Sunday, October 3, 2010

Survival Horror, what scares me

So survival horror, one of my favorite genres.  My all time favorite is still RPGs(and MMORPGs as well, but i'll get to that in a bit).  So what exactly makes a game, survival horror.  Well, we could do some analysis of the words, get out their meaning etc etc, but why do that?  Instead we're going to look at some of the games in the genre, their common themes and why some seem to be more popular then others.  So let's start with two classics, Silent Hill and Resident Evil.

Resident evil is a zombie survival horror game that focuses on an evil corporation that creates a new type of bio-weapon that turns people into zombies, hunters and other weird creatures.  This is more of a semi natural survival horror, as it attempts to explain what is going on by using a real world thing (virus, mutations and in the later games some kind of weird, insect thing I'm not 100% sure on that)  In this style of the genre, your usually trained in some kind of military or special combat (police officer etc) and thus are able to use various weapons.  The survival horror part comes from the lack of supplies scattered around and the feeling that your all alone, usually in a vast city or similar environment.  The game tends to be scary of the in your face kind, things jumping out of windows or randomly showing.  The music and general sounds do help a little bit, but overall I don't rate these games as very good examples of the genre.  Their still good games (except RE5, why oh why do my legs disappear when I pull out a gun).

So, onto Silent Hill.  This game does have some general jump out at you moments, but tends to focus more on the supernatural aspect of survival horror.  Your in a town, covered by fog.  Your all alone except for occasionally running into people who for all intensive purposes are kind of crazy.  The creatures you meet are also twisted, somewhat human in shape but always horribly transformed into something so obviously not human but human enough to make you cringe.  your also never really given a good answer of what is going on and what these creatures are.  One game alludes them all to being people and your just seeing them as monsters, one suggest they are creatures from a young girls twisted mind, and another never even gives them an explanation.  The terror in this game comes less from random events and more from your surroundings.  The landscape is foggy, worn down and flickers between somewhat normal and a dark, twisted version of itself.  The sound and atmosphere also make this game.  You hear things twitch and shudder around you, horrible sounds of huge metal fans or even random words float around you.  For me personally this kind of game is what truly defines the genre.  Your character is really just a normal person stuck in this horrific place, with only their regular skills, wits and sometimes no weapons to get themselves out of the situation.

Now, these two series of game are of course not the entire genre in of themselves.  We have the fatal frame series, the clocktower series (one i've been meaning to explore some more as time permits) and even the dead space series (which for some reason intrigues me to no end, one of the few newer games I've played through multiple times).  These games also tend to have some kind of otherworldly horror involved in them, sometimes set in the future or in a very small area to further heighten the tension.  At the end of the day, that is what survival horror, I believe is trying to accomplish.  It's trying to build tension and fear.  You don't feel like the all powerful god of destruction when playing these games.  You feel like an average person trying to make it out alive and hope what is left of your sanity is enough to make it to the grocery store without falling over twitching in some random puddle.

This is just the first Halloween themed post coming up.  I'm going to be reviewing some survival horror games as time permits, go a little more in depth into the genre and also talk about online play in games and how it has affected different genres.

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