Gaming Pop Quiz, Halloween Edition

Well gents, today is Halloween, which means that we’re back with a brand new edition of Gaming Pop Quiz, this time all about the genre of horror games and all of the frights therein.

If I’m being honest, I haven’t always the biggest fan of horror games, but I can remember some truly terrifying moments in games that I’ve loved. Whether it was the Berserker battle in Gears of War or hearing that Tank music cue in Left 4 Dead, there’s nothing quite like the thrill of a truly scary event that smacks you in the face while you play. And sometimes, the scariest games of all have nothing jumping out at you and announcing how frightening it is, but rather are dark and moody and full of something sinister, such as Myst or Limbo.

Anyway, I’m setting all of this up to give you a few awesome questions, naturally. As always with our getting-to-know-you type games, feel free to answer with as much or as little as you like. Answer to the best of your ability. Go!

1. What’s the scariest game you’ve played?

2. What makes a game scary to you?

3. Do you prefer sudden scares or a slow building of tension?

4. Is being vulverable important to the experience, or can games that empower you also be scary?

5. Horror can also be psychological: what games messed with your head?

6. List some of your most horrific and frightening boss battles.

7. What horror movies should be made into games?

8. There aren’t as many truly scary games made these days. In what ways could the genre improve?

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I write about samurai girls and space marines. Writer for Smooth Few Films. Rooster Teeth Freelancer. Author of Red vs. Blue, The Ultimate Fan Guide, out NOW!

11 thoughts on “Gaming Pop Quiz, Halloween Edition”

  1. 1) I’m not a big Horror game fan, but once in a while I do enjoy some heart-murdering tension. I guess anxiety is better horror material than OOGA-BOOGA’s. Anyway, one particular moment that was total fear was when I was playing Left 4 Dead on Expert and about half-way into a mission everyone else died, so I was all alone with my Auto Shotgun and Dual Pistols. I also had a Pipe Bomb and Health Kit, but no pills. And I survived. I was…damn. Every corner freaked the schist outta me, every Smoker cough made me get all paranoid. And I even had to face a Tank alone, but luckily it was near the end of the level so I was able to just dodge into the saferoom. Bloody heck, that was intense. I single-handedly punched a bunch of Hunters, fought off swarms of Infected, blasted Smokers, bitch-slapped Boomers, and crowned a witch, plus evaded that Tank. And I never got pinned or anything. I seriously don’t know how. But it was intense, scary, and got me mucho sexy points from my friends. Oh yeah, and my friends spawned in two rooms that I sure as hell wasn’t going to risk running through hordes of baddies for. Good times.

    2) Like I said above, anxiety. I can deal with mofos jumping out of nowhere, but if you think about, it’s actually the fact that you’re anticipating something attacking you unexpectedly that makes the moment scary. If you hear noises or just know that something is going to attack, but you don’t know when or where, that’s the tension and the fear. Once the baddy jumps out, you can yell and blast your shotgun, but before all that, you’re watching every corner, your eyes wide and your hands sweating like crazy, and you are wishing that the stalker would just get it over with. That is fear. That’s why Myst creeps people out more than typical gory freak fests with monsters that pop out of vents and then run at you down a hall. Sure, ooga-booga frights have their moments, but they need the prior anxiety in order to work.

    3) …Like I said before, tension is what makes something scary. It’s why you’re creeped out more by a stalker more than if a bunch of commandos armed to the teeth come yelling in from a mile away. Sure, you’ll shit your pants either way, but it’s not horror unless there’s that dread.

    4) Things that are stronger than us are naturally more frightening. I mean it’s quite obvious; when you can’t protect yourself effectively or at all, you’re going to be freaked out a lot more than if you have power armor or a big gatling gun.

    5) Hmmm…since I’m not a big Horror fan, I don’t have a list of good games off the top of my head. I suppose that one Nintendo game with the Insanity Meter is a good psychological mind fusk. And I suppose I could put Fallout up here, as in Fallout 1. The music coupled with the decayed world and the hideous creatures and environment makes for a chilling experience. You’re scared to be alive.

    6) Legion from Castlevania. Fuggin gross, bro. If any game can have a boss that hunts down the player, that will make for some heart-pounding evasion horror. That would be cool.

    7) Paranormal Activity. It’d be like that one old game where you have to use cameras to save the girls who are having their sleep-over party. And of course I jest.

    8) More tension, more atmosphere, less guns, less crappy controls.

  2. 1. F.E.A.R. is probably the only one I’ve played so far that i recall

    2. Not being able to interact with the environment “losing my guns” so to speak

    3. I like both in a wierd hybrid tension line that continues to go up but has many spikes along the way.

    4. If you meant vulnerable, then, yes. Other than that idk.

    5. Mass Effect. Those damn thresher maws….. and I didn’t like the beacon vision one bit

    6. Eh…..

    7. Zombieland?

    8. I’d say make sequences in which you are really sure you are safe, then WHAM!! I remember Dead Space employing this kind of tactic in one of their Dev. Videos.

  3. 1. Penumbra.
    2. The story, atmosphere.
    3. Both.
    4. The great thing about penumbra was that you DIDN’T have any weapons, you had to run and hide.
    5. Penumbra, FEAR 2 also did mess with my head. It made me feel really lonely all the time, also betrayed and doomed.
    6. None.
    7. Thanksgiving, the movie that only had a fake trailer in between Grindhouse and Planet Terror.
    8. Make the player less powerful, make him feel like there is no escape, make things happen when the player wants them to happen the less.

  4. 1. easily Penumbra

    2. It’s always about atmosphere. Too many games ( and movies ) rely on little asian girls to be scary, it’s kind of warn off.

    3. Definitely tension, but there’s always a few things that make me jump regardless.

    4. Putting you alone makes me vulnerable. Even if i have an AI partner, I’m far less stressed out. Safety is a state of mind!

    5. Doom III messed with my head, not being able to have your flashlight out at the same time as your gun really got me going.

    6. Probably from Silent Hill games, or RE:3 Nemesis.

    7. There are enough bad horror movies, I think we can live without another.

    8. Look at Penumbra. Don’t give your character guns, make him scrounge around for items that seem useless to solve puzzles. Couldn’t have done it any better.

    Great questions!

  5. 1. It was Penumbra until I played Amnesia: The Dark Descent.

    2. Not seeing or knowing what is after you can really build up tension. let my mind fill in some of the gaps its much more scary that way.

    3. I love slow tenuous dread that creeps up on you and makes you fear the next corner simply because nothing has jumped out at you yet you know that something is still out there. Its much more scary when you don’t now whether or not someone will jump out than when they always do

    4. Vulnerability is important. Games that make you feel safe and then make you realize how vulnerable and weak you are can keep tension in places where you might really be safe.

    5. The scarecrow level in Batman AA where it looks like the game crashes but then puts you back at the beginning as the joker and tells you to doge the bullet using the non-existing middle stick drove me crazy until I realized that “it’s all ‘part of the plan.'”

    6. The Hunter Necrmorph from Dead space that cannot die and just chases you around until you can escape was pretty gnarly

    7. A cross between Rock Star’s Bully with the story of Let The Right One In could be cool. I agree with nevertell, any of the fake trailers from grindhouse would be awesome, Don’t,
    Werewolf Women of the SS, or Thanksgiving.

    8. Learn from the guys at Frictional Games. Seeing the enemy is not always as scary as not seeing it, atmosphere is key, and sound design can make or break a game.

  6. 1. Dead Rising one, I think. I don’t really play that many scary games, just like I don’t watch too many scary movies. Oh, the original F.E.A.R. had some freaky parts. The scariest part for me was when Paxton Fattel walked around a corner and clocked me with a 2×4 haha.

    2. Man, I got scared by my roommate saying “hi” to me once. I’m a very jumpy person.

    3. Sudden scared because at least they’re over quick. Building tension makes me feel sick when a game does it right.

    4. I’d prefer to be empowered because even if the game corners you, you can still fight back. You can be scared and feel powerful, but it’s a tricky balance.

    5. Um, none of them because I normally avoid them.

    6. Again, can’t think of anything. The Sorrow from MGS3 was freaky in a paranormal way, though.

    7. I don’t watch that many, like I said, but every horror movie seems to have had a crappy video game edition. Halloween had one on the NES, and I’ve heard that the SAW games are terrible.

    8. I think that game developers are trying to pay to much attention to the “game” aspect of horror games, where the “experience” of being scared should be at the forefront.

  7. 1. FEAR 1 or Dead Space. Alan Wake was pretty creepy too.
    2. Well designed environments (i.e. no blood poured in buckets everywhere) and good music and atmosphere. Alan Wake nailed this.
    3. Slow building of tension for sure. Again, Alan Wake nailed it.
    4. I think you have to be vulnerable. Look at FEAR 2. Being in a mech=not scary.
    5. Alan Wake, again.
    6. Almost every Resident Evil 4 boss.
    7. None.
    8. Stop relying on gore. Master the art of creating good environments without relying on flickering lights and buckets of blood. Throw away the gimmicks (As much as I loved Dead Space, it did use the timeless gimmick of thinking a body on the ground is dead and GUESS WHAT IT’S ALIIIIIIVE!)

  8. Oh, I forgot to mention Minecraft. When you’re deep, deep underground and suddenly you hear the “ssssss” of a Creeper, you will poop bricks. Guaranteed.

    Those things are creepy as all get out.

  9. I forgot to mention Demon’s Souls. When you have a large amount of souls in a blood stain and are trying not to die before you can pick them up, it gets really intense.

  10. 1. The scariest game I’ve ever played was probably Resident Evil 4, as it was my first foray (spelling?) into horror games. Boy, those Regenerators scare the crap out of me.

    2. What makes a game scary to me is the ambience and tension. A really good example of this is RE4’s brief moment where you control Ashley. The superb tension you get from running away from those knights combined with the dark and crowded rooms was really scary.

    3. That’s a tough one. Sudden scares are really good, but slow tension building stays with you even after you play the game. Often I’ll lie in bed thinking more about the resonance cascade in Half-Life than about that one time a zombie came out of nowhere.

    4. I think games that empower you are less scary, because they break that suspension of disbelief. It’s almost an arms race. To be scary, an enemy or aspect has to be better than what you already can do or have.

    5. Bioshock definitely messed with my head. When the big thing happened in that game, I just stopped playing, because I didn’t know whose side to take anymore. I had to really fight with myself to pick it up and finish it.

    6. Regarding RE4, U3 wasn’t horrific, but it was tense as hell. On the opposite side, Bitores Mendez was all horror and no tension.

    7. That’s a hard one, as I don’t really watch many horror movies. I think a proper game should be made for 28 Days Later, in the style of Heavy Rain. The storytelling would blend perfectly with the gameplay.

    8. I think the genre could improve through the way violence is handled. When I watch something brutal happen in a horror game, it doesn’t have the same effect as watching something violent in a horror movie. I don’t wince or grimace. I don’t clutch my testicles as a reflex or make sure my legs are still attached.

    Great questionnaire. I had fun filling this one out.

  11. 1. The scariest games that I’ve played have usually been noncommercial games or mods. One that particularly struck me was Afraid of Monsters: Director’s Cut. It was a Half-Life mod that that used pretty much every single horror trick in the book.

    2. There’s a couple huge things. One is a feeling of never being safe. Resident Evil could never scare me because there were always safe areas of the game that I could duck into to catch my breath. Having a game where you think that you have a safe area and then you come back to it and there’s some sort of unbeatable monster sitting in there waiting for you, that’s going to scare the crap out of me. Overall, it mostly comes down to atmosphere.

    3. Slow building tension. What I like about horror is that it makes my emotions run wild and keeps me bottled up with the fear tearing apart my mind. With sudden scares, it lets out all the fear at once and instead of evoking any emotional response from me just leaves me kinda exhausted. That’s usually when I end up putting in a better game to play.

    4. Horror games that empower the player are hard to make scary. It’s very hard to feel scary unless there’s obviously some sort of threat that you have no idea how to stop. Resident Evil and Dead Space will turn you into a grenade-lobbing, flame throwing, dismembering murder machine, which is fun. To me, however, there’s nothing scary about either of those franchises.

    5. Penumbra. Oh lord, Penumbra.

    6. It’s really hard for me to think of any boss battles that actually had my scared. I’ll just say the final maze in Enemy Zero where you have to fight a whole bunch of invisible monsters with your crappy gun with limited ammo was really tense and scary.

    7. That’s really hard. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of anything. One of my favorite horror movies was The Thing, but when they made a game for that it was pretty bad. I’m just going to go ahead and say that I don’t think that any I would suggest licensing any horror movie games.

    8. The original Silent Hills, the D series, and many noncommercial mods and indie games seem to have horror down because they’re willing to take risks and so something really unique. Horror is a genre that has to constantly evolve to survive. Back in the 70’s, the hand shooting out of the grave at the end of Carrie was a real shock to most people, but today it would be considered cheesy. Back in the mid 90’s, the original Resident Evil scared some people, but now looking back at that it was a game with clunky controls, over the top weapons and story, and hilarious dialog. Horror has to constantly update itself, because once somebody’s seen something scary enough times they get used to it and tend to expect it, and once somebody is jaded to something horrific, seeing it will only make them sigh. Games can’t be scary just by having gore anymore, because the internet, other videogames, and movies bombard us with gore every other day. Games can’t be scary by having some sort of fleshy abomination anymore, because pretty much every action/sci-fi game out there uses that type of horror as stock enemies. Horror is just a genre that won’t be horrific without creativity.

    Great questions! Sorry I’m a week late for this, I haven’t been online much!

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