The Horror!! (Guest Post)

The following is a guest post by Guaka. If you’d like to write a guest post for We Fly Spitfires, please feel free to contact me about it.

The Thing, 1982, John Carpenter

“Childs: What do we do now?
MacReady: Why don’t we just wait here for a little while… see what happens…”

A vast mining ship drifts through space, the screams inside cut off by the vacuum of space. A submerged city slowly being crushed by the ocean around it while inside its mad citizens tear each other apart. A nameless evil directs the path of an entire family through hundreds of years….

I’ve been meaning to write about Dead Space for a while now (I was hugely impressed by that game) but, as Resident Evil 4 has just been released on the iPhone and Bioshock 2 is on the horizon (far away sure, but its on the horizon),  I’d like to think about the horror game genre as a whole.

When I start to really enjoy a game it’s usually because of a strong story, atmosphere and game world. I remember when I first played Bioshock and taking a quick break to check Amazon for any Bioshock novels or comics (there were none). I have no doubt this lack of a multi-platform launch lost 2k a ton of potential cash. When Dead Space launched it came not just as a game but also an animated movie, graphic novel and a series of motion comics, fans who wanted more of Isaac Clarke’s world could find a whole new back-story to satiate their sick need for blood.

I’ve played horror games for almost as long as I’ve been playing games, from Splatterhouse on the Sega Megadrive and Silent Hill on the PS2 to F.E.A.R. on the 360. There’s something about a really well crafted horror experience that draws you in to the game world and, although you’re totally safe, every little creak and skitter in the game is given terrifying significance.  Some games rely on this more (the long silences in Silent Hill) and others give you your horror fix at breakneck speed (Doom, House of the Dead).

As this is an MMO blog I was trying to think of examples of effective horror in massively multi-player games. Most fantasy themed MMO’s I’ve played usually have a few references to Lovecraft but I can’t think of any game that really offers the full horror experience. I’m not sure it’s even possible to have an open non-scripted world that makes the player genuinely unnerved, can you focus on the games atmosphere at the same time as trying to get a group together, managing your action bar and getting gold-spammed all at the same time?

Gordon brought up a few ideas for a possible MMO’s in a previous blog and a Cthulhu mythos idea was brought up then. I love the Cthulhu world and there are plenty of single-player games that capture the Lovecraft spirit (Eternal Darkness being, in my opinion, the very best) but how do you make an MMO without it ending up as ‘kill 10 fishmen’ or ‘find 30 pages of the necromonicon’? Maybe if the MMO used sanity effects like voices breaking in on to player voice chat, losing some control over your character and display effects. The challenge would be how to implement things like that without it just being an annoyance and hindering play.

I would love to be able to play an MMO and be so immersed that I got the same feeling I get from watching horror films like ‘Prince of Darkness’ but I just don’t think its possible (though I’d love to be proved wrong).  While I’m waiting I’ll be playing Left 4 Dead and dreaming of what might be….

Guaka’s Genre Recommendations:

The Horroretc Podcast – A really great podcast where all things horror movie are discussed. Available from iTunes or their website.

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  1. Gordon says:

    I am positively salivating at the concept of a Call of Cthulhu MMORPG. I think it’s such a unique and rich IP that it would create a really immersive and atmospheric MMO. I would love to group and do a mission in some haunted mansion whilst slowing going insane and more paranaoid.

    A Dark Tower MMO would also be great. Not sure if you’d consider that horror though?

    • Beej says:

      There is already a precedent for how a Lovecraft MMO would work in the Pen and Paper RPG “Call of Cthulhu,” which did use sanity as a resource. It’s been a long time, so I don’t remember a lot about it.

      And I would say a Dark Tower MMO *could* be horror, but as I was working on my Master’s thesis which looked at archetypal significance within genre conventions in the series, I realized that there were fewer horror moments and conventions in The Dark Tower than any of the other modes. There were far more Western, Sci-Fi, and Fantasy motifs than Horror, which I think is done on purpose by King because The Dark Tower stands in stark contrast to the rest of his work as a “hub.” So I’m not sure if I would consider The Dark Tower as a “Horror” contender, even though there is the potential; I just don’t think it permeates the material enough.

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