Games are Better than Film at Horror?

Wired is running an interesting article by Clive Thompson (blog) about horror games being more effective than horror movies at generating scares. I think there’s something significant here in Thompson’s insights, but I think I need to give it a little more thought before I am sure I know what it is. While I mull the idea over, I highly recommend that you read his piece.

2 thoughts on “Games are Better than Film at Horror?

  1. This was a really interesting article. I actually have found that alot of the mordern film offerings have really fell short in terms of offering realistic, or even emotionally engaging characters (see captive for a prime example of a BAD set of characters). However games, while obviously better when they have engaging characters, are engaging in virtue of one playing the game, as opposed to simply watching it.

    For instance, while I loved Resident evil 1, I never found Chris’s character that engaging (he was a bit of a meat head I felt) but the game had other very engaging characteristics in virtue of the hands on experience.

    I guess what i am saying is that films rely more heavily on characters to provide engagement than games (though obviosuly the best games tend to have strong characters (see silent Hill series..)).

    what do you guys think?

  2. Well, I never found Chris Redfield to be a “meat-head”, quiet maybe, but not stupid by any means (though the original game’s dialogue was awfully funny thanks to Jill and Barry…).
    I personally think films and games need different things to survive. Also, keep in mind when I write that I understand and respect that different things scare different people, so I’ll try to be conscious of that in my explanation.
    I agree with Films needing more in-depth characters. For instance, since we have no control over what they are doing and we aren’t in their situation we have little to fear, other than for them. Sure, films can put scary thoughts in your head that bug you later, but I think the likelihood of that increases if you’re scared for the person in the film. It helps add depth to a circumstance that you are not a part of, but can drag you into it emotionally. Most films lately seem to rely on gore for cheap and gross-out thrills, but it’s become so unrealistic and shallow (and unbelievably predictable) that it hardly merits being called scary to most people.
    Games on the other hand force you to make those decisions (you know, the ones you scream at the theatre as the blonde runs upstairs?), but you suddenly realize that making those on-the-fly decisions can be harder than you thought. Character development can be nice, but isn’t always a necessity depending on the style of the story. For the most part, you can either BE the character or be the voice in their head that makes their choices and guides them along their path. The latter is true in Silent Hill 1 and 3 (four depends on how you look at it…). These are believable people whom you are allowed to get into the minds of and help them on their paths to the end of the road, but you find yourself emotionally entangled with them in their plight. Not being in the character’s head, however, can leave with you with the scary thought of “What the h*** is going on here?”.
    I personally think games are making better use of the horror genre, and since I hate gore for the sake of gore, I find myself pleased with how most horror games use it for atmosphere. Take Silent Hill 3 , for example. The other world in that games is disgusting and has gore throughout, but you don’t see what happened to cause it, just the aftermath that leaves you wondering (without ever having a clear answer) what really happened here…
    But that’s just my thoughts, here.

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