The 5 Dos and Don’ts of Horror Gaming

Anyone that knows me can righteously say that I love to play horror games. Although I’ve just recently picked up the genre in the last few years, I consider myself a connoisseur of horror games, analyzing everything from the story progression to those red stains that slather the digital walls. Here are 5 things that should and should not be included in horror games.

The 5 Do’s

        1. Compelling Story

The first thing a horror game needs is a genuinely compelling story that is both intriguing and scary. Dead Space is a great example of this, as it combines futuristic curiosity with a layered plot that leaves the player wondering “WTF!?!”

        2. Grasping Atmosphere

A grasping atmosphere that feels creepy is extremely important in making the world believable. If not correctly implemented, the player just can’t relate to the environment in the game and no matter how many scary moments the player experiences, the effect will slowly wear off.

        3. Excellent A.I.

Excellent A.I. is at the heart of a game’s scare factor. Smart A.I. will add to the visceral feeling of the world and make surviving a challenge as  the player simple can’t aim and shoot – there is skill and strategy involved if gamer’s want to defeat the enemy.

F.E.A.R. A.I.

The revolutionary A.I. in the game F.E.A.R.

        4. Haunting Modelwork

Modelwork, or artwork is also important as it create the overall feel of the game. Artwork that doesn’t capture the games presence and architecture will be the weakest link in disconnecting the player from the fictional world that the developers have created.

        5. Creepy Lighting

Lighting (or lack thereof) is one of the important aspects of horror game design. Without appropriate lighting – which includes a dynamic and varied lighting system – the scare factor can be thrown off to the point that certain scenes or sequences might no be as creepy as designers intend.

The 5 Don’ts

        1. Poor Sound Design

Poor sound design is responsible for the majority of unpopular horror games, as sound design is essential in queuing the raw emotion of fear in the gamer. Without it, the game is dull and quite frankly not worth playing

        2. Sub-Par Graphics

Sub-par graphics are not as much of a problem as they used to be but when modern games include dusty or unappealing graphics or graphic engines, the player feels like he is living in an outdated world. This can hinder the horror mood of the game and just turn the player off.

        3. Non-Genuine Scare Factor

Scare factor, although it may sound obvious, is important to any horror game. However, most games just don’t know how to implement a scare factor, and instead throw scary models at the gamers’ face which in truth is startling instead of scary.

Sleder: The Arrival Gameplay

Slender: The Arrival is more of ‘in-you-face’ instead of true horror

        4. Lazy Checkpoints

Checkpoints or auto-saves that occur right before a cinematic sequences or are lazily placed within the context of the game severely affects the gamer’s mood since it offers them time to relax instead of keeping him on the edge of his seat.

        5. Unconvincing Voice Acting

Voice acting, believe it or not, is sometimes overlooked or shrugged off in games, which creates characters that the players is not emotionally invested in. This can pull the player out of the world and create a distance between the horror elements and the players emotions.