What Makes a Good Horror Game?

horror games

Horror games have been around since the early nineties, so there is certainly a slew of them to choose from when deciding what to get, but many horror games haven’t quite grasped the feeling of terror that games like Alien: Isolation or Fatal Frame II gives players. Creating a truly frightening game can be difficult, and it’s understandable why some games fall flat in the horror department, but why does this happen? What makes a video game (or any other medium of fiction) scary? It could be a healthy amount of jump-scares, or perhaps a terrifying monster. While those things help, the most important part of a horror game is the atmosphere. With the right environment and atmosphere, even the most casual situation can seem very eerie and threatening. Using jump-scares will create temporary alarm, but without the right treatment they can become unoriginal and expected. That doesn’t mean that they are always a bad thing though. The key to a good jump-scare is of course atmosphere, but also to make sure that the player doesn’t expect them. To make this happen, a good game will build tension with eerie music or ominous sounds. This will lead up to a jump-scare that isn’t going to happen, leaving the player guessing when something will lunge out at them, and when the game is just playing tricks. A great example of this method is The Shining (1980) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TgCejsyS0t8. Another thing that makes a horror game good is not overdoing it. Less is more in horror. If the player is constantly bombarded by hideous creatures and homicidal maniacs, they will become more and more desensitized to these things. The reason why games like Doom or Mortal Kombat aren’t scary is because they are filled with constant violence and conflict. The player will always know what’s coming, and will always know what to do in a bad situation. This completely eliminates the dread that the player feels when they don’t know what the next threat will be, or if they will even survive it. Another key to a scary game is to make the player feel weak or almost defenseless against the threat of the game. When the character that someone plays as is mowing down enemies left and right, they are more of a one man army than a victim. The victimization of the player is what makes them actually feel threatened. When a player feels like they are actually in danger, it triggers the most instinctual feeling of fear.

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