What makes games scary?

Vellu

Real eyes realize real lies.
I've always liked the idea of scary/horror games. But what is that "something" that makes you crap your pants, swallow your bubblegum or jump out of your chair?
I've been reading this one thread and found out that there are many different ways to scare player. My personal favourite is to remove the feel of security and safe completely.
I've been thinking of trying to make a scary map for CSS or GMod to test how things work in this scheme.
What do you guys think, is the most scary thing there is?
 

WastedSavior

A day without sunshine is like, well, night.
Staff member
Fear is a subjective experience.

Some people have a fear of heights so terrible that they have to actively seek out therapy to help them cope with their day to day lives. Other people go sky diving or bungee jumping for the thrill of it.

Some people fear failure or death, other people embrace the certitude of those events in their lives.

Because of it's subjective nature fear can be difficult to use.

There also plays an element of disillusion when someone comes to the reality that a movie or video game holds no more threat to the individual than does a dream. Often fear incited by such media is briefly lived. However, there are instances in which a medium can force someone to realize or reinforce an irrational fear which will linger considerably longer.

As i understand it, you have two options, Terror and Horror, when attempting to instill fear in your audience.

Terror is usually described as the feeling of dread and anticipation that precedes the horrifying experience. By contrast, horror is the feeling of revulsion that usually occurs after something frightening is seen, heard, or otherwise experienced. It is the feeling one gets after coming to an awful realization or experiencing a deeply unpleasant occurrence. In other words, horror is more related to being shocked or scared (being horrified), while terror is more related to being anxious or fearful, being terrified.

Movies use this principal as a long dramatic lead-up to a moment of shock. An example would be when the main character is in a dark hallway walking slowly with an ominous music playing in the background and suddenly the villain leaps out. The moments proceeding the event were a mild form of terror, and the event itself lead to a brief sense of horror. However, this "shock and awe" tactic only results in a very brief moment of fear.

Psychologically the impact of shock and awe is brief but effective for a cheap thrill and can get a movie good ratings. If you wanted to insight real fear that endured long after the user has quit the game you have to dive much deeper into the psychology behind fear.

Psychological Torture
As you may know by now that Torture isn't about physically abusing someone to the point where they mentally check out from the situation. The problem is that the body can respond to physical torture and after a certain point you no longer have any ammunition to continue throwing.

In an ideal situation you want someone to torture themselves. Yes, this sounds unrealistic but it's actually much more effective.

Popular Psychological Study:
When subjects observed someone else being submitted to an aversive event, knowing that the same treatment awaited themselves, and when subjects were subsequently placed in a fear-provoking situation. It was proposed that a person learns to fear regardless of whether they themselves have experienced trauma, or if they have observed the fear in others.

How can this be used? You don't inflict pain upon your intended target, instead you make them experience someone elses pain. The same principal applies to the psychology of fear and roller coasters. You build up the fear in your mind as you wait in line, all the screams and pale faces coming off from roller coaster create a greater fear in your mind then the actual event that awaits you.

How can you use all of this? That is for you to decide, however the most effective stimulant is user-customizable. Because fear is subjective, allowing the game to be subjective and changing the experience for each individual user would be the most successful method. This could be very hard to accomplish, so you may have to stick to the good old fashion shock and awe campaign. I may revise this post, but for now i have to run off to class. :eek:
 

ElderKingpin

Post in the anime section, or die.
one of the worst types of games that make you scared are the ones where you do not know what you are up against and how people are dieing, all you see are small hints that are so general that your own mind twists them to something worse then it actually is
 

seph ir oth

Mod'n Dat News Jon
Staff member
Large XP goals is what truly scares me! Surely all of you freaked out at the XP difference between lvl n and lvl n+1 when it took you like 5489573 days to get lvl n!
 

Nenad

~Choco Coronet~ Omnomnom
What makes games scary? My dad walking behind me and slaming on the door just for the thrill of it while i'm focused playing F.E.A.R. Yeah...

Anyway, as Wasted said fear is very much subjective, and while i have a fear of heights in real life i absolutely love to be in high places in games. Whenever i climb the cathedral in Acre i feel all happy xD.

If i was to say a fear in a game i would say it first needs to be first person. This makes the action in you're face and makes you want to turn around every so often just to check. Otherwise, suspense with the constant feeling of "there's no way out from here" like being in water or in a vent is always scary enough.

Psychological Torture
As you may know by now that Torture isn't about physically abusing someone to the point where they mentally check out from the situation. The problem is that the body can respond to physical torture and after a certain point you no longer have any ammunition to continue throwing.

In an ideal situation you want someone to torture themselves. Yes, this sounds unrealistic but it's actually much more effective.
Actually, if you tie a person to a chair in a white blank room and play Saria's song over and over and over again on an infinite loop, i think anyone will go crazy in less than a week. XD
 

thewrongvine

The Evolved Panda Commandant
Staff member
Have a little girl who gruesomely kills people when she gets angry.

That usually does the trick.

~Hai-Bye-Vine~
 

Nenad

~Choco Coronet~ Omnomnom
Have a little girl who gruesomely kills people when she gets angry.

That usually does the trick.

~Hai-Bye-Vine~
I think a lot of people find children in general to be scary, when they're the one doing the killing, seems like a common thing ^^
 

Vellu

Real eyes realize real lies.
Scene of social fear is very nice when done correctly.
Imagine you are having a good time with your buddies, co-workers or family, when you start seeing weird stuff and things out of place. You would be the only one noticing it, while everyone around you act just normal, even if their face would melt. This, again, leads to removal of feel of security. How could someone help you, if they don't even know what's wrong?
 

Jindo

Self
To me, jumpy stuff tends to be a really cheap way of getting a scare. Games that are successful in scaring their players will use atmospheric factors such as sound and lighting to create tension/suspense.
 

Dakho

()[o__o]()
Atmosphere, for one. Playing Amnesia isn't scary just because there are scary zombie things, it's because you're in an environment of creepy supernatural events and constant darkness. There are very few "safe" zones, and even the places that are safe don't stay that way for long.

Pacing, as well. That is to say, if there's a big pop up around every corner, you eventually expect it and it isn't very scary. Having the scary-as-hell moments means they need to happen with infrequency and without pattern. A horror game should never get into a pattern, there should never be anything repetitive or "business as usual".

But yeah, if you want a really scary game, Amnesia: The Dark Descent is the way to go. I advise having some friends play with you.
 

FireCat

Oh Shi.. Don't wake the tiger!
Sound effects, atmosphere and when a creepy monster jumping out in front of you
Just when you think you are safe :mad: Well that's about it
 

thewrongvine

The Evolved Panda Commandant
Staff member
Sound effects, atmosphere and when a creepy monster jumping out in front of you
Just when you think you are safe :mad: Well that's about it
Yeah, but you gotta be original. Tension is scary too. Just when you think you're safe, but as a gamer nowadays, you know something's going to pop out, make it so that it seems as if something is going to jump out of that corner, but have nothing there. But then you can have a secret waiting, such as something watching you, or maybe on the second "I think I'm safe", it jumps out. o.o

~Hai-Bye-Vine~
 

FireCat

Oh Shi.. Don't wake the tiger!
make it so that it seems as if something is going to jump out of that corner, but have nothing there. But then you can have a secret waiting, such as something watching you, or maybe on the second "I think I'm safe", it jumps out. o.o
Yeah, I kinda agree with you. It would been the scariest games ever. hehe

Well, but doesn't you have such a feeling, Something Unknown lurk at you? anyway? lol
 

Hatebreeder

So many apples
Dead Space was one of my favourite horror games.

The ambiant soundtracks were creepy, but somehow soothing. Then, the scripted encounters.

Imagine walking down a long and narrow hallway. While the lights flash, the mice squeek and water drops from the ceiling, you walk your way through the passage. Then, the wall on your left busts open and some huge, twisted and naked humanoid zombie alien tackles you, nailing you to the ground. The music turns from soothing to a somewhat screeching sound and all you can do is press some buttons and flail your mouse all over the place, to kick off the f*cking alien's head ;D

.... Loved that game =) Btw, Dead Space 2 is coming out sometime ;D
 

Syndrome

You can change this now in User CP.
Alan Wake was pretty scary.
It really felt like you were completely helpless against the Taken. Your guns don't work on them unless there was enough light weakening the Taken, and there are sooo many of them that your little flashlight won't be able to weaken them all.
Great game. Great story.
 

Vellu

Real eyes realize real lies.
Yeah, Dead Space was very nice. Even when I had the best armor and the best weapons around, I still was scared to encounter a bunch of enemies.:thup:
 

LurkerAspect

Now officially a Super Lurker
Being on your own is by far the most terrifying aspect of any horror game! If you've played Alien vs Predator 2, the first two levels are the most terrifying because
you are completely alone. Only in the third or so level do you actually encounter an alien!
Being completely alone in tight, confined, dark spaces are the scariest moments by far!

Dead Space had that effect for the first few levels, like waiting outside the security box when the lights go off, and all you see is
a silhouette of a monster stalking someone and then killing him!
That's also why I didn't find left 4 dead scary, a team is much more reassuring than being on your own. Personally, I'm still looking for a game that really scares the sh** outta me!

Sorry for the spoilers, but people who have'nt played these games yet might want to keep these scares for first-hand experience!
 

Vellu

Real eyes realize real lies.
I just remembered Condemed 2! The hallucinations the player had, made everything trippy and I just couldn't trust anyone anymore. Not even myself.
 
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