The tension displayed in horror movies is miniscule though, when compared to the sheer level of it thrown out by horror videogames. I’ve had a few conversations about horror gaming over the years with people who wouldn’t really be big fans of games. People who’d play the odd title here or there, but don’t really go any further. Throughout these conversations, they constantly seem to question how a game could possibly be scary. Personally, I reckon it’s the hardest hitting form of media for horror. It’s the most true way to experience fear without any chance of harm coming to you in real life. For real adrenaline junkies, they can cast themselves out of airplanes, or bungee jump into the mouths of angry alligators while chowing down on a bowl of Coco Pops; but for me, I’ll stick with horror gaming. It’s the most frightening because it’s not about some high school kid indulging in a spot of marijuana smoking or a round pre-marital sex, and in turn getting targeted by a weirdo in a hockey mask. Nor is it about a big titted blonde chick running half naked through deeply wooded areas just so she’ll have more chance of tripping up and being slaughtered by her pursuer. Hell, horror gaming isn’t even about your character on the screen. It’s about you! It puts you in these extreme situations and makes you fight for your life. Because of this, it hits home in a way that movies and books never could. If you make the wrong choice- You die! If you don’t react fast enough- You die. If you run out of ammunition to keep the savages at bay- You die! And when you die, it’s not a case of Mario falling off the screen to the sound of a few amusing seconds of music. No, it’s usually a case of your character being brutalized and torn limb from limb by unspeakable evil. Yip, videogames can be pretty scary alright.
Like many people, my first survival horror game was the original Resident Evil. I remember it clearly- the ragtag team of reject actors running for their lives from a horde of Cerberus. I remember first stepping foot inside that mansion in the mountainside surrounding Raccoon City. I can still recall being taken aback by the vastness of the lobby, along with how cinematic the entire experience was. Luckily, I was also young enough and dumb enough to not realise that the voice acting was complete and utter shite.
Auld Resident Evil’s atmosphere wasn’t the only thing it had to offer. It was also packed full of jump scares, overpowered enemies, and horrible deaths sequences. Every gamer and his mother will tell you how they jumped so far out of their seats that they almost needed a parachute to come back down during that infamous scene when dogs leap through the windows of a silent hallway and attack you. There were even tales of folks who had to call in firemen to rescue their terrified asses from trees. This was almost repeated in the second game, when you catch a glimpse of a Licker running past the outside window in an early scene. It created an unusual, but fantastic sense of fear. It was only onscreen for a split second, leaving the player not only wondering if they really saw something there, as opposed to their mind playing tricks, but it also stopped them dead in their tracks, unwanting to open the next door in fear of finding out first-hand what that monster was.
There was a place much more frightening than Res E’s Raccon City could ever be though. A town somewhere in the middle of nowhere. A full city of emptiness where lives up to its apt name beautifully. A place called Silent Hill.It’s hard to explain what exactly is scary about the town. Is it being attacked by dead babies? Is it the lack of hope that the town seems to spew out relentlessly? Perhaps it’s the huge motherfucker with a triangle for a head who wields a rusted blade that’s big enough to make Cloud’s Buster Sword look like a fucking butter knife?
Silent Hill 2 is, in my opinion, the scariest videogame ever made. It follows the story of a guy who receives a letter from his dead wife, Mary, asking him to meet her in an old hotel in Silent Hill where they spent many happy vacations in the past. Ya know, back before she was dead ans things got all creepy and weird. What follows is one of the most shocking sequences of events you might ever play. From horrific, grotesque creatures to completely fucked up and untrustworthy characters, Silent Hill 2 is raw unnverving horror at it’s very best. The monsters that roam the game’s streets and hallways are not only disturbing, but also completely unique. They are usually weird variations and twisted contortions of the human body, resulting in vile, stomach churning monstrosities. Making them scarier still is the fact that most of the game takes place in dark rust-filled hallways, and you can only see straight ahead of you due to a small light in your breast pocket. There are so many times when you know you’re sharing a room with something else, but you’ve no idea where it is or what it is.
From the moment you hit the start button to the time that the credits roll, there’s this completely inhuman atmosphere. Truth be told, it’s not just a case of never feeling in control, or never feeling safe. It actually fills you with a dooming feeling that you’re never going to survive, no matter how hard you try. It’s strange, I hold this title in such high regard, yet I never really want to return to it. I don’t want to be put through that again. I’m not sure if my brain could handle it... stupid brain. I can still remember the first time I saw the trailer for the game. It left me cold, as I bore witness to these strange creatures, horrific beatings, a bizarre monster rape scene, and a woman turning on me from the other side of a line of prison bars. Just how disturbing all these scenes were was somehow amplified by a soft, almost relaxing acoustic guitar ballad. And that’s just the fucking trailer! After seeing, I thought to myself that I never wanted to play that game, yet being hugely intrigued by it.
With Res E and Dead Space being entirely different creatures to their predecessors, and Silent Hill simply falling into obscurity due to being unable to improve upon horror perfection, it seems that on PC, indie and handheld devices are picking up the slack. Games like the PSP’s Corpse Party, the PC’s Outlast and Amnesia series, and countless indie horror titles, it shows that there’s still life in the old skinless dog yet. Hopefully they’ll someday make their triumphant and horrifying return to consoles, along with players like myself, players who’ve grown up on horror movies and petrifying games, another chance to visit these strange environments again. Being scared can be fun. It’s a harmless and interesting feeling, and it’s one that I miss from my gaming experience. These titles supplied a perpetual feeling of suspense. That same feeling I used to get as a kid just before the big murder scenes in movies. That terror, but in the games, it never stopped. Consistantly overthinking the scenario at hand and its outcomes. You were always just about to be in trouble. You were always just about to die, and that feeling never left you. It’s entertaining, but almost confusing, knowing that you’re afriad but without any real reason to be, and because of that you’re brain doesn’t quite know what to do with fantastic games like Silent Hill 2... Stupid brain.