February 24, 2014
|There is a new story up today, Down the Rabbit Hole. It's a bit lighter and less serious than most of the other stuff I do but I was feeling in a bit of a psychedelic fairy tale mood when I wrote it. Anyways more serious and darker stuff coming later this week.|
|Introduction to Horror Video Games (Survival Horror Series Part 1) |
February 22, 2014
The first real horror game I ever played was Silent Hill 2. I was just starting to really get into video games and I had recently purchased an Xbox. I enjoyed horror literature and movies so I was looking for something special to get my fright on with my new console. All the game had to do was entice me with its cover art (the Xbox Platinum Hits edition). I knew nothing about horror video games; nothing about Resident Evil, Fatal Frame, or Alone in the Dark. Absolutely nothing. With nothing to go on except the surreal images plastered onto the game case I entered the world of horror games.
Since that time I have more than enjoyed my time with horror video games, playing and studying them. This article is meant to provide a brief history of horror video games and a breakdown of its sub-genres, one of which I will concentrate on in future articles.
Back in the earliest days games were text games. These were games where the game provided you with text explaining what was happening in the setting and you choose what to do by typing it. The game then provided you with result of your typed action. What we know of as adventure games evolved out of these text based games 1,2.
Adventure games (think Myst) are games where the narrative is advanced through puzzle solving. There is little to no action and failure or death is the result of a deliberate choice, rather than failing to hold off a horde of enemies because you ran out of ammo. Because of this adventure game design has to rely heavily on world building, strong characters, and compelling narrative to pull the player in.
When graphics started to get thrown into horror games the games were still mostly adventure games. But then Resident Evil and Silent Hill came along adding a bit of action to the games along with popularizing the term survival horror. Survival horror games are simply action adventure horror games with a different label.
Action adventure games still retain the puzzle solving aspect of adventure games but inject some action into the gameplay allowing the player to combat the monsters around him/her. The action is restricted either through the scarcity of combat supplies or frequency of combat. While the player can fail the game by being killed by a monster it is not the utter destruction of the enemy that advances the narrative. Puzzles still have to be solved. In fact one could go through the early Silent Hill games without killing much and still beat the game but if you couldnít figure out a puzzle you were screwed (thank god for online guides).
For years action adventure horror or survival horror games dominated the horror game genre but then things started to change as horror games moved towards pure action horror. Action games are characterized by the need for combat to advance the narrative and finish the game. The Resident Evil and Silent Hill franchises both started producing entries that were action horror compared to the earlier entries that were action adventure. New video game series, such as F.E.A.R, Dead Space, and Condemned, came along leaving their mark on the horror video game scene.
Until recently action horror games are what dominated. In the last couple of years a new sub-genre of horror games has risen. Another shoot off like survival horror I will simply call escape horror. It is a return to action adventure style games but instead of combat the player has to run and hide. Games like Outlast and Amnesia fall into this category. Puzzles still have to be solved to advance the narrative but the player has to learn how to indirectly face his/her enemies unable to confront them directly. Survival horror games have you directly face the enemy while escape horror has you indirectly face them.
My preference out of all of these is survival horror. That doesnít mean I wonít dabble in the others. The only one I donít have much experience in is escape horror which really isnít my cup of tea. If Iím forced to face my enemies I would rather face them head on then run and hide. The different sub-genres have different methodologies when comes to trying to scare the player. The games that lean toward the adventure side tend to rely more on a slow burn that subtly creeps into your mind, eating away at your sanity while the games that lean towards action rely on jump scares and keeping you in a constant state of adrenaline fueled panic.
The sub-genres tend to shift around in terms of what is popular at any given moment but you should always be able to find something that suits your taste. Below is a list of some recommended games to play based on sub-genre. These are only games I have had experience with. There are a ton more out there I haven't had a chance to play yet.
Pure Adventure Horror: Sanitarium, Scratches, I Have No Mouth and Must Scream, Doorways
Survival Horror: Silent Hill 1-3, Resident Evil 1-3, Fatal Frame Series
Action Horror: Alan Wake, Silent Hill 4-5, Resident Evil 4-6, F.E.A.R Series, Condemned Series, The Suffering
Escape Horror: Amnesia and Outlast
1. There weren't just text adventure games. There were other types as well like text RPGs but today's adventure games still carry a lot more of the design philosophy of the text days compared to other genres.
Finally here is my favorite song from the Silent Hill franchise:
|A Call to Fellow Storytellers|
December 7, 2013
Someone trying to justify their sexual assault by saying ďLook what she was wearing. She wanted it,Ē is like seeing a man dressed in a baseball uniform walking down the street and throwing a baseball at him which smashes him in the side of the head, killing him, and saying ďHe was wearing a baseball uniform. He should have expected a baseball anytime.Ē People want to be sexy. They want to be pretty or handsome. They want to engage in consensual sexual activities. What they donít want is to have someone follow them down an alleyway and to be forced to engage sexually.
If the baseball player had been approached and asked if he wanted to play a game the player would either say yes in which case the game would be played using agreed upon rules. If the rules are broken the game is called off. If the player says no then his wishes should be respected and one should simply walk away. The analogy seems absurd but so does the way our culture treats sexual assault/harassment. In our society it always seems like itís the victims fault. The message is often ďDonít dress like a slutĒ when it should be ďDonít rape people.Ē
I have encountered several people (both men and women) who have shared their stories of sexual assault with me and each time it hurts. Rarely do I say anything. What can one say? Well there are many facets of our society that need to change in order to change how we perceive and handle sexual assault there is one I can speak to personally, one I can plead with as a fellow: the storytellers.
I think sometimes storytellers underestimate how much their works affect society. But we have to remember that as people experience our creations some of them walk away with a different perspective on things. Often itís an easy thing to overlook. When youíre a young storyteller you just want people to notice. Are my characters believable? Howís the dialogue? Does the plot make sense? And depending on what medium youíre working in you have so many other things to worry about from filming permits to programming languages. We overlook the effects our works have on others.
But as much as people turn to things like religion to guide them in life, without realizing it they rely on us so much more. I think of all the people who were inspired and shaped by things like Star Trek, Doctor Who, Star Wars, or Harry Potter and am in awe at the power that storytellers have over how people see the world1. So here is my plea: fellow storytellers help change peopleís perspective on sexual assault.
As storytellers we need to craft stories that share the realities of the victims. We need to not treat rape as that thing the villain does to show heís evil. We need craft characters that are comfortable being sexual without simply being sexual objects. Sexual assault should not be treated as a convenient plot point but as an integral part of the emotional development of the character. It should not be a stock scene in ďtorture porn.Ē
Why am I writing any of this? Partly itís because Iím tired. Iím tired of hearing the stories from the wonderful people I meet. Iím tired of reading the news stories. Iím tired of hearing the twisted logic behind the excuses the perpetrators give for their crimes. Iím tired of courts and other authority figures that rarely do anything. And part of it is I invest myself in subcultures where sexism and sexual assault/harassment takes place regularly. I want these things to improve. I want the world to improve.
As storytellers we have brought joy to people, we have brought tears to their eyes, and we have brought some to their knees. Iím not under some delusion that these things will change overnight. Iím not the only person saying such things or pushing for change but itís about collective momentum. As long as people keep speaking up and joining the fight to change things then they will. As storytellers we have to remember the kind of power we have to shape peopleís perspectives and use it to help make the world a better place.
1. I just want to make a couple more side notes on how storytellers affect people. In the anthology House and Philosophy one of the essays mentions first year medical students coming in with a House like attitude. A man like House makes for great drama but less so for practical medical practice. There is also the issue that legal shows like Law & Order have created false expectations for people. Juries expect some sort of confession or a 100% airtight piece of evidence making it harder to obtain a guilty verdict in some cases.
|V/H/S 2 Movie Review |
July 9, 2013
|There is a new review up for the horror anthology movie V/H/S 2.|
|What was the point?|
July 6, 2013
I havenít seen World War Z yet and I have no plans to see it in the near future. I canít say if itís a bad movie or not. It does kind of look like an interesting movie but there isnít enough of a catch to set it apart from other recent zombie movies. My only question/concern is why in the hell did the studio buy the rights to the book if they werenít going to do jack shit with it?
If you havenít read World War Z by Max Brooks then I highly recommend you go pick up a copy and read it. Itís not your usual zombie narrative. Instead the book follows people after the zombies have caused all the havoc. The narrative is presented as a series of interviews with survivors of the zombie hordes. Interview topics range from political responses to small community survival. It is refreshing to read a different approach to the zombie genre.
From what Iíve heard the movie just follows Brad Pitt around as he runs from zombies and blows stuff up. The only similarity between the book and the movie is the title. I donít have a problem with changes when a story moves between mediums but you always expect there to be core similarities. The Harry Potter movies still had the same characters and plot structure with tweaks here and there for the movies. The Resident Evil movies still had the T-Virus, undead nightmares, and the Umbrella Corporation. The Silent Hill movie had a lot of recognizable monsters from the games, the town, a crazy cult, and of course Pyramid Head. Despite whatever changes these movie adaptations made they still took elements from the source material and used them. Thatís the whole point of buying the rights is so you can pick all the stuff you want to use and make something. But what does the movie World War Z have in common with the book: zombies and the title.
I almost wonder if it would have been cheaper to just make a zombie movie with Brad Pitt and title it something different. Was it really worth the money to buy the rights just to use the title? Marketing wise it has sort of backfired. Everyone who has read the book either thinks the movie is shit or refuse to see it because itís so different from the book. All those people probably wouldnít have cared if it was just another zombie movie. But all those potential fans are turned off because of the little to no relation to the book. Itís really kind of sad in the end. The studio wasted money on something they didnít really need. Also a truer adaptation of the book would have been amazing. Oh well their loss I guess.
On a side note this is how I feel around sports conversations: