The lights are on
Power Member - Level 9
games are somewhat fascinating to me. Fear, I believe, is the most
primal of all emotions, and it's hugely important to any animal
species' continued survival, but it's also a very negative emotion,
and one we try to avoid. We fear the dark, so we turn on the lights.
We fear heights, so we stay on the ground. We fear spiders, so we
scream like babies and make our parents or significant others kill
why, then, would anyone ever willingly subject themselves to the
feeling of fear? Why would you sit down and watch Insidious or
play Amnesia: The Dark Descent? Well,
I'm sure there are lots of psychological and philosophical answers to
those questions, but to save time and space, I'm going to give a very
short answer by saying that the extreme release of emotion is
cathartic. It's the same reason people watch Titanic all
the while knowing it will make them sad. Except for that one part when the guy falls off the ship and hits the propeller. That part's hilarious.
games are a lucky form of entertainment, then, in that they are
probably the best way to create a horror environment. When you watch
a horror movie, you're watching a bunch of mooks you don't actually
know engage in a fight for survival. Yes, you sympathize with them
and hope for them to succeed, but at the end of it, even when they
die, you now you're safe. Video games don't give you that small
comfort; in a truly immersive video game, you are
the mook being chased by the monster and it's you who
is going to die if you fail.
A concept I'm sure we're all painfully familiar with.
video games have sort of forgotten how good horror games are made. I
had planned on doing an article discussing the upcoming and
inevitably disappointing Dead Space 3, but
since, from the looks of it, EA isn't even trying to
make Dead Space scary anymore, I thought I'd discuss an indy game
that actually is.
Containment Breach. For those of you who don't know, SCP:CB is an indy
horror game still in it's alpha stage based on the works of the SCP
Foundation, a creepypasta wiki based on the titular foundation's
attempts to contain and study various forms of supernatural
phenomena. For those of you haven't already, I highly recommend you
check it out, as there's an extreme level of creativity going on in
there. They've got everything, from an omnicidal, immortal reptile
with a disgust for all life, to a toaster that mysteriously forces
everyone talking about me to unwittingly refer to me in the first
primary monster at the heart of SCP:CB is
the website's original monster, SCP-173, an impossibly creepy
sculpture that viciously assaults and murders anyone who looks at it
and then proceeds to look away, and, as the author assures us, was
most definitely not a ripoff of Doctor Who's weeping angels. You
begin the story as a bog-standard rent-a-cop who has just been
assigned to Stare-At-SCP-173-So-He-Doesn't-Go-Kill-Crazy duty, a task
that apparently requires three people so they can all alternate
blinking. Lord knows why they couldn't just put him in a box and bury
him in the ground, or better yet, just have one guy stare at him and
alternate which eye he blinks, but whatever. Poor planning is a
staple of the horror genre anyways.
But on a more positive note, it really breathes some life into the room.
for you, not 30 seconds after the start of your shift, things around
the Foundation start going wonky. Firstly, the door keeping SCP-173
contained seems to be having issues closing, and secondly, an
incredibly poorly timed power failure causes SCP-173 to kill the
other guards and almost kill you before you manage to escape it's
plainly, the game is not very good. Many of my complaints, however, can be
explained away by the simple statement that “Well, it is still
an alpha.” For example, the game pretty much assumes you already
know everything you need to about SCP-173 before you actually play
it, which can be problematic when you consider that it is just one of
thousands of SCP's on the website, so it's not hard to imagine someone might have missed the memo.
my biggest problem with the game is one that cannot be excused due to
the game's incompleteness, because it is the core mechanic of the
game. You see, SCP-173 will kill you if you fail to keep it in your
line of sight whenever it appears. Increasing the tension in these
circumstances is a “blinking meter,” that slowly ticks down and
forces you to blink every few seconds, which will result in your untimely
death if SCP-173 happens to find the act distasteful, which it always
does. However, this is not how you make good horror.
people have been comparing SCP:CB to Amnesia, so I'm
going to run with that, because SCP:CB is nowhere near
Amnesia's level of horror. You see, Amnesia understood
that scary monsters stay scary when you don't exactly know what
they're about. When walking around the dark, grungy paths of the
castle, often times the only confirmation of a monster's presence the
player would ever get would be any sounds it made from another part
of the map. Generally, if you ever actually see one of the ugly
bastards, you'd best turn around and run like hell, because it
probably saw you too. So you'd occasionally catch bits and pieces of
the monster, but you never knew exactly what it was. All you knew
that it looks vaguely human, and it wants to do terrible things to
They also have vaginas for faces, but that's about standard anymore.
doesn't get that. By the game's very nature, it demands you know
everything about how the monster looks because it demands you stare
it down whenever it comes on site. Once the mystery surrounding the
beast is gone and we can actually make out its appearance, it becomes
more obvious just how ridiculous the creature actually looks, and
then its no longer scary.
benefit of constantly cloaking the monsters in shadows is that, well,
indy games tend to be kind of ugly, because, you know, budgets and
all that. But that's okay, because good indy developers will work
around this issue, limiting what the player can see and making sure
they can never truly examine the monsters pursuing them, hiding the
technical issues while simultaneously thickening the atmosphere
pressing down on the player. Amnesia managed to pull that off,
but SCP:CB does not. Again, it all comes down to the mechanic
requiring the player to look at the monster when the game would be
better served by just having you run the *** away from it.
this isn't something that the developers can't come back from. The
SCP Foundation has an immense amount of material to work with, any
number of which could make for a truly interesting horror title.
Sadly, SCP-173 does not. I'd like to see them use me, though.