The renaissance of indie computer games alongside the big-budget gaming developer studios has meant that gamers around the world have had more choices than ever before; whether it’s for their games console, gaming PC or even smartphone and tablet devices. Digital gaming stores such as Steam and the Apple App Store are awash with different genres and, fortunately for us, the horror genre is very much alive and kicking.
Today, the horror theme is no longer restricted to the confines of the big screen; it’s been manipulated to create hugely immersive and engaging video gaming titles that have helped breathe new life into the horror genre as a whole.
In the not-too-distant past, horror titles were few and far between; left behind in favour of first-person shooters and sports titles that were knocked out hurriedly, quickly becoming ten-a-penny. Fast forward to today and we’re blessed with a growing number of successful horror gaming titles, from Silent Hill and Resident Evil to Outlast and Until Dawn. So, what makes the horror gaming genre so unique?
Different types of computer games offer varying gameplay tests of skill. Role-playing or strategy-style games will require you to plan and execute well-thought-out strategies and attacks, whereas horror games teach us to act on impulse; fuelled by adrenaline rushes. No other computer game genre compares to the thrill of being chased by aliens or demonic characters or stealthily hiding around a corner for fear of being attacked at any moment. Horror games place gamers in a vulnerable state that no other virtual world can ever quite articulate.
Unlike strategy games, horror-themed gaming titles have a pick-up-and-play appeal that makes them accessible to gamers of any skill level. There’s no need to strategize or formulate a plan of attack; with a horror game, you simply have to use all of your survival instincts to thrive.
Consequently, computer gaming developers are looking at the rising popularity of the horror genre and seeking the find new ways of incorporating all manner of storylines into a horror-style gaming title. Arguably the key to any successful horror-themed computer game storyline is its characters and developers are even trying their hardest to incorporate vulnerable childhood fairytale characters into the horror genre, putting a dark spin on these beloved tales.
While some developers have opted for a more faithful recreation of the genre, such as the innocent Adventures in Wonderland at William Hill Bingo and Arabian Nights for the Commodore Amiga, there’s certainly something rather humorous about taking a story that’s perceived innocent by society and creating entirely new dark scenarios for characters. Take The Wolf Among Us for instance, based on the Fables comics by Bill Willingham. In the heart of a messed-up fairytale Fabletown, you’ll find a warped Snow White as Director of Operations as you seek to solve a grisly murder mystery while maintaining the sanity of the town.
The dark, macabre elements that make up a successful horror computer game are what helps the theme successfully transcend into the gaming industry, creating a weirdly addictive feeling of trauma that only horror gaming titles are capable of stirring up.