It's a good time of year to cover this topic, really. Between the fact that Halloween hits in just three days—many places have already had their Halloween specials and even their Halloween parties—and the fact that this time of year in general is what many regard as prime time for horror, it's a good time to take a closer look at horror in gaming.
The simple, sad facts are that there's not much going on when it comes to horror gaming these days, and much of that which is going on is going on in the indie market. Sure, we're all familiar with Slenderman thanks to his semi-official status as the final boss of the Internet. “Amnesia” and its counterparts are widely known too, thanks to a host of “let's play” -style videos, particularly those created by PewDiePie. But thinking about triple-A titles in horror gaming is a much shorter list. Of course, thoughts of “Resident Evil” come to mind, but how often does a new “Resident Evil” show up? Not very, that's how often. “Saw” and “The Walking Dead
” have made appearances, and yes, we all had fun with “Dead Rising” and “Dead Island,” but when it comes to consoles and horror, there are two critical points here:
1. There just plain old aren't very many console horror games.
2. When they do show up, they're usually heavily cut with action gaming.
There's nothing wrong with that. After all, many of our modern horror films are laden with action. When there's a killer on the loose or a monster or a demon or what have you, someone's going to take a stand against said horror and do what can be done to remove said horror from the face of the Earth. In gaming, that usually means “via the simple expedient of introducing a lot of lead and / or energy into its circulatory system at very high speeds from the outside.” But there are other options, and we should be looking into these options.
Some have pointed out other possibilities, like exploring cancer or issues of street crime, maybe stalkers or the like. Some have espoused feminist perspectives, like violence against women, though the appeal in something like that may be a bit limited. But there's a lot more going on that we can tackle, sure enough, and all we have to do is look to horror movies
Consider the recent release of “The Conjuring
.” As best I can recall, there wasn't a single gunshot in that movie, and if there was, there certainly weren't many. But was it scary? You bet your popcorn-fed rump it was. There are dozens of other movies that could be cited, and most of them revolve around the same concept: the unexpected. When that doll starts chasing you around the room with a butcher knife, it's not scary because it's an armed doll—you outmass that doll by easily 30 to one—it's because that doll is doing something wildly contrary to what a doll should be doing. The unexpected makes for a serious boost to horror, and the kind of thing that could be readily introduced into horror gaming.
New perspectives, an improved focus on the unexpected, and a little less focus on the action might just put a few extra scares in our gaming lineup, and with a whole new generation of console titles approaching in the not-too-distant future, we may well be in for some excitement to come.