Happy to report that I’m heading back to Nanocon this year to give a talk about the Rules of Horror, particularly in games. If you can’t make it, I’ll post my slides when I get back to California. If you can make it–see you there!
Part of the talk I gave at Nanocon a few years ago focused on horror games as a “chautauqua.” The term refers to a traveling group of entertainers/educators that toured rural America in the early part of the 20th century. Robert Pirsig used the word in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance to describe the book itself: it is meant to enlighten and educate, but does so by entertaining the reader with a story. I really like the concept of entertainment as a vehicle for teaching, and I think horror games are particularly adept at assuming that role.
Richard Rouse III, designer of The Suffering (and many others), points out that horror is uniquely positioned to discuss complex social topics because it flies under the radar of political critics. Horror is quickly and easily written off as “garbage for the kids,” and thus is free to discuss topics that more prestigious genres cannot touch. You can read more about this idea in my write-up of a talk Rouse gave a couple of years ago.
This year’s talk will be a little different. I’ll post my slides when I return.
EDIT: So I didn’t really go to Nanocon. Apparently I was there in spirit, though, as a character in a horror-themed ARG that the folks at Dakota State put together this year. I’ve never been a character in a game before. That’s… really weird. So, sorry: there aren’t actually any slides this time around. But that chautaqua stuff is still an interesting way to think about horror games, right?