Fear; one our most primitive of emotions. I remember reading somewhere once that Fear is meant to be a sort of defense mechanism that prevents us from placing ourselves in danger.
You know what else fear is good for? Thrills. From a simple horror story back in the day, to real life events where we jump off planes and plunge from bridges with our legs tied, being scared can be a lot of fun.
Horror movies are a good fix for this. Watching with a pacing heart beat as some cute chick walks into a room to get her head chopped off, or staring at some guy tied to a chair for 20mins while a psychopath takes his time slicing and dicing him for his own pleasure.
Or is it... for our pleasure?
There's a reason why there are so many horror movies out every other day. Not only because they can be pretty cheap to make, but mostly because we love subjecting ourselves to them. God knows what any of us would ever do if we were caught in a situation like those in horror movies, but the thing is, we don't have to know. Through horror movies we are allowed to explore these things at the expense of the characters on screen.
Now days though horror in movies is relatively tame compared to the real life things some people have to live through. All you need to do is smack a quick search over the inter-webs to find all kinds of stories about all kinds of depraved individuals and the scary stuff they get up to.
Nothing scares like real life.
But when was the last time you were scared playing a game? I think if done properly, games would have an even greater potential to scare use compared to movies, because unlike a movie where you simply sit back and watch; in a game were are allowed some control over what plays out.
One of my favorite accounts of scary gaming is my friend Micheal John telling me about his time spent in STALKER. His not much of a horror game fan, nor does he watch a lot of horror movies, but he loves to shoot things in the face with guns.
Stalker is an open world game set in the aftermath of a nuclear disaster. You play a mercenary who gets to muck around the world doing odd jobs here and there. All was going well for Mike in the game until this one bit where he had to go into an underground tunnel at night. A tunnel crawling with reanimated corpses. I remember him telling me how freaky it was to be in the tunnel with no light and the sound of the zombies moaning and shuffling about. It got to him so bad that he actually waited till day light in game before he went back into the tunnel.
How cool is that? This wasn't real life, it wasn't a fear reaction to preserve his well being. But the whole thing creeped my friend out so much that he wouldn't risk his own emotions going back into this zombie infested tunnel. He could have loaded his save had his character died, but this wasn't about his character, this was about him.
And that's awesome.
The last game that gave me nightmares was Silent Hill back on the PS1, but as far as not wanting to go on while playing it - that never happened.
The other night though I was mucking around in Demon's Souls, and I had gotten to this place called the Tower of Latria. As I entered it didn't feel much different from the other places I've become accustomed to in the game. As I made my way through this level however it started really weighing one me.
The Tower of Latria is a sort of Asylum prison. Its halls a full of inmates behind bars, In the dull light and against the dark shadows you see their hands reaching out to you; some begging to be released ...others yelling out to you in contempt.
When you happen to open one of these cells some of the inmates try to attack you, but most of them beg you to get them out of there. They plead and cry as you try to push past them. Some of them are even strapped to torture machines and the only way to get them out is to kill them.
And then... in the middle of all this I hear a sound. Like tiny bells ringing... or a wind chime caught on a breeze somewhere.
For some reason I was compelled to go towards this sound. Not because some game mechanic was pushing me towards it automatically... but because in the face of all this horror around me... I wanted to see where this beautiful sound was coming from.
On the edge of my seat, late at night... slowly my Knight sir Issac made his way through the dark towards this sound. I even dropped my shield and lowered my guard ...against all I had learned in the game so far. As I turned the corner I honestly farken swore out load as I found what was making the sound.
I actually sat there in awe staring at the screen. I had been so engrossed in the game that when this happened it really messed me up for a bit. As my toon came back from the loading screen I thought to myself "Do I want to carry on tonight?" ... I decided to get some rest and visit the tower again later.
The Tower of Latria scares me man. In fact... the whole set up of Demon's Souls scares me more than any game I've played. I actually fear for my toon and don't want him to die. Hats of to the Dev crew for putting together something truly amazing.
When was the last time a game scared you?