最好的情况便是，这些游戏的开发者越来越意识到这一元素的重要性，并更加重视它的使用。就像Frictional Games（《失忆症：黑暗后裔》的开发商）的创始人Thomas Grip所言，当游戏拥有较强的移情元素时，添加镜像神经元便非常重要。换句话说，玩家将真正与游戏主角融为一体。
（上图：在《死亡空间》中当玩家首次遭遇尸变体时他们并不能给予反击从而提升了焦虑感。下图：Pyramid Head透过一个不能通过的铁栏凝视着James Sunderland。）
建立玩家与游戏间的纽带的最佳方法便是诱发玩家产生强烈的情感。恐怖求生游戏便是利用恐惧感而有效地做到了这一点。但是这却不是唯一方式。最近我们还看到一系列不同的游戏在利用各种不同的情感，如悲痛（ Tale of Tales的《墓地》），爱与失去（Thechineseroom的《Dear Esther》）等。显然，“一体适用”的电子游戏时代已经一去不复返了。
《太空战舰》中的平衡是不对称的，双方是完全不同的，玩家反应和战斗的方式也与敌人不同。再说《Fatal Frame 3》，玩家与敌人战斗时不断处于劣势，因为敌人可以消失、重现，可以穿过墙壁、地板和天花板攻击玩家。
当然，给玩家一段安全时期也可能起到反效果。《Fatal Frame 3》中最恐怖的时刻之一是，游戏进行时，安全时间就像沙漏一样慢慢流逝，我不想在多说，怕坏了感觉。
Dreampainters游戏设计师Simone Tagliaferri非常清楚他们的团队希望创造出哪种感觉的《Anna》。该款游戏将背景设在意大利的Val d’Ayas，并且一开始的场景是在明亮的农村，玩家希望在此找回属于自己过去的记忆。
篇目5，Fight or Flight: The Neuroscience of Survival Horror
by Maral Tajerian
Fear is one of the most primitive instincts in humans. Although it has been particularly useful in keeping us alive in dangerous situations, it has also helped the entertainment industry capitalize on our sheer joy of being scared. The video game industry has done a good amount of scaring by taking advantage of these emotions and employing them in gameplay narrative and design.
This practice is best exemplified by putting the player in a vulnerable situation with limited resources to confront enemies. With proper execution, the genre can make your heart race, palms sweat and make you go to sleep with nightmares. However, when executed poorly, players feel as if they’re simply “going through the motions”.
Over the last two decades, several games (ranging from the early Resident Evil series to the more recent Amnesia: The Dark Descent) have defined the survival horror genre by successfully engaging fear and anxiety in players.
Although successful iterations of these games offer different enemies, gameplay mechanics and plot, they all share similar ways of handling the human psyche. This article will discuss how fear as an emotion has been employed in the gaming industry and discuss how the balance between scares and gameplay can lead to success or failure.
The Science of Terror
Anxiety. Next to fear, anxiety is perhaps the most prominent feeling experienced in video games. Unlike fear, which is a response to an imminent threat, anxiety is a response to a future potential threat.
When perceptual systems are taxed, research has shown that a looming threat results in anxiety that heightens attention and increases sensitivity to potential dangers. This implies that solving a puzzle the character is presented with in the game does not take away from the experience of fear and danger. In fact, according to many gamers, solving the puzzles under dangerous circumstances only increases the feelings of fear. Consider how riddles and puzzles in Silent Hill excel in this respect.
An example of a puzzle from Silent Hill 2 that needs to be solved in a dark and dilapidated room.
While games like first person shooters are notorious for desensitizing players to violence, games that raise the player’s anxiety actually sensitize them to danger. This is simply how animals behave, and it’s a highly adaptive behavior, since it keeps individuals on their toes in anxiety-causing environments. Raising the levels of anxiety in a video game will therefore ensure that the player is sensitized to the danger in the game. In a game like Amnesia, the entire experience teeters on anxiety created up to confrontation with an enemy since the player has absolutely no means to defend himself.
Helplessness. As mentioned earlier, players in the survival horror genre are often faced with terrifying and inescapable circumstances, with little means of self-defense. In other words, they are truly and utterly helpless.
In Amnesia, some may remember locking themselves in a closet, or hiding in a corner staring at a blank wall for several minutes, because you’re convinced that if you move, even an inch, a certain and horrible death will soon ensue. Furthermore, elements like rigid camera angles, awkward control schemes (Silent Hill, and Early Resident Evil titles), lighting (Alan Wake, Dead Space), etc. all serve to obliterate what little control the player might have thought she possessed.
Helplessness is truly a powerful feeling. Studies have shown that animals that are faced with situations where they’re helpless develop strong feelings of fear and anxiety. This is also true in the case of humans. You may remember this feeling from your last visit to the dentist. Whenever you experience feelings of helpless and loss of control, you are bound to feel more anxious and fearful. The same stays true in video games.
Priming. In psychology, priming is defined as the effect in which the response to a stimulus is influenced by the exposure to a previous stimulus.
Consider the word-stem completion task, for example. Here, a test subject is exposed to certain words, one of which is the word “lettuce”. He is then asked to complete the following word: “let—-”. The effect of priming can be seen when the subject fills the blank with “tuce” due to the fact that he was exposed to that word earlier in the experiment.
Several games rely heavily on creating anxiety using this strategy, by using sounds that remind the player of an encroaching yet unseen enemy. In Amnesia, visits to various torture chambers (where he actually “hears” victims in an iron maiden, a brazing bull, etc.) leads up to being locked in a cell. The fact that such priming took place (being exposed to the torture scenes) clearly influences the way the player feels when he himself is locked up and dreading the possibility of similar tortures.
A diagram in the Strappado torture room in Amnesia: The Dark Descent.
In addition to this priming, certain events characterized by unexpected novelty can, very efficiently, startle a player. For example, events that can lead a player through a relatively safe part of a level may lower our guard to new threats when revisiting the same environment (i.e.: consider the first 30 minutes of Doom 3 or the hubs in the Silent Hill and Dead Space series).
These choices will often save time in level design while still maintaining progress and the required ambience to startle and terrify.
Mirror Neurons. Mirror neurons are neurons in certain regions of the brain that are active when an animal performs an action, or observes another individual performing that same action.
Discovered a few decades ago, these neurons are argued to be the key in understanding other individuals’ intentions and feelings, empathy, and even imitating the actions of others. It is very possible that mirror neurons play an important role interfacing our experiences with a virtual avatar.
PET studies highlighting similar clusters in the brain that activate between individuals who are watching an action (listening to music) or partaking in an action (playing music).
In most video games, moving in a three dimensional space is likely to trigger spatial orientation mirror neurons. In the Silent Hill series, similar mechanisms would elicit anxiety and disgust when players are given the choice to stick their hand into a hole in a wall or to take something out of a toilet.
James Sunderland from Silent Hill 2 asked to stick his hand in a dirty toilet, likely eliciting disgust in the player, who mirrors this experience in her own brain and, to some extent, “experiences” it herself.
Similarly the same can be said in Dead Space 2, where players are given the choice to crawl in very confined spaces (where the right camera angle make the entire difference) or guide a needle into the eye of Isaac Clarke.
And what’s best is that the developers of these games are increasingly aware of these facts and capitalize on it. As Thomas Grip of Frictional Games (Amnesia: The Dark Descent) himself said at the Games Colloquium at Concordia University last year, the involvement of mirror neurons is important when the empathy factor is high. In other words, you can’t help but put yourself in the protagonist’s shoes.
Context and Environment. Naturally, our environment plays a large role in the perception of fear and potentiating startle responses. In the right context and environment, our baseline startle reflex shows gradual elevation over the course of aversive conditioning (antagonizing the player).
This works both inside and outside the game. Out of the game, mood plays a large role in getting the most out of the experience (consider the importance of playing in a dark room, adjusting the gamma, and wearing headphones). Creating the right environment inside of the game is equally important and capitalizes off of our own neurobiology. For example, our fear of the dark stems from our evolved circadian rhythms that revolve around a diurnal (day-night) cycle making us vulnerable at night. Similarly nocturnal animals like rats exhibit very similar startle responses, only in the light.
The use of light has always created a sense of helplessness and a shrouded and mysterious environment creating ambience in the survival horror genre. Alan Wake (top) and Dead Space 2 (bottom).
It should be noted that the appropriate context can also elicit fear in not so dangerous objects or cues. Fear conditioning with auditory cues can still cause anxiety, with the auditory cue and no immediate aversive stimuli.
An example of this is best exemplified by F.E.A.R.’s antagonist Alma, a little girl who can do rather terrible things. Additionally the unpredictability of aversive stimuli (such as a little girl vs. a man with a chainsaw) increases our perceived anxiety and fear.
In the case of F.E.A.R., game designer Craig Hubbard said that “…a guy in a mask chasing co-eds with a meat cleaver can be scary, but on some level you’re thinking to yourself, you could probably kick his ass if you got the drop on him… But when a spooky little girl takes out an entire Delta Force squad, how are you supposed to deal with that?”
Integrating Terror into Gameplay
Achieving scares and interactivity in the horror genre is no easy feat. Whereas other games challenge the player’s ability to solve a puzzle or take down an array of enemies, the survival horror genre challenges a hardwired and highly adaptive response to threats. To establish one good startle, you need to take into account the ability for your design to establish a baseline of expectations with your environment and the purpose of your character in that environment, build anxiety, connect with the character, and remove any control the player may have (consider the importance of the first 10-15 minutes of Dead Space and the player’s first encounter with an enemy).
This design often leads to the scripted scare (i.e. Pyramid Head’s non-confrontational spooky/disturbing appearances scattered throughout Silent Hill 2), which can remind us of the linearity of gameplay and a lack of a personalized experience/choice and replay value.
Top: Dead Space’s first/scripted encounter with a necromorph does not give the player a chance to fight back, but removes control and increases anxiety. Bottom: Scripted moment with Pyramid Head omniously staring at James Sunderland through impenetrable bars.
This raises the additional challenge of creating unpredictable moments while playing. For example, in a game like Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, certain events can cue an “ice-world transition”, prepping the player to run in order to avoid danger.
The first time, such an event can create anxiety but not as much after the third or fourth. This does not mean that these events fail to create anxiety in the player, but they do not achieve it to the same degree due to our own learning of what a player must do in order to play/win.
Similarly in Dead Space, some players can plan their confrontations by prepping themselves to orient their attack to nearby vents or gratings. In fact, once they do, their experience with the game is not one of fear, but of confrontation and seizing power.
Top: Necromorph whack-a-mole in Dead Space. Bottom: Ice transitions in Silent Hill: Shattered Memories = run.
It seems that with the growing tendency of video games to move towards more visceral action/gore (Dead Space 2 vs Dead Space, or Resident Evil 4 and 5 vs Resident Evil 1 to 3) signals that it is easier to design an action game based off of a terror franchise instead of a true horror game that can succeed in the aforementioned principles of animal behavior.
As a neuroscientist, it is very rewarding for me to see science being used so elegantly in video games, and I can easily see this trend continue to appeal to an increasingly smart gaming audience. So, what can we learn from games like Amnesia, Silent Hill, F.E.A.R., etc.? And in more general terms, how can we implement basic principles of neuroscience into video games?
Clearly, the first step is to stay informed. Research in the sciences is extremely fast-paced, and most of the findings don’t reach the general audience until at least a decade later when they’re published in textbooks. The recent revolution in information exchange does not completely solve the problem and is a double-edged sword. It helps spread knowledge faster, but is often unreliable.
The second step is to be bold enough to experiment with new genres. Every now and then, a game comes along that creates a completely new way of thinking about video games. Although this is a risky approach, it is much needed in an industry that boasts literally hundreds of games that follow the exact same recipe.
Finally, it is important to form a solid emotional bond between the game (or the main character) and the player. RPGs do this beautifully by blurring the line between the gamer and his avatar. For non-RPGs, the task is less straightforward.
One of the ways to establish/strengthen the bond is to elicit very strong emotions in the gamer. Games in the survival horror do this using fear, which can be very effective. However, it is not the only way. We have recently seen an onslaught of different games that capitalize on a range of different emotions such as grief (Graveyard, Tale of Tales), love and loss (Dear Esther, Thechineseroom), etc. It is clearly evident that the era of “one size fits all” video games is long gone.
At the end of the day, it’s important to know your audience before you can sell them a product. With the abundance of game studios, whether it’s the triple-A industry or the budding indie games, no developer can risk making a game that will flop. Understanding what humans find engaging/stimulating/addictive is necessary in making a given video game a success.
篇目6，The Interplay of Fear and Power In Horror Games- Or, How To Make Manly Men Cry.
by Josh Bycer
We’re one month away from October, which can only mean one thing: discussing horror elements in games. In the past I’ve talked about horror design in games, such as examining why “Fight or Flight” needs to be around. With the recent release of Warhammer 40k: Space Marine, it reminded me of another game in the Warhammer universe. Space Hulk: Vengeance of the Blood Angels, which came out for the 3d0 in the 90s and as I thought about it, the game is an excellent example of how to do fear while giving the player power, which led me to thinking about the guidelines for how to do this.
1. Player Has To Fight Back At All Times:
While I enjoyed Amnesia: The Dark Decent as an adventure game, I don’t consider it scary for one reason: the player cannot defend themselves.
Going to back to an article I wrote awhile ago, the fight or flight response is part of human nature, as our brains have to make a split second decision in a dangerous situation to either stay and fight or run away and release the corresponding neurotransmitters. When you remove half the equation, it restricts the options the player has. In Amnesia, I didn’t even bother running away when I was caught by a monster because I could just let it kill me and try again. There was more work involved with running away then just retrying.
By having both fight and flight as available options, it forces the player to make that decision. This was one area where Alan Wake succeeded, as the player is constantly outnumbered by the enemies in the game, forcing the player to decide if they can take them on, or try to run to the next safe area.
Another side of this is games that allow the player to fight back, but only at specific times. In Haunting Ground, the player for the most part, is chased by an enemy who wants to kill them with no means to hurt them. At the end of each area there is an actual boss fight where the player has to find a way to put them down.
The problem with this is that the game is still exemplifying one response at a time. Flight during the adventure segments, and then fight at the boss fights. In order for the responses to work, the player must have both options available at all times, if you lock the player in a room with a boss, then it’s no longer a horror game but an action game as the player knows that their only option is to fight.
In Space Hulk, the general plot is that you part of the Blood Angels, a group of space marines whose task it is to keep aliens from taking over planets. In the game, your main foes are the genestealers, aliens who infect races with their DNA to cause their species to grow. From reading the basic plot that was in the manual, the space marines are the kind of people who take on any challenge no matter how suicidal and fight to the last man.
The player is always outnumbered by the stealers and with squad members persistent across maps, they have to decide when to keep moving, or when to stay and fight. While it is easy for the player to survive with a full squad as backup, getting everyone back alive is a completely different story.
2. Enemies Have To Fight At A Different Level Then the Player:
One of the basic rules of horror is that you should be experiencing something that you are not accustomed to. While horror games get this right to a degree with weird monster designs, many miss the point that enemies should not fight from the same rulebook as the player.
Tell me, why is it that Gears of War is considered an action title and Dead Space is a horror title, when both games have the protagonist fighting otherworldly enemies with advanced weaponry? The difference is that in Gears of War, the majority of the enemies fight the same way as the player, using guns and grenades. While in Dead Space, the enemies are completely different from the player, both in how they attack and how to kill them. With Dead Space, the monsters or necromorphs can only be killed by severing their limbs, as they will just regenerate from body or head shots.
In Space Hulk, the player’s squad is heavily armored and uses powerful weapons to stop their enemies. The marines’ standard load-out includes a ranged gun and a power glove for close quarters. As a marine, they have the advantage of ranged attacks, and in a one to one fight against the genestealers they will win.
The stealers on the other hand, are quicker and better at close quarters due to their powerful claws. If they attack a marine from behind, that marine is dead before he turns around. The stealers also move through vents and can appear behind the marine group, even with a motion detector the player has to be on the lookout. The last, and most dangerous advantage, is that the stealers will always outnumber the marines and in many levels, they will infinitely spawn.
As you can see, Space Marine is about asymmetrical balance, both sides are completely different and how the player reacts and fights, is not the same as the enemy. Going to Fatal Frame 3 for a second, the player is at a constant disadvantage when fighting ghosts, as they can disappear and reappear while going through walls, floors and ceilings to attack the player.
One problem I had with the Silent Hill series is that while the monster designs were unique, the majority of the enemies followed the same attack pattern: get in close to do damage. Since the player’s main weapons are close range, both interactions are similar (with the pyramid head fights of Silent Hill 2 the exception).
3. Linearity Should Be Avoided:
One of the biggest ways to remove horror in your games is to have linear attacks, as once the player knows that the game is setup this way, it removes the tension.
With F.E.A.R, the game is split between action and horror segments. During action, the player is attack by the enemies, while in horror; they wander around while creepy stuff happens. The problem is that nothing scary happens during the action segments, and there is no danger while the horror segments play out (until the very end of the game.) Instead of being scared, I was more relaxed while the game was trying to scare me as I knew I was in no immediate danger.
When you can make the players guess, as to when the next attack is, it increases the tension and horror. The reason is that constant feeling of “when am I going to be attack?”. That buildup is an excellent source of fear, but it has to have a breaking point when the player is finally attacked. If they go through an entire area and not be attacked at all, then the buildup was for nothing.
In Space Hulk, the player’s only way to tell that there is danger is their motion sensor. Similar to the movie Aliens, it beeps louder as something dangerous gets closer. With Space Hulk, there are times that the sensor will go off, and there won’t be an attack, other times the player will have to defend themselves. This keeps the tension high, as the player doesn’t know when the next attack is coming, only that there is one on the way.
In order for the horror genre to get out of its current rut in my opinion, it has to take a cue from rogue-likes and implement randomized enemy positions and attacks. The faster they move on from “monster closets”, the better for the genre. I would also like to play a horror game, where the enemies won’t always attack the player, like in Space Hulk, making the player question if this situation will turn dangerous.
4. If The Player Evolves, So Must the Enemies:
Becoming more powerful gives the player a feeling of security and can lower the tension of the game and can be used to provide the player with an area that is toned down as they can now fight back effectively. The problem with horror games is that they forget to ratchet the tension back up, and the best way to do that is to have the enemies evolve.
Alan Wake suffers from this, as the game goes on the player is introduced to more weapons and grenade types, however the enemies never change. Some enemies may require more light to weaken, but the process remains the same from beginning to end.
In Dead Space, the player will get new weapons and armor as the game progresses and the designers did implement new enemies to challenge the player, including two fights with an enemy who could only be wounded by their weapons, not killed.
The moments in Silent Hill 2, where the player encounters the pyramid head monsters are scary, as this is something different from the normal enemies the player fights. Getting up close to one is suicide when they start swinging their over-sized swords, forcing the player to either fight from afar, or run away.
As the player progresses in Space Hulk, they will be promoted with new weapons, including ones that grant the player an advantage in melee combat. As the game goes on, the player will fight new types of genestealers, along with chaos marines, which are the evil version of the player. Later enemy types include stealers who have psychic attacks, such as pyrokinesis, or making your weapons act up. The point is that while the player becomes more powerful, the enemy is growing in their own way to challenge the player.
It’s important to note for this category, that if the player doesn’t evolve then the enemy doesn’t have to. In the Fatal Frame series, the player will be using their camera as the only means to defend themselves from beginning to end. The camera can be upgraded to do more damage, but that coincides with fighting stronger ghosts that have more health. Later ghosts do have different attack patterns, but the way to defeat them remains the same.
5. Give the player downtime:
Going back to randomizing attacks to keep the player tense, there should always be a period of rest or safety to wind things down. The reason is that if the player is constantly being bombarded with horror, they’ll become desensitized to the situation. Even though I didn’t find Amnesia scary, I do appreciate the fact that the designers did give the player periods of safety, where they can focus on the puzzle solving and nothing else.
Of course giving the player a safe zone can be used against them at some point. One of the best moments of fear in Fatal Frame 3, was how the period of safety slowly trickled away as the game went on, I don’t want to say anymore as it would ruin the event.
If you want to challenge the player to figure out what is going on or make important decisions, they need time to process the events of the game, where they aren’t running for their lives or fighting against strange creatures.
Space Hulk has an interesting way of doing this. Once the player reaches the point where they can give squad members orders, they can use the pause screen to view a map of the area to accomplish this. A meter at the bottom of the screen slowly drains, representing that time is currently frozen, allowing the player to think and command in safety. Once the meter runs out, time starts again and the player will now have to command while enemies are attacking. As the player is controlling their character, the meter fills back up again allowing them more time to think.
We all have different degrees of fear, that’s just human nature. However, I think that the points in this entry can serve as a focal point, which will scare any player. One of my design goals is to create a game that gives the player all kinds of weapons: shotguns, rocket launchers, flamethrowers etc, and yet is still completely terrified of the dark and unknown. With that said if I do make that game at one point, I have one bit of advice for you: be afraid, be very afraid.
篇目7，A new age of survival horror games, thanks to indie developers
by Mike Rose
Horror in video games is constantly evolving. Where we may have once associated increasingly action-based franchises like Resident Evil as being the pinnacle of what horror games can offer, the dish of the day is now fear and tension: the idea that something may be lurking just around the corner that you cannot easily fend off.
Capcom producer Masachika Kawata said earlier this year that there simply isn’t a large enough market for the good old-fashioned “survival horror” angle and that players want action over terror. Yet the success of 2010′s Amnesia: The Dark Descent and the brewing hype for its sequel suggest otherwise.
The last few weeks have seen a couple of notable horror titles released, both of which explore the genre in completely different ways, yet both still manage to capture that sense of true fear without the use of high-octane action.
Slender, based on the Slender Man mythos that originated from the Something Awful forums, takes a ‘freak out’ approach to horror, putting the player in a position where they are being pursued by a tall figure through a wooded area, yet have no means of defending themselves.
In comparison, Anna from Dreampainters is a more traditional adventure game based in a real-life sawmill in Italy. While the player never actually encounters any enemies, darkness and sound are used to suggest that something or someone is always watching you.
Helplessness, unpredictability and atmosphere
Slender’s creator Mark Hadley believes there are a number of key elements to making a horror game the scariest it can be — the largest factor being the feeling of helplessness.
“I think being in a helpless situation definitely makes for scarier moments in any game,” he tells Gamasutra. “Amnesia did this very well, and it’s one of my favorites because of this.”
“That’s not to say being able to fight back removes some of the fear factor,” he adds. “Helplessness can always be a good element as long as it isn’t frustratingly overwhelming; it has to feel possible to win. Even if you can fight back, however, it can be scary if the rest of the elements fall into place.”
Hadley thinks unpredictability is another huge element in building up terror in players. While scripted elements can work wonders if placed in such a way that maximum surprise is achieved, they can always work against the grain of the adventure, causing the experience to lose some of its scare factor.
“Sometimes just causing elements to be shifted around randomly adds a bit of uncertainty that’s always present. And that kind of hangs over your head as you play, in order to really produce that sense of dread,” he notes. “That’s why games like Left 4 Dead, for example, can be scary even though you’re often armed to the teeth; you never know if there’s a Tank waiting around that next corner, thanks to the randomizing elements of the game.”
This, he argues, was one of the only issues that Amnesia had – “it’s a fantastically scary experience the first time you play, but after that it loses a lot of the dread since you know what’s coming.”
Scripted sequences also mean that you’re essentially ramping up the “jump factor,” startling them rather than scaring them.
“Jump scares have their place, don’t get me wrong, but if your game is nothing but jump scares, that’s not a horror game,” says Hadley. “If you create a creepy atmosphere first, you can lead up to a jump scare and it becomes a lot more effective. If you do the suspense right, you can even scare someone without startling them.”
The way in which a horror game tackles atmosphere, from shadows bouncing off the walls to eerie echoes originating from an unknown source, is the difference between a winning or losing formula, no matter how you’ve tackled other elements.
Says Hadley, “Without the right sound and visuals, it won’t work. That said, this should be the icing on the cake, not the cake itself. By that I mean, it’s meant to enhance the horror, not try to substitute it.
“That doesn’t mean that everything has to be drenched in shadow and ominous music; it’s surprising how effective a moment of silence can be, for instance.”
Fear through fear itself
Dreampainters’ Simone Tagliaferri had a clear picture of what his team was looking to accomplish with Anna. The game, set in Val d’Ayas, Italy, begins in a lush, bright rural setting, as the player looks to resurrect memories from their past.
This all quickly descends into madness once the player enters the sawmill, however, with an unknown, haunting female voice constantly trying to ward the player away. Symbolism and messages also play a huge part in setting the scene.
“We have tried to create a blend between an old graphic adventure and a modern psychological thriller,” notes Tagliaferr.
“We didn’t want to put monsters or other enemies inside the house. They are needless in a setting like this. To tell the truth, Anna doesn’t want to kill the main character: she wants to scare him enough to let him go away. The sawmill is designed to repel its visitors.”
Indeed, Anna works through the concept that some sort of terrified spirit is attempting to keep people away through terror — an idea that isn’t often explored in video games.
Tagliaferr also notes Amnesia as having an impact on how his team approached the development of Anna, while also citing the Darkness Within graphic adventure series.
As for action horror titles like Resident Evil, he says that these work well as action games, but in terms of horror, as they simply cannot offer the tension of adventure-based game.
“Playing with Resident Evil 5, you only have to think about how to kill enemies — You don’t fear them,” he says. “At least, no more than a generic soldier in Call of Duty.”
篇目8，our ways to make better horror games
by Leigh Alexander
Amid new opportunities for horror games, Gamasutra’s Leigh Alexander looks at four frightening concepts that go beyond hacking, slashing and shooting.
In recent years, the horror genre seems among the largest casualties of the rise of action games and first-person shooters in the home console space. It’s challenging to create fear in games that are all about head-on confrontation and quick reflexes. That’s not to say it can’t be done, but the aesthetic of the gruesome prevails above most other approaches.
The contraction of Japan’s game industry has affected the breadth and tone of the horror genre too, thanks to some clear differences between the ways Eastern and Western cultures each generally approach fear.
It’s safe to say that Western approaches to horror in media usually involve the direct and the seen: There is often a clear enemy known to audiences if not to the story’s characters (it’s why we like to yell futile instructions to oblivious film protagonists — don’t open that door!). We always learn why the axe murderer became crazed, or what the source of the demonic evil is. Most of the time, scares come from strong visual imagery or the threat of physical harm to the characters.
On the other hand, the horror media to come out of Japan and Korea tends to create dread from the unknown and the unexplained, and themes of family, ghosts and folklore are more popular than violence and gore. In the previous console generation, the most frightening games, like Resident Evil, Silent Hill or Fatal Frame, among others, all hailed from Japanese creators.
The franchises that thrive today seem to have lost a certain something in their pursuit of Westernization — Resident Evil remains as popular as ever, but what began as an eerie experience exploring haunted mansions and clinging to precious resources is now a spry action title where we watch over characters’ brawny shoulders as they mow down hordes of zombies.
Each new Silent Hill game is received more poorly than the last, even when developers try earnestly to imitate whatever certain something made Konami’s early titles so seminal.
Another factor in the diminishment of the horror genre is the way PC gaming culture has changed: The point-and-click puzzle and exploration games of the late ’90s and early millennium used to be the primary kind of experience on offer, and now the adventure game as we once knew it is all but gone. The adventure game space had just begun trying to explore darker, scarier themes (to debatable degrees of success) in games like 7th Guest or Phantasmagoria, when things seemed to take a left turn.
Fortunately for horror game fans, today’s changing business models on PC mean adventure and storytelling games have an opportunity for resurgence. Downloadable and independent games are serious forces in the industry, quality ratchets up ever more quickly and creatives are hungry to explore new kinds of experiences — or to revisit and reappropriate bits and pieces of design from game forms that we might have once been overly-eager to throw out whole.
The result is a thriving indie horror game scene that’s going less and less under the radar; recently Home, a creepy little homage to what we used to love about story-based horror, got praise and attention from a broad array of consumer outlets. The terrifying Slender emerged from internet “creepypasta” lore and is free to play (that one in particular is fascinating, because it suggests new figures of fear can emerge not from history or old film monsters, but from modern digital folklore).
And there’ve been more obvious commercial examples of game successes that prove people still want to be terrified by things other than aliens and guns: Everybody loves Amnesia: The Dark Descent, and it was Limbo’s spooky, ruthless aesthetic that made it popular. Examples are everywhere.
Four ways to horrify
It’s interesting to think about what makes games like these truly scary, especially since the formula for horror seems precarious and easy to get wrong, if you look at the rate at which fans feel worried about the genre. Since it seems horror games have an opportunity to thrive again, let’s look at techniques for creating fear in players. We know that environmental audio is essential, and it’s also fairly well-understood how scarcity of resources or weaponry makes players feel more vulnerable. But take note of four ideas you may not have considered:
Ambiguity. Clear goals and methods for measuring performance toward goals are key to giving your player a satisfying experience, and vagueness has rightly never been a particularly popular quality for games. But in horror, it’s the things left unsaid that engage the player’s imagination; you can direct the player clearly through visual and sound cues, or key bits of information.
But think of what keeps folks hooked on scary movies: They’re hoping to find out who’s responsible for a terrible event and why. They’re watching to see whether the hero survives. When a player can’t see further than what their flashlight illuminates, it’s scary. If a player isn’t sure whether he or she can trust a narrator, it’s scary. When you’re able to make it so the player can’t trust that some things are what they seem, it creates that sense of psychic unsettlement that’s key to fear.
And withholding some information from the player can help set up thrilling revelations later. Silent Hill 2 is an excellent example of the ambiguity principle working well — won’t spoil anything for you here, but the game is engaging because of the player’s persistent, accurate hunch that there’s something darker afoot than what the protagonist can acknowledge.
Strong sense of place. There are a wide range of locales frequently used in horror; somewhere along the line someone found something scary about it, and it became sort of standard. The cool thing about horror is that tropes can actually be used well; even though the “creepy hospital” has been done countless times across media for as long as anyone can remember, it still works, because when players sees certain “creepy hospital” visual cues, they understand immediately they’re in a dangerous place.
Hotels, prisons, schools and mansions frequently appear in scary media too, because of the fact they carry long legacies inside their walls. Knowing why each of these environments work and being able to use culturally-universal “scary places” to strong effect is important, but the games that have unnerved me the most are ones that use place to subvert expectations. For example, if the player is led to believe early on in a game that her home, bedroom or other regularly-visited place is safe, it’s more terrifying later when something about it changes.
The Silent Hill games regularly use the same kinds of locations — dilapidated apartments, hospitals and foggy streets — and somehow that seems to empower those places rather than create fatigue. But Silent Hill 4 gave the player a home to depart from and return to. As the game progresses, the player’s safe place grows increasingly vulnerable to invasion and unpredictable. Creating strongly-individual spaces for players and then manipulating expectations is a great way to unsettle them.
Relationship with protagonist. It’s especially essential in horror games that the player has some emotion toward the character he or she plays, and it’s easy to assume that the relationship you want to forge with the player involves empathy. If players feel for the hero, then they’ll fear for the character’s safety, and therefore they’ll get scared when anything might happen to that character. Or they’ll be able to project themselves into the situation, thereby feeling closer to it through the hero.
But sometimes other kinds of relationships can create more opportunities to surprise and unsettle the player. 2005′s Haunting Ground cast the player as a powerless young girl who could really only run from her aggressors, and who was prone to entering an ungovernable, heart-pounding panic if her circumstances became too demanding.
Trapped in a castle with some creepy alchemical types that wanted to use her body, she wasn’t the kind of character anyone would want to be, and the way the game treated her was incredibly uncomfortable. Yet in Haunting Ground’s case it made the game more frightening and gross, as the player often experienced profound distress, discomfort and unsettlement at the protagonist’s circumstances. It felt considered and intentional on the part of the designers, too, versus the oblivious way games often treat vulnerable women.
Subtle changes in atmosphere. There are other ways to play with players’ expectations than subverting sense of place or creating unexpected dynamics between player and protagonist. Traditional horror game fans love exploration, and seem to enjoy games that reward their attention to detail. When something routine they expect to find changes locations, or when the environment around them appears tampered-with, it both excites their curiosity and amplifies the fear.
Sierra’s Phantasmagoria is a bizarre 1990s experiment in creating a mature, adult horror game with the best technology of the time. It’s known as the first game to use a live actor as an on-screen player character. Incredibly ambitious, it frightened and entertained many in its day — now it holds up so poorly it’s silly, very much a relic from a weird left-turn for adventure games.
Still, the way the game world evolves as the story progresses is an interesting example of how atmosphere changes can evoke fear. The player has to explore a massive house that once belonged to a sinister magician, and much of his property remains behind. Yet each chapter things change; a whimsical fortune-telling machine the player can check becomes more forbidding, its merry tune a little darker each chapter.
The late magician’s cigarettes and alcohol seem to be inexplicably disappearing bit by bit. The player’s computer shows increasingly garbled warnings. Even the music changes, its apprehensive tone gradually evolving into a heavier tune — later on, it even sounds like whoever is ‘playing’ it is making mistakes.
This infuses the key act of exploration with a sense of dread, especially important in a game that all takes place in the same house. It’s because the player is never allowed to feel like he or she has mastered the environment, which would certainly lessen the fear.