We Need To Talk: Entry 2

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Entry 2: How found footage can help horror games


As I write this entry with a terrible head cold, I read reviews for Dead Space 3 and realize that the video game horror industry needs a shock to the system. Not to say that its dead. Games like Amnesia and Slender show how to do horror well but at the same time those are PC exclusives. I want some horror on my 360 or my PS3. Now recently I had to pull every single trick in the book just to be able to play Fatal Frame IV (or Project Zero in Europe and just Zero in Japan) and I can say this was what I missed.

Why can’t we have horror like this?

It was while wondering this that I was watching TribeTwelve. A web series featuring a young man being stalked by a supernatural being called the Slender Man. No matter how many times I watch it the scares keep coming. Now how does this fit into my rant from above? Simple. By using the suspension of disbelief it keeps coming up with scares that frighten and terrify while not relying on a huge budget, Like Amnesia: The Dark Descent.

Found footage horror has revolutionized the horror genre because although cheap to produce they give the idea that this could actually be happening, and thanks to sites like Youtube it blurs the line between reality and fantasy. Series like Marble Hornets, TribeTwelve and EverymanHybrid use not just Youtube but Twitter, Streaming channels, and its fans to create a universe where the next corner might contain a horrible monster out of a nightmare, or a person driven to madness wearing a mask.

Its with that explanation that I have to ask… Why hasn’t the gaming industry figured out how to use this to its advantage on console games?

Think about it. First Person games are the thing now and games like Slender and Amnesia prove that First Person Horror can work very well. So why couldn’t a found footage horror game work?

If you use a episodic format it would work well. With plenty of monsters, ideas, locations, and stories they could use the sky’s the limit.

In fact this is already happening… sort of.

Slender is getting a remake into a full fledge remake with writing by the Marble Hornets crew, a new game is being released by the Amnesia crew, and another Slender Man game called Faceless which will feature multiplayer that requires team work is gonna be released this year as well.

At the same time we could take found footage as inspiration. A good chunk of found footage movies I watched use the idea of this stuff either being part of a research experiment or a TV series. My idea is why can’t we use these the same way?

I would love to see a game in the vein of found footage… The sad part is that someone tried doing that but in the worst way possible once. Michigan: Report from Hell is a bizarre game that I tried my best to understand but the plot was absolutely banana’s. I will be linking the Wikipedia article so you can read it for yourself.

Back to the paragraph before the previous, I stated that a good chunk of them revolve around a TV show or research experiment. A good example of that is the imfamous BBC special GhostWatch.

GhostWatch was presented in such a way that even knowing it was fake I was terrified by what I was seeing and thought it was real. The presentation, atmosphere, and the fact that instead of using actors with fake names it used actors with there real names, giving this a sense of reality. What made it better was the fact that like most good found footage horror, it took its time, was subtle with its scares, did not spoil the big reveal, and felt like it could happen in a persons house.

That’s what we need for a horror game.

So from what I can take from all the films I have seen, we can make a list of things from found footage.

Sense of reality
Presentation
Atmosphere
Subtlety
Familiar settings
Pacing

Some games get some of these but not all of them. If one game got all of these right, they would make a killing. Think about a horror game where depending on what you do influences if its a real ghost or not? Where no matter what you still question if it was real or not? Where no matter how safe it looks you still have to worry about what happens?

Most Horror games rely on dilapidated buildings, old houses, castles or the bending of reality to scare its players. Found footage relies on the usage of open areas, normal settings, and the use of normal settings and situations.

Out of 10 found footage movies I watched none of them involved some government soldiers/cops/marines/badass action heroes. They involved teachers, tv hosts, reporters, students, and people who make stupid web videos.

Out of the 10 horror games I think of off the top of my head. 4 of them featured regular people.

Silent hill 1
Fatal Frame
Amnesia The Dark Descent
Siren

the rest featured either soldiers, cops, engineers who become soldiers, and samurai.
Doom 3
Resident Evil
Dead Space
Cold Fear
Kuni
Alone in the Dark

However out of all of the games above only 3 had any real world settings that did not look like hell
Alone in the Dark
Siren
Silent Hill

The more you try for the jump factor, or the more you go for the gross out factor the more you deter from actual horror. I can think of tons of horror films I like that still scare me, films I love and recommend to all newcomers.

I can only recommend Silent Hill to newcomers of Horror games mostly since a lot of gamers dedicate themselves to consoles rather than trying to at least spend $500 on a decent PC to try out Amnesia The Dark Descent or Slender. There’s probably tons of horror games for old DOS systems and windows 3.1 I have never heard of, but the problem is people like me cannot work DOSBOX or don’t want to take the time when they could play Resident Evil 6, a game that looks like its trying to be more Call of Duty than anything these days.

Found footage has opened the door to many different directors who, at some point would have been ignored by the film industry, but now can show the world their talents thanks to sites like Youtube and Daily Motion. Directors who with little more than a flash memory camera and a script can make scares that rival most Hollywood block busters. Normal people with little to no acting ability turning out performances that rival multi million dollar movie stars. Areas where you and I would never think are scary turned into Elm Street or the Myers house.

If we can take some influence from these directors, some inkling of their amazing creativity maybe we can have a truly horrifying experience, an experience where even when not playing you go ‘damn…that was terrifying’, an experience so amazingly horrifying that you dread turning your PC or console on but you have to so you can see whats next.

I think we can learn from this innovative way of horror so maybe we can have less Dead Space and more Grave Encounters.

Movies watched for research

Grave Encounters
Ghost Watch
The Tunnel
8213 Gacy House

Youtube series watched for research
Marble Hornets (One of the original SlenderMan Vlogs) (ongoing)

http://www.youtube.com/user/marblehornets

TribeTwelve (ongoing)

http://www.youtube.com/user/TribeTwelve

EveryMan Hybrid (ongoing)

http://www.youtube.com/user/everymanhybrid

DarkHarvest00 (ongoing)

http://www.youtube.com/user/darkharvest00

Compile Truth (No longer updated) (Slender man blog and Vlog resource)

http://www.youtube.com/user/compiletruth

Short Youtube movies watched for research
No Through Road

for more Youtube Vlog series go to the Chaotic Fiction board. However a good chunk of these found footage horror series seem to be slender man based.

http://forums.unfiction.com/forums/index.php?f=191

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About the author /


David Phillips is a JRPG enthusiast with a chip on his shoulder thanks to Square Enix pushing Lightning all the time. Seriously! If she's likable, then Jaws is huggable! Check me on Twitter at Prinny_Rider and on Facebook at David Phillips.

  • http://www.geimaku.com/ AnderSilva

    The thing is: how to implement a great horror experience without compromising the gameplay? Even better: without making it on-rails.
    Movies can dedicate every tool at their disposal to enhance the environment and create the perfect opportunity for specific scenarios. In a game, you have to consider the player’s position, the camera that’s being used (fixed like old RE games or over the shoulder like RE 4 onwards), whatever threat they will be facing (enemy AI, good animation, graphical quality, special effects) and the list goes on.
    Games can have more to offer thanks to their versatility in providing interaction on the scene: something movies can’t offer. However, it seems that this gets harder as the consoles evolve. Why?
    Perhaps the low quality sprites and low-poly models were scarier than their high quality counterparts? I know a lot of people who tend to remember more of the old RE and Silent Hill games than the modern ones when we speak about getting scared.
    Is it harder to create a terrifying experience in HD? Most of the monsters you see in Dead Space, Resident Evil and other games supposed to be about “horror” only feel gross, but not scary. Well, perhaps they can offer that kind of cheap “half-second” startle, but not the constant tension and feeling of helplessness.
    I’m eager for what the next gen will show us. Not only new games, but also new studios with new ideas. We need more than what we already know. More than these established franchises, not just expect them to change back.
    Great job, Phillips.

  • Mashaiasu

    @JRPG_Rider Nice article David. I got a love/hate relationship with horror games, but I love watching Amnesia Custom Story LP’s .