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The cliché of horror games

I used to be a proper mard arse and wouldn't touch a horror game with someone else's barge pole, let alone my own. Playing Resi Evil 1 and 2 as a child (when I must have been 11, 12 years old at most) wasn't possible if I couldn't pass the control pad over to my more courageous best friend. Watching the gameplay felt a bit safer than actually being in control of it at the time. I would continue to feel that way for a good 20 years, which brings us to more recent times where I'm now a proper bloke, as it were.

While I've hardly exhausted the catalogue of quality horror games while making up for lost time, I've noticed that genuinely novel or unique experiences are pretty thin on the ground compared to the myriad copycats that inevitably follow.

Sometimes I watch a few Youtubers (John Wolfe, CJU) to get a feel for what new indie horror stuff is coming out, and honestly so much of it feels like it lacks originality. I'm not talking about amazing graphics and things like that, it's more about the story being told and how the story's delivered.

As an example, I've both played and watched a variety of 'horror' games that try to take P.T. and make a full blown game out of it. They tend to end up as walking simulators with no other gameplay mechanic; and while I assume that's because you're supposed to feel vulnerable, it doesn't really pay off. They also tend to have the following properties in common:

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  1. Exaggerated footstep sounds. It's like everyone's wearing fucking iron-toecapped clogs with the little metal staple in the heel. Doesn't matter if you're on carpet or grass either, your feet are tearing that floor up with every step.
  2. Benign suburban house (sometimes one from the asset store) with no exterior
  3. Doors and lights activating randomly
  4. Story delivered through notes left on various surfaces
  5. Writing made from blood on the wall
  6. Trippy Escher-like architecture
  7. Useless flashlights/walking around with a constantly lit lighter
  8. You're a father/parent who turns out to be an asshole and you're experiencing their guilt or something

Of course, plenty of horror games aren't like that at all. I still won't touch Alien Isolation as I don't feel ready for it yet, for example. But even when it comes to the classics like Resi, their modern remakes are absolutely fantastic but they too quickly dispense with the horror in favour of action.

As far as favourites go, I think Soma has set the bar for true, existential, scariness. And when I say that, I guess what I'm trying to get at is that I really want to enjoy some more horror that makes you think.


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