Thursday, November 1, 2012

Unconventionally Creepy Games

Image from PopMatters
This week at PopMatters, I wrote about games that creep me out even though they aren't in the horror genre.

If you listened to this week's podcast (which I highly recommend!), you'll be able to hear the basis of this post forming as I speak. I still stand by my assertion that games don't really scare me. It's not that I'm trying to be macho; it's the medium's fundamental nature that renders traditional horror techniques impotent. A game like Amnesia does a great job of setting a creepy tone and throwing in a bunch of jump scares, but it's also a very structured game. Puzzles, enemies, and environmental features behave in specific ways that can be learned and understood. Once I start to see the logic behind the madness, things just aren't as scary.

With this in mind, I decided to look for a handful of games that actually did unsettle me (albeit subtly). The common thread isn't a particular artistic style or thematic genre, but rather a willingness to subvert established mechanical foundations. Simply put, if I spend a few hours learning and then relying on my knowledge of a particular rule set only to encounter a situation that shakes that foundation, I get freaked out.

Also: I find myself increasingly fascinated by the river krusts in Dishonored. They're just so weird and gross. Plus, I found a note in the game that suggests they are hermaphroditic and can self-fertilize. I don't want to alarm anyone, but I think Dunwall could be in for a second plague. One of a slimy, crusty variety. One that can reproduce with an efficiency that would put tribbles to shame. One that must be cleansed by the pure, scouring wrath of flames. Yes, that's right my fellow citizens, we must burn the city to the ground if we are to save it!

Sorry; I got a bit carried away there. Fear will do that to you.

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