Announcement: Designing Horror

Check out the games in the Designing Horror series.

It is rare that I make announcements on this blog. I don’t have a lot to announce; mostly, I just have weird things to say. I like to gush.

But this is an announcement.

I am going to start playing horror games. I am going to try to figure out what makes them work, and I am going to do it slowly, over a long period of time. Probably one game per week.

To be honest, this is a strange thing for me to do. I love horror as a genre, but I absolutely hate the act of watching horror films, playing horror games, or having experiences that even approximate those things. I get all emotional and sweaty. I do a lot of eye diversion, trying to look around the problem.

But I still think there is something really important there. More than that, I believe that my strong affective reaction to horror means that there is something that horror does that other kinds of games do not do. There was a time when I was really on my high horse about the fact that I never feel “immersion” as a force in my life. I never feel drawn into a narrative–it is always apart from me. On some level, that probably has to do with half a lifetime performing critical moves on texts.

The converse interests me, though. I get scared so, so easily. I get drawn into a fear assemblage at the drop of a hat.

So I am going to brave it all. I am going to figure out what Designing Horror means for me. And you get to read me writing about how fucking terrified and/or paralyzed I am every time that something weird pops up on screen.

The format will look something like this: I will read each game through three different lenses. Easy enough.

1. Why Is It Horror? Based on my having already played a few horror games, I am going to say that this will be one of the most difficult things to explain for most of the games. Most horror games merely follow the tropist line of creation–”gameX plus zombies, dark spaces, nonsense things = horror”. Part of the difficulty of this is going to be deciding what “horror” games I am going to play. Honestly, I’ve just been trawling the web looking for games that people call horror. Whether that is true or not, time will tell. Anyway.

2. How Does It Work? An analysis of game mechanics and elements that make it “work”  (or not “work”) as a horror game. Good stuff.

3. What Did It Do To Me? I know that I preach about tourist writing in games, and that New Games Journalism is a bit shit sometimes, but I think this is incredibly important in a genre that explicitly preys on the reactions of the player. This is going to be the part where I bare all of my scared emotions. Get excited.

So that is it. I hope that sounds like fun. I hope you want to read that. (I will do it anyway, even if you don’t).

Side note: I just had a repressed memory reveal itself. I faked sick in high school one time so that I could stay at home and play Silent Hill 3 in my room alone in the dark. I played the whole thing through squinted eyes–but I really liked it.

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