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Does Gaming Understand "Scary" Better Than Hollywood?

As movies have gradually declined in quality, and as they've worked very hard to insult any viewer with half a functioning brain, the gaming industry has gained. Granted, we probably shouldn't say that all video game scripts are brilliantly written - although we maintain Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots's storyline is better than most of the crap that Hollywood churns out - but that's not the question today. The question today is, has the gaming industry fully understood and embraced the concept of fear?

Those who know anything about fear and how we become frightened know full well that our imagination can create far more horrific visions than anything we'll ever actually see. It's the way the brain works. The rule is simple- the anticipation is supposed to be more terrifying than the encounter itself. These days, Hollywood seems to bypass this theory and go straight to the gore, which makes sense, considering the typical audience for those movies. But none of that is frightening; it's just sick and twisted. Disgusting, yes, but hardly scary. But look at a few of the recent efforts in the gaming industry: first of all, even though the controls drag the game down a bit, Silent Hill: Homecoming excels - as every previous entry in the series - in the realm of subtle terror. It's what we hear and can't see, it's the atmosphere, it's not knowing what's around the corner; by the time you're fighting anything, you're actually coming down from the initial fright.

It builds and builds and builds, jacking your heartbeat and anticipation through the roof; your palms are sweaty and you're gradually moving towards the edge of your seat. This is what Silent Hill has done amazingly well over the years, and although Resident Evil has been more Hollywood-esque, it too has its moments. Survival/horror aficionados will also point you towards the Siren games, which are typically scary as hell. Lastly, Dead Space is out this week, and from what we've heard, it's one hell of a freakish experience. Quotes like "world's scariest game" get us very excited, and we can already feel the blood pumping. There's no doubt that gore is part of these games - especially EA's apparent masterpiece - but that plays second fiddle to the aforementioned build-up. This is what sets such titles apart from the rest of the crowd, and by all rights, it should also separate scary movies from all others. But unfortunately, gross garbage has apparently replaced finely crafted, fear-inducing settings.

Why? Because it takes more work. It takes more skill to craft. Anybody can slop a bunch of guts together and throw it at a camera, but it takes a true artist to produce something that will make us leap at every tiny sound. Hollywood isn't into effort these days (obviously), so maybe we shouldn't be surprised when movies like "Hostel 2" and "Saw V" are supposedly "scary" movies. There have been a few other, more effective movies in the past, though; like "Descent." It remains one of the few "horror" movies I've seen in the past five years or so that actually worked, and didn't continually assault me with a barrage of filth every ten minutes. And of course, film buffs can mention many of the scariest movies of all time, but most all of them are at least a decade old, and there's a reason for that. The only problem is, the gaming industry is once again making Hollywood look bad by giving us entertainment that is legitimately frightening. So should the movie makers take a cue from certain developers...?

It's an interesting discussion, surely. Some may want to list plenty of movies they've seen recently that they deemed "scary," and not just gratuitously nasty. But when I do that, I only come up with old movies. And when I ask myself about truly scary entertainment experiences, I almost always have to turn to games. That's all I'm saying.

10/14/2008 Ben Dutka

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Comments (33 posts)

SHADOW [Moderator]
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 @ 12:24:20 AM
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Got to agree. Hollywood has abandoned the horror movie. SaW wasn't the first movie to screw it up, but it's popularity is a big reason that Hollywood continues to churn out torture porn. Games lost their sense of scary for awhile, but I think developers might have figured it out. Dead Space is a shining example (so I hear) of how to do horror right, now all we got to do is tell the movie industry.

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Daedusian
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 @ 12:31:08 AM
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I am so glad someone else is talking about this other than myself. Most movies I TRY to rent, yet fail everytime, are horror movies, but like you said, I always end up renting movies that are rated for "extreme blood nasty chunk gore goo" etc. etc. because it's all stores have anymore. I'm really tired of it. Last movie I remember seeing that was decently scary was the first Grudge, but even that only had a couple scary parts. Before that was the first Exorcist, Omen, and The Shining, all of which came out like 20 years ago or whatev.

As for horror games, I have never really been interested in them mainly because of my failing history of finding a decent scare from a movie. So I tend to think they are all the same. However, I am really hoping that Dead Space is scary as hell so I can finally get my fix.

And why are they making a SAW V btw, lol??

Last edited by Daedusian on 10/15/2008 12:33:20 AM

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FeyeR
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 @ 12:31:54 AM
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Agreed. The last movie which actually scared me to a certain degree was Silent Hill... ironicly

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WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 @ 12:35:01 AM
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It certainly is a big issue, I can't recall the last time a movie genuinely spooked me. Horror and humor tend to be the most difficult things to portray, on the humor end we are stuck with equivalent garbage in the form of teen gross-out comedies. No one can make a knee slapper so they give us people eating dog... juice, or the like. I think horror lends itself better to books and gaming because in those mediums we can easily place ourselves, there is a lot less of a "tune-out" going on. I recently read that for gross accuracy the Dead Space devs took a look at car crash victims, some may say this is extreme, but if the game is about the fear lead-up, then coming across the mangled (and accurately depicted) bodies of your friends lends a certain "What the hell did this?" worry to the experience. Can Hollywood learn from games? More than they will ever admit, that is why game2movie conversion are so bad, they think they know better and twist the story. It is also why there has never been a good horror movie made of the genius works of H.P. Lovecraft, they lack the ability to portray the fear of the unknown. Even FearNet has to rely mostly on old movies, perhaps in the future we can look forward to a new renaissance in horror, but for now I'll stick to games and books.

Last edited by WorldEndsWithMe on 10/15/2008 12:40:42 AM

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FeyeR
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 @ 12:49:40 AM
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But also, I think movie directors are faced with a greater challenge of making movies more terrifying then games. Because when your playing a horror game, you feel as your actualy their. I believe this will become a growing concern in the feature.

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The CEO
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 @ 12:49:48 AM
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Scariest movie I watched recently was Mama Mia.LOL Girlfriend wanted to see it.I was running for the nearest exit it was so horrifying.LOL

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Qubex
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 @ 6:57:33 AM

That is horrific The CEO!

Q!

"aLL RoAds LeAd ToO hOMe"

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End of line
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 @ 1:29:21 AM
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Movies rarely stand up to the books they were inspired by (across any genre) so is it any wonder gaming delivers where Hollwood cant? At the end of the day it boils down to one distinct disadvantage. The book reader or the game player are a different "kind" of consumer.

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cheng
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 @ 3:10:20 AM
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spoilers(?)- you get to kick babies in dead space LMAO!!

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The CEO
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 @ 3:26:44 AM
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yeah and theres dismemberment too

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Joe_III
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 @ 3:36:08 AM
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I don't know that Hollywood has abandoned horror as a genre as much as it has played it out.

The gaming industry is getting close to running the gamut as well tho. They've only had an advantage over hollywood because its easier to create more horrific creatures in a game than in a movie.

Silent Hill series is ok, but I don't think theres really enough action in it to be a horror game. It's more of a suspense/horror hybrid.

That said, I would have to say that Condemned 1 is probably the scariest horror game I've been in the room in -- I almost shat myself when that first guy jumps thru the wall. After that scene, I couldn't be in the apartment when my wife was playing it.

Close runner up would be The Suffering for the original xbox. The voices were hella creepy, but it was being developed practically right next to me while I was working at midway gametesting Bltitz 2k Pro, so I got desensitized to it quit.

As for suspense, the scariest there I would say was Fatal Frame. Nothing but a flashlight and a camera? That one drove me out of the room in a hurry as well.

The RE series never really scared me even as I played it. But then again I can't judge them since I couldn't really get more than 20 minutes into any of them without throwing my controller across the room because the dumb character would either be looking the wrong way no matter how i turned, or they would be blocking the friggin camera.

Hopefully RE5 will be different because I heard it's coop and wife and I arent gonna be satisfied with resistance/gears2.

Edit: Wife just told me that the mannequin scene in condemned is the absolute creepiest scene ever, and she loves her some scary games.

Last edited by Joe_III on 10/15/2008 3:41:25 AM

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Thinker
Thursday, October 16, 2008 @ 3:44:15 PM

Joe III

I envy you man. My wife doesn't even like games, and rarely plays any video games with me.

I have a PS3, a 360 and a Wii, and the only thing that she even looked remotely interested in was the Wii's included sports game. But that interest petered out pretty quickly too.

Last edited by Thinker on 10/16/2008 3:45:20 PM

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www
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 @ 5:45:06 AM
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Games are scarier than movies cause u actually the one takin part in the action!

As for movies i don't really got the time for,be it scary or not scary,i only watch movies when it's available to me,but as to husslin for movies,cha! I'd rather hussle for games.

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MetalHead09
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 @ 6:56:11 AM
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there is only one movie that actually creeped me out and thats pumpkin head, that thing just looks creepy as hell but as far as a fear factor in games, it far surpasses it. when i played silent hill for the first time or even resident evil i was always at the edge of my seat getting the crap scared outta me and i think you guys know those moments of panic where you pause the game and not so good words come flying out of your mouth and you hold your head thinking OMFG!!! lol i aint done that in a long time :(

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Qubex
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 @ 6:58:59 AM

I remember watching Pumpkin Head... damn... But who agrees that "Candyman" was creepy. One of the few movies that freaks me out.

Q!

"aLL RoAds LeAd ToO hOMe"

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MetalHead09
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 @ 9:42:27 AM

i have never seen candy man from start to finish. oh how about jeepers creeers 2, that was kinda creepy to. i never seen the first one.

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jonny_bolton
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 @ 10:12:58 AM

Ah man Candyman was scary shit...I was so young when I watched it and I still wont know. The thing with Saw was that the original was a thriller as opposed to a horror. Sure it had its gory bits but the suspense of the last 15-20mins was amazing and it remains my favourite film. Then I watched Saw2 and 3 and hated them, and so didnt watch 4 and will not watch 5

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WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 @ 3:19:10 PM

PumpkinHead was awesome, the sequels not so much. "Jimmy-joe's got the ball and he won't give it back!" LOL

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BlinkBoy
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 @ 9:13:05 AM
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Even little Abe (Abe's Oddysee, Abe's Exodus) back in PS1 days were more creepier than hollywood production.

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Vivi_Gamer
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 @ 10:15:31 AM
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Modern horror (Films) FAIL!

They focus too much on brutality

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Joe_III
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 @ 10:32:48 AM

QFT

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Sir Shak
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 @ 1:38:26 PM
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i agree completely with jonny_bolton
worst horror films-
sawIV
hostel2
house of a thousand corpses
and many more to come

by the way i never watched the shining.is it as good as the omen or the ring cause i like to have a good story along with the scary parts?

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shaydey77
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 @ 1:57:12 PM
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@ Metalhead08 jeepers creepers 2 was more funny than anything in my opinion..same as the first one..the first one is way better though!

anyways..scream two is my favourite horror.first time i saw it i was 8 by myself. scared unbelievably!! scariest game would be one of the resident evils..im not sure which one though..your a pilot i think and you walk down a corridor to examine a clock..you turn around and theres a massive black and orange spider in front of you..i played it for five minutes at my friends house once..it was scary!!

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WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 @ 6:20:38 PM
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Hey guys, I got Dead Space today, it's uber creepy and worth the buy. Took a few minutes to get used to the over-the-shoulder RE4 style again but once I did I was in like a dirty shirt. EA is officially off my "On Notice" list. First Trophy is easy, woohoo. The only fail here is that that was the first time I went into Best Buy and didn't see tons of pretty girls. :)

Last edited by WorldEndsWithMe on 10/15/2008 6:30:12 PM

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karneli lll
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 @ 9:39:26 PM
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The mist was a good horrorish movie,it was kinda like a reminder of the formula for horror; helplessness. Back in the day, Fright night scared the crap out of me,i still remember the scene where this guy is holding a crucifix to keep the vampire away,the vampire then crushes the crucifix and says "You gotta have faith boy"

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Alienange
Thursday, October 16, 2008 @ 1:47:23 PM

LOL I haven't seen that movie but that's hilarious.

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Buckeyestar
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 @ 11:01:10 PM
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I think the real issue with games being "scarier" than movies is the medium. In a movie you are just the spectator, you have no control over the fate of the protagonists. In a game you have direct control over the actions of the character, thus you have a vested interest in keeping him/her alive in order to progress. It's more like you are in the movie rather than just observing.

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BrownBurmese
Thursday, October 16, 2008 @ 12:51:25 PM
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A lot of things contribute to a game being a scarier experience than a movie. First and foremost, if the game does a good job of getting you into your character, then you project yourself into this character, and any threat to his life becomes scary to you..., doesn<t even have to be horror related, it could be as simple as walking a narrow path cliffside while your the wind blow real hard around you. You're scared simply because you may fall and die at any time.

Then there's the atmosphere or the space you're navigating in. Draknes, obviously, is very efficient because you can hardly see what's coming at you! SOUND, I think, remains one of the biggest fear inducing mechanism, because your brain will try to form an image of what may be producing that sound, and as we all know, our imagination is better at creating scary sh** than any game developper or cinematographer..., as long as they know how to get it going. SILENCE, is used well, can be creepy as hell!

Then there's the sheer creepyness of good horror storytelling. something that's not really about shock value, but simply about that oppressive discomfort created by discovering really disturbing facts, or realizing the implications of a plot point, like finding out (spoiler warning) that you actually are the oneĀ who killed your own wife at the end of Silent Hill 2, one of the creepiest, saddest games ever.

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Lordnicon
Thursday, October 16, 2008 @ 4:34:32 PM
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I havent been truly frightened in a movie since Jurassic Park, Terminator and Aliens when i was younger. Ok I'm sure I have but i completely agree that now its is all a gore fest and shock editing.

The thing about games that make them scary is that you arent forced to do anything. You create your own suspense when you arent forced into a room or forced into a battle. The fact that you can pretty much stand outside a door listening to nothing but screams, creaks etc. and be remotely safe is what makes walking through the door, putting yourself in danger scary.

Recently though, I havent played many scary games because there havent been many out and many dont reward me with much more than just being scared lol.

Movies push you through the movie and the anticipation is there or it isnt. I was really hoping Run Like Hell would have been better (ps2).
It would be neat if no place was really safe in a game. A game where you had to stay ahead of lurking whatevers in order to stay out of harms way.

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Draguss
Thursday, October 16, 2008 @ 4:43:46 PM
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Saw is good as a suspense film, since it really get's you thinking how it will end and racks your brain as you try to understand the games jigsaw makes, but it couldn't scare a chicken. That being said, I am definately NOT getting Dead Space, I was left with enough trauma just playing Silent Hill, I'm not going to risk spending money on a game I'll probably be too scared to finish.
P.S. Games will always be scarier than movies, since they can submerge you into the atmosphere a lot more. In a movie the character will naturally advance, scared or not. In games, you decide, it's you moving the character, it's you the one facing the ghost/ghoul/demon/monster/etc...

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Lordnicon
Thursday, October 16, 2008 @ 5:06:05 PM
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I want to see a game that really makes sense. One that digs into my psyche and makes me believe in what is happening. I love sci-fi horror etc. but when you can build a story so well that when something seemingly small happens, but scares the crap out of you because you can read inbetween the lines and see the subtext - THAT is good.

Draguss - thats exactly what i was talking about. I too dont want to play a game that JUST scares me. That excitement is a part of the game but if you can creep me out mentally and not just from a visual standpoint then its good. Also a game with some good puzzle solving. Not tedious "why do i have to go ALL the way back to the beginning for a stupid key" type of puzzle over and over again.

A yin and yang in a way. Can you put bright sunlight in a scary game? Theres nothing like lifting your spirits and giving you hope and then stripping you of it lol.

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Minishmaru
Thursday, October 16, 2008 @ 5:07:52 PM
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I liked the first Saw...the ending definitly got me. But the other 4...horrible. Nothing ever made me say to myself "Motherf'er! He was there the WHOLE TIME?!?" great moment in horror movies :) Other than that...yeah movies aren't really "scary" just a few jumps and such

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Shardiru
Thursday, October 16, 2008 @ 11:40:11 PM
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I'll have to agree with Ben, The Descent is the only movie I've ever seen that I had to pause at a certain point just to walk around a bit and recover from before continuing with the movie.

To horror buffs, it is definately a must see. As a bonus it has some funny out takes as well.

I'm in agreement with pretty much all the comments concerning the problems movies face versus video games in that the delivery is vastly different. Movies you're just a spectator, games you are in control for the most part in how you encounter frightful events.

The Silent Hill series is by far my favorite survival/horror series. I will admit, I have not played 3 or Homecoming. But I absolutely love the atmosphere the developers created for the story to reside in. Number 1 I don't entirely remember as it was such a long time ago that I played it, but I played the heck out of Silent Hill 4: The Room.

As for the Resident Evil games, the first one was creepy to me, but I was also much younger and it was the first of it's kind I ever played. (Didn't help that I played it in the dark during a thunder storm.)

By the way Ben, keep up the awesome journalism. I love reading your articles.

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