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Night Of The Living Video Game

Horror In video games
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Ah, Halloween – a time when we, collectively, embrace all things horror and the generally unpleasant, with many good times to be had. 

From the not-so-spooky Halloween costumes that shrink with each passing year to the many failed pumpkin carvings that inevitably occur, Halloween is undoubtedly a memorable time of the year and one that many people look forward to.

Personally. this time of the year has always been near and dear to my heart, as Halloween just so happens to be Dad’s birthday. Happy early birthday, Pops!

I have fond memories of watching old-school horror classics with my dad whenever they would make their seasonal rounds at the beginning of October, such as Friday the 13th, Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve embraced horror and Halloween-related content more and more; “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Psycho” stand out as some of the most impressive films I’ve ever seen and rank among my favorite movies. I also regularly indulge in true crime shows and scary stories on YouTube.

I think you get my point. I’m a big fan of horror and I’ve clearly established myself as the world’s undisputable number-one source for all things spooky-related. Therefore, I think it’s only fitting that I stir the pot a bit (pun intended) and provide my expert perspective with a piping-hot take.

Are you ready? 

Hot take: the horror genre is more effective in video games than in any other media. 

Yeah, I went there. 

But before you all start sharpening your pitchforks and want to burn me at the stake, let me at least defend myself here and clarify my point.

I am not suggesting that horror doesn’t work well in other media, nor am I claiming that horror video games are superior to horror movies or books – that would be ludicrous of me to say. I’m merely trying to state here that horror has a greater impact when experienced in a video game compared to a podcast, movie or any other medium. And I don’t think it’s close.

Unlike a book or a movie/show, the hands-on nature of video games seamlessly places the player directly into the uncomfortable and adrenaline-filled environment that we are typically accustomed to witnessing as passersby. 

Video games unquestionably add a level of immersion that simply cannot be replicated elsewhere. As the player, you are in complete control of the events in the game and are much more than just an observer – the horror sequences are directly happening to you! That makes every shadow, every little creaky sound, and conflict that much more engaging and, therefore, scarier.

Again, take this from someone who is a big fan of various forms of horror.

Need further proof? Let’s compare two horror heavyweights from their respective media to further my point: Resident Evil vs. Rosemary’s Baby.

First up to bat, Resident Evil. And yes, pun intended.

To this day, the genuine tension and fear that I experienced when being chased by Mr. X in Resident Evil 2 as I looked to progress in the game has left a lasting impression on me that no movie or podcast can replicate.

For those who don’t know, Mr. X is a relentless, silent and powerful enemy who pursues the player throughout the game, creating a constant sense of tension as you look to navigate through the atmospheric Raccoon City Police Department, one of the main areas in the game.

He’s a superhuman enemy who doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer and won’t stop until he gets his clutches on the player. He can’t be stopped or weakened. The most you can do is stun him temporarily to distance yourself from him briefly, but that comes at the expense of your ammo, which is scarcely found in the game.

Mind you, this is just one aspect of the gameplay – you must also navigate rooms with minimal lighting, fight off regular hordes of enemies and manage the aforementioned lack of ammo. It can be too much at times, but I absolutely love that about it. 

All of this adds to an experience that is undoubtedly terrifying and stressful and one that we crave when engaging in horror material.

My blood pressure rises just thinking about Mr. X and his sweet-ass fedora hat.

Conversely, let’s examine Rosemary’s Baby, arguably my favorite horror movie of all time and a pillar of 60s cinema. 

Rosemary’s Baby does many, many things right. It masterfully sets an uneasy tone throughout the movie and provides one, if not the most eerie, endings I’ve ever seen in any story. It’s perfection in so many ways — a true masterpiece.

That being said, is it the most terrifying experience I’ve ever encountered, one that has made me feel genuine fear throughout? I would argue, not so much. Certainly not more than Resident Evil 2 or even Five Nights at Freddy’s, for that matter.

To me, what makes Rosemary’s Baby such a good film is its slow-burning and haunting nature, not so much the scares it provides. 

This is just one example; I could keep listing more and more. But let me stop there before I downplay Rosemary’s Baby, which would be some sort of cardinal sin. Do yourself a favor and Rosemary’s Baby.

Needless to say, horror in video games is simply in a league of its own, in my humble opinion.

I’m not trying to start a war here and pin gamers versus cinephiles (weird term, I know) or gamers versus bookworms. I am simply one dude with an opinion and an outlet for said opinion.

If you think otherwise, please let me know in the comments; I will be more than happy to listen to your case. Once more, I am only discussing the effectiveness of video games in frightening their audience, not comparing the overall quality of the different bodies of work and saying one is better than the other.

The beauty of it all is that we don’t have to pick and choose what to experience. Like myself, you can easily play a video game, watch a scary movie or click on that random spooky YouTube video. Now more than ever, all of these forms of horror entertainment are there for the staking. (Last pun, I promise.)

So don’t be scared and experience a video game – we have iconic scary characters like Mr. X, King Boo, Pyramid Head, Slenderman, Nemesis, Sweet Tooth, and Freddy Fazbear.

Well, maybe all except for King Boo. Sorry, King Boo, you’re a Nintendo character, after all.

Actually, I take that back. King Boo – definitely scary…

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