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The Psychology of Horror In Video Games and Movies

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the sometimes-a-zombie-is-just-a-zombie dept.

Movies 126

Hugh Pickens writes "Jamie Madigan writes in GamePro that psychologists and experts on fear are trying to understand why so many gamers enjoy being terrified by horror-themed video games and movies. Researchers say some people are sensation-seekers attracted to any emotional high, be it from sky diving, shark-punching or horror films. Other personalities are drawn to situations showing the disruption of social norms in ways that will probably never happen in real life. But a more encompassing explanation of horror's inherent appeal is how it helps us master our fears. 'Watching a horror film gives us back some control,' says Dr. Andrew Weaver. 'We can experience an adverse event through film, and we know that it will end. We'll survive it. We'll go on with our lives.' Interestingly, horror only seems to work if the player or viewer knows that what they see is fake. In one famous experiment, researchers had subjects watch a movie featuring authentic scenes of live monkeys having their brains scooped out and of children — I kid you not — having their facial skin peeled away in preparation for surgery. 'The vast majority of the study's participants refused to finish watching the films despite that more grotesque movies playing at the theater down the street could outdo those scenes,' writes Madigan. 'We seem to need to know it's fake.'"

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126 comments

News at eleven. (4, Insightful)

inAbsurdum (1028514) | more than 3 years ago | (#35288798)

People are human, and react humanely when subjected to imagery consisting of people actually suffering.

Re:News at eleven. (1, Interesting)

nicholas22 (1945330) | more than 3 years ago | (#35288856)

I didn't realize the difference. This tells me that all the Dead Space, Aliens and other horrific stuff I've played/watched will not come in handy if I'm ever going to be tortured in a Clockwork Orange kind of way.

Re:News at eleven. (1, Insightful)

Seumas (6865) | more than 3 years ago | (#35288954)

It's like pointing out that women with rape fantasies don't actually want to be raped for real.

If anyone approved some sort of government grants for this research, they deserved to be real-punched in the dick.

Re:News at eleven. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35288992)

If all you are doing is relying on intuition and "common sense" to keep on knowing what you already know, it's not science.

Validating things that seem obvious is just as worthwhile as investigating mysteries. Often a mystery will turn out to have a boring explanation that fits in very easily with your existing theories. If you can demonstrate that something you previously believed was actually wrong all along, that's progress.

Re:News at eleven. (2)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#35289128)

Do you prefer the government grants going to "studies" that "prove" how simulated violence leads to real violence?

I consider the information important and relevant, after all those "studies" that led our politicians to beat the "ban violent games and we have no more school shootings" drum.

Re:News at eleven. (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 3 years ago | (#35289188)

Do you prefer the government grants going to "studies" that "prove" how simulated violence leads to real violence?

I actually prefer neither one.

Re:News at eleven. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35289276)

People are human, and react humanely when subjected to imagery consisting of people actually suffering.

There are limits. I consider myself to be somewhat compassionate. Then I had to deal with a lot of very chronically suffering people. I only did it for a few days but after that I realized that I could either go mad or start ignoring it. It's horrifying to hear a person scream. Horrifying to hear it throughout the night. It eats at you in a way that no movie or video game ever could.

I remember hearing about a student on a wilderness trip in Malaysia. He had stumbled upon a nest of bees and was stung hundreds of times. Being far from hospital, the rest of his party could do nothing. I remember reading how he screamed for hours until he just became quiet. And maybe that silence would be more disturbing.

It's easy to get inured to human suffering. All it takes is a week. Maybe all it takes is a movie or a video game...

Re:News at eleven. (1)

uniquename72 (1169497) | more than 3 years ago | (#35290194)

Right. But also, maybe we watch horror movies for a story, or to be frightened, rather than just to see something revolting.

There's nothing at all frightening about monkey brains or kids being harmed. Just like there's nothing frightening about the maggot-eating in the show "Fear Factor" -- it's just yucky. I find it bizarre that people can't tell the difference.

Re:News at eleven. (2)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 3 years ago | (#35293060)

I'd say that is the biggest problem with what they call "horror" games today, they think spewing guts and blood equals horror when it just equals gore porn.

Yahtzee at Zero Punctuation [escapistmagazine.com] nailed the problem when reviewing Dead Space 2 I think. Instead of building tension with sound and glimpses of the monster the game gets two inches from your face right from the start and has some guy's face melt in front of you. That isn't horror that is just gross out. He said the game reminded him of a child that beats its head against the wall for attention, no subtlety at all.

The last truly scary game I got to play was Nosferatu: the wrath of Malachi which with VERY primitive weapons you were let loose in a castle to try to rescue your family and there was no way to memorize because the rooms would shift, even between saves. Walking into a room and finding you've got THREE coffins and have less than 2 minutes to run through there and stake their asses (because once a master vamp rose your ass was grass, damned near impossible to drop with their speed and strength) while extremely creepy but subtle music floats around in the background? Now THAT is scary!

Re:News at eleven. (1)

enderjsv (1128541) | more than 3 years ago | (#35293406)

Yahtzee is a gaming pessimist. He's hilarious, and I look forward to his reviews every week, but he's so negative it's hard to take his reviews seriously. Yes, Dead Space had a very grotesque, non-subtle opening. But that didn't mean the rest of the game followed suit. Dead Space 2 was one of the most intense games I've played in years. I ALWAYS felt vulnerable, almost to a fault. It seems I went through most of the game with only a bit of health, and only a few shots left in my gun. Those shock scares seem a lot less redundant or trivial when you're always hanging on by a very thin thread. I really enjoyed that about the game.

But besides the actual encounters, Dead Space 2 had a very appealing atmosphere. The locations were diverse and interesting, taking you from a school to a unitology church to the soundless vacuum of space. And the sound design was some of the BEST sound design ever found in a game. Honestly, the subtle whispers, the far off rustling of loose debris, and even the near total silence of space punctuated by nothing more than the sound of your beating heart, ALL added to what is already a fairly intense experience. I really enjoyed Dead Space 2. It might not be the scariest game I've played all year (Amnesia: The Dark Descent, I'm looking at you). But it was one of the most fun.

Re:News at eleven. (1)

iMadeGhostzilla (1851560) | more than 3 years ago | (#35290282)

You're missing the point. The question is why people seek images of horror. Best answer I've heard so far: because after having their senses shocked by a horror movie, their real world feels more vivid. They feel awakened and *alive*.

By contrast, people whose lives are already filled with vividness and intensity rarely watch horror movies. Imagine real-life James Bond coming home after a day of dealing with bad guys and turning on a horror flick. Doesn't make any sense.

Re:News at eleven. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35290610)

By that reasoning, no soldier in the army would want to play Call of Duty. But as we all know they pretty much ALL play those games.

Re:News at eleven. (1)

slim (1652) | more than 3 years ago | (#35291434)

By that reasoning, no soldier in the army would want to play Call of Duty. But as we all know they pretty much ALL play those games.

"As we all know"? I didn't know that. Have you a source.

My guess would be that there might be a lot of CoD players in the army because (a) the game could almost be seen as a recruitment tool and (b) you play CoD because you're into weapons and cammo, which is also why you join the army. So that's a causation theory, and a common cause theory.

However I'd also guess that soldiers who've seen war atrocities up-close might get turned off the computer wargames.

Those are all just guesses though; I'd love to see figures.

I've seen Collateral Murder, mind you -- those guys don't see the damage close up.

Re:News at eleven. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35290470)

well...it is still interesting after all they have shown that the same regions of the brain light up whether the act is a simulation or the real thing. In this case it shows that even if the same parts are lighting up in the brain we still have some other connection to the moral compass when we believe it to be real.

Now if we can find the difference in the brain between the simulation and a real activity, we might be one step closer to figuring out why some people break social norms without suffering internally for it....i.e. why some people seem to have no conscious.

That could be useful for turning on and off depending on the situation.

Re:News at eleven. (2)

buruonbrails (1247370) | more than 3 years ago | (#35290702)

Then why were public executions (often preceded by torture) so popular throughout Ancient, Medieval and even Early Modern times? Surely, not everyone attended them, but similarly not everyone enjoys watching horror movies now.
I suppose that some people are just more violent than others.

Re:News at eleven. (1)

_0xd0ad (1974778) | more than 3 years ago | (#35291330)

People are human, and some people react humanely when subjected to imagery consisting of people actually suffering.

There, fixed that.

Re:News at eleven. (1)

ladoga (931420) | more than 3 years ago | (#35291490)

People are human, and react humanely when subjected to imagery consisting of people actually suffering.

Sometimes humans are capable and not only capabable but actually enjoy killing and torturing people.

Rounding up people in ditches and machine gunning them down. Raping people and forcing their family members to watch etc. (WW2, Vietnam...) All of this is and similar acts have been done many times in human history.

People are very flexible. If you followed what happens in wars you would notice it quite fast. There you have lots of people who have to learn how to cope with killing others, not only many learn how to get along with it, but some get addicted to the high they get from killing and actively seek such excitement.

Even right now you I hear news of soldiers gunning down protesters in Libya, shooting them with sniper rifles etc. What I want to say is that obiviously not all people share your feeling of compassion and can identify with the victim.

Re:News at eleven. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35293198)

Oh shut up. This is actually an interesting subject, especially for game developers, if you don't care then don't read the article.

I was going to eat lunch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35288804)

but after reading that sentence (you know which one), I'm not sure I want to anymore.

You needed a study for this? (1)

goose-incarnated (1145029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35288840)

Gimme a grant - I'll also like to do some "water-is-wet" studies!

(I suppose that its only these researchers who had no idea that people enjoy a thrill, no so much actual suffering. Sigh.)

Interactive or no (2)

penguinchris (1020961) | more than 3 years ago | (#35288872)

I can relate to the "sensation-seeker" aspect. I don't feel very many emotional highs or lows in normal life, and enjoy actually feeling something... anything... sometimes. No, I'm not an emotionless robot, it just takes a lot to arouse my emotions :)

However, I don't like horror games. I don't get really freaked out or anything (although particularly good games have occasionally had that effect), I just am discouraged from continuing from something inside me. For example, I played the demo of Dead Space 2 a few days ago... I played for about three or four minutes. Killed a couple of creatures and I had enough. Wasn't too scared to continue (the bit I played wasn't much different from any other shooter with scary monsters)... it was something else.

I got the same feeling playing Half Life 2 - I think I got about 80% through that because the gameplay was great, but I also kind of lost interest in the story there. It has that horror atmosphere, though, that doesn't sit well with me. The Ravenclaw sequence didn't really bother me - I had heard it was supposed to be really scary - but most of the rest of the levels did.

The thing is that I really, really love movies that can evoke emotion. I don't generally watch a lot of horror films (they don't evoke anything in me unless they're really excellent), but I love suspense films and dramas (and even good romances). When I do watch films that are supposed to be scary, I never get that negative feeling I get when playing scary games. I'll watch the film, possibly be genuinely scared by it (and maybe even jump when the killer pops up), but I don't get that desire to shut it off (unless it's just a bad film, which is often the case). The horror films I like are mostly Asian ones, for what it's worth.

So, being interactive or not is a major factor I think. Naturally I didn't read TFA, but the summary seems to make it sound like they're interchanging the experience of playing a game and watching a scary movie. I think it's fundamentally different, and hope that further studies look into it.

Also, the study where people were shown gory films seems a bit odd to bring in to this. It's about context... a video game where you brutally kill hundreds of people, with blood and guts flying everywhere, is not particularly disturbing. But a video game where you scoop out monkey brains and peel the skin off of childrens' faces, with no reason for doing either thing, would certainly disturb a lot of people.

Re:Interactive or no (4, Insightful)

daid303 (843777) | more than 3 years ago | (#35288928)

I don't see HalfLife2, or DeadSpace2 as a horror game. They just try to shock you. If you want a true horror game, try amnesia, http://www.amnesiagame.com/ [amnesiagame.com]
Play it at night, in the settings they recommend (lights off, no distracting sounds, headphones)

I stopped playing the first time after 1 hour and 20 minutes, because I was just to freaked out.

Zero punctuation says it better then me:
http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/zero-punctuation/2092-Amnesia-The-Dark-Descent [escapistmagazine.com]

Re:Interactive or no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35289016)

I think Penumbra: Black Plague was better, for some reason Amnesia didn't evoke that feeling of lost helplessness but needing to go on anyway. It felt more like being artificially forced into a particular scenario or behaviour, and completing a chore.

Re:Interactive or no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35289106)

Indeed. When they use games like FEAR and Dead Space as reference it's hard to take them seriously; like they didn't want to invest any time in research and just picked something popular tagged "horror" by emotionless marketing droids. Sure they are good games but nothing about them is frightening. Running around with high-powered rifles and body armor, fighting monsters that love show off in brightly-lit areas isn't exactly scary. Since you mentioned ZP, I'm with Yahtzee on this one: these games aren't horror games, they are spectacle shooters.

Personally, the only games during which I felt stressed out by anxiety were Penumbra 1 and 2*. That's horror. Not some tenacle-claw-blob that goes "booga, booga" while facing down a dozen barrels of your mini-gun.

*Well, and some knife-throwing game with blood puddles on a black-green-screen Apple IIC. THAT gave me nightmares ... when I was like 8.

Re:Interactive or no (3, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#35289282)

Pretty much this.

Horror is a mind game. It's in your mind. Your mind will come up with far more freakish and way out options than anything that could be shown to you. Moreover, it is much more "personal". Something you yourself come up with and try to integrate into your thinking is much more terrifying than anything you could be shown, where you are only the spectator, detached from the actual horror happening.

There is a reason why horror is a fairly "dark" genre, meaning that the lighting usually is nothing even close to broad daylight. And it's not for the big nasty surprise attack from the big gore monster. That can lead to some entertaining splatter effects, but face it: The horror is over exactly this moment. Observe yourself watching such a horror/splatter mix. Isn't is a "relief" when the killing finally starts? Isn't the tension suddenly dropping sharply as the monster finally gets its prey? Take Alien as a prime example. Isn't one of the tensest, most intense moments of the movie when the Alien is but a shadow zipping through the tubes, zeroing in on our hapless hero? It's not the resolution, even though a lot of that is left to the imagination as well, the hunt is far, far more exciting than the outcome!

Showing shocking effects is a staple of splatter movies and games, true horror exists in your mind. An indication of "something" happening, a spooky shadow zipping past, an unnatural sound echoing in the hall, a faint smell where it doesn't belong, does more to freak your mind out than anything you could witness as hard, cold fact.

Re:Interactive or no (5, Insightful)

KozmoStevnNaut (630146) | more than 3 years ago | (#35289360)

I absolutely love Amnesia and the Penumbra series, they're some of the most well-executed horror games out there, precisely because they don't rely on shock value for horror. They have a very well done air of menace and dread and desperation that just works, rather than having monsters jump out of every closet going "BOOGA-BOOGA-BOOGA!". The total number of enemies between all three of them is probably less than 20, but you still feel endangered every step of the way through.

Although they're completely different games, the STALKER series has scared me shitless multiple times. A thunderstorm late at night in a swamp infested with bloodsuckers is quite an experience. I swear those invisible fuckers are just toying with me. The headlamp is wide but short-ranged and true to real life, night vision goggles are tricky at best and you know there's at least one of those monsters out there, but you have no idea where it is until you hear its ragged breathing and try to pinpoint its location from the sound alone.

But the underground labs are what really got me. The first time you go to each of them you have absolutely no idea what to expect other than you have to find some information or switch off some machine that's causing your friends to turn into mindless zombies. One of them seems fairly quiet for a while until you let you guard down and venture further in. That's when you notice a wooden box floating in a corner. After a few seconds it flies towards you and smacks you right in the face. Suddenly every single loose object in the room starts to float menacingly for no apparent reason. That's when I had to take a break.

It's tough to convey the sense of horror in words, but those games are the only ones that have really gotten to me as proper horror in a computer game. They're also damn good games in every other respect.

Re:Interactive or no (5, Interesting)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#35289732)

Yep STALKER is a truly scary game at times. Some of the scariest moments are in the first game.

The first is when you run into the first Controller. This is a humanoid creature with psychic powers, and the first psychic hazard you'll run into in the game, but you don't know that. You're just walking in a dark, silent underground tunnel when the lights flicker and you hear a noise behind you. And this thing comes slowly walking around the corner, you can't see it too well because of where the light is, and you think:

"What is that? Is it a person? It doesn't have a gun. Something looks wrong about it. It's moving pretty slow."

Then it turns towards you and starts raising its hand.

"I can't see it's face! What the hell is it doing? Its hands look messed up. I better point my gun at it, I don't trust this thing. If it gets any closer or does anything funny I'm gonna shoot it."

But it doesn't get any closer. It just starts messing with your mind. You can suddenly see its face and ITS SOME KIND OF MONSTER OHGODOHGODOHGOD AND WHAT IS IT DOING TO ME!?!?!??

Now you're seeing double and every time you try to shoot it, it messes with your mind some more and your vision becomes even more messed up. Also now it IS getting closer.

You'll probably be killed the first time you run into it, until you figure out you have to take cover behind a tiny metal partition so that it can't see you, and then pop out and shoot it in short bursts. After this you'll learn to hoard grenades for the next one you run into.

The other scary part is running into the first poltergeists as you described. That underground lab is mostly pitch-black and painfully silent, and then when you get deep into the guts of it, objects starts floating and crashing into your head, and they hurt like hell, so there's no time to think. There's no place to hide. You just have to run. Running really pisses the poltergeists off, and now every object in the room is flying at you. It's scary as hell until you figure out what the hell is hurting you and how to kill them.

Stalker SoC is a masterpiece, too bad the sequels brought technical/gameplay improvements, and had some scary parts, but fell flat on their ass where the story was concerned.

Re:Interactive or no (1)

KozmoStevnNaut (630146) | more than 3 years ago | (#35290132)

Clear Sky was definitely a letdown, but apart from not being quite as scary as the original, Call of Pripyat is a very worthy sequel.

Especially if you're playing on Master difficulty (absolutely mandatory) with Ceano's Call from Pripyat* mod, which makes the game much more intense. It slims down the HUD, so no more ammo counter, no more easy-mode radar with enemies pointed out and color coded for your convenience. It also makes enemies, anomalies and mutants much deadlier, makes the bullet physics more realistic, makes hunger affect you stamina regeneration, makes it necessary to sleep or you'll pass out from exhaustion, weapons have more realistic scopes, quest rewards are smaller, your HUD no longer has indicators for thrown grenades or from where you're being shot, you get far fewer medkits and they work slower and don't heal quite as much damage, food only cures hunger instead of healing etc. etc.

In short, it makes the game a lot harder and somewhat more realistic, it's a much more engrossing experience with the mod installed and one of the best games I've ever played, I consider it absolutely essential.

It includes the Atmosfear mod as well, which puts some of the best weather effects I've ever seen in the game.

* http://privat.bahnhof.se/wb220832/stalker/ceanos.download.html [bahnhof.se]

Re:Interactive or no (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#35290026)

I found the Phantasmagoria games pretty freaky. Having your character raped was pretty edgy, as much as I hate that word being used in this way. Was that the sequel? And the various extremely graphic cutscenes put it firmly into the horror category.

Re:Interactive or no (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#35290442)

Question, do you know if the version you can buy from Frictional Games is DRM-free? If so, I'll buy it.

Re:Interactive or no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35291502)

There is no DRM, unless you count entering a serial number (which to my knowledge is only checked offline, so no Internet required) DRM. I bought both Windows and Linux versions of different games from them and it's basically a straight-forward installer that you can easily back-up without external dependencies.

Also here: http://www.frictionalgames.com/forum/thread-3294.html

Re:Interactive or no (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 3 years ago | (#35293028)

I think the asylum in Thief 3 was one of the best horror areas. The first half had no enemies at all and yet my heart was racing the whole time. Of course the Thief series is good at this sort of thing since it's not a "kill it if it moves" game but the point is to be undetected at all times; plus you're trained to listen for small sounds and stay in the shadows, which makes even non-horror areas a bit suspenseful.

Re:Interactive or no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35288936)

The Ravenclaw sequence didn't really bother me - I had heard it was supposed to be really scary

I heard it's no Harry Potter. :o)

Re:Interactive or no (1)

Rexdude (747457) | more than 3 years ago | (#35288976)

The Ravenclaw sequence didn't really bother me - I had heard it was supposed to be really scary - but most of the rest of the levels did.

Yeah, Ravenclaw [wikia.com] is quite tame. Now Slytherin, that's a scary level! Unless you meant Ravenholm [wikimedia.org] .

Re:Interactive or no (1)

Gravis Zero (934156) | more than 3 years ago | (#35289666)

I don't feel very many emotional highs or lows in normal life, and enjoy actually feeling something... anything... sometimes. No, I'm not an emotionless robot

yeah, you kinda are.

Re:Interactive or no (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#35289890)

Dead Space mostly scares you with monsters suddenly jumping out at you, like Doom 3. The only consistently scary thing about the game is how short you are on resources all the time. I hear Dead Space 2 gives you more than enough resources so I don't see how it could be any scarier.

The Ravenholm level in HL2 was pretty scary to me. The rotten zombies are insanely agile and they really hurt. The venomous headcrabs really hurt. The sequence also starves you for ammo and health, so you're forced to throw sawblades with the gravity gun, and if you throw a sawblade and miss, you have to resort to whatever bits of ammo you have left to kill the rotten zombie that's zipping towards you at 50mph before it takes off your last bit of health. The scariest parts though have to be sneaking around when you can hear things moving nearby. The place is infested with zombies and headcrabs and you're poorly armed and low on health so you try to avoid them. But you can hear something big moving upstairs, something crawling outside the building and some venomous headcrabs that could be just about anywhere.

If you go into Ravenholm well-stocked (somehow) I could see how it could be a lot less scary. It relies on resource starvation and an overwhelming number of especially dangerous bad guys to create fear. If you have lots of resources, then you don't have to worry about running out and the number of bad guys isn't so overwhelming.

Harken to Freud (1)

RadioElectric (1060098) | more than 3 years ago | (#35288892)

In looking at people suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Freud surmised from their compulsive re-living of a life-threatening event that they were trying to somehow "master" it and make it no longer a danger to them. Human beings have a strong desire to only die on their own terms. You can extend the same feeling to people who watch scary movies or seek out disturbing news stories. They are defusing these things as potential threats to them, either by convincing themselves they wouldn't get into that situation in the first place, or by coming up with a "better" response (and maybe shouting it at the film screen). Because this is a survival mechanism, there is a "thrill" involved in doing it.

Huh? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 3 years ago | (#35288908)

I think it's unlikely that Freud commented on PTSD per se, given that the term was coined thirty years after he died.

Re:Huh? (1)

RadioElectric (1060098) | more than 3 years ago | (#35288934)

He wrote at the end of the first world war, when it was still called "Shell Shock". He probably would have written about it in German too. That doesn't mean he wasn't talking about what we'd eventually come to know as PTSD.

Re:Harken to Freud (1)

cherokee158 (701472) | more than 3 years ago | (#35289440)

I think that is true. One thing I learned after getting my pilot's license was that almost all pilots have a morbid fascination for NTSB reports of air accidents. They compulsively read them in an effort to find out what caused them and how they could have been avoided. The idea that it may have simply been dumb luck is anathema to them, despite the fact that many air accidents fall into this category.

Bravo. (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 3 years ago | (#35288912)

"...of children â" I kid you not â" having their facial skin peeled away"

I see what you did there.

But seriously... there's a lot of people that hate horror movies and video games, myself included, with a few exceptions.

  I liked Shaun of the Dead, and will play Left 4 Dead, but they're zombies, so it's okay. But I won't play Silent Hill or Watch the Hills Have Eyes. I have better things to do with my life than watch horrible things happen to people.

Re:Bravo. (1)

Seumas (6865) | more than 3 years ago | (#35288952)

I don't want this to be a shock to your system, but . . . the people in Hills Have Eyes are merely actors and not really having horrible things done to them (though the visuals may be disgusting to watch). And the people in Silent Hill aren't even real *people*!

I find it fucking sick that these jackholes would even think of using footage of those things for some sort of a study. It sounds like they're the real psychopaths, here. Also, if you said "do you want to see real video of monkeys have their brains scooped out and children having flesh ripped off their faces". I wouldn't refuse to watch more. I would refuse to watch it to begin with, just based on the description of it. Fucking sick.

Re:Bravo. (3, Insightful)

slim (1652) | more than 3 years ago | (#35289338)

I don't want this to be a shock to your system, but . . . the people in Hills Have Eyes are merely actors and not really having horrible things done to them (though the visuals may be disgusting to watch). And the people in Silent Hill aren't even real *people*!

Mmm, but in many forms of theatre, film and videogame, the actor (or animator's) job (and that of the director, editor, etc.) is to make you forget that, so that you engage emotionally with what you're seeing. You watch a romance in order to have your heartstrings tugged; that won't happen if you keep reminding yourself they're only actors. Depending on the kind of horror, you watch to either empathise with the victim, or revel in the violence, or perhaps a bit of both, and again, you won't get the full emotional impact unless you suspend disbelief for the duration.

Poor acting, ropey sets, continuity errors, etc. all remind us we're watching a movie, and that's why they're frowned upon. And look at the fairly recent trend of using shaky cameras to make choreographed and/or computer animated scenes look like reality TV. You're *mean* to forget you're watching a fiction.

I find it fucking sick that these jackholes would even think of using footage of those things for some sort of a study. It sounds like they're the real psychopaths, here. Also, if you said "do you want to see real video of monkeys have their brains scooped out and children having flesh ripped off their faces". I wouldn't refuse to watch more. I would refuse to watch it to begin with, just based on the description of it. Fucking sick.

I empathise with you, but let's examine that. The footage exists, and whether you watch it or not won't undo that. So what difference does it make whether you watch the "real" footage, or a very convincing fake of the same scene?

Re:Bravo. (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#35289658)

Mmm, but in many forms of theatre, film and videogame, the actor (or animator's) job (and that of the director, editor, etc.) is to make you forget that, so that you engage emotionally with what you're seeing. You watch a romance in order to have your heartstrings tugged; that won't happen if you keep reminding yourself they're only actors.

Must be why I don't like a lot of fiction. I never forget, even for a second, that it's not real. I enjoyed Tron and Avatar, because they were pretty. I enjoy farces because they're still funny even when wildly unrealistic. Dramas? Why would I care what happens to fictional people? Not interesting in the least.

Re:Bravo. (1)

bhagwad (1426855) | more than 3 years ago | (#35290346)

I read fiction (even fantasy fiction) because I like to hear a good story. Whether the actors are real or not is irrelevant. We're not studying history.

Re:Bravo. (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 3 years ago | (#35289848)

I wouldn't refuse to watch more. I would refuse to watch it to begin with, just based on the description of it. Fucking sick.

Not even for science?

As for "It has to be real" claim, that they then compare to the movies... I call bullshit.
Cause... I'm not really into torture-porn movies, I like when a movie has a story and not just, how did the summary put it... "more grotesque".
But, from what I've seen, movies in general tend to be edited, so that those moments of "more grotesque" are short jabs of extreme moments - not continuous shots, as those would either point out the fakeness of the makeup/acting/effects or just make the whole thing way too "clinical" and not "scary and exciting".

So, comparing seconds of extreme violence and fake gore interspersed with shots of everything else in the movie AND continuous shots of actual or perceived harm lasting minutes... Not really the same thing.

Re:Bravo. (1, Insightful)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#35288956)

I liked Shaun of the Dead, and will play Left 4 Dead, but they're zombies, so it's okay. But I won't play Silent Hill or Watch the Hills Have Eyes. I have better things to do with my life than watch horrible things happen to people.

My thoughts exactly. I enjoyed the Silent Hill movie okay actually, but things like The Hills Have Eyes just looked sadistic for the sake of being sadistic. I don't get how anyone but goth vampire wannabee types can enjoy that kind of thing. I can be a very morbid person sometimes, and probably wouldn't even be too shocked by the stuff I'd see in that movie, but I simply wouldn't find it entertaining.

Re:Bravo. (1)

slim (1652) | more than 3 years ago | (#35290314)

My thoughts exactly. I enjoyed the Silent Hill movie okay actually, but things like The Hills Have Eyes just looked sadistic for the sake of being sadistic

I don't know whether you're talking about the 1977 Hills Have Eyes or the 2006 remake, but I'm going to talk about the original. It's tough to watch, and I personally wouldn't like to watch it again -- but it has artistic merit. We are supposed to be horrified by the hillbillies' attack, and find ourselves rooting for the WASPish tourists -- but when they they take their violent revenge, there comes a point where we (or at least, I) wonder whether they've become as bad as what they're fighting.

See also the incredible Man Bites Dog, in which we laugh along with the charismatic serial killer, until at some point things get a bit too nasty, and the audience wonders whether they really should have stopped laughing several scenes ago.

Re:Bravo. (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#35290484)

That sounds a bit better than what I expected, kind of a "Lord of the Flies" type tale I suppose. Still, the way the new version was advertised (I didn't know it was a remake), it didn't appeal to me at all. Even the advert creeped me out, which is pretty rare.

Re:Bravo. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#35288964)

But seriously... there's a lot of people that hate horror movies and video games, myself included, with a few exceptions.

Myself also included. Further, there's a class of people who want to see real stuff, which is why we have a whole channel full of surgery.

Re:Bravo. (1)

Gravis Zero (934156) | more than 3 years ago | (#35289710)

there's a lot of people that hate horror movies and video games, myself included, with a few exceptions.

  I liked Shaun of the Dead, and will play Left 4 Dead, but they're zombies, so it's okay.

neither one of those are horror.

Surgery & Prep (4, Insightful)

Onuma (947856) | more than 3 years ago | (#35288970)

having their facial skin peeled away in preparation for surgery

I used to watch stuff like that on PBS and TLC/Discovery (back when those two channels ran more than just "reality" shows -- though I do love Dirty Jobs). I remember them literally having the face of a baby removed because he had some kind of deformation in his skull which needed to be surgically corrected, and I couldn't stop watching. Creepy as all get out, but also unequally interesting. Also saw a former Playboy model (then 50+ years old) get the outer layer of her facial skin singed off with a LASER.

There's a big difference between malevolent actions depicted in horror movies/games and things that are just unusual to see; reality or fiction does not have as much to do with it -- you know that the guy with the chainsaw is a psychopathic murderer, and that the doctor on the TV special is truly trying to save the life of the individual under his knife. They both cause equal or equivalent amounts of pain ("suffering" through surgery recovery is surely no comfortable process) but the intent and will of the actions, or at least our interpretations thereof, determine how we react and are excited or interested by such things.

Re:Surgery & Prep (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35290798)

My GF is a children's theatre nurse so she sees this kind of thing and much worse (open brain surgery on patients who are still awake, having to put her fingers into the eye sockets of children who have undergone enucleation [wikipedia.org] to stem the blood flow, etc) routinely in her job and is fine with it, yet she can't watch "horror" movies at all - even the Orcs in LotR scared her. I think it's more to do with feeling in control - in theatre she knows what's happening and how to respond whereas most of us would be lost.

Silent Hill 2 (2)

bhunachchicken (834243) | more than 3 years ago | (#35288978)

My favourite horror game of all time has to be Silent Hill 2. It worked on so many levels, the entire town becoming the James' own personal hell until he was finally able to confront the truth of what had really happened to him.

It was a game that genuinely terrified me at times, but not due to the gore, which there was not that much of, but the psychological fear it evoked, often making me wish that I could make James just turn around and drive away from that place.

I found myself not wanting to boat across the lake to reach the hotel, knowing it could only result in something utterly awful for him.

And that plot twist. Wow. Just... wow. Sounds weird, but I'll never forget staring at the TV screen, open-mouthed not believing what I was seeing.

Re:Silent Hill 2 (1)

the_occupant (1993850) | more than 3 years ago | (#35289070)

Agreed. One aspect that made SH2 so effective and evoking fear was the excellent sound design - you could hear things long before you could see them, and when coupled with the purposefully-obscure camera angles in certain sections, it made for a truly scary experience not often seen in games. Having played through Dead Space 2 recently, I found that the game became exponentially scarier in relation to the difficulty setting. Many people dismissed the game's scare tactics because of the amount of ammunition and supplies available. Go back, and try playing on hardcore mode (very little ammo, no auto-checkpoints, can only save three times in the whole game), and suddenly the threat posed by the necromorphs becomes very real, and makes for a taut, genuinely scary game experience. Definitely not in the same league as SH2 (but then again, no other games come close, IMO), but better than wading through piles of enemies on normal.

Re:Silent Hill 2 (2)

slim (1652) | more than 3 years ago | (#35289352)

My favourite horror game of all time has to be Silent Hill 2. It worked on so many levels, the entire town becoming the James' own personal hell until he was finally able to confront the truth of what had really happened to him.

It was a game that genuinely terrified me at times, but not due to the gore, which there was not that much of, but the psychological fear it evoked, often making me wish that I could make James just turn around and drive away from that place.

It was fantastic, but even as a fairly hardened horror enthusiast, it was too much for me. I saved my game in the lobby of the hospital, because I was scared to go in and find out what was in there. Then whenever I contemplated going back for another session, I was held back by genuine fear.

Brilliant :D

Re:Silent Hill 2 (1)

Legion303 (97901) | more than 3 years ago | (#35290626)

That was probably my favorite of the series as well, although the story in Shattered Memories was every bit as compelling (just not as viscerally horrifying).

Gore bores me. I blame the Evil Dead Trilogy for making me laugh at it. Psychological horror is the best kind, which is why Robert Bloch will always have a place of honor on my shelf.

Re:Silent Hill 2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35291980)

Pyramid Head in Silent Hill 2 gets my vote for the creepiest monster ever to be published. He's constantly convulsing, as if he's in agony, shuffling around, raping mannequin monsters, largely ignoring you-- he'd be awful even without that giant-ass physis non-defying sword.

Have you ever tried turning off your radio and your flashlight, and dragging his sword around? The monsters will stay away from you; that's how scary he is.

Oh, the horror (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35289060)

Will someone wake me when there's an article that discusses videogame horror without mentioning horror movies?

Re:Oh, the horror (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 3 years ago | (#35289228)

That'll probably about the same time that horror games stop using movie approaches to scares. There's a lot of horror games that enhance their effect through interactivity, but I can't think of many that achieve scares that are completely unique to the interactive medium.

Dark descent... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35289062)

I don't enjoy horror games at all. I want to. But i don't. I get too scared.

Tried to play Amnesia Dark descent. Had a friend over, projected the screen, we each had headphones. We made it to the watery basement. I won't spoil it for anyone but my friend was screaming for his life and kicking. We had to ALT-F4 and stop. I never started the game since.

Sadism (1)

danhaas (891773) | more than 3 years ago | (#35289090)

"In one famous experiment, researchers had subjects watch a movie featuring authentic scenes of live monkeys having their brains scooped out and of children — I kid you not — having their facial skin peeled away in preparation for surgery."
Link?

Re:Sadism (1)

Stunning Tard (653417) | more than 3 years ago | (#35289600)

How about video of people being murdered in Lybia, you sicko? In all seriousness, I know it's newsworthy but nobody wants to watch stuff like this. I didn't hit play on any of these but if the captions are at all accurate: EXTREMELY NSFW
http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2011-02-22/libya-protests-shocking-photos-and-video/ [thedailybeast.com]

Re:Sadism (1)

slim (1652) | more than 3 years ago | (#35290328)

nobody wants to watch stuff like this.

Evidently some people do, for whatever reasons (hopefully in most cases, not to get kicks).

Re:Sadism (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 3 years ago | (#35291528)

"...researchers had subjects watch a movie featuring authentic scenes of live monkeys having their brains scooped out and of children — I kid you not — having their facial skin peeled away in preparation for surgery." Link?

Damn children's doctors -- They're all f*ing sadists I tell you!

My point is: These scenes affect certain people, others not so much; It's all subjective. When my GF went through med school she was relatively unaffected, while others were puking and fainting. I believe that cannibals would look on face peeling with far less disgust, perhaps even with respect & honour...

we USe fear & deception as weapons in real lif (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35289134)

& if that doesn't work, we have the stuff (exploding) that all the murder&mayhem 'games' we're made from/wanna be like.. to note; almost nothing of real value can occur until ALL the babies are clearly being appropriately cared for. no more smoke&mirrors. no more fauxking phoniness. if you really saw what's really happening all over the globe, you wouldn't be able to play (feel good/happy) the 'game' any more.

Horror or gore? (2)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 3 years ago | (#35289154)

The words horror and gore seem to be getting used more and more interchangeably these days, though we need to remember that they do not mean the same. Horror does not need skin ripping and blood to make us terrified, only our imagination of what terrors lie on the other side of the door. Likewise, gushing blood is not always a terrible sight, as Leslie Nielsen's Dead and Loving It proved. What works so well in horror, what will always work... is the unknown. The gnawing darkness of ignorance at the outer edge of well-lit areas. Nothing can ever terrify us more than the notion of dying suddenly without even knowing why.

Re:Horror or gore? (1)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | more than 3 years ago | (#35289264)

Nothing can ever terrify us more than the notion of dying suddenly without even knowing why.

Not a great basis for a computer game, mind....

HAL.

Re:Horror or gore? (1)

slim (1652) | more than 3 years ago | (#35289804)

Nothing can ever terrify us more than the notion of dying suddenly without even knowing why.

Not a great basis for a computer game, mind....

HAL.

Happened to me all the time in Quake II online...

Re:Horror or gore? (2)

RogueyWon (735973) | more than 3 years ago | (#35289314)

Very, very true. If I hadn't posted already in this thread, I'd be modding insightful.

I sat down with the significant other a couple of Sundays ago to watch a few movies. We finished off the evening with Alien. I noticed two things while watching it:

1) Dear god that movie is scary. The effects may be dated in places (and Ripley's hair-do definitely is), but the film has lost none of its ability to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up for pretty much its entire duration.

2) There is only one scene in it which involves any noticable quantity of gore (well... human gore); the chest-burster scene. The rest of the time, the movie relies upon suggestion to do its work for it. And because the gore is limited to a single scene, said scene is legendarily effective.

I've not watched it for quite a while and can't claim to have been looking for gore levels last time I did, but my recollection is that Aliens is pretty much the same. Sadly, too many movies since then have thrown all subtlety to the wind and, as I've said elsewhere in the comments, seem to aim for disgust rather than fear.

Re:Horror or gore? (1)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 3 years ago | (#35289580)

The rest of the time, the movie relies upon suggestion to do its work for it. And because the gore is limited to a single scene, said scene is legendarily effective.

I highly recommend you watch the Doctor Who episode Blink. You will never watch a statue again without being afraid of blinking at it.

Geopolitical aspects (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#35289192)

'We can experience an adverse event through film, and we know that it will end. We'll survive it. We'll go on with our lives.' Interestingly, horror only seems to work if the player or viewer knows that what they see is fake.

Geeze you'd think he's talking about starting a war on the other side of the planet with the excuse of evidence everyone knows is false, not some silly plot-free fictional movie.

Endings (2)

RogueyWon (735973) | more than 3 years ago | (#35289206)

I like horror - games and film. Or at least, I think I do. I do find myself increasingly wondering, which I think is exacerbated by some of the current trends in horror.

Now, I fully accept that, as implied by TFA, different factors may affect different people. But for me, one of the big factors that affects how I go away from a horror movie or game feeling about it is the ending. I like a horror movie/game that scares the life out of me, but then presents a resolution. What really irks me is the current trend to make the endings of horror movies/games as bleak as possible. For some reason, this seems to be seen as more "artistically credible" these days. I can tolerate an ambiguous ending, but an outright downer "everybody dies" ending just leaves me feeling "well, that was grim and depressing and now I'm not sure why I watched it at all". It was clever and novel when Night of the Living Dead did it, but it seems to be pretty much de rigeur for any horror product these days. I think it reduces the cathartic value of the genre pretty massively.

Actually, there was a recent well-known horror-themed game that provided a welcome exception (not going to name it for spoilage reasons). Although even that made sure to leave the door open for a sequel.

Oh, and again, just my personal tastes, but while "scary" is great, watching people doing nothing more than pretending to be in pain or to inflict pain on others actively disgusts me. There do seem to be whole new subgenres of "horror" which aim for disgust rather than fear and - while perfectly happy to defend the right of others to watch it - I want nothing to do with it myself. Alien - fantastic movie. Saw - you can keep it.

Re:Endings (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#35289292)

For some reason, this seems to be seen as more "artistically credible" these days.

Its maxing out the special effects budget, not some artistic goal... You have to realize they are purely sensational movies not cerebral at all. So not applying lots of special effects to the last survivors leaves the audience wondering why it was left out, did they run out of special effects budget or ideas? It would be like showing a car squealing away in a cop movie and not including the mandatory special effects filled car chase, the whole purpose is to watch the effects, so without the special effects being maxed out, the audience feels ripped off.

Re:Endings (2)

slim (1652) | more than 3 years ago | (#35290372)

There do seem to be whole new subgenres of "horror" which aim for disgust rather than fear and - while perfectly happy to defend the right of others to watch it - I want nothing to do with it myself. Alien - fantastic movie. Saw - you can keep it.

Saw is a clever, entertaining, thought provoking and imaginative film. It's just a shame about the sequels (I gave up after the third, and wish I'd done so earlier).

Re:Endings (1)

RogueyWon (735973) | more than 3 years ago | (#35290390)

Fair point, yes, I think I was guilty of allowing the sequels to tarnish the original by implication.

The horror . . . the horror . . . (5, Interesting)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#35289234)

Researchers say some people are sensation-seekers attracted to any emotional high, be it from sky diving, shark-punching or horror films.

My girlfriend (German) got hit by a car when she was a child, and had to undergo some nasty operations on her leg, which left her with "Frankenstein" scars on her leg. On a business trip to Austin, Texas, she tagged along. She was concerned about how she should describe to the local yokels, what happened to her leg. I told her to tell the folks, that she was attacked by a shark, but that she fought off the shark, buy punching it in the head. It worked for five minutes, until she started giggling, and one of the guys that I worked with screamed, "Bullshit!"

Difference between "horror" and "horrifying" (2)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35289546)

In one famous experiment, researchers had subjects watch a movie featuring authentic scenes of live monkeys having their brains scooped out and of children — I kid you not — having their facial skin peeled away in preparation for surgery.

That's not scary, that's just gratuitous gore. A lot of people can't watch those surgery/ER tv shows; not because they're scary, but because the people can't handle the gore. They are horrified by it, it makes them sick, but they are not afraid of it. True horror means you do not know what happens next, you are afraid to continue. Horror is a psychological reaction, not a physical one. Watching Saw 27 and seeing a bunch of people chopped up into little pieces by demented contraptions isn't scary, because you expect it to happen. To genuinely invoke fear in people, they have to be unable to predict what is going to happen. You can leave clues as to what MIGHT happen, and allow the audience to scare themselves as their imaginations run wild with all manner of possible scenarios. You want to scare someone, you make it so they CAN"T distance themselves from what is going on. That's one of the problems with most of today's "horror" films; things get so over the top that people can just sit there and know it could never happen to them.

Basically, horror is not blood and gore. A true horror movie(or game) does not need a single drop of blood or dismembered limb. If you want to scare someone, don't allow them to distance themselves from what is going on. Make them think it actually COULD happen to them, and make them scare themselves. People are afraid of the unknown. If they know what to expect, you lose the horror effect./P

Re:Difference between "horror" and "horrifying" (1)

souravzzz (2001514) | more than 3 years ago | (#35289996)

Basically, horror is not blood and gore. A true horror movie(or game) does not need a single drop of blood or dismembered limb. If you want to scare someone, don't allow them to distance themselves from what is going on. Make them think it actually COULD happen to them, and make them scare themselves. People are afraid of the unknown. If they know what to expect, you lose the horror effect./P

A prime example of it would be the movie Stalker (directed by Andrei Tarkovosky). SPOLIER: The whole movie keeps you on the edge thinking when the disaster will occur, when the zone will strike those poor fellows (I had played the game before, so i expected them to face some anomalies/ mutant animals). Although it is not a "horror film" per se, but it was truly an experience, and there was no blood or gore or anything.

Re:Difference between "horror" and "horrifying" (1)

Burning1 (204959) | more than 3 years ago | (#35292464)

A great example of proper tension was System Shock 2. The game features very little gore, none of which had any real impact on me during the first play-through.

But during the first play through, when you as the player haven't learned the strategies to really succeed at the game... There's a huge sense of tension. You're weak, slow, and low on ammo. You're not always sure which weapon is going to be the most effective. You wander around, hearing the monsters clank around... The game is built on the Theif Engine, and you know that subtly can avoid a monster confrontation... But if the enemy notices you before you notice them, you will quickly find yourself dead or seriously injured, and you know that healing supplies are limited.

The worst part was the respawing enemies. The respawn rate is very reasonable, in that it simulates monsters wondering into areas you'd already cleared out. Those monsters provide the greatest tension, because you aren't really expecting them.

Great game!

There's a psi power in the game that provides a radar map, showing where the monsters are. I learned that knowing where the enemies are going to ambush you turns system shock 2 into a rather mediocre shooter.

Never been scared by a videogame, not once (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#35289668)

I've been scared by horror movies (especially more psychological stuff like The Shining, Session 9, etc.). I've even been scared by novels. But I've never once been scared by a videogame (aside from the cheap "jump a little by a surprise" variety). I've played a lot of games *promising* scares, but I just don't get it. I always feel that I'm in control, and am constantly reminded that it's a game, not real life. So I guess it just doesn't get to me the same way that a movie or novel can.

Everyone else keeps talking about scary games. Am I alone on this?

Re:Never been scared by a videogame, not once (1)

slim (1652) | more than 3 years ago | (#35289860)

Have you played Silent Hill 2 (or, indeed, 1)? Really unsettling.

Re:Never been scared by a videogame, not once (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35290180)

Amnesia the Dark Descent. Don't play the demo, it's stupid (unless you want to test to see if it works on your system).

I would bet money that you would be scared, but the internet obviously wouldn't let me verify you actually played it.

Re:Never been scared by a videogame, not once (2)

rekrowyalp (797421) | more than 3 years ago | (#35290288)

I find horror movies completely un-scary, however scary video games frighten the crap out of me. I have a strange compulsion to buy them, but I never get close to finishing them.

System Shock 2
FEAR
The Penumbra series

All of them scare me so much I have to stop playing, for some reason my imagination runs roit and I end up cowering in a corner (in-game :D ) unable to force myself to move into the next room with the scary noises or whatever...

I think the difference for me is being in control of the action, rather than in movies where I have no control so it doesn't scare me?

Re:Never been scared by a videogame, not once (1)

ryllharu (1441751) | more than 3 years ago | (#35291324)

A pity so few seem to mention the Fatal Frame series (particularly the first two). I can barely play those games for more than 15 minutes at a time...and even less at night.

You get a feeling of helplessness almost right away, as the protagonists are so much slower than the ghosts. You only have a camera to keep you safe, ghost often move erratically or attack in unconventional ways, and most of them can take you out if you make even a single mistake.

  But it is really the sounds that get to you. You expect one to meet you around the corner. You passed by encountering one before, and you hear a creak as you're rounding the corner...and then nothing comes. That's horror in gaming.

Re:Never been scared by a videogame, not once (1)

FrozenFOXX (1048276) | more than 3 years ago | (#35292530)

I've been scared by horror movies (especially more psychological stuff like The Shining, Session 9, etc.). I've even been scared by novels. But I've never once been scared by a videogame (aside from the cheap "jump a little by a surprise" variety). I've played a lot of games *promising* scares, but I just don't get it. I always feel that I'm in control, and am constantly reminded that it's a game, not real life. So I guess it just doesn't get to me the same way that a movie or novel can.

Everyone else keeps talking about scary games. Am I alone on this?

Not entirely. I experience a lot of fear with a good game (System Shock 2, Dead Space 1/2, so forth) but there's a few things to note about the game experience with very few exceptions:

  • Part of playing a game is playing the game. Naturally in many of these horror games we fear not being able to play, typically due to some mistake we cannot recover from. If the game does not instill a fear in you that you *could* realistically make a Big Mistake that would stop your play (perhaps you used up all your health kits prior to a very hard area) then you can feel free to just have at it until you run through the area.
  • Horror, suspense, and fright are all separate emotions. While typically linked they do not have to be. Read Lovecraft sometime for a good example of, "horrific but not particularly frightening." Dead Space 1 and 2 for instance differ in how 1 is a much scarier game since it gives a much higher chance for you to make the Big Mistake whereas 2 is a more horrifying game but not as scary since the chance of the Big Mistake is lower.
  • For games specifically almost all modern horror games have one weakness: tools. Dead Space, Alone in the Dark, Resident Evil, System Shock, and countless others give you the tools you need to fight back the demons of the dark. Shotguns, plasma cutters, save points, and all sorts of other things depending on the game mean that while you can be afraid, you can be horrified by the situation your character is in, but the (virtual) weight of an effective tool in your hands is quite reassuring. Penumbra/Amnesia obviously are *almost* exempt from this (you have a save file, never underestimate the comfort that gives).

Anyway, these are just a few things to keep in mind. Personally I'm torn between Dead Space (1 & 2) and System Shock 2 for my favorite horror games but neither of them are *particularly* scary throughout (I've never felt like I had to put a controller down in my life for fear with any game). They are EXTREMELY horrifying though in how they warp a good and sane world into a psychopathic nightmare with plenty of denizens of the dark wishing to crush the life out of you.

Uncanny valley/Mirror neurons (1)

andrewagill (700624) | more than 3 years ago | (#35289670)

The need to know it's fake might have some sympathy with the uncanny valley phenomenon. If we know that something is not real, but looks almost real, we have a visceral reaction to it, since we can detect that there's no mind there.

Might it be similar here, but in reverse? We can detect that there's no mind in the fake violence, so it's placed in the (positive) uncanny valley and our reaction ceases to be what it would be if we could detect a mind?

I want to FEEL (1)

SpeedStreet (924467) | more than 3 years ago | (#35290580)

I personally look to horror games because I believe its the easiest tone to set in a first person experience. Game companies have overdone it with their attempts to humanize warfare by making every game 'raise the stakes' by plagarizing Saving Pvt. Ryan.

The problem is that game developers have a really tough time establishing any sort of narrative that engages the player. They are too swept up in the "bigger, badder, shader" game that for the most part, games eschew good writing for immersive environments.

The issue will not be resolved until you have award winning writers writing non-linear scripts to be developed into games. Until then, we're dependent on boogeymen jumping out of the shadows to make us pee our pants for entertainment.

This Confirms my Experiences (1)

JimMcc (31079) | more than 3 years ago | (#35291042)

While I don't choose to watch slasher type films, and don't play FPS games, I do watch some shows with pretty graphic content. Ever watch an episode of Bones? It doesn't phase me in the least. A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a show on PBS regarding sectarian violence during the US invasion of Iraq. It show footage of a number of individuals firing upon a pickup truck on a city street and clearly killing the driver. That image disturbed me deeply and it took many days for me to stop feeling depressed and angered by what I had watched.

It became quite clear to me that our minds process images differently based upon whether the are known to be fiction or truth. Or at least I hope that is the norm. Perhaps psychopaths don't differentiate in the same manner.

Must-see game trailer for Dead Island zombie game (1)

gmb61 (815164) | more than 3 years ago | (#35292344)

Just in case there are some people who haven't seen this yet (it's been one of the most viewed videos on YouTube this past week), this is one of the best game trailers I've ever seen. It's actually disturbing and emotional at the same time. I hope the game turns out to be half as good.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZqrG1bdGtg [youtube.com]

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