By: Prashanth Vijayaraghavan
One of the most powerful mediums that can be used in horror is also the most over-looked. While nearly everyone has seen a horror movie, the amount of people who have played a “survival horror” video game is sure to be in the minority. While it is true that horror themed video games are not as popular as their silver screen counter-parts, because games are dependent on player input, they posses several advantages that add to the horror of a story, making them one of the best ways to scare. To demonstrate some of these benefits I will use the critically acclaimed game “Resident Evil 4” (2005) for reference due to its use of horror tactics that are now pervasive in the survival horror genre.
The obligation of video games that sets it apart from other forms of media is the direct engagement of an individual (known as the player) to control a fictional character on screen (known as the avatar). One result of this relationship that can be particularly scary is that your character can die, often times due to your mistakes. Since you control the character, it No matter your level of engagement in a movie, you cannot change the outcome of a protagonist, however in a video game, poor performance will have your character decapitated or mutilated in front of you, an example of which can be seen here. Additionally, you are not only responsible for letting your character “not die”, but also for progression of the story. While it may seem tense to watch a hero shoot through a wave of zombies, the situation is infinitely more nerve wrecking when it is you who must do the shooting and must depend on your own dexterity for survival.
Video games also have the advantage of being animated and programmed. Because they don’t take place in the real world, the grotesque and sinister nature of the monsters is only as limited as the artist’s imagination. Even a game that was created over 8 years ago (a very long time in terms of video game advancement) has creatures that can top any computer graphics or make-up artist in Hollywood, as can be seen in this short cut scene. There is no “close your eyes during the scary part” in a video game. You must be engaged at all times.
Video games are look down upon by some, alien to others, and loved by many, yet every single person who has picked up a controller will speak to the uniqueness of this medium. It is this uniqueness that can makes video games one of the best methods to tell a horror story, yet these few aspects are just a taste of what survival horror video games have to offer the horror genre and story telling as a whole. For those of you who seldom play video games, I highly recommend giving a survival horror game a shot. It will be an experience unlike anything you’ve ever encountered. I’ll leave you with my most terrifying moment in “Resident Evil 4”. (Enjoy)