The Horror Game Vs. The Horror Movie

fatal frame 01

I love horror movies. I watch them more than any other genre. I put them on in the background for “comfort noise.”

Make of that what you will.

There have only been a few horror movies that have genuinely bothered me at the time I first saw them. The Ring was one of those films. I happened to see it in Seattle (the film takes place in Seattle) which only added to the disturbing factor.

That night, no joke, I wanted to cover up the television in the room I was staying in because I didn’t want it watching me while I tried to sleep.

And, while there are certainly occasional jump scares in horror films, I find, for the most part, that they don’t scare me or disturb me.

Now then, that being said, horror games are an entirely different matter. They scare the crap out of me. And I have a strong suspicion why: you have some amount of control over the experience because you are part of its unfolding.

Film: spectator. Game: participant.

I don’t find third person horror games to have the same effect on me. For some reason, seeing a character experience the horrors involved from that perspective makes me feel removed from the situation to the extent that I’m not nearly as effected by what is happening on the screen.

First person? A completely different story.

The first time I saw someone play a horror game (please note: I wasn’t even playing it myself) was right after I got my Xbox. They were playing Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly (the image above). They started playing it in the evening, and immediately I was intrigued. I love Asian horror movies, and I was all about the lead-in.

However, when the camera mechanism got involved, I started to have a mild crap attack. I felt like I was seeing weird crap in my peripheral vision, and I decided to go to sleep and give up on watching more of the game until the morning. I found that I had quite the difficulty sleeping because, as I kept drifting off, I saw creepy spirits lunging at me through the lens of the camera.

I never watched more of the game being played.

Perhaps because it tapped into something that bothered me so much, I found this weird fascination that I wanted to play it, quite badly, even. And even though I’ve had all three Fatal Frame games for years now, I’ve never played them. They continue to mock me from my XMB menu on my PS3.

When will I muster up the video game courage to play them?

p.t. 01

Another game I’ve wanted to play is P.T. After seeing a touch of it via the Game Informer live stream, I was both deeply curious and super bothered. It looks so realistic and so spare (an element I love in horror movies), it freaked me out. Even with the buffer of watching someone else play it (and talk over it, no less), I was feeling squirmy. I didn’t want them to open the bathroom door any more than they did.

This is right there at the top of my list of horror experiences to dive into.

Again, if this had been the premise for a film, I would have been right there to see it upon release.

p.t. 02

(Seriously, how messed up is this? This individual just stands up there and stares silently at you. No jump scare. That’s even worse.)

Slender Game 8 pages

Another game that intrigued me was Slender. I was so initially weirded out by this figure that I bought a book on his origins (the book was not terribly good) to find out how the story came to be. Finding out it was an urban myth created by members of a website didn’t make it any less freakish.

I downloaded the game on my iPad and promptly never played it. I ended up downloading Slender: The Arrival on PS4, but have I played it?

Super nope.

If this were a film, I would have devoured it as soon as I got my hands on it. But because I have to run from this gangly jerk myself, it makes me want to never boot up the game.

But I also really want to boot up this game.


until dawn 01

Until Dawn is easily my most anticipated game of 2015. When I had the opportunity to play it at a gaming expo, I was incredibly impressed. I was also keenly interested in the questions the game asked before you even started the demo (to tailor the experience to the player). The funniest part? When the game asked me if I found movies or games scarier, I said movies just so it wouldn’t freak me out worse.

True story.

I was also grateful that I’d seen the fellow in front of me play parts of the demo and was therefore aware of the major jump scare. It gave me the edge so I didn’t publicly freak out while wearing a huge headset in a well-lit room. Even if I had, I wouldn’t have been the only one. :)

I think Until Dawn may be the experience that breaks me from this cycle of wanting so much to play these games, yet keeping them at arms length. It played more like a film than any other game I’ve seen, and I’m really interested to see where the story goes. I’m hooked.

The thing I find endlessly amusing is that if any of these games were films, I would have watched them (perhaps even multiple times) by now. But the simple fact that I must be the willing participant holds me back.

It is my sincere intent to dive into these great games and just get the heck over my nonsense. I fully buy into the scare factor, so even if I do end up yelping out loud at some bizarre event, I’m all about it.

I’d love to hear how others feel on the subject. Please share if you are so inclined.

Categories: games

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7 replies »

  1. This is a great point, re: observation vs participation. I know some people that are less scared by horror games because they retain control over the events, as opposed to a film which just hits you with a narrative and images that are at an independent pace. I’m not sure where I weigh in on this; I’ve pooped my pants both at movies and games. I think that because there are so many fewer compelling horror games than films id have to say films scare me more. I think it is a testament to you as an intellectual that games affect you more!


    • Interesting! I can’t imagine being more scared by films, but I do get why people would feel that way. Games give you control, movies force you into the observation role.

      That’s quite the spin…but I’ll take it. :)


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