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How come so few scary games?


Slowtrain

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So I was creeping through the metro tunnels in FO3 with my shotgun and just enjoying the rather scary atmosphere, thinking how it almost felt like System SHock 2, and then I started thinking about how few games really try to be scary. Even in the FO3 metro tunnel kind of way.

 

Sure there are a few here and there: the aforementioned SS2, Resident Evil and Silent Hill series, Dead Space, a couple Clive Barker games, that Lovecraft game, the most incredibly awesome They Hunger HL mod, the Haunted Hotel mission in Bloodlines, but compared to the huge number of scary movies and books that are released, the number of scary games seems pretty small.

 

People obviously like being scared in their entertainment: scary movies, books, and campfire tales have been around forever.

 

 

But games seem to rarely delve into this area, mostly eschewing creeping terror for straight forward action.

 

I'm curious if people have any thoughts on why? DO you all like scary games? Maybe there have been a bunch that I have missed? What are your favoitre scary games?

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Bioshock had some somewhat scary parts...

 

I remember walking though Fort Frolic where that artist had been plastering people. I walked into room and had to walk down an aisle of them on either side of me...Down the stairs and then into a flooded basement. In the basement there was a single plastered man, staring at the corner of the wall, but not moving, like the others hadn't. So I used the upgrade machine that was there and when you exit that screen turn around the guy who was sitting down facing the wall is now right infront of you. I yelled a little. Oh yeah, then you go back upstairs and all the plastered people you walked by are gone...

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I hate scary games. And scary movies. I just don't really get the appeal.

 

Horror films have the same rule that tearjerkers do with me--it has to be really really damn good in order to earn the right to terrify me. If it isn't, I will refuse to take it at face value, and hide my emotional vulnerability either by humor, scorn, anger, or intellectual/ironic distance. (Or, I'll just resent it for its attempts to crassly manipulate my emotions and I'll stop watching/playing.)

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I think so few games are trying to be scary because it's so easy to fail. And if you fail at being scary when you try, you come out looking like a joke (FEAR 2 anyone?).

 

Come to think of it, I've only been genuinely scared by System Shock 2. I have no idea how that game got under my skin so much. I've gotten a few scares from other games, but not for an entire game like in System Shock 2.

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I think so few games are trying to be scary because it's so easy to fail. And if you fail at being scary when you try, you come out looking like a joke (FEAR 2 anyone?).

 

 

I think that's a good point. Doing scary can be pretty risky for a developer. But still, lots of movies and books try to be scary and fail, yet directors and writers keep on trying.

 

A good game puts you in charge of the action, while a scare involves not being in control of the action.

 

Do you think so? I've certainly experienced fear in real life, where I had control.

 

When the worst thing they can threaten you with is a reload, it's hard to get too worked up about anything.

 

Hmmm. I've certainly experienced games, such as System Shock 2 about which I feel similar to mkreku, that had me quite scared, though I could always reload if somethign bad happened. ANd the first time through the Haunted Hotel in Bloodlines was pretty scary, and again, a reload was always possible.

 

Games that try to be scary are, in my experience, boring - and those who are inadvertently scary are far and few between.

 

 

Like mkreku says, its probably hard to do, and if the developers don't suceed....

 

 

Bioshock had some somewhat scary parts...

 

I remember walking though Fort Frolic where that artist had been plastering people. I walked into room and had to walk down an aisle of them on either side of me...Down the stairs and then into a flooded basement. In the basement there was a single plastered man, staring at the corner of the wall, but not moving, like the others hadn't. So I used the upgrade machine that was there and when you exit that screen turn around the guy who was sitting down facing the wall is now right infront of you. I yelled a little. Oh yeah, then you go back upstairs and all the plastered people you walked by are gone...

 

 

I remember that. That was one of the best parts of the whole game. :lol:

 

 

I hate scary games. And scary movies. I just don't really get the appeal.

 

 

Do scary movies and books scare you and you just not like to be scared? Or like DN, do scary books and movies generally bore you?

Edited by CrashGirl
Notice how I can belittle your beliefs without calling you names. It's a useful skill to have particularly where you aren't allowed to call people names. It's a mistake to get too drawn in/worked up. I mean it's not life or death, it's just two guys posting their thoughts on a message board. If it were personal or face to face all the usual restraints would be in place, and we would never have reached this place in the first place. Try to remember that.
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Define "scary".

 

I love the Silent Hill series, though it's more about the creepy atmosphere than being scared as such. Going up to the attic in The Cradle in Thief 3 scared the crappola outta me, but of course with things like that it's a one time scare. Doing the first map of that level is a breeze when you know

there aren't actually any enemies to hurt you, no real danger

. The hotel in bloodlines is much the same.

 

I think scariness comes from imminent danger. Currently replaying Thief 2, running away from enemies that are chasing you can be pretty freakin' scary, because one wrong move (like running into a dead end) can do me in (and the death scream Garrett lets out works quite well as a "boo!" type scare. Trying to rescue survivors in Dead Rising has a similar nerve-wracking thing going one. One your own the zombies are pretty easy to handle, but trying to fend them off while also protecting others can be a challenge. Seeing the bowling ball I'm wielding smash in the face of a survivor I'm trying to protect gets the same sort of response from me that hearing Garrett scream does.

 

The hotel escape in Call of Cthulhu has a similar thing going on, but from what I remember of that you need to do the sequence perfectly otherwise you're dead, and repeating the same sequence over and over goes from being scary to being a chore.

 

I LOVE horror movies, books, games, whatever, but I don't know if I'd necessarily call a lot of them scary, or even say the scariness is what appeals to me.

Edited by Hell Kitty
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Wut? How come Nosferatu: Wraith of Malachi isn't listed amongst the scary games?

 

That game despite using primitive graphics has incredible atmospheric environment, great sounds and music that makes you feel creep out when playing in the night. Furthermore there is a time limit in the game you have to complete which keeps the player on his toes with random generated items and enemies in the rooms of every playthrough.

 

Though the game has its faults for being amateurish in production quality, the scariness factor is very well done in the implementation which does not resort to frights often.

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I've had some of my best scares in Thief fanmissions actually, try Calendra series(C's Cistern, Legacy), the Inverted Manse(Sledge was hired first by Ion Storm Austin and then Arkane, thanks to this), Dyer's Eve, Profane Awakening, all of the Japanese ones, Ranstall Keep(it's in freaking monochrome, awesome), Order of the Vine, Island of Iron series, Ominous Bequest, Lady Rowena(annoyingly effective writing there) etc.

 

Anyhow, atmosphere does me a lot more good than random gotcha-type scares,

Edited by Musopticon?
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There are tons of horror games comming out each year so this topic is a bit off. Resident Evil 5 is comming out this week, for example.

 

 

Game mechanics don't do scary very well. A good game puts you in charge of the action, while a scare involves not being in control of the action.

 

 

Thats very true. Its hard to feel vulnerable when you're playing the usual armed-to-the-teeth killing machine, yet if you take away the players ability to properly defend himself, you kill the gameplay.

 

 

Also, the main ways horror games try to scare players are ineffective and alot of time downright annyoing:

 

  • 1. Startling the player by having monsters suddenly jump him, or loud noises or other sudden events. Its lame, annoying and as Yahtzee said; startling is not the same as scary.
     
    2. The usual dirty, deserted levels with blood and guts randomly smeared here and there. Also the obligatory crazy scary writing on walls. LAME and done to death.
     
    3. Crazy random spooky hallucinations a la Fear. Maybe this is scary on paper, but its just completely inane in practicality.
     
    4. Zbrush monsters = uninspired monster design. Its always the same meaty, distorted, overly toothed zombiesque thing over and over again.

 

The last game that actually scared me was Alien vs. Predator but I cant really say why. I think it was mostly the motion sensor and remembering the films that spooked me.

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I think the reason is because some of the fear in books and movies comes from the unknown and the fact that your perspective is forced. In a game they could pull of the most frighteningly insane fear scene but it wouldn't work because the player is facing the other way staring at a plant. Now a good game would somehow make it so that the player is looking that direction already, but that's usually extremely hard to do. FEAR1 did it really well, but part of that was also the fact that you were in smaller claustrophobic areas, while in origin you're in sprawling areas where there is much less reason for you to be looking in certain directions.

 

Another thing is that horror relies on vulnerability. You're going to freak out more if there is a very good chance of you getting splattered. However this is contrary to most game design where the players get stronger and stronger over time, or are already strong enough to deal with the main antagonist. I mean in FEAR 1 you were freaked out by alma because she could melt people with her mind and was also really powerful otherwise too, In one of the last areas of the game you're wandering through an old warehouse and hear her scream and literally EVERYTHING in the place goes flying. In FEAR2 they made it so that she didn't feel nearly as strong (the "tap x to knock her off" I think contributed to that) and thus alot of the vulnerability left the game.

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I don't get any enjoyment out of scary games or movies for that matter. When a good game has a scary part like the Oceanside Hotel in Bloodlines, I trudge through it and I usually don't play horror games.

 

That said, I think that games can do horror a lot better than movies and maybe even books. In the movie, you know that what ever happens, the movie will go on as intended and end when it does. With games, you are in control and if you fail, you actually fail. Running around with a half empty pistol in System Shock 2 and hearing the creaking of a Midwife is a lot more intense than some cheap closet scare in a Horror movie.

 

I wouldn't say that there is a lack of horror games. STALKER scared the crap out of me with the underground parts and even Fallout 3 was scary at times. The problem is that people don't focus so much on the general atmosphere and just stick scripted "closet scares" instead of letting the gameplay speak for itself. Same with Resident Evil's and Dead Space's inferior controls. It's like the designers don't trust anything but a scripted "roller coaster ride" which is almost like a movie. For some reason the scares are separated from the gameplay, making the whole experience feel fake.

Edited by Purkake
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I think there is a big difference between a horror game and a scary game. Most games focus on horror, meaning violent visuals, bloody action, and gross enemies. I would love to see more scary games, but I don't see many developers willing to take a risk on NOT having a shootout around every corner.

 

For example, Doom 3 might have been scary, but after the 10th imp jumps out from behind you, it becomes just another action game. A scary game should have maybe two or three actual fights, the rest should just be building up tension.

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Come to think of it, I've only been genuinely scared by System Shock 2. I have no idea how that game got under my skin so much.

Ditto. I think for me it was a combo of well-done sounds and use of lighting, creating a feeling of constant tension and maybe claustrophobia at times. For some reason combat felt nerve-wracking and dangerous, and you knew that around every corner, every step something could be coming etc. Shades of the movie Alien1.

 

Most games focus on horror, meaning violent visuals, bloody action, and gross enemies.

To me that's not even focusing on horror, that's just focusing on visual gore and the "ewwww"' fascination people have. Such "horror" movies aren't scary, either. To me, anyway. They're more grotesquely comical or just full of the cheap "boo!" moments than anything else. I love scary movies, but real ones that make me feel sustained and palpable tension are rare, just like with scary games. And I have yet to read a book that truly "scared" me. They're just good popcorn fantasy reads, with boogie-men instead of dancing fairies. :)

 

Define "scary".

In a game, I'd define it as an atmosphere or game mechanics that makes my palms sweat every time I know combat may be/is coming...and the sweat is from nervous tension of possible failure because to not fail feels emotionally important somehow. I don't care if you can just re-load - if the game is "scary" the tension/fear reaction will still be there because the game has you avidly living in the moment, rather than a "I wonder if I can whip this boss-dude butt with my starter pea-shooter, haha" semi-humorous/curiosity/because it is there game mindset.

Edited by LadyCrimson
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I heartily subscribe what is said by Mrs Crimson.

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Most games focus on horror, meaning violent visuals, bloody action, and gross enemies.

To me that's not even focusing on horror, that's just focusing on visual gore and the "ewwww"' fascination people have. Such "horror" movies aren't scary, either. To me, anyway. They're more grotesquely comical or just full of the cheap "boo!" moments than anything else. I love scary movies, but real ones that make me feel sustained and palpable tension are rare, just like with scary games. And I have yet to read a book that truly "scared" me. They're just good popcorn fantasy reads, with boogie-men instead of dancing fairies. :)

 

I think this is just evidence that different people find different things scary. Or rather, horrific.

 

Take the movie Se7en: I found the Gluttony case more nauseating than frightening, and Greed more macabre than scary. I spent more time being grossed out than scared by the movie, but I'd definitely classify it as psychological horror. Alien feels like a better horror film to me than Aliens, but when it comes to heart-pounding terror, I think Aliens evokes more of it. Audition feels like a Japanese romance film for the first 2/3rd with a mild feeling of unease. There

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ain't never played a game that frightened us for reals. played a couple o' games that had "Gotcha!" moments wherein we were startled, but am not gonna concede that such stuff were genuine frightening. "Gotcha!" crap is the lowest common denominator o' horror and it has Zero appeal as far as Gromnir is concerned.

 

Binky, the fluffy bunny, can dart out in front o' our car as we is driving home late at night... startle us and kill Binky. Binky ain't scary, but even Binky can startle us if we ain't expecting a bunny suicide on highway sixteen at 10:00pm on Tuesday... which is what games does to be scary, no? yeah, Binky is typical a dessicated zombie or alien creature, but such stuff is no more scary than Binky, 'cause only genuine fear results from "Gotcha!" next time you want a scary game, thinks o' Binky.

 

HA! Good Fun!

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ain't never played a game that frightened us for reals. played a couple o' games that had "Gotcha!" moments wherein we were startled, but am not gonna concede that such stuff were genuine frightening. "Gotcha!" crap is the lowest common denominator o' horror and it has Zero appeal as far as Gromnir is concerned.

 

Binky, the fluffy bunny, can dart out in front o' our car as we is driving home late at night... startle us and kill Binky. Binky ain't scary, but even Binky can startle us if we ain't expecting a bunny suicide on highway sixteen at 10:00pm on Tuesday... which is what games does to be scary, no? yeah, Binky is typical a dessicated zombie or alien creature, but such stuff is no more scary than Binky, 'cause only genuine fear results from "Gotcha!" next time you want a scary game, thinks o' Binky.

 

HA! Good Fun!

 

System Shock 2 really doesn't do that at all. The scary there is all about sound, art, narrative and gameplay design. It creates a mixture of dread, helplessness, and dim hope rather well.

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am having played a few hours o' system shock 2, and the only frightening stuff we got were "Gotcha!"

 

is particularly hard to maintain "dread, helplessness and dim hope" in a game environment, 'cause there were hardly much narrative and after a few hours o' "Gotcha!" it all kinda loses impact... 'least for Gromnir it did. spooky music and sound? yeah, that helps, but can only take so far.

 

*shrug*

 

system shock 2 tried to be scary, but all we genuine got were "Gotcha!"

 

HA! Good Fun!

"If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence."Justice Louis Brandeis, Concurring, Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357 (1927)

"Im indifferent to almost any murder as long as it doesn't affect me or mine."--Gfted1 (September 30, 2019)

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Where did you get the "gotcha" moments in System Shock 2? The closest thing to that in the whole game, is you walking along, and suddenly hearing someone from behind wailing something like"kill me" or just asking if you are lost. Besides, those moments only startle because of the mood set by the environment, and because of the genuine threat the enemies pose due to the damage they can inflict.

 

Also, I have to disagree on the lack of narrative in System Shock 2. There are plenty of logs to be found detailing the characters and events within the Von Braun. Both the narrative detailing the fall of the spaceship to the Many, and the plot points that unfold while you are walking through the ship, are well developed and brought home through the competent writing, good voice direction and good acting.

"My hovercraft is full of eels!" - Hungarian tourist
I am Dan Quayle of the Romans.
I want to tattoo a map of the Netherlands on my nether lands.
Heja Sverige!!
Everyone should cuffawkle more.
The wrench is your friend. :bat:

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Well horror boils down to the supernatural and/or crazy people.

Season with pacing, an initially powerless protagonist and maybe a mystery.

 

Most sensible folks are not scared of those things so it a hard sell.

 

Gamewise I appreciated a well maintained mood as in Eternal Darkness and the Hotel in Bloodlines sprinkled with high anxiety situations like the Werewolf fight in bloodlines. The you lose try again factor kills the fear of failure or elation of surviving a good scrap though.

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