By: Michael “Mitch” Mitchell (horror alum)
Horror can mean different things to different people. For most, horror in the classic sense is sitting around and watching scary movies — the films that feature the inhuman, the supernatural, and all manner of evil in between. For some, horror is reading a book that they can’t put down, while still being afraid to turn the page. But with horror becoming more and more prominent, people are trying to find new ways to scare and be scared.
One of these ways has been finding new methods of storytelling. 2007’s Paranormal Activity jump-started the found-footage genre, while video games have evolved over the years from psychological horrors like the Silent Hill games to more action-heavy survival-horror titles like the latter Resident Evil games. Somewhere in between those, though, is the upcoming augmented-reality game, Night Terrors.
The game, which utilizes your cell phone’s different features to create its experience, turns your own home into the setting of its story. The idea is that you’re playing the game with all the lights off and your headphones in while holding the phone in front of you to progress through the game. If you’ve ever seen someone playing Pokémon GO with the AR feature on, it’s kind of like that!
As you walk through your home, the game maps your environment to detect where walls, ceilings, and the like are. In doing so, it can create effects such as paintings falling down the wall or rubble falling from the ceiling above you. It also uses this to guide you through the story itself, leading you room-to-room in order to save the little girl who’s being trapped by malevolent entities. On your way there, your camera’s light will occasionally flash, creatures will jump out at you, and you’ll hear all kinds of strange noises that you can’t help but feel are actually there.
This last part is especially important — the game’s creators have gone a long way to make a binaural experience that elevates the sound being background noise. There is a directionality to the sound; if something sounds like it’s coming from your left, it’ll get louder as you turn and get closer. Listening to the sound is a big part of the puzzle, as the game asks you to do what instinct tells you not to: Follow the haunting noises.
It’s hard to put into words just exactly how scary the use of sound can be. If you’ve never experienced something that uses three-dimensional sound, you’re in for a (scary) treat. At one point during my play-through of the demo, a little girl whispered in my ear and I actually turned because my body knew where the sound was coming from. At other times, I heard noises growing louder and tried to aim my phone as close to the edge of my periphery as possible, for fear of what I knew was inevitably coming.
If you’re a fan of horror, you’ll want to give this game a try. It asks you to fully immerse yourself in the experience, and if you’re willing to do so, it’s guaranteed to scare. The full version will be out on Halloween, but if you’re eager to give it a test run, there’s a demo available as well. I wasn’t sure what to expect the first time I gave it a try, but I definitely wound up more scared than I expected to be.
But that’s part of the fun — finding new ways to enjoy horror, finding what does or does not scare you, and letting yourself kept swept up within an environment created to scare. And the best part of Night Terrors is that the environment is whatever familiar location you choose it to be — your apartment, your basement, your dorm… your choice!
(Below is a slideshow of some pictures Mitch took while playing the game.)