Sunday, March 6, 2011

HORROR VIDEO GAMES: THE KRYPTONITE OF HORROR FANATICS EVERYWHERE

For as much as I like to talk the talk on being a horror aficionado, I will be the first to admit that I can't necessarily walk the walk.  I'm an absolute pro at sitting in the theatre in a calm position while the rest of the audience is jumping and screaming in their seats, and I'm the person who's left laughing at the insane deaths in gory films like SAW or Hostel.  I will be the first to admit that you practically have to drag me kicking and screaming into a Haunted House. There, I said it.  When I'm in the comfy confines and safety of my dorm room or a movie theatre, you can bet your ass that I'm the cockiest person in the room.  If you put me in an interactive scenario where I have to watch out for demented clowns peering in from the corners of the room or demons jumping out from the walls, I very well might scream and cry in a public setting.  Not that I know from experience or anything....Anyway, the same thing goes for video games.  I might still be lucky enough to be sitting on the comfort of my XL twin bed, but I assure you I'm most likely extremely tense and on the verge of pooping my pants in fright.

There's something about the interactivity of a video game that instills a fear within me that is beyond compare.  As I type this I am seated on a ninety-nine dollar futon riddled with Pringles crumbs next to a feisty ginger boy playing Silent Hill: Homecoming with the only light illuminating the room coming from a thirty-two inch SONY.  That's a lie, my Macbook is doing a mighty fine job keeping me occupied and well-lit.  Consider my Mac to be the equivalent of watching a movie in Eli Roth "chick vision" while he plays this game.  I'm watching everything that happens, my heart is racing like a Bronco on Interstate 405, but I find myself slowly concentrating more and more on this entry and less and less on the television screen.  Maybe it's the fear of the unknown, or maybe it's the horrifying music Silent Hill composes to accompany the spine-chilling game play. I fully accept the pathetic statement of admitting to be afraid of some moving pixels on a screen, but horror video games are my ultimate kryptonite. Never mind, I spoke too soon.  It's the combination of all of these factors with some of the more innocent sounds like a child's laughter or a sweet lullaby softly humming in the distance that give me the heebie jeebies.  I'm sure I'm not the only one out there who laughs in the face of a special edition Blu-Ray of a horror film but cries like a girl without a prom date in the presence of a horror video game, so here's my thoughts on why horror video games induce a small stroke during game play. 

First of all, video games don't necessarily have to end.  When we watch a horror movie, we can safely assume that we will have a beginning, middle, and an end.  This is in no way the case when it comes to horror video games.  If you don't use a walk-through, you could be playing a game for hours, days, even months.  This means there is a constant sense of dread whenever a controller is picked up.  They're absolutely unpredictable.  The scares in a horror movie remain the same, while depending on which way you turn in a video game, you could narrowly escape danger, or come face to face with a blood-thirsty boss.  Speaking of, Pyramid Head just made an appearance and I just experienced a small coronary.  My apologies, I am most likely going to digress on the occasion as the boy progresses throughout the game.  This is a perfect example of it's unexpected outcomes.  Neither of us had the slightest notion that he was to appear, and he did.  Which of course, made me want to cry like a Girl Scout with the inability to sell cookies.  I'll address the concern that I'll ultimately receive which is "BJ-C, how can you be such a wimp about Silent Hill when you were a SH Nurse for Halloween?".  The question pretty much answers itself.  I'm remarkably fascinated with the world of Silent Hill, simply because of how much it horrifies me.  The nurses are both sexy and scary, and this is why I chose to dress as one.

Back to the games.  Another reason we're so scared by the games, is the fact that we are directly associated with the character.  We as the holder of the controller are responsible for whatever happens in the world of the game, and our skills as a player are a direct correlation to the survival of our virtual character.  It is because of this that we find ourselves almost morally invested into the situations at hand.  Horror movies are in a sense, an outsider looking into another place unlike our own, while a horror video game seems to become a part of us.  We feel what our character feels and we see what they see.  Our full involvement in the life of the characters in the game causes us to subconsciously attach our emotions along with theirs.  When put in the world of horror or thriller video games, it makes it far more easy to walk around a corner and experience a jolt of adrenaline when a creature rears its disgusting head.

The more I analyze this, the less I feel like a total wuss.  I guess when it comes to horror video games, I'll stick to Left 4 Dead, Zombies ate My Neighbors, or DeadRising...so I can kill zombies with a Servbot head

4 comment(s):

Geof said...

People don't give enough credit to horror video games, so thanks for this awesome post. I can watch any horror film without feeling the least bit of nervousness, but once I'm put in the driver's seat for one of these games, I can get a full blown anxiety attack. Especially in "jump" happy games like the Dead Space and Resident Evil series. But that is what brings me back for more.

The Mike said...

I so agree. I remember being stoked out of my mind back when the game based on The Thing came out for PS2, and then when I finally got ahold of it....I played for about 45 minutes and was done. There was no levity, no jokes, just pure creepiness. Too intense for my bad self.

Atroxion said...

Hehe, you should totally check out a little game called 'Amnesia: The Dark Descent' for the PC. For 15 bucks, it'll make for a lot of sleepless nights, I assure you.

Anyway, that was quite an awesome post. You brought some very interesting things to light about the state of video games in comparison to horror flicks.

I guess that I have come to a point where I am rarely scared by horror movies anymore and therefore consult horror video games in order to get my adrenaline running. I don't think I'm alone on this.

Mr. Xploit, Esquire said...

this was a great blog. very true. games are usually scarier because they make us live in the situation. fallout 3 scared me the most of any game at certain pivotal points in the game. like visiting the hallucination vault that's optional. silent hill was very scary at the beginning of the franchise too. good work on the article!

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