most of it being played by my mom or my boyfriend. And that's just fine.

It's weird because I really love scary things, and like Indignant said, a willing suspension of disbelief is where it's at. I just don't think my neighbors like it when I scream at the pop up monsters in game...

Ok, so it's almost winter time now, guess I'll pick up those scary games and go for it again. :)/:(

I played Doom for the first time at a college computer lab. I was a kid and they were kind enough to let me join their co-op game. Later, I rented Doom for the SNES and had to stop playing. Fear of failure wasn't the reason, I was just scared. I also happened to be alone.