Survival horror is perhaps one of the most slippery slopes in gaming. That feeling you get when you walk into a room you have never been in. You can barely see, the shadows in the room take on forms that look ominous, the silence in the room is louder than any noise that you will ever hear, and everything is still, motionless, eerie. There is a creeping feeling in your brain that tells you that you should not be there, and the darkness begins to take its toll on your nerves. There is a sudden flash from outside the black curtains in front of the window that makes you stop in your tracks as all of the forms of the room are brought to light for a single instant, but that only makes it worse as the darkness returns. One sudden motion, and your heart can skip a beat, you begin to feel the dreading that something is watching you, something is coming for you, something is about to crawl out from underneath the furniture that is covered in white sheets and grab your ankles, pulling you into a place unknown, a shadowy place of which there is no return.
It is up to the game developers to first capture that feeling in a setting for your character, and simulate that feeling of absolute helplessness. Do you have a weapon with which to defend yourself? Can you survive if something truly does lurk in the shadows? Well, that’s where we start to get into the true cusp of a much larger world, one that has captured the hearts of millions, but also caused some of the largest disappointments ever seen in the gaming world, rivalling that of E.T. for the Atari.
Truly terrifying horror games are some of the most difficult things to write and develop. While there have been some terrific successes, there have also been some horrific failures that completely trounce the number of good games that are meant to invoke fear. When you step out from the middle of the trees, and get a good look at the forest for what it is, you can start to see where the successes bleed together. They have certain elements in them that are worth noting and if used properly, can truly give the player what they came to see and feel, true terror!
Horror movie fans are normally the target audience. Those people that go to the theater to see a scary film, even if chances are it is not going to be good, they are willing to risk it. These are the ones that want to take that extra step further and live in that world. They want to interact with that horror movie and be a part of it. If you can make your audience feel like that, you have won the race that is called survival horror, and you will be greatly rewarded for your efforts.
Then there are attempts that just miss the point entirely, or do not have the means nor the know-how to truly make the player become engulfed in their dark, horrific reality. This could be from a lack of funding, a lack of skill, or just a simple lack of knowledge on the subject. Some people think it’s just as simple as shoving someone into a dark room and have people talk cryptic nonsense.
In the next article, we will go over some important items involved with making survival horror video games in detail. Stay tuned and be sure to keep an eye out.
Read Part 2, and in-depth list of features to include or not include, here: Part 2
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