Wed. May 29th, 2024

Ah, the fascinating world of kids and their attraction to all things spooky! From creepy-crawlies to bone-chilling ghost stories, children seem to have an insatiable appetite for all things that go bump in the night. But why is that? What is it about scary things that draws them in like moths to a flame? As a game developer, I’ve always been intrigued by this enigmatic appeal, and in this article, I’ll be delving into the dark depths of the matter to uncover the truth behind the allure of scary games for kids. So, buckle up and get ready to explore the spooky world of children’s minds!

The Psychology Behind Kids’ Attraction to Scary Things

Fear and Excitement: A Thrilling Blend

Scary games for kids often evoke a complex mix of emotions, including fear and excitement. This blend of feelings can be attributed to several psychological factors, which can help explain the enigmatic appeal of such games to children.

  1. The Thrill of Fear: Children often find thrill in facing their fears, which is a natural part of their development. Engaging with scary games can provide a controlled environment for them to confront their fears and feel a sense of accomplishment when they overcome them. This can contribute to their self-esteem and resilience.
  2. Excitement and Arousal: The adrenaline rush that comes with experiencing fear in a safe and controlled environment can be incredibly exciting for children. This arousal can heighten their senses, making them more focused and alert, which can be an enjoyable experience in itself.
  3. Seeking Control: Children may seek control over their emotions and the situations they face. Engaging with scary games allows them to feel a sense of control over their fears, as they can choose to continue or stop the game at any point. This can provide a sense of empowerment and mastery over their emotions.
  4. Escape and Imagination: Scary games offer children an opportunity to escape from reality and immerse themselves in a world of imagination. This can be a way for them to process their emotions and experiences in a safe and creative manner.
  5. Social Interaction: Playing scary games with friends can foster social interaction and shared experiences. This can strengthen friendships and provide a sense of belonging and security within a group.
  6. Learning and Growth: Overcoming fears and navigating challenging situations in scary games can provide valuable learning experiences for children. They can develop problem-solving skills, resilience, and coping mechanisms that can benefit them in real-life situations.

Understanding these psychological factors can help game developers create more engaging and enjoyable experiences for children while ensuring their safety and well-being.

The Novelty Factor: Seeking New Sensations

In recent years, researchers have been fascinated by the psychology behind children’s attraction to scary things. One of the key factors that has been identified is the “novelty factor,” which refers to the desire for new and exciting experiences.

This desire for novelty is a natural human instinct that drives individuals to seek out new sensations and experiences. Children, in particular, are highly motivated to explore and learn about the world around them, and they often seek out new and exciting experiences to satisfy this curiosity.

For many children, scary games and movies provide a unique and exciting experience that they may not be able to find in their everyday lives. These experiences can be thrilling and exciting, and they can provide children with a sense of control and mastery over their environment.

Furthermore, the novelty factor can also play a role in children’s attraction to scary games and movies. These experiences are often highly engaging and stimulating, and they can provide children with a sense of excitement and adventure that they may not be able to find in other areas of their lives.

In conclusion, the novelty factor is a key factor that contributes to children’s attraction to scary games and movies. This desire for new and exciting experiences is a natural human instinct, and it can play a significant role in children’s development and exploration of the world around them.

Escapism: Coping with Reality through Fear

The allure of fear in children’s games is often rooted in the concept of escapism. This psychological phenomenon, as described by psychologist David Elkind, suggests that children may seek to cope with the anxieties and uncertainties of reality by immersing themselves in fictional worlds where they can face and overcome fears in a controlled environment. In the context of scary games, this translates to children embracing the thrill and excitement of navigating eerie settings, confronting spine-chilling creatures, and resolving perilous situations.

By entering these imaginary realms, children can temporarily escape from the challenges and stresses of their everyday lives. This escape allows them to confront their fears and anxieties in a safe and controlled environment, where they can practice coping mechanisms and build resilience. The excitement and adrenaline rush that accompanies overcoming these fears can provide a sense of empowerment and confidence, which may translate to a heightened sense of self-efficacy in real-life situations.

However, it is essential for developers to recognize the delicate balance between providing an engaging and thrilling experience and potentially causing undue distress or trauma to children who may not have the necessary coping mechanisms to navigate these fears effectively. Understanding the individual differences and needs of players is crucial in crafting games that promote healthy escapism rather than reinforcing negative emotional patterns.

Additionally, developers must consider the potential influence of violent or overly frightening content on children’s perceptions of the world and their own safety. While some research suggests that the effects of media violence on children may be less pronounced than previously thought, it is still crucial to approach the subject matter with sensitivity and care.

In summary, the concept of escapism through fear plays a significant role in the allure of scary games for kids. By understanding and addressing the psychological factors at play, developers can create experiences that promote healthy coping mechanisms and foster resilience while avoiding potentially harmful effects.

The Evolution of Scary Games for Kids

Key takeaway: Scary games for kids evoke a mix of emotions, including fear and excitement, due to several psychological factors such as the thrill of fear, the novelty factor, escapism, and learning and growth. Developers can create engaging experiences for children by understanding these factors while ensuring their safety and well-being. Horror games have evolved significantly, from early arcade games to modern mobile and console games, incorporating cinematic storytelling, immersive graphics, and innovative gameplay mechanics. Online multiplayer horror games have gained popularity due to technological advancements, changing player preferences, and the desire for social interaction. Parents and educators play a crucial role in understanding and discussing children’s fears related to scary games, promoting critical thinking, and balanced media consumption, and fostering creative and emotional growth. Horror game developers should ensure age-appropriate content, balance scares with positive elements, and promote empathy and critical thinking while engaging with parents and educators to support young players.

Early Arcade Horror Games

In the early days of arcade gaming, horror-themed games were not as widespread as they are today. However, a few titles did manage to make an impact and pave the way for future horror games.

The Haunted House

The Haunted House, released in 1981, was one of the first horror games to be released in the arcade era. In this game, players had to navigate through a haunted house, avoiding ghosts and other supernatural creatures. The game’s dark atmosphere and eerie sound effects helped to create a sense of fear and tension, making it a popular choice among arcade-goers.

Missing: An Adventure

Another early horror game was Missing: An Adventure, released in 1982. This game followed the story of a young girl who had been kidnapped by a serial killer. Players had to navigate through a series of mazes and puzzles to find the girl and rescue her. The game’s dark storyline and eerie atmosphere made it a popular choice among horror fans.

Ghouls ‘n Ghosts

Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, released in 1988, was a side-scrolling platform game that featured horror elements. The game followed the story of a knight who had to fight his way through hordes of monsters and ghosts to save his wife from the devil. The game’s dark atmosphere and intense action made it a popular choice among gamers.

These early arcade horror games helped to lay the groundwork for future horror games, paving the way for the horror game genre to become one of the most popular genres in gaming today.

Modern Mobile and Console Horror Games

In recent years, mobile and console horror games have experienced a resurgence in popularity, particularly among younger audiences. These games have evolved significantly from their early counterparts, incorporating more sophisticated storytelling, immersive graphics, and innovative gameplay mechanics. This section will delve into the factors that contribute to the enigmatic appeal of modern mobile and console horror games for kids.

  • Cinematic Storytelling: Contemporary horror games have transitioned from simplistic narratives to more intricate, cinematic storylines. This allows players to become fully immersed in the game’s world, fostering a sense of suspense and terror. These narratives often explore mature themes, such as morality, guilt, and redemption, which can be both captivating and educational for young players.
  • Immersive Graphics: Advancements in mobile and console technology have enabled developers to create visually stunning horror games. Realistic graphics, coupled with atmospheric sound effects and lighting, create an immersive experience that heightens the emotional impact of the game. This level of realism can help players better engage with the story and feel the intensity of the situations they encounter.
  • Innovative Gameplay Mechanics: Modern horror games have incorporated innovative gameplay mechanics that cater to different playstyles and preferences. Some games feature dynamic environments that react to the player’s actions, while others incorporate puzzle-solving elements or branching storylines based on player choices. These mechanics add layers of depth and replayability to the games, ensuring that they remain engaging and challenging for players of all ages.
  • Safe, Controlled Fear: Many parents and experts argue that modern mobile and console horror games provide a safe, controlled environment for children to experience fear and learn coping mechanisms. Unlike real-life situations, players can exit the game at any time, and the fear is ultimately temporary and self-contained. This can help children develop resilience and learn strategies for dealing with fear and anxiety in the real world.
  • Social Interaction: Modern mobile and console horror games often include multiplayer components, allowing friends to play together and share the experience. This social aspect can enhance the overall enjoyment of the game, as players can discuss their choices, strategies, and reactions in a supportive environment. It also provides an opportunity for children to learn social skills, such as teamwork and communication, while enjoying a shared interest.

Overall, modern mobile and console horror games have evolved into sophisticated, immersive experiences that cater to the interests and preferences of younger audiences. By offering a safe, controlled environment for children to explore fear and anxiety, these games can provide valuable learning opportunities and contribute to the development of important life skills.

The Rise of Online Multiplayer Horror Games

In recent years, there has been a noticeable shift in the gaming industry towards online multiplayer horror games. These games are designed to be played with a group of friends over the internet, allowing players to experience the fear and excitement together in real-time. The rise of online multiplayer horror games can be attributed to several factors, including advancements in technology, changing player preferences, and the desire for social interaction in the gaming experience.

One of the main reasons behind the rise of online multiplayer horror games is the advancement in technology. With the widespread availability of high-speed internet and powerful gaming devices, it has become easier for players to connect with each other and engage in online gaming experiences. Online multiplayer horror games have capitalized on this trend, offering players the opportunity to join forces with their friends and tackle terrifying challenges together.

Another factor contributing to the rise of online multiplayer horror games is the changing preferences of players. Many gamers are now seeking more immersive and engaging experiences, and online multiplayer games offer a unique opportunity to connect with others and share the experience. In addition, the social aspect of online gaming has become increasingly important, with players looking for ways to interact with others and build communities around their shared interests.

Finally, the rise of online multiplayer horror games can also be attributed to the desire for social interaction in the gaming experience. Unlike traditional single-player games, online multiplayer games allow players to engage with each other in real-time, creating a sense of camaraderie and shared experience. This social aspect of online gaming has been a key driver in the popularity of online multiplayer horror games, as players enjoy the thrill of facing their fears together with their friends.

Overall, the rise of online multiplayer horror games represents a significant shift in the gaming industry, as players seek out more immersive and engaging experiences that allow them to connect with others. As technology continues to advance and player preferences evolve, it is likely that online multiplayer horror games will continue to gain popularity and remain a staple of the gaming experience for years to come.

The Role of Parents and Educators in Understanding the Fascination

Discussing Fears and Encouraging Healthy Coping Mechanisms

When it comes to scary games, it’s essential for parents and educators to play a crucial role in understanding the fascination that kids have with these games. By discussing their fears and encouraging healthy coping mechanisms, adults can help children navigate the complex emotions that these games evoke.

Here are some ways that parents and educators can discuss fears and encourage healthy coping mechanisms:

  1. Acknowledge and validate feelings: It’s important to acknowledge and validate children’s feelings when they express fear or anxiety related to scary games. This helps children feel heard and understood, which can reduce their anxiety and increase their willingness to communicate about their emotions.
  2. Encourage problem-solving skills: By encouraging children to think critically and creatively about their fears, parents and educators can help them develop problem-solving skills that they can apply to other areas of their lives. For example, parents can ask questions like, “What do you think would happen if you didn’t play this scary game? What other activities could you do instead?”
  3. Normalize fear and anxiety: It’s normal for children to feel fear and anxiety, especially when it comes to scary games. By normalizing these emotions, parents and educators can help children understand that their feelings are valid and that they can learn to manage them.
  4. Teach coping mechanisms: There are many coping mechanisms that children can use to manage their fear and anxiety related to scary games. For example, parents can teach children deep breathing exercises, visualization techniques, or mindfulness practices to help them calm down when they feel scared or anxious.
  5. Provide a safe space for discussion: Children may not always feel comfortable discussing their fears and anxieties related to scary games with parents or educators. It’s important to provide a safe space where children feel comfortable discussing their emotions without fear of judgment or criticism. This can help children feel more secure and supported, which can reduce their anxiety and increase their willingness to communicate about their emotions.

Promoting Critical Thinking and Balanced Media Consumption

As parents and educators, it is essential to recognize the value of scary games in fostering critical thinking and balanced media consumption in kids. By engaging with these games, children can develop important skills and perspectives that help them navigate the complex world of media and entertainment. Here are some ways to promote critical thinking and balanced media consumption in children who enjoy scary games:

  1. Encourage a Healthy Balance: Help children understand that scary games are just one aspect of the gaming world, and it is important to maintain a balanced diet of genres and content. Encourage them to explore different types of games and activities to avoid becoming overly reliant on scary games.
  2. Discuss Real-World Consequences: Use scary games as an opportunity to discuss the potential consequences of fear and anxiety in real life. Help children understand that while the thrill of scary games can be exciting, it is essential to manage these emotions and recognize when they may be negatively impacting their well-being.
  3. Teach Critical Thinking Skills: Guide children in analyzing and deconstructing the themes, narratives, and mechanics of scary games. Encourage them to think critically about the messages and implications of the games they play, fostering a deeper understanding of the content and its potential effects.
  4. Engage in Open Dialogue: Create a safe space for open and honest conversations about scary games. Encourage children to express their thoughts, feelings, and concerns, and provide a supportive environment where they can ask questions and share their experiences.
  5. Set Limits and Boundaries: Establish clear guidelines and boundaries for media consumption, including scary games. Help children understand the importance of moderation and self-control, ensuring that they can enjoy these games without compromising their overall well-being or neglecting other important aspects of their lives.
  6. Foster Creative Expression: Encourage children to express their emotions and thoughts related to scary games through creative outlets, such as writing, drawing, or storytelling. This can help them process their feelings and gain a better understanding of the impact of these games on their minds and emotions.
  7. Monitor and Support: Keep a close eye on your child’s media consumption habits, paying attention to their preferences, behaviors, and reactions. Offer support and guidance as needed, and be prepared to adjust your approach based on their individual needs and experiences.

By promoting critical thinking and balanced media consumption, parents and educators can help children develop healthy and informed attitudes towards scary games, enabling them to enjoy these experiences while maintaining a well-rounded and balanced approach to media and entertainment.

Fostering Creative and Emotional Growth through Scary Games

While the appeal of scary games for kids may seem enigmatic, there are underlying factors that contribute to their fascination. From a developer’s perspective, incorporating elements of fear in games can serve as a catalyst for creative and emotional growth in children.

Promoting Imagination and Creativity

Scary games often rely on storytelling and atmospheric elements to create an immersive experience. By engaging with these games, children are encouraged to use their imagination and think critically about the narrative. This imaginative process helps to foster creativity and can inspire children to create their own stories or artwork.

Moreover, scary games can offer a unique challenge for players to navigate through tense situations, problem-solve, and make decisions. These challenges can promote critical thinking and help children develop strategies for overcoming obstacles, both in the game and in real life.

Developing Emotional Resilience

Facing fear in a controlled environment, such as a scary game, can help children develop emotional resilience. By confronting their fears in a virtual setting, they learn to cope with anxiety and become more comfortable with uncertainty. This process can help them build emotional intelligence and develop healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with stress and anxiety in their daily lives.

Learning Empathy and Perspective Taking

Scary games often involve characters with rich backstories and motivations. By exploring these narratives, children can develop empathy and practice perspective-taking. They learn to understand the thoughts, feelings, and actions of others, which is an essential skill for building strong relationships and navigating social situations.

Encouraging a Healthy Fear Awareness

Finally, engaging with scary games can help children develop a healthy awareness of fear. By recognizing and confronting their fears in a controlled environment, they learn to manage their emotions and gain a better understanding of their feelings. This understanding can help them face real-life fears with confidence and develop a healthy attitude towards fear.

In conclusion, scary games for kids can offer a unique opportunity for creative and emotional growth. By engaging with these games, children can develop their imagination, emotional resilience, empathy, and fear awareness. As developers, it is crucial to create games that not only entertain but also provide opportunities for children to learn and grow.

Horror Game Developers’ Responsibility and Best Practices

Ensuring Age-Appropriate Content and Ratings

When developing horror games for kids, it is crucial for developers to ensure that the content is age-appropriate and that the game receives the appropriate rating. This can be achieved by following several best practices:

  1. Conducting thorough research: Developers should research the age group they are targeting and the types of content that are considered appropriate for that age group. This can involve studying child psychology, consulting with experts in the field, and analyzing successful horror games for kids.
  2. Working with rating boards: Developers should work closely with rating boards, such as the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) in the United States, to ensure that their games meet the required standards for age-appropriate content. This may involve making changes to the game’s content or rating to comply with the board’s guidelines.
  3. Incorporating parental controls: To give parents more control over what their children can access, developers should incorporate parental controls into their games. This can include options to disable certain content, set age restrictions, and limit gameplay time.
  4. Creating educational content: To provide parents with more context about the game’s content, developers can create educational content, such as game guides, FAQs, and articles that explain the game’s themes and how they are presented. This can help parents make informed decisions about whether the game is appropriate for their children.
  5. Considering cultural differences: When developing horror games for kids, developers should consider cultural differences and ensure that the game’s content is appropriate for a global audience. This can involve consulting with experts in different cultures and making changes to the game’s content to ensure that it is not offensive or inappropriate in any way.

By following these best practices, developers can ensure that their horror games for kids are age-appropriate and receive the appropriate rating, while still providing a fun and engaging experience for young players.

Balancing Scares with Positive Elements

When developing horror games for kids, it is crucial to balance the frightening elements with positive and reassuring aspects. This approach helps to create an enjoyable experience for the young players while ensuring their emotional well-being. Here are some key considerations for balancing scares with positive elements in horror games for kids:

  • Age-appropriate content: Developers should carefully select and design the scary elements to be suitable for the target age group. For instance, younger children may find less intense horror experiences more enjoyable, while older kids can handle more complex and frightening themes.
  • Positive protagonists: Creating protagonists that embody positive traits, such as courage, determination, and empathy, can help children see the value in overcoming challenges and facing their fears. This approach allows kids to identify with the characters and learn valuable life lessons.
  • Supportive gameplay mechanics: Developers can incorporate mechanics that encourage teamwork, cooperation, and problem-solving, fostering a sense of camaraderie and support among players. This approach can help children feel more empowered and less vulnerable when facing the scary elements in the game.
  • Reassuring elements: Introducing reassuring elements, such as helpful NPCs, comforting environments, or uplifting music, can provide a sense of safety and security for the players. These elements can help balance the fear and anxiety generated by the scary elements, making the overall experience more enjoyable and less overwhelming.
  • Rewarding challenges: By offering challenges that are appropriately difficult for the target age group, developers can encourage children to overcome their fears and feel a sense of accomplishment. Providing rewards, such as unlocking new levels or obtaining in-game items, can further enhance the sense of achievement and satisfaction.
  • Clear distinction between fantasy and reality: It is essential to ensure that children understand the difference between the game world and the real world. By maintaining a clear distinction between fantasy and reality, developers can help children separate their emotions and experiences from the game, minimizing potential negative impacts on their well-being.

By incorporating these elements into horror games for kids, developers can create an engaging and emotionally balanced experience that allows children to enjoy the thrill of scary games while minimizing potential emotional distress.

Promoting Empathy and Critical Thinking

When developing horror games for kids, it is essential to consider the potential impact on their emotional and psychological well-being. Horror games can provide a unique opportunity to promote empathy and critical thinking in young players. By incorporating elements that encourage empathy and critical thinking, developers can create games that are both scary and educational.


Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. In the context of horror games, empathy can be fostered by creating characters that are relatable and sympathetic. For example, a horror game might feature a young protagonist who is vulnerable and scared, allowing players to experience the fear and anxiety that come with being in a scary situation. By putting themselves in the protagonist’s shoes, players can develop a deeper understanding of how others might feel in similar situations.

In addition to creating relatable characters, developers can also use horror games to teach players about different cultures and experiences. For example, a horror game might be set in a fictional country with its own myths and legends. By exploring these cultural elements, players can learn about different beliefs and traditions and develop a greater appreciation for diversity.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is the ability to analyze information and make informed decisions. Horror games can be an effective tool for promoting critical thinking by challenging players to question their assumptions and beliefs. For example, a horror game might present a situation where the protagonist is faced with a difficult decision, such as whether to trust a stranger or explore a dark alley. By forcing players to consider the potential consequences of their actions, horror games can help develop critical thinking skills.

Another way to promote critical thinking in horror games is by incorporating puzzles and challenges that require players to think creatively and use problem-solving skills. These challenges can be designed to test players’ assumptions and encourage them to think outside the box. By providing players with opportunities to practice critical thinking, horror games can help develop important skills that can be applied in real-life situations.

Overall, by incorporating elements that promote empathy and critical thinking, horror game developers can create games that are both scary and educational. By providing players with opportunities to develop these important skills, horror games can have a positive impact on young players’ emotional and psychological well-being.

Engaging with Parents and Educators to Support Young Players

As horror game developers, it is crucial to acknowledge the responsibility that comes with creating games that may be distressing to young players. In order to mitigate potential negative effects, it is essential to engage with parents and educators to support young players in navigating the complex world of horror games.

Communication with Parents

Horror game developers should take the initiative to communicate with parents about the content and themes of their games. This communication can help parents make informed decisions about whether a game is appropriate for their child and provide guidance on how to discuss the game’s content with their child.

Developers can include age restrictions and content warnings on their games and websites, as well as provide information about the level of fear and violence present in the game. This information can help parents assess whether the game is suitable for their child’s maturity level and emotional resilience.

Partnering with Educators

In addition to communicating with parents, horror game developers can also partner with educators to support young players. Educators can provide valuable insights into the developmental needs and emotional capacities of young players, as well as offer strategies for helping children cope with fear and anxiety.

Developers can collaborate with educators to create educational resources that complement their games, such as lesson plans, discussion guides, and coping strategies. These resources can help educators incorporate the game into their curricula and support young players in processing the game’s content.

Supporting Emotional Well-being

Finally, horror game developers should prioritize the emotional well-being of young players. This can involve providing resources for parents and educators to help children cope with fear and anxiety, as well as designing games that do not traumatize or desensitize players.

Developers can work with psychologists and educators to develop strategies for mitigating the negative effects of horror games, such as incorporating coping mechanisms, providing support for players who become distressed, and balancing fear with positive elements such as humor or relief.

By engaging with parents and educators, horror game developers can help ensure that young players are able to navigate the complex world of horror games in a safe and supportive environment.


1. Why are kids attracted to scary things?

Kids are attracted to scary things for a variety of reasons. One reason is that they are naturally curious and enjoy exploring new and exciting experiences. Scary things, such as horror movies or scary games, can provide a thrilling and exciting experience for kids. Additionally, kids may be drawn to scary things because they want to test their bravery and see if they can handle the fear.

2. Are scary games appropriate for kids?

It depends on the age and maturity level of the child. Some kids may be able to handle scary games and enjoy them without any negative effects, while others may become scared or traumatized by the content. It is important for parents to consider their child’s age and individual sensitivities when deciding whether or not to allow them to play scary games.

3. What can parents do to help their kids cope with scary games?

Parents can help their kids cope with scary games by discussing the content with them beforehand and helping them understand what to expect. It can also be helpful for parents to play the game with their child and provide reassurance and support during gameplay. Additionally, parents can encourage their child to take breaks from the game and engage in other activities to help them relax and de-stress.

4. Are there any benefits to playing scary games?

Yes, there can be benefits to playing scary games. For example, some kids may develop problem-solving skills and strategic thinking as they navigate the challenges of the game. Additionally, playing scary games can help kids build resilience and learn how to cope with fear and anxiety in a safe and controlled environment.

5. How can developers create scary games that are appropriate for kids?

Developers can create scary games that are appropriate for kids by carefully considering the content and tone of the game. They can also include options for players to customize the level of fear and intensity, and provide resources for parents to learn more about the game and its content. Additionally, developers can work with child psychologists and experts to ensure that the game is age-appropriate and does not include any content that may be harmful to young players.

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