The World of Scary Video Games provides a detailed overview of today’s Video Game genre, dealing exclusively with the popular games branded as horror or action-adventure. It examines how video games have elicited fear, horror, and terror since Silent House ( 1981). It then goes on to deal with how video games, particularly the horror niche, have evolved since that time. It concludes by briefly looking at the resurgence of video game sales and the future of this industry.
The popularity of horror titles has waned over the past few years. This is largely due to the development of more interactive and open-ended titles. For example, Mass Effect (2021) revolved around a space adventure where the player had to survive a deadly virus outbreak. This caused the character to be placed into different situations, resulting in the player coming out the victor or becoming a casualty of circumstance. Similarly, the Tomb Raider series is less violent and more Gothic in tone, resulting in more intense reactions from players.
Scary Video Games
Another factor contributing to the decline of jump scare popularity is the success of titles such as World of Warcraft (WoW) and Plants vs. Zombies (PvZ). PvZ, in particular, is perhaps the best known of all jump scare titles. It involves the player stepping into a small door within a maze-like environment and being unable to get out. The objective of surviving is thus to eat a variety of zombies and plants to replenish the supply of food and energy. The objective in WoW is not to actually kill the monsters but to simply stay alive long enough to complete the game. In short, WoW provides the purest form of a jump scare game.
But just because a game provides the ultimate jump scare doesn’t mean it’s completely without the dark elements. Games have always had their fair share of gruesome characters, often to represent the worst kinds of villains in popular literature and film. A perfect example would be Dracula. Though he was a fictional character originally introduced in a novel, his image has stuck with people from that time until now. So why do people play survival and horror video games that involve gruesome characters?
One reason may be the fact that scary stories, at least those that do not occur in the real world, are one of the most effective ways to create fear. Psychological researchers have found a link between how much of a person’s fear of a situation is related to the intensity of its emotional impact. Thus, if someone is scared after seeing a frightening movie, their fear may be even greater when trying to solve a puzzle or other difficult task.
In addition to the extreme physiological reactions a person may experience, some people find the act of solving puzzles and avoiding the feelings of horror more emotionally rewarding. It may be that playing one of these survival horror games really helps to reduce stress. But this effect may be related only to the degree of difficulty. In addition, if a puzzle requires a mental effort, the brain’s processing power may actually be increased. As is the case with any form of exercise, playing a puzzle can increase one’s cognitive abilities.
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Many video games are available that combine elements of horror movies with puzzles. But a new development in the field of puzzle-solving is also beginning to emerge. The Reverse Funnel System claims to allow players to make use of the natural tendency to move in a direction that seems to serve a purpose. For instance, the player might find themselves following a path that seems to lead them to a spot of good luck. When they do eventually reach their goal, however, they see that it is just an illusion. In this way, the Reverse Funnel System breaks the usual habits associated with playing video games and allows the player to enjoy the game even more because they are able to solve the puzzle in some different way.
The popularity of the scary theme in video games like Dead Space makes it clear that there is definitely a market for the type of game that features a zombie-slashing, death-dealing bad guy. The same basic premise underlies many of the current successful theme games, such as Limbo or the newer wave of survival theme games like Cards Against Humanity. But the original premise, which is terrifying in itself, lends itself well to a horror game where the player must escape from a monster.