The prevailing theme in October is usually horror games due to the strong influence of Halloween on pop culture. In keeping with Destructoid’s annual tradition of blog writing in October, the theme is related to scary games. Just as this year’s “Hello Darkness” prompt suggested, it revolves around games that solicit feelings of dread and horror. However, are games of this genre the only games that solicit these types of feelings?
If you think about it, scary games are designed to be one thing above all, and that is to be as uncomfortable for the player as possible, while at the same time providing enough room for the players to willingly delve deep into the non-comfort zone.
It is clear that horror games are not the only games that can extract you from your comfort zone. Many games of different genres attempt their best to simultaneously upset and cajole the player to invoke alternate feelings of frustration and helplessness, while also providing moments of pure joy and victory. Some games, likePapers Please, don’t provide the slightest form of joy or release.
But outside of challenging games – which is a form of discomfort that is pivotal to gameplay to a certain degree – there are also those games that aim to harass the player in unique and inventive ways.
The survival genre is built on the concepts of scarcity and continuous maintenance. The idea that resources must be scavenged to be consumed regularly, and that there may be a possible shortage that leads to failure. Note that the possibility of shortage may simply be suggested and could be a very remote possibility, but it will affect how the player reacts to the game.
This concept is brilliantly used in a game I am playing now,The Banner Saga. In this game, you oversee a caravan of warriors for most of the time. This caravan consumes resources that deplete with each passing day. Resources can be bought using experience points that can also be used to buy items and upgrade characters as well. These scarce resources force you to juggle three different priorities, creating a situation where the player must debate within themselves.
When an event happens that mentions half the supplies could be poisoned, you must balance the risks of that being true vs. the risk that poisoned supplies would kill off some of your warriors. There is a distinct possibility that none of this could matter. You might have more than enough supplies. However, until you know for sure, the illusion of scarcity raises the stakes so much that you become more invested in the game.
Other games aim to be emotionally, morally, or even viscerally uncomfortable. Sometimes, games try to transmit these feelings through the gameplay itself. Adding layers that cause tensions, difficulty, discomfort, or any other negative feeling. Often, this is where receptions can widely vary.
For instance, the animal character inThe Last Guardianwas designed to ignore the player in the early game, becoming more responsive as trust is built between the two. This is the feeling I got from the game, and one I think was true to its message and concept. However, some people found that degree of unresponsiveness annoying, and they didn’t appreciate this relationship between story concepts and gameplay.
I found the way the boy’s relationship with Trico developed to be organic, others found it confusing and tedious.
This is usually where developers need to be careful to differentiate between being difficult or uncomfortable and being plain tedious.As with many horror games, you usually fail if you scare players away from playing your game. You want to be scary, but also provide enough hope so that the player want to progress.
Recently, Hideo Kojima’sDeath Strandingwas released to mixed reviews, despite its respectable 84 Metacritic score, where even reviewers who gave it high scores used adjectives such as “boring,” “tedious,” or “pretentious” to describe its gameplay and story. Since I haven’t played the game, I will not attempt to make any statements about the game itself, but rather its reception.
I think similar to howThe Last Guardianwas received, not all players will engage withDeath Stranding’sgameplay with the way some of the reviewers (or even Kojima himself) wished them to. How someone can receive a game and interact with it is difficult to control (which is why some games opt for over-long tutorials that ensure the players know how to best play the game).
In the end, games that aim to discomfort, horrify, or otherwise upend the established norms all face an uphill battle. By definition, their attempts could fall flat, be too successful and off-putting, or simply become tedious to go through.
It’s a tight balancing act, and I don’t think you can include every demographic in that balance easily, but I think games that push the envelope make gaming more interesting as a whole, even if I end up being bored to tears playingDeath Strandingthree years from now.
*- I am guilty of not commenting much onChris Hovermale’sincredibly detailed and well-written front page material, but that’s because I don’t comment much on the front page in general. This blog is his goodbye as he seeks other things in life. You will be missed.
*- This blog byThe Rambling Gameris a good analysis of why World War II has been (and still is) a favorite setting for video game developers (note the Western bias though).
*-It is absolutely criminal that there haven’t been codes of goodMario Makerlevels spread around, which is what makesTony Ponce’srecreation of someMega Manlevels stand out even much more.
*-LaTerry’sBand of Bloggersblog perfectly encapsulates the feeling of overcoming something that seemed daunting to you at first. In his case, it was finishingDragon Quest’sfirst three games (the Eldric trilogy) after failing to do so in his youth.
B-TheBand of Bloggersprompt this month (written byShoggoth2588) is about unresolved business with games:
- I guess it was only natural forShoggoth2588to write the first blog.
- Unresolved businesscan refer to dealing with your backlog, but withThe Rambling Gamer, it was more about dealing with his internal ghosts when playingMetal Gear V.
- This is a case where the writer couldn’t actually finish their unfinished business.Riley1sSpookwasn’t able to finishFallout 2but still managed to enjoy it.
B-Other thanBand of Bloggers, theBloggers Wantedprompt is back as well, and it also deals with scary games:
- OmegaPhattyAcidis the first on the bandwagon with this Cblog arguing that “Fear” is the real “Darkness.”
- Cavemanlegendtalks aboutThe Prototype.
- I guess bothDying LightandHollow Knight(hey, that rhymes) have some“Darkness” in them just asThe Aspargoosewrites.
- TheZeldaseries is known for having darker themes in the background, and this blog byEggrollbuddylooks like a good analysis of those themes inLink’s Awakening.
- Ironically,OmegaPhattyAcidalso closes out theBloggers Wantedprompt with a final blog about the darkness and horror in theHaloseries.
Amnesia is a horror game that made me so uncomfortable I couldn’t finish it.
A-I guessAgent9is fed-up with people giving Game Freak any excuse for nixing the National Dex from the latestPokemongame. Frankly, I don’t think Game Freak could do anything to satisfy everyone, so they shouldn’t even bother with excuses. Wallets speak louder than words my friends.
A- TroyFullbusterwaxes lyrical about Dtoid’s own robot, the busy bee Chris Carter.
A-This blog contains spoilers forNier: AutomatawhereKevin Mersereaudiscussed the real antagonists of the game.
A- Niorcontinues exploring the gaming scene in Brazil, focusing on locally developed games in this blog.
A-This blog byDeediddleis not as much a review ofYooka Layleeas it is an article about the state of platformers today from a big fan of the genre.
A- Skazfestwrites a blog celebrating the unique Game Cube controller.
S-It looks likeKerrik52is back with his weekly reviews of past games in his Traveller in Playtime series:
- I guess this month’s reviews will all be horror-themed, such as this review ofThe Suffering, a PS2 action-horror game.
- Still in the same era, check this review of the firstFatal Frame, which still holds up to this day.
- Cold Fearstarts well but doesn’t deliver through.
- The finalKerrik52blog of the month is not about a horror game, butMediEvilis a proper Halloween themed game.
S- Lord Spencercontinues reviewing the supposed best games of the Sega Saturn system:
- TheShiningseries went into many genres, and in my review ofShining in the Holy Arkas part of my Saturn Reviews series, I thoroughly didn’t enjoy its foray into First-Person RPGs.
- Taking a break from the Retro Sanctuary top 100 list, I reviewedAstal,which was recommended by another Dtoid member, and I found it to be extremely boring.
S- Nioris doing aCommand & Conquerretrospective series:
- The third blog in the series is coveringC&C: Tiberian Sun.
- And then we get to the highly regardedRed Alert 2.
S- Oscis continuing to report the progress of his game development.
Many people enjoy survival games, some find them incredibly tedious, and different games sometimes get different reactions from fans and detractors of the genre.
S- Aurachadis streaming some stuff.
S- Boxman214writes about his complicated relationship with Halloween.
N-Apparently, 343, the developers forHaloare having a massive upcoming playtest, or soOmegaPhattyAcidreports.
T- GreatTrickyShitGreat(what a weird user name) gives his thoughts onWing Commander.
T-I don’t know what it is aboutFar Cry 2that makes people write more about it than any other game in the series butRiley1sSpookis not impressed.
T-Check out this fan-madeSonicfighting game whicheastyyrecommends.
T-Just likeLurelin’sreaction toFortniteproves, no matter how popular a game is, it may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
T-TroyFullbusterwrites an analysis of the surviving popularity ofSuper Smash Bros. Melee.
T-I suppose some people will agree withMichael Arretta’sevaluation ofFinal Fantasy IXas the perfect MMORPG.
T-A lot of people seem to be enjoyingThe Outer Worlds, andgenoforprezis no different, especially loving the romance and leadership systems in the game.
T-Asphalt Legendsis apparently the “arcade racer of this generation” as perSkazfest’sblog.
The Banner Saga wouldn’t be as good if not for its elements of scarcity and the uncomfortable choices it asks you to make.
P-Check out this early preview ofThe Outer WorldsbyDinorachawho has a lot to say about the game.
P- Lovebuzzis previewingBIGHARDSUN,as a survival-indie game that he is involved in making.
D-Calvinbrinecontinues his talk onhow to develop the perfect 2DMetroid.
D-In an epic effort,ABowlOfCearealcontinues writing some interesting balancing suggestions for theSuper Smash Bros.cast:
M-PhilsPhindingscontinues his excellent series where he looks for similarities between famous video game tunes and other music from different sources:
- I would have guessed thatPhilwould focus on scary tunes for this month, but he opened his blogs with thisSuper Mariotune.
- OneFinal Fantasygame that wasn’t featured yet isIX, but that changes with this blog.
- And thenMetroidis featured for the first time.
- Then back toFinal Fantasyagain.
- I was wondering whenDonkey Kongwould get a shout out here.
- Checkout Debussy’s influence on one ofFinal Fantasy V’sbest tracks.
- ALuigi’s Mansiontune, just in time for the release of the thirdgame in the series.
- Then back again toFinal Fantasy V, which has an underrated soundtrack compared to its peers.
- I would not have guessed this blogging series would explore the music of aBarbiegame.
S-Burglekutt not RiffRaffreviews the PS4 Gold Headset and thinks its mostly fine.
S-Checkout this review ofStreet Fighter II Replicade(home arcade replica) byPacariowith a full unboxing.
S- Ras Raufreports on the opening of the new Nintendo Tokyo store.
R-I can also get as pissed asVeniceCivilianwhen I get a bad roll playingCivilization.
R-TheDragon Questseries is known for its catchy subtitles, which inspiredKclackto come up with a few alternate titles forDragon Quest XI.
V-Checkout this video made byTroyFullbusterlooking at Easter eggs inLuigi’s Mansion 3.
Some people will enjoy awkward controls and massive backtracking, others might be bored out of their minds.
F-Sorry, but these short blogs byAurachadare no longer making any sense.
F-Terminator may be overpowered inMortal Kombatbut you are not very convincing in this short blog.
F-This may be a charming blog, but it is still too short to be in the Cblogs.
F-This criticism ofThe Witcher 3Switch port may be valid, but it is not detailed enough for a blog and should have been a quickpost.
F-The Cblogs isnot the place to ask for in-game support, but you can always try the Qposts.
To celebrate the recap of the entire month, give a hand to the following bloggers:
Comments of the Week and Band of Bloggers Team of This Month:
Blog Count: 64