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Point of Order: Impact of Horror Films vs Horror Games

Why Do Horror Games Have Greater Impact Than Horror Movies? I was asked the above question on one of my Facebook group forums the other day (well, I wasn't, the group was), and while some of the responses read well, they all seemed, to me at least, to be just shy of the mark. I'm not saying people on Facebook never know what they're talking about, but this question might have received a better response in a group of forum dedicated to the genre (such as FearNet). Let's consider first the common flagships of the 2 mediums. In film, when someone thinks of horror, they commonly think of Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Saw, Dawn of the Dead, Frankenstein, Dracula, and the nameless,faceless scores of slasher flick antagonists out there. In video games, 'horror' conjures up Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Fatal Frame, or Manhunt, to name a few. In film, the audience sits and ponders the circumstances facing the protagonists, wondering who's going to die next, how, and what they might have done differently themselves in the same situation. A well-written plot and characters can draw them in and wrap them in the shadowed shroud of fearful uncertainty and doom. In video games, however, not only does the audience see and hear what's going on, they also have control of and a vested interest in the primary protagonist. If the hero in a film dies, the story goes on (unless that is the film-ending event) to its conclusion. In a video game, the story is brought to a premature end if the hero dies (usually; 'Baroque' is a complex and intriguing title that bends this principal). In a film, the audience can say to themselves, 'well, that critter is after him or her, not me'. In a game, one can frequently see players shouting 'Fuck, it's gonna get me!' The 'me' here is significant, as players identify the threat as aimed at them, through their on-screen avatar. The human error factor in a video game also comes into play. In a movie, characters can't lay the blame at the audience's feet. In games, turning down the wrong hallway can spell disaster. In short, ladies and gentlemen, horror games are innately imbued with a greater sense of immersion than any horror film. It is the heightened awarenss of the players involved that makes good horror games so much more affective as vehicles of terror. That's my take on it, anyway. Thanks for stopping by. Take care of yourselves, and keep reading.
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