EWG Editorial: Horror-bly not Scary

- Eric Lee Lewis

Sigh, the horror genre. What happened to you? At a young age, my brother made me sit and watch him play all of the way through Resident Evil: Director’s Cut. I can’t remember my exact age, but I was young. I hadn’t come in contact with much from zombies, so this was a scary thing for me to witness. Zombies devouring your former teammates and later shambling after you. As if the moaning and sloppy noises weren’t bad enough, characters were controlled as if they were a tank, ammo was sparse, the Spencer Estate was a creepy environment, and the music furthermore hit home the atmosphere of the game. Not only did Resident Evil 1-3 do this well, the Silent Hill series has done the same, only with more horrifying monsters and a less-than-stellar story on some occasions. Sometimes it isn’t the story that makes the game scary though. 

Resident Evil

These were the elements of a classic horror game. Today, this is a lost art. I had mentioned Resident Evil before. One of today’s worst offenders of no longer knowing how to make a game scary is this series. Resident Evil 4 is widely recognized as one of the best games of all time. Don’t get me wrong, it had a few scary moments, but none caused by anything classified under the definition of horror. Scary moments occurred in the form of jump scares or being outnumbered by the crazy town’s people. I should probably do my best to stay away from speaking on Resident Evil 5 to avoid going on a rant about how much a game can really evoke the emotion of anger. 

Silent Hill

Even the Silent Hill series has lost some of its luster. The controls are still extremely clunky and you feel a sense of helplessness, but this is mainly do to the fact that it is 2012 and we maintain having to use the controls as if this is a game from the 90’s still. I honestly don’t mind this as I understand why the Japanese developers stick to this control style for these game types. 

Amnesia: The Dark Descent

Games today are plagued with the lack of imaginative design. We have a market saturated with second-rate FPSs that are afraid of change and stale third-person-shooters that are based upon meat-head bros. Rarely do we see a game that is willing to take a chance to make a game that is meant to be HONESTLY scary. Sure, this is good on some levels. Sometimes we get developers that want to make a game like Amnesia or Dead Space. Others blur the lines with games like Dead Island. 

Dead Island

Dead Space is a perfect example of what a horror game should really be. The monsters are scary, the environment is ripped apart and often dark, the music matches the mood, the story messes with your head as you learn about what happened and how the necromorphs came to be, and our character’s body language was always spot on. This is the lost art that I am talking about as it pertains to the horror game genre.

Dead Space

Gamers are too worried about what the next big bro-shooter is going to be or what is going to be the bandwagon that everyone else hops on so they can hop on also. Let’s be honest here, how many people say that they love a game like Skyrim, with its multitude of glitches and pop-ins, and really like it? Most of the time Call of Duty isn’t bought for a new experience, it is bought by habit. The story is rarely played and most people instantly go to the multiplayer knowing that there isn’t much to offer in the form of a new experience. But, some players will tell you that they get “scared” when the dogs are loose or they are low on ammo. This isn’t the horror we truly need. 

I, in fact, believe that for the most part, developers don’t remember what a horror game is. Sure, our theaters are saturated with movies about somebody mangling people, but what happened to the movies and games with a real, scary atmosphere and story?