Halloween has just passed us by, which meant that I had to deal with friends who seemed entranced about buying costumes just because of the date in the calendar and with a number of video games that tried to sell themselves by pitching themselves as scary in various ways.
I am not a horror aficionado, but I sometimes like to be frightened within limits and that got me thinking about which of the video games I usually play actually manage to scare me in ways that aren’t really part of the core horror panoply.
I don’t appreciate jump scares because they appeal to the primitive centers of my brain and I like gaming specifically because it stimulates the rational side of my humanity.
But I love how scary XCOM: Enemy Unknown can be, how it can make me sweat about the fate of my soldiers and the losses I am sustaining while defending the planet.
There are almost no traditional scares in the Firaxis-made game, but the tension and the high stakes create a lot of fear, the kind that’s inaccessible to more direct games like Resident Evil 6.
Another game that scares me, in a good way, is Dishonored.
Here the fear is generated by the constant threat of exposure and by its consequences, which might include dead bodies strewn all along a level and an increase in the overall chaos level of the world.
Fear is also a part of The Walking Dead as re-imagined by Telltale Games, an experience where the frailty of humanity and the intangibility of cooperation between persons are the main drivers of the story and the game mechanics.
Modern scary games tend to rely too much on technique and shocks and fail to understand that it’s better to appeal to the brains of the gamer than to his senses.