For a long while now I have found myself consistently attracted to the horror genre of video games. Games like Amnesia: The Dark Decent and Dead Space have reached out to me through the years and I have found it to be rather special. Why is that, though? How can someone like me, who can’t even watch a movie like Paranormal Activity, have such an urge to play horrifying games like Slender: The Arrival? What is it that draws me in and keeps me seeking more? I think I might just have the answer to all of these questions, but it has taken me awhile to actually formulate them.
One thing that has come to my attention is that fear is a great catalyst for attachment to something such as a video game. A quote from the Divergent series by Veronica Roth says it best, “Fear doesn’t shut you down; it wakes you up.” Fear is a funny thing, it makes us alert and focused. It makes us keep our eyes open and our ears ready to hear all that which surrounds us. Fear in itself is enticing to humanity, we crave it yet try our hardest to avoid it. We find it alluring yet we generally don’t welcome it.
When it comes to video games we are given the opportunity to control a character and in some ways live as that character. This connection to a character’s emotions helps us to feel, I believe this is one reason why games are so popular and held in such high regard by those who play them. In relation to this article, this connection is one of the most important thing there is. The horror series thrives on character connection and fear, it entangles them and throws them at players with the hopes of creating a scary or frightening experience for players. As a player, feeling the same fear that the character feels is almost as real as feeling it for yourself in reality which makes you just about as alert and focused as you would be if the fear were real.
This all came to mind while playing Outlast over the past week. Outlast is an indie survival horror game that was released on the PC last year and on the PlayStation 4 last week. I have been wanting to play this game for some time, but knew I wanted to wait until it was on console to finally play it. The wait was so worth it and this game really helped me to understand why I love the horror genre so much due to its outstanding quality.
The truth is, I am afraid when I play this game. For awhile, it was an uncomfortable fear, one that made me feel unsafe even though I knew it was only a video game. The more I played the more afraid I got until it plateaued and I realized that underneath the fear I was having fun. I didn’t want to stop playing even when my heart was racing and I just wanted to close my eyes. I think that this is because of how well done the game is. Even though I don’t know everything about the character I am playing as I can relate to him. He is in as much of an unknown situation as I am and he doesn’t know any more about what’s going on that I do. There is a connection to the character and shared fear.
As I said before, it has taken me awhile to formulate these ideas. Until recently I never could put a finger on what it was that made me a fan of the horror genre. It all comes together at this point for me though. The character connection. The shared fear. It all makes sense.
It’s not only about wanting to protect the characters I am playing as, it’s wanting to protect them because I see them as a fictional extension of myself. To me, this is the most important aspect of the horror genre. It’s not enough to just be scared or jump here and there. You have to feel it. You have to be connected to the character. If a game has these aspects then I can fall in love with it. These are the reasons why I love the horror genre and games such as Outlast, Amnesia: The Dark Decent, and Dead Space. If a game is written well enough to encompass all of these aspects then it is truly worthy of recognition for excelling in every facet that makes this genre what it is.