Horror Literature

I’ve been thinking a bit lately about what horror games might learn from horror literature. How might we make a game that conveys uneasiness as well as Stephen King’s 1408? The Silent Hill series seems to have a bit in common with The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, by Haruki Murakami, but Murakami’s works are much more complicated and disturbing.

It seems to me that the main challenge in creating a literate horror game would be to get past the cheesiness of killing zombies. Games must require the player to do something, but it seems like reverting to tried-and-true “destroy and progress” mechanics breaks the suspension of disbelief. Eternal Darkness used the idea of insanity to help unsettle the player, but at times it came off as gimmicky. The Clocktower Series might be a step in the right direction: by removing all forms of combat (and selecting an obviously vulnerable main character), the developers have increased tension significantly. Is such a drastic move necessary to avoid cheesiness? Good horror literature makes the reader question their own confidence in the nature of reality… how might a horror game do the same?

2 thoughts on “Horror Literature

  1. http://outlandishjosh.com
    Interesting to bring up Murakami here vis-a-vis the horror genre. I’d not really considered his work to belong in that category before, but it makes a great deal of sense.

    I think the thing that Murakami — and to a lesser extent someone like David Lynch — is able to deliver in terms of fright is a fantastic rendering of the actual human-scale social and personal horrors which we are persecuted by in our own lives. Rather than frightening us with outlandish monsters and devil dogs, they trot out ugly and frightening things already latent around/within us. This also calls to mind immediately “28 Days Later” and it’s story arc.

    I’ll bet that if you go back a little further into more historical/mythical “horror” or monster stories, there tends to be some correlation between the nature of the beast and the culture that imagines it. So much modern America horror seems to be rely so heavily on the grotesque, it would seem that we’re ripe for someone to imagine a new boogyman; one that we actually find scary.

  2. I agree. A few games have attempted this sort of thing, but the scope has been pretty limited. In the Silent Hill series, the monsters are often reflections of the real threats: regular people (sometimes even the player himself). Silent Hill gets away with its monstrosities by creating a world that manifests the personal problems of the characters involved (this is especially evident in SH2).

    Murakami (and Lynch for sure) is able to scare us by simply suggesting that something lies beneath the surface of regular understanding. King does this by flawing a picture-perfect reality, but Murakami and Lynch are much more subtle. I’d like to see a horror game that plays on these rather primal feelings of uneasiness.

Comments are closed.