Sure, watching a masked killer chase after a hapless teen in a slasher flick can raise your heart rate — but have you ever tried to hide from a killer in scary video games?
The horror movie franchise is trite with knife-wielding maniacs with the blind intention of hacking down everyone in their path. It’s a fun roller-coaster ride to sit through the 90-minute rush of a Halloween flick. Scary video games? Well… there’s nothing innately fun about them.
No way out
If you’re anything like me, you’re a video game completionist, at times to your detriment. Getting every coin, puzzle piece, and encyclopedia entry yield a dopamine Pavlovian response unlike any other.
When it comes to scary video games, I can’t wait to be done. Every second spent in the jump-scare littered world feels like literal torture.
Thus, I’m often stuck between a rock and a hard place when playing through a horror video game. I’m acutely aware of every minute spent in the given haunted mansion or abandoned cavern, unlike a horror movie, where I fall into a moviegoer’s trance of joy and excitement.
Watching the latest Halloween sequel movie in theatres, I couldn’t wait for Michael Myers to have said hapless teen in his evil clutches. When a house intruder in games like Heavy Rain is chasing after me, I feel like I could lose my lunch.
No windows and no doors
Scary video games have a way of reaching deep down into your psyche and pulling out your most primal and visceral fears. When you’re the one controlling how and if your character survives, the stakes feel real and everpresent.
When playing the Amnesia games, you have to hide, defenseless, in the inky blackness of the torchlit chambers. And just like our protagonists in that series, I slowly feel myself falling into a panic the longer I wait for the monster to safely pass by me.
Horror movies rarely come up from air long enough to realize that no matter how intense they think they are, there’s still a lot of shlock involved. Movies like Halloween have moments where, dark as this thought may be, the audience will escape from their viewing experience to laugh with friends about the latest outlandish kill setup.
When scary video games want to draw you in, the shlock ends there.
For instance, look at Resident Evil 7: Outbreak‘s VR experience. It’s recommended that players take a break from the VR version of the game after playing it 30 minutes. If you don’t, you may feel like you’re really in the haunted house, and lose your grip. Your actual sanity is at risk here. That sort of experience just doesn’t happen in modern-day horror moviegoing experiences.
While horror movies are constantly evolving in their cinematic language and storytelling devices, it feels as if they will never hold a candle to the horror experience present in scary video games.
The level of petrifying fear a video game gives any horror junkie is unparalleled. This adrenaline release can be a good thing, in smaller doses (see the above virtual reality Resident Evil warning). For many, it helps them to relieve stress and is a healthy, quick way of putting our worst fears to rest by means of literally facing them down.
Ever since movies like The Exorcist and Paranormal Activity took the world by storm via their enviable word-of-mouth horrifying viewing experiences, the horror movie genre seems to have plateaued. There have been great scares in movies like The Babadook and foreign-language film Veronica, but the good ol’ days of people passing out in theatre aisles have come to pass. Scary video games still do these sorts of things to people. On the regular.
Whether or not you feel like that is a good thing, please take your health, both mental and physical, into account when playing through the best of the scary video games out there this Halloween.