Black rooms and brown pants: Getting scares in videogames right

Anyone who has known me for an extended amount of time will know when it comes to supernatural things I don’t understand, I’m more terrified than a porn stars first performance. Things like the movie 28 Days Later really shook me up for weeks because I was stupidly thinking that some day something like that could happen in real life. Don’t get me wrong, I'm not so chicken-shit that if I had to face a zombie I would run in the other direction, I’d butcher the fucking zombie the same way Sega butchers Sonic games nowadays (ZING!) but its the idea of such things happening that keeps me awake at night and this is what horror games truly lack. The atmosphere and the ability to scare the player, long after the game has been saved and turned off.

After listening to several gamer chums’ talk so highly of EA's fresh IP Dead Space and seeing it on the cheap (brand new may I add) I picked up a copy. Not really thinking about it, one night on a cold and dark English winter, I popped it in and played for around half an hour, that’s not because it was late and I had work in the morning or because my girlfriend wanted to sleep and I was making too much noise, its because I was terrified by the freaking thing. The tension, atmosphere and suspense Dead Space oozes really struck a nerve with me.

Now a few people in the gamer world have started to have an idea, take abilities and weapons away from the player to make them feel underpowered. This is the wrong way to go about making a truly brilliant horror game. I don’t want to feel like a weakling, I want to feel the way I do when I'm in Isaac’s boots, like a bad ass in a bad situation. I've got a pile of awesome weapons in Dead Space but I still feel afraid due to the awesome atmosphere the game oozes.

Of recent memory I've played a few horror games, Resident Evil 5, Dead Space, Fear 2 and Siren Blood Curse. out of the 4 only 2 had me so afraid I stopped playing the game and they would be Siren and Dead Space and its not because I was underpowered or because the controls were made in a way which made it hard for me, the player, to be able to attack and flee at the same time (looking at you RE5), it was because they both gushed the horror atmosphere that books and movies have been trying to use for years.

I hope future games take queues from both Dead Space and Siren when trying to make a horror experience so they don’t instead end up a flawed survival game.

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