This is my dissertation draft for submission, for 1st november, i lost most of it due to my hard drive corrupting itself over the weekend >.>
Question: Why is Environment important within Horror Video Games?
The History of Horror Video Games
Horror video games, a way of letting players be in control of their darkest fears, and enjoy playing it. Most players of this genre would tell you that the first horror games were, Capcom’s Resident Evil, or Konami’s Silent Hill, that would be wrong however.
The very first horror video game was made in 1972, it wasn’t exactly a video game as it used a lot of items that came with the game, such as a board game. The game was called Haunted House, which was released for the Magnavox Odyssey. Another game under the same name was released in 1981 for the Atari 2600. This game wasn’t related to the 1972 version at all as it was purely console based and did not have any out of console pieces associated with it.
The first horror game to not use the graphical capabilities of the console it was on, was the text game The Lurking Horror which was released in 1987, for the Amiga console. This type of horror game had to rely on the player’s imagination more than anything, as all they had to work with was text. Unlike previous games in the genre where they had some sort of imagery on the screen the player could react with even if it was not scary at the time.
Within the same year, another game was released by Capcom called Uninvited, it was a text game at heart but it was more graphical, so instead of getting the player to type everything they had buttons to interact with and they did not need to rely on their own imagination as much, as the game did that for them.
It was then re-released for the Nintendo Entertainment (NES) system in 1991, with it came the added horse power of the new console which aided in the fear somewhat by giving brighter colours. As shown here in the images below: The old version being on the left and the new improved NES version being on the right.
Going back ten years, in 1981 a game called Sweet Home was released for the Famicom (Japan name for the NES). It was released at the same time as a film of the same name was released, which the game even made an appearance within the film’s trailer. So this could be said as the first horror game to ever receive a film tie in. Sweet Home was one of the first games of the genre to actually have a major consequence on the story of the game if a character was to die. The player had control of 5 characters each with different skills and if one of them died, they would no longer have that skill so it made the game harder if you failed to keep them alive, this greatly added to the tension of the game. It also led to different endings too depending on who was alive at the end of the game.
As we go further into the future, the more well know games of the horror genre start to appear. In 1992 Alone in the dark, was released for the personal computer. Alone in the dark was one of the first games to be made in 3D, around this time. The main mechanic this game brought to the genre, was jump scares, the main example of this was the monsters jumping through the windows as the player’s character walks past, another important element it brought to the genre, was pre rendered backgrounds. This is when the camera is at a fixed point of each room the player enters, adding to the difficulty as the player may not to be able to see enemies coming unlike future games when they have more control of the camera.
Moving forward to 1992, Riverhillsoft’s Doctor Hauzer was released. This was the first fully 3D horror survival video game. Building on Alone in the dark’s rendered backgrounds, by completely building them in polygons, which allowed the player to change the view of the camera to aid in the puzzle solving. The games main feature was the use of sound, with the music changing depending what is happening on screen and the situation the player is currently in. On Wikipedia it is said “The game is today considered a formative step in the creation of the survival horror genre, improving on Alone in the Dark while paving the way for Resident Evil.” I will agree with this, as a lot of what is currently in Resident Evil is similar or shows influences of Doctor Hauzer.
In 1995 a game called Clock Tower: The First Fear by Human Entertainment was released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). Clock tower was a 2D point and click horror game, which was stealth based and didn’t give the player the power to defend themselves. It brought many new features to the genre, Clock tower was the first game to have an enemy character constantly stalk the player, trying to kill them at every turn. When the stalker finally caught the player, they would enter panic mode forcing the player to repeatedly mash the panic button to break free from his grasp, this mode was used throughout the game on many occasions when the player’s character is panicking, for example escaping a monster and having to climb a steep slope, while the monster is crawling ever so slowly towards you.
1996 saw the release of Capcom’s extremely successful game series Resident Evil. It is said to be one of the best games of the genre, although a lot of its influences come from many games we’ve spoken about previously. The pre rendered backgrounds are a nod towards Alone in the Dark, as is the fixed camera angles, Resident Evil also makes use of the jumping through window scare. It also gained influence from Doctor Hauzer in the use sound, dynamically changing the music to fit the action on screen. Most games to follow tried to gain the same success of Resident Evil, but haven’t been able to meet the mark.
2 years later after the success of the first, Capcom released Resident Evil 2, with this the director wanted to stay true to the formula of previous games of the genre, but allow players explore more familiar everyday areas rather than abandoned mansions, this game was set inside mostly a police station and the surrounding city area.
After Resident Evil 2 was released, was the time around when we saw new games and many sequels to previous horror games being released. Many of these went on to change the genre further, one of them being Konami’s Silent Hill for the Playstation. Silent hill was influenced by Resident Evil in many aspects, but instead of being a full on horror game, it focused more on disturbing atmosphere and psychological horror rather than pure violence horror that was seen in Resident Evil. On the gaming website IGN, they stated the “”golden age of survival horror came to a crescendo” with the release of Silent Hill.”
Moving forward to the past few years of horror games, the changes to the genre have been massive. Many of these new games either developed further on the ideas of older games, or made completely new takes on the genre. In the game Left 4 Dead (2008) by Valve software, saw the first multiplayer survival horror experience, where the players would control a survivor each and make their way through the levels to reach the safe house and eventually the rescue vehicle at the end of each scenario. Most players say that due to the game being multiplayer, the game wasn’t scary at all as it was far too action based. So what did L4D bring to the genre? it brought story telling through environment and subtle conversations between the survivors as they made their way to safety, as the player progressed they would see messages from other survivors questioning the current state of the world, such as why is this happening and where is the army etc.
In the same year, Visceral Game’s Dead Space (2008) was released, a sci fi themed survival horror game, going back to the old style of exploring an area you wouldn’t or couldn’t in real life. As for gameplay, the game does not include a Heads Up Display (HUD), everything the player needs to know about their character is found on the character themselves, health and ammo etc. This added to the fear massively because it was hard to tell the health of the player if the character was knocked down by an enemy meaning they were not able to see the health bar on the character’s space suit. Dead space was one of the first games to bring survival horror to a sci fi setting.
In 2010, we saw independent developers getting onto the survival horror bandwagon, Frictional Games’ Amnesia: The Dark Descent is considered to be one of the scariest games ever made. In Amnesia, the player is unable to defend themselves as they are unable to use weapons, all they can do is create obstacles and run away from the monsters that chase them. One key feature of the game is the sanity meter, as the player’s characters see things that scare him such as blood or the monsters themselves, the character will start to react on how scared they are. For example, if they have recently seen the monster, the character will start to panic which will then start breathing heavily, this makes it easier for the monsters to detect you. There are several video recordings of people playing Amnesia with their reactions prove enough that this is a very fear inducing game.
Examples of Environments in Horror games
For this part of the chapter, I’ll be discussing some of the games that I feel have great environments, some not having been mentioned above, with some have been.
The first game I’ll be analyzing is
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
IMAGE ON WORD FILE
Here is a scene from Amnesia, as you can clearly see from the image, it is quite a dark and moody game. Focusing on light to create the atmosphere, the central statue gives a odd feeling of the player not being the only presence in the room. As you can see near the windows are candles, which have been long extinguished, giving the room a sense of past, maybe once those candles had been kept lit and the person whose job it was had long since passed away for whatever reason.