BOO, GODDAMIT!

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I watched someone play Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. He went from floor to floor, hall to hall and room to room. The static camera would constantly put him in a bind. He took many blind shots. He would sometimes wait until a zombie got close enough, so that he could blow its head off with one clean, definitive pump. Sometimes, Nemesis would appear and start chasing his character. He would run away until Nemesis called it quits and eased off the intense cardio. Nemesis would appear periodically, without warning. It was always surprising, always sudden and always unpredictable. I didn’t even know what to call him other than, well, Nemesis. I could not label it as a human being, I could not label it as an outright monster. It was somewhere in the gray. I could not explain what it was.

I watched him play and I was scared out of his mind.

I was also ten.

Third one-sentence paragraph for dramatic effect.

Fast forward a couple years and I’m in middle school. I play a Resident Evil game for the first time. It’s the remake for the GC, which was at the time, the scariest game I ever played. I could not stand looking at the flesh-mongering cannibals, because they looked so horrific. Their primal soughs disturbed me to no end and when the game surprised with a scripted sequence, I could not take the cacophonus, industrial music, and the horrifying zombies.

I played Resident Evil on the GC and I was scared out of my mind.

Fast forward to last year’s Summer break. I played Resident Evil again. It was still fun and the graphics can still compete with the best, but I was never scared. The answer is really simple: I’ve grown up, at least mentally. I mean, at least I’m not scared of zombies anymore. They’re just lumbering automatons. I can comprehend that. I can grasp that, but I feared them when I was a wee lad. Dude, they eat people.

It’s a great feeling being scared when playing a game. Sure, I feel extremely vulnerable, but it’s always exciting and, at its base, entertaining. On some subconcious level, I know none of this will physically harm me and I’m pretty sure none of it will mentally scar either. And as I got older and older, the reality of things became more and more clear. Necromorphs from Dead Space are monsters that need to completely eviscerated. Doom 3’s scares are nothing more than cheap, nauseatingly boring attempts at trying to make you succumb to id’s idea of horror. Tim Willits receding hairline makes me sad.

But those facts aren’t as obvious to a lot of people. I looked through forums to get a general consensus on Dead Space and they’re all drowning in their own excrement. I don’t get it. Don’t any of you see how artificially constructed it all is? How any of it lacks subtely? I guess not. My mood is currently "pretentious and condenscending dirtbag".

So, it gets frustrating. I get frustrated by the fact that I’m not scared and I get double-frustrated by people who get scared by games that aren’t that frightening. Look, I know, it’s all subjective, but shut up for a second and let me talk. It’s just not fair… so I end up blaming something.

What recent "horror" games tend to forget is that the full-proof method of scaring the poo out of anyone is to affect them on a psychological level. A closet scare can only do so much; an emotional rush, a sudden jolt and then you’re on your way. When something happens that can’t be explained, that can’t be fully comprehended, only then does the game creep on me, only then does the game begin scare me in a meaningful way.

Look at this photograph video:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yeah, the sound effects are muffled and the scream is weak, but I’m sitting in a room with the lights out with headphones on, trying to figure out what the hell just happened. What could’ve caused this? Why is that mannequin without a head? More importantly, why is there blood? What the hell is going on? This was so effective at setting up the mood for the rest of this level. Is there something here that caused this? Will I run into it? God, I hope not.

Notice how random that scare was. It didn’t feel directed and I sure as hell didn’t expect it. It just happened and I was scared out of my mind. I did not enter that room again for any reason whatsoever.

If you plan on finishing Penumbra: Overture some day, then don’t look.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Skip to 1:15. It’s still pretty damn hard to see even on high quality. All you need to know is that there is something at the end of the hallway before all the lights go off. Highlight for spoilers

 He is the only human being you see in the entire game. A sigh of relief is immediately overridden by pure fear. To physically plunge myself into the unknown like that completely broke me. I became irrational and desperate for light; the flashlight was out and I wasted 10 flares. I have never been so scared in a game in my life. True story.

The reason I use these clips is to show a common theme: The fear of the unknown. Unless you are like smart people, like scientists (I am a comedian.), you fear what you don’t understand. I don’t want to sound factual, even though I am completely right and all, but it feels too true. It’s a very psychological thing. It makes the imagination run wild, it creates things that are probably far more worse and traumatic than the catalyst behind everything. It’s hard for a horror game to achieve this, but the complete opposite of this ("IN YOUR FACE BOO HAHAHAHA!", said John Carmack to his bald love child, Willits) results in a horror game that feels rote and too predictable. Boring, in other words.

So, two things to make future horror games better:

1. YOU LACK SUBTLETY – Dead Space could’ve been so much more if it wasn’t so encouraging about shooting the living shit out of necromorphs with the most awesome set of guns and tools ever made. This is a general complaint to most horror games in general, though. That’s great, you have a big budget. That DOESN’T MEAN YOU NEED TO SPEND IT ON AN ELABORATE ANIMATION THAT HAS MUNZTERS AND CREETURZ MOVING ALL COOL-LIKE. AND SINCE YOU WANT TO SHOW OFF THE ACTUAL ANIMATION, YOU PLACE SAID MUNZTER UNDER A FLOURESCENT LIGHT. GENIUS, DOG, GENIUS. Look at Penumbra. They show restraint. They have a budget to consider. They worked around it and got creative. They made me shit out through my goddamn teeth.

2. "BOO!" GODDAMMIT – This works only if the Earth’s dominant species is goldfish. We are not goldfish.

I wish I was young and dumb again.

 

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