Thanks to some of our classmates, my roommates and I recently had the opportunity to play P.T. For those of you who do not know what P.T. is, it’s a horror game demo available for the PS4. If you’re feeling curious, check this article out, but be warned – it contains spoilers!
Anyway, we walked away from the experience sufficiently terrified, as expected. But as we were making our way back to our apartment, my roommate asked, “Why do people make games that are so scary?!”
It was a casual question, and a rhetorical one at that, but it got me thinking. People have enjoyed the horror genre for generations, and it fascinates me because said enjoyment doesn’t make sense. Why do we enjoy watching things that scare the living daylights out of us and potentially leave us traumatized? Why do we, after recovering, go on to recommend the same pieces of media, whether they are movies, novels, or even games, to our friends?
The answer is this: the experience. We’ve all felt something while watching horror movies, be it disgust, fear, or even amusement. And we’ve told others to watch them because we want them to experience the same things that we did (and get a laugh out of it in the process).
But herein lies another question: why horror? And my answer to this question is simple: fear is a strong emotion that can be easy to evoke en masse. Maybe this is because different things bring joy and satisfaction to different people. Different things make people feel sadness in different ways. But there are some concepts that bring fear to a large percentage of the human population, even beyond the grotesque: darkness and shadows, the unknown, isolation, and so on. And games like P.T. feed off these fears, and feed off the knowledge that the people who enjoy them will recommend them to other people.
I’ve never been a fan of horror. And yet, within the last year or so, I’ve managed to play through a few indie horror games like Ib and The Crooked Man with my friends. I’ve enjoyed watching walkthroughs for Five Nights at Freddy’s and Slender. And why? It might be because within the last few years, I’ve been introduced to games that have evoked emotional responses from me. I’ve come to realise that there is more to games than just the act of completing them. And rather than my accomplishments, I’ve felt the urge to share my experiences with my friends.
Games such as Flower and Journey are still popular today, and this is because they managed to create well-rounded game experiences that a large group of gamers was able to enjoy. They evoked (and continue to evoke) a myriad of emotions in people: elation, peace, frustration, excitement, curiosity, and fear as well. And although successful horror games do this with just a single primary emotion, they do it with finesse, and leave people with the same feeling of having experienced something great.
Are there any games that you would say you’ve experienced rather than played?