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Scary games


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#1 No One

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Posted 10 June 2007 - 03:45 AM

So I started playing System Shock 2 a few days ago. Let's just say that so far, it's living up to it's reputation as a rather scary game. I had started playing it earlier in the day when it was still a bit light out and people were awake here. But I lost track of time and had continued to play just past midnight. For some reason, the game just started making me more and more tense. I was reacting to ghosts on the screen as if they were showing up in front of me in real life. It was getting so bad I just had to stop playing and turn the computer off... Of course the whole house was dark by now, and the walk to the other side of the room seemed a bit longer than before.

That got me thinking. I've played games that made me feel exactly the same way in the past. Marathon 1 (Blasted vent Spht!), Super Metroid (GHOST SHIP!), Stalker (Is it just me, or did it get sepia out here?), and now System Shock 2. Thinking about those games, I realized they all had some interesting elements in common.

Probably the most obvious thing would be the sense of isolation. In these sorts games you spend either the entire time completely separated from other people, or only interacting with them for fairly brief periods or in tangential ways. I suppose this makes the most sense. When other people are around, you get the sense that if things get over your head, you can rely on others to deal with the situation. Being alone suddenly makes every situation far more dangerous. (Besides, having a meat shield can be useful at times ;) )

By nature of being alone, these games also tend to pit you against enemies at two extremes. Usually the most threatening type to deal with are swarming enemies. There are lots of them, and they are usually very insect like. I think part of the fear here is that as the player you are a unique actor in this world. You represent individuality, and the monsters you fight are seeking to snuff you out for that (Did someone say Borg?). The other extreme is the big/powerful monster. These are generally pulled out few and far between, but their existence gets hinted at an awful lot. It's not the fight against these sorts of enemies that seems scary, it's the time waiting to fight them that is stressful (Dentist drill anyone?).

Of course, just throwing a player into a big empty box with some monsters wouldn't really create a scary game (It would however create Robotron). A lot of the fear comes from the presentation and flow of the game. Now a good "monster jumps out of a vent/door/ceiling panel/closet/box" will certainly get me to jump, it won't work forever (I'm looking at you Doom!). Good scares come when you don't expect them. And not every scare needs to be something lethal. Many of the games I mentioned use phantoms, or ghosts that don't really hurt you. Now despite the fact that they can't do damage, they are still quite unnerving. Who wants to walk into a nondescript room that seems to be completely safe, only to be confronted by things that simply shouldn't be there? Besides, after a few situations like this, I tend to get a bit cocky. I walk around and assume that things are just there to give me a start and aren't really going to hurt me... then something tries to claw my face off. It seems that an unpredictable pacing can often be more frightening than the actual situations themselves.

Finally, sound plays a huge role in getting me to turn back on the lights and go to sleep. Probably the simplest example of this would be music of a certain mood. Low key slow moving music can often fade into the background ensuring that the game is always making you just a bit nervous with little explanation for why. Of course, it really does seem to be environmental sounds that do the most. I think I can safely say that the sound of a distant door opening can be one of the most terrifying sounds conceivable. Talking is another good way to freak me out. This plays nicely with the sense of isolation in these games. If I absolutely know that I'm alone, I do not want to start hearing people talking in the distance.

I find it interesting that despite making me feel so uncomfortable, I truly enjoy these games. I guess there is just something about working up the courage to run into a dark room with a near worthless weapon and half a magazine of ammo intent on destroying whatever hideous monstrosity is hidden in the darkness... only to discover that I was shooting at a potted plant.

#2 Sharky

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Posted 10 June 2007 - 09:28 AM

Ooh, the Silent Hill games. Man... those mess me UP.

I have Silent Hill 4 sitting near my Xbox... I'm too scared to play it.

#3 teflon

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Posted 10 June 2007 - 09:45 AM

spot on fella.

when i get my MBP, one of the first games ill be trying is FEAR... spectres, clever baddies etc. etc. then ill get STALKER a while down the line, when its bargain bin, cos im poor.
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#4 the Battle Cat

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Posted 10 June 2007 - 09:46 AM

I ain't fraid a no ghosts!
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#5 Mister Mumbles

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Posted 10 June 2007 - 10:16 AM

Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly was a pretty scary game, and that without any real violence these other games rely on. Actually, I wasn't even able to finish it because its unnerving atmosphere and ghostly enemies were too creepy for me. One of the very few games I've ever played that managed to make my skin crawl in that fashion.
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#6 -=SHODAN=-

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Posted 10 June 2007 - 10:30 AM

Half Life 2 - Ravenholm level

What were your reactions when you first saw the fast zombies?! I was like "Oh...f..." and then "OMG they're $^*&# quick!"

#7 Sharky

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Posted 10 June 2007 - 10:35 AM

My greatest HL2 fear was those damned venomous headcrabs. It doesn't help that I already don't like spiders, but the noise those things made.... *shudders*

F.E.A.R. has some truly awesome moments in it. Very tense.

#8 Janichsan

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Posted 10 June 2007 - 11:27 AM

Quote

Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly
Without looking I say this is a japanese game, right?

But to the topic: before it degenerates to a pure closet shocker later on, Doom 3 does a very good job to create a very creepy atmosphere. F.E.A.R. is also quite good on that behalf, but - to be honest - I think the rather standard shooting (good AI or not) distracts too much from the horror atmosphere. The good old "The Lurking Horror" was pretty creepy, but I guess you cannot scare the kids today with a text adventure - it requires something like imagination.

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#9 Sharky

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Posted 10 June 2007 - 11:41 AM

Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth starts out with some great scary moments (the hotel chase scene was fantastic), but was broken by some awkward storyline scripting and iffy voice acting. But for a bit the atmosphere in the game is superb.

Eternal Darkness back on the GameCube was great as well. Some really original stuff there.

#10 Bill Ramey

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Posted 10 June 2007 - 01:14 PM

I was so scared just 20 minutes into System Shock 2 that I stopped playing and didn't return to the game for two months.  SS2's sounds are the creepiest in any game.  Remember "Your song is not our sonnnnnnnng"?  And how about the nanny-bots nattering "my little ones"?

#11 the Battle Cat

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Posted 10 June 2007 - 01:56 PM

My creepiest moments in gaming came with Marathon 1.  The first game was very very dark and creepy and filled with the unexpected and the unknown.  I played that game with the hair standing up on the back of my neck much of the time.  Imagine trying to feel your way down a pitch black corridor in a ship filled with alien horrors while this music played.  This little ditty has all the gaiety and charm of fresh brains sliding down a rusty bulkhead.
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#12 Sargiel

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Posted 10 June 2007 - 03:17 PM

View PostBill Ramey, on June 10th 2007, 08:14 PM, said:

I was so scared just 20 minutes into System Shock 2 that I stopped playing and didn't return to the game for two months.  SS2's sounds are the creepiest in any game.  Remember "Your song is not our sonnnnnnnng"?  And how about the nanny-bots nattering "my little ones"?

I think sound plays a huge part in it. Comparing Doom 3 against Prey & Quake 4 I find Doom 3 much more 'thrilling' due to the way the sound can  get me nearly jumping even before anything's happened.

When I was younger it was Alone in the Dark ^_^

Also I agree about Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth - that game had some seriously excellently crafted scene's and it's a pity it wasn't successful enough that a port to Mac was viable. Same could be said of Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines.

#13 Matt Diamond

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Posted 10 June 2007 - 05:30 PM

I bought Eternal Darkness a couple months ago, but I've been too scared-of-being-scared to play it.

The scary games I remember are all old-school. Uninvited was pretty creepy. Shadowgate (not the one you are thinking of; the graphic adventure) wasn't particularly scary but at one point you open some sarcophagi, and a banshee suddenly leaps out of one with a loud SCREECH! Made me jump a mile.

I know I'm forgetting some...
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#14 No One

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Posted 10 June 2007 - 09:19 PM

I played the demo for Fear awhile back. I have to say, the ladder incident really got me. I eventually stopped playing after I got to the bleeding corridor scene. That part actually bothered me a bit. I tend to prefer games that don't take away control from you in such a way. I like it when a game presents you with a situation that is clearly hazardous, and let's you use every possible option at your disposal, yet still makes you feel like it won't be enough to succeed.

As much as a I poke Doom3, that bathroom mirror scene has to be amongst the scariest things I've ever seen in a game. "Oh! Hey look at the mirror... wow, they really did a good job with this game engine. Nice reflective... huh? GAHHHHHH!!! TURN THE LIGHTS ON! TURN THEM ON NOW!"

#15 Huntn

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Posted 11 June 2007 - 07:24 AM

SS2 provided me with one of the biggest in-game surprises of my gaming life. It was when...oh. You probably have not gotten to that point yet. I'm serious. Of course maybe I'm just easy to impress as SS2 is one of the great spooky atmospheric games of it's kind. :D That was before Aliens vs Predator when I was so tense my shoulders ached with aliens coming out of no-where barreling down hallways at me, in very poor light. But a lot of water has gone under the bridge since then, and despite games like Doom3 or FEAR, it's really hard to scare me now. FEAR did give me a couple of shivers though, but the endless office and basement spaces got to me in a disappointed way.

#16 MILBOP DIPPLEBERRY

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Posted 11 June 2007 - 09:04 AM

Killing Time

#17 Sharky

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Posted 11 June 2007 - 09:05 AM

I'd forgotten all about AvP. I can't play as the Marine in those games. The motion detectors stress me out far too much.

#18 Tesseract

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Posted 11 June 2007 - 01:16 PM

View Postthe Battle Cat, on June 11th 2007, 05:56 AM, said:

My creepiest moments in gaming came with Marathon 1.  The first game was very very dark and creepy and filled with the unexpected and the unknown.
Some of the levels in Infinity had that quality as well. Shadowed S'pht + dim light + creepy sounds of ventilation fans starting up in the distance =  :o .

#19 MILBOP DIPPLEBERRY

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Posted 11 June 2007 - 05:18 PM

Actually Prey freaked me out. Something about the bio-techno environments and how portals could open at any moment from any direction.

#20 c0n724ll10n

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Posted 11 June 2007 - 05:22 PM

Man, Silent Hill games were ridiculous