Happy Birthday. You just got home from your 14th birthday party at the mall. You had a long day playing at the arcade, and you got some games as gifts! Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando, Mario Kart: Double Dash, you even got a copy of Final Fantasy X-2 (ugh). But you also got another game, this one from your older sister. Siren? Never heard of it. Looks cool, like a scary movie. You're not a big fan of scary movies, but you like scary games, and you eagerly tear the game open as you close the door to your room. You place the disk in your PS2, and lean forward.
20 minutes later, you have to stop playing. You do like scary games, but in very small doses. You won't play this game again for about a week.
What was just described is exactly what happened on my 14th birthday. Let me tell you as bit more about my own personal fears, and my experience of fear in gaming. Because being scared in a game is more than just being afraid. It's also the unknown elements that keep you scared during the quite moments.
I can remember several games that have made me feel uncomfortable, and each for different reasons. Super Metroid for small, subtle reasons. Clock Tower for more obvious ones. But to understand what one person finds scary, one must understand ones fears.
One of the first nightmares I can remember having still chills me a bit today. Its very simple, but real to me. Picture it if you can:
You're standing in a large room, in an empty house. This house is very familiar to you. You don't know how, but you know for sure that the house is empty besides you. It's very, very quite. Suddenly, you can hear voices outside. You don't know what they are saying, but you can almost recognise them. You go through the front door, and step out onto the sidewalk. You look around, but there is no one outside at all. Its very quite again. Then, just like before, you hear voices, but this time they are coming from inside the house.
That's usually when my nightmare would end, sometimes with empty cop cars outside. It always got to me, and I hated it. I must have had it at least 10 times in my youth. It seems like a sign that I'm afraid to be alone, or that I depend on others for my own sanity, but I'm not exactly a specialist on dreams. Other nightmares I've had include me dying, going back in time, then trying to prevent my death from occurring. I can also remember one with me being in a train accident with others, going to get help, and returning, only to find what the other left behind, and an old doll a girl was holding.
Now, enough about my head. Lets get back to the games I have feared, and feared playing.
One moment I can remember quite well happen in one of my favorite games. In the N64 title The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time there is a moment that stopped me from playing for a good week or so, before I gained the courage to continue. During one moment in the game, you must enter a grave, and head to the end to learn a new song, the Sun's Song. At one point, you run into enemies called ReDead.
I had yet to encounter any enemy like this one, but I treated it like any other at first, running up to it and attempting to slash it with my sword. This was a mistake. As I approached it, I hear a woman's scream, and I am no longer able to move, as the ReDead slowly advances. I started to flip out. I turned off my game, and sat in the dark for a moment, then went to bed.
Ever since this gaming moment, I felt silly. I wanted to overcome it, and at last I've been dealing with it, challenging myself to play more and more scary games. Now, I love them. Maybe my fear lead me to it.
But scary game shouldn't just be a jump out and "boo!" kind of game, and there is ton's of those. Now, I need atmosphere. Suspense. True horror. Games like Silent Hill, Clock Tower, Dead Space, Siren, and many others. I didn't think there would be any other scary titles recently, but then I am reminded of Amnesia, an incredible PC title. Also, when it comes to pure pressure in atmosphere, games like Limbo and Braid give you a true feeling of fear, without being afraid.
Whatever the case, remember that courage isn't not being afraid, but being afraid and continuing anyway. Remember this as you play, and go try something new and scary.