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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

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I'm still waiting for a truly scary video game

Nothing to fear

[Spieler Dad has been roaming the halls of Destructoid for years dishing out wisdom and writing sweet blogs. What a dick! He’s let it go to his head. Read in disbelief as he claims to have no fear whatsoever from playing things I wouldn’t sentence a war criminal to play as a punishment for his misdeeds. Then, make him pay in the comments below by suggesting something that will truly terrify him. Your mission, dear Dtoid Community, is to get Spieler Dad in trouble with Spieler Wife when she sees what he’s done to his pants and their couch. Happy Halloween!– Wes]

This time of year, posts aboutghosts, the supernatural, and evenscaryvideo gamesare a dime a dozen.Even around theoffice therehave been lively discussions aboutghostsand the supernatural. I don’t contribute much to these discussions becauseI’mabit of a skeptic.

That doesn’t meanthat I don’t like agood ghoststory or haven’texperiencedthings that are inexplicable.Matter of fact, there aretwo instanceswhich I experienced something sufficiently creepy.

The first occurred years ago when my wife and I were shopping for our first home. Therealtorwas showing us houses in our budget in towns that that my wife and Iliked,andshe brought us to this prettyVictorian.It was an older home,quite large, andI was surprised that it was in our budget.Ofcourse,we all made jokes that the house was probablysocheap because it was haunted.

As we were doing our walk-through I just couldn’t help feeling out of breath, and I wasn’t out of shape at the time so stop calling meafat assunder your breath.As we walked from room toroom,Iwas filled by a feeling of lethargy and I just couldn’t fill mylungs with asatisfyingbreath of air.I was getting a real sense of dread in this place. The moment I walked out onto the porch, it was like a weight was lifted off my chest and I was able to breathe normally again.

I asked my wife if she felt like there was something off about thehouse and surprisinglyshe did not, which was odd because she’s easily spooked by her own shadow. Suffice it to say, we didn’t pursue purchasing that house because I prefer not besuffocated in my sleep by a vengeful spirit.

The other spooky event happened alittle less than a year ago.My wife and I were once again shopping for a house. My daughter was growingup fastand we had another baby on the way and we needed to move into somethingbigger and in a town with better schools.Once again, the realtor brought us to a cute older house that waseasily two hundredyears old, butwas beautifullyrestored.

I have a theory that any house that is over a hundred years old has a very good chance that someone died in it. For every additional fifty years, those chances increase exponentially. The reason why is that back in the good ole days, when people became sick they usually became bedridden at home.

In time,the local doctor came over and probably bled you or fed you mercury in order to remove all the bad humorsfrom your body orsome othercrazy shit. Thenyouwould die ofmercurypoisoning or from a lack of bloodand/or bad humors (WHO KNOWS?).IfI died like that, I would be so pissed off that I would stick around and make other people’s lives miserableout of spite.This is all makes perfect sense to me.

Anyway, we were doing the walkthrough in this beautiful old house and we werestanding in the dining room discussing thepriceand about ready to leave when I clearly heard a male voice say “hello.”

I was the only man in the group, so hearinganother male voicewas very surprising.The hairs on my arms and the back of my neck stood on end and I got the chills.I definitively got thefeeling like there was something there and it was certainly not natural.Therealtor heard this disembodied voice as well and she becamepale as eggshells.She looked terrified and went room to room asking if someone else was there. The house was empty of course, and she came back into the diningroomwhere Itoldher that we would not be making an offer. ZIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING!!!!!!!!

I look back at this and laugh now. It’s not like this “ghost” said anything scary and cliché like “GET OUT,” he just said “hello.” Maybehewas a nice ghost? According to my mother, who alsobelieves in ghosts and has claimed to see some supernatural things herself during her childhood, the fact that the ghost madeitspresence known meant that he didn’t want us there.

I drive by thishouse every morningon my way to workand notice that anice family lives there now. They seem happy and not toodissimilarto my own.Sonow I feel insulted because the ghost doesn’t seem to be bothering them. What does the ghosthaveagainst me? Fuck that ghost. If I bought that house I would have him exorcised him, because I’m Catholic and we do shit like that. I don’t play around. There would havebeen liberal use of holy water,the burning ofincense,incantations(IN LATIN), and the hanging ofcrucifixes on every damn wall.I would have used the power of Christ on his ass until he left. YOU HEAR ME MOTHERFUCKER! WHAT DO YOU HAVE AGAINST MY FAMILY!?!

So,what am I getting at here? I’ve beencreepedoutby unexplained things in the real world, as well as scarymoviesandbooks. There is only one thingthat haseluded giving me the frights, andthat is my beloved videogames.

IrememberFridaythe 13thon theNES asthefirst “horror” game I played that did not live up to expectations.As a child,theoriginalFridaythe 13thwas a terrifying movie. Jason (and his mother) gave me endless nightmares. I clearly remember the apprehension that I had when a friend got the game and asked if I wanted to play it. All fears were quickly squashed by thestiflinggame play and acuriouslypurple and green Jason. Sadly, the scariest thing about this game was the box art.

Years later, I remember getting a copy ofSplatterhousefor theTurboGrafx-16. This game looked terrifying and the box even had a warning label, so it must be legit. However, upon playing this title, there was nothing truly scary about it. It was a serviceable action side-scroller that “borrowed” a lot of horror themesand had ample amounts of pixelated 16-bit gore, butI didn’t lose much sleep from this game either.

Over the years, horror games got better.Resident EvilonPS1had a fairamount of cheap jump scares, but I never found it scary. The early versions of theSilent Hillserieswere unsettling, and at timesbizarre, but not all that frightening.Even theAlan Wakeseries fell short in giving me a good scare.

Even games linkResident Evil 7: Biohazard, which many celebratedas being truly scary, I found more gruesome and tense. Not necessarily bad things for sure, but I was not at all that scared by it. I think that many game makers fall into this trap of thinking blood and guts automatically equalsscary, but that is simply not the case.

Case and point, theonly game that came close to giving me a true scare was P.T. (yes technically part of theSilent Hillseries),andit isa teaser for all intents and purposes. This game depends moreonpsychologicalfears and thesupernatural rather than gore and it works.Unfortunately, we will neverknow how afull-lengthP.T.will pan out,because Konami is more interested in running health clubs and making pachinko machines than making games anymore.

So,what is it about horror games that makes them lessscarythan their movie counterparts? I think it’s a couple of things.

First off, the fact that I’m in control of the character in a video game gives me some sort of comfort. This seems counter-intuitive since you are controlling the character and whatever happens to him or her is vicariously happening to you – but you have theabilityto fight back, orrun, orhide.In movies and in books, you are a spectator and helpless tointervenein any way. It’s that feeling of helplessness that I find scary.

Also, the gore in movies is much more unsettling than it is in games. Gamesarestill in uncanny valley territory and seeing characters in a game getting sliced up isnowherenear as unnerving as seeing a live person acting out the same. I find that even cheesy practical effects in movies from the 70s and 80s are more gruesome than anything in a modern game. I would even argue that CG in modern horrormovies,like in video games, arelacking that visceraljenesaisquoithat can only be found when actors are liberallybukakiedwith a mixture of corn syrup and red dye. Also, bonus points if the victim is Kevin Bacon.

Perhaps one day a game will be released that I find trulypants-shittingscary.P.T.came close, and I would love to see Hideo Kojima give it another shot, perhaps in a new franchise. I really do think that a scary game is possible, but developers have to put in the effort and not depend on gore or easy jump scares.

Hollywood is going through the same problem right nowin my opinion. It’s far easier to throw up some CG blood and guts than to delve into the true foundations of horror. “Foundations of Horror”would also make a sweet name for a heavy metal band, so any musicians out there, feel free to steal it.

Is there a game out there that you think willmake me shit my pants withfear? Let me know in the comments. Happy Halloween folks…

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