With the plethora of indie horror titles out on Steam, I found that there was a lot to be said in quality control. Granting Quality control on Steam is a big topic for me as of late, as you’ll probably see at some point next week but not this week since it’s officially Halloween week, so you’ll have to make do with my reasons as to why horror games stopped being scary some time ago. The sheer quantity of horror titles that are available is more enough to drown your cat in, which is why it’s such a good idea to own them all digitally, unless of course your cat is digital also, which means bad times for Mr. Pussy Cat.
Now over the past few weeks, I’ve played through a few horror titles, and with exception of Outlast, none of them really came close to doing anything other than going “Boo!” very obnoxiously and in my face hoping for the same reaction my daughter might have of a spider crawling across her bedroom floor. Why is it that horror games seem to have become such a waste of energy? Well, a lack of creativity and overuse of generic tropes would be an ideal place to start, so in true listicle style, here is my list as to why horror games don’t get much of a rise out of me: (I’m too mature to make an erection joke here, so fill your boots in the comments section =P)
1. Asset Flipping
Yes, indie developers using Unity is a great thing, since it’s an easy to use platform with a whole host of assets you can purchase to use as a placeholder or even better as a base for developers to then go on and then create their own assets using the core elements from purchased assets as a template, so they can be creative. However, the amount of assets being reused by users is shocking. Literally, buying, copying and pasting objects, even full levels (hospital level, I’m looking at you!). It’s not only cheating, a complete abuse of the system there to help wannabe game developers get into coding; but it’s downright lazy. Repetition can leave one feeling exhausted, not scared. A number of times I’ve seen the spider on the head on it’s back is ridiculous.
Why do insane asylums or hospitals always make the ideal location for a horror game? I get it, people are scared of creepy old buildings, but why not have a mansion, or an old factory, or…something else. Anything else. But not a forest. Anything but a forest! Games like Slender have ruined forests for me, but still game developers keep reusing the same places hoping to have the same reaction each time. If I jump out and shout boo, it doesn’t work again. It only works once. I’d go into more details, but like I’ve said…there’s plenty to be said about it, ANOTHER TIME. If Alien could make a spaceship a horror location, then why not think outside the box like that, huh?
Stalkers are a term used for an entity or monster that cannot be fought by the usual means, which in some cases work like in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis when a relentless bioweapon is hunting you down. This builds tension since it’s spaced out throughout the game, and whilst the threat of Nemesis returning is always on the cards, it isn’t the only thing you fight, nor does the famous monster appear too often. It’s about getting that balance. Some enemies in games don’t appear until the very end and are treated as a final boss, but in horror games where most of the time, you are unable to fight back whatsoever, these stalkers are present constantly. Always chasing you, always being a pain in the backside. It’s not scary when I know a ghost is behind me because it was behind me 20 minutes ago and it wasn’t scary then either. Having enemies behave this way becomes nothing more than an annoyance than an actual threat or something to fear. This is most common in the game; Daylight.
4. The Fear of Nothing
When games like Silent Hill 2 have no enemies, there is still events happening. Whether it’s building tension using clever camera angles, meeting an NPC or experiencing a cutscene, there is still something happening. In a lot of horror games that have hit storefronts, there can be anything up to an hour of NOTHING. When I say nothing, I mean literally nothing happening. Walking around in dark places just by itself is not scary. There has to be a bit more meat to this pie before you can call it a meat pie, otherwise. it’s just pastry, and pastry…wait…I get that you have to build tension, but making me play a walking simulator is not building anything, let alone tension. It builds up frustration, in the wrong sense. The kind of sense that makes me install Resident Evil 4 and play a good horror game instead of playing some shitty one.
5. Motion Blur and POV Bobble Heads
Making the screen blur or making my so call realistic movement have some sort of visual effect is not what horror games are about. I say again; Silent Hill 2 is the best horror game that ever was, and ever will be. The running wasn’t realistic, but it didn’t give me a POV shot of me bobble heading my way through a spooky forest either. And when something scary happened – I could SEE what I was supposed to be scared of, it wasn’t blurred or completely out of focus, or cause lens blurring or split my screen with fake blood. Cut that shit out guys. I won’t play your game if I can’t see your game. Simple right?
Horror game developers seem to think that all scary things happen in the dark. ONCE AGAIN – Silent Hill 2 allowed me to see adequately, gave me a flashlight almost immediately, and then I could see what I wanted to see no problem. Even without it you can still navigate through the level. When you have pitch black darkness and only a flashlight that lights up the space of testicle, then I’ll sue you for tripping over in your poorly lit workplace….I mean I’ll not see where I’m supposed to go.
I could go on and on describing each and every atrocity that plagues the horror genre…or I could just play Silent Hill 2 or Resident Evil 4 and be done with it. I think I’ll do that.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!
Ryan Griffiths is a British gamer, known as a bit of a lone wolf. Retro games are his passion, with newer releases not living up to his expectations. Of course there are exceptions to the rule when it comes to Dynasty Warriors & Total War games.