Wed. Jul 24th, 2024

Horror games have been a staple in the gaming industry for decades, but what exactly is the genre of a horror game? Is it just a game that is meant to scare players or is there more to it than that? In this article, we will be diving deep into the genre of survival horror games and exploring what makes them so captivating to players. From the origins of survival horror to the key elements that define the genre, we will be uncovering the secrets behind some of the most terrifying games ever made. So, buckle up and get ready to survive the fear as we explore the world of survival horror games.

What is Survival Horror?

Origins of the Genre

Early Influences

The survival horror genre has its roots in several early influences that shaped the genre as we know it today. Two of the earliest influences are the Ataribox and the Haunted House.

Ataribox

The Ataribox, also known as the Atari 2600, was a popular video game console released in 1977. It was one of the first consoles to use cartridges instead of built-in games, and it was also one of the first consoles to use joysticks instead of buttons. The Ataribox had a significant impact on the video game industry, and it was one of the first consoles to be successful in the mainstream market. The Ataribox’s popularity led to the creation of many horror-themed games, including the classic Haunted House.

Haunted House

Haunted House is a text-based adventure game that was released in 1981 for the Ataribox. It was one of the first games to use a text-based interface, and it was also one of the first games to use a horror theme. In Haunted House, the player takes on the role of a character who is trapped in a haunted house and must find a way to escape. The game was a huge success and set the stage for future horror-themed games.

The Rise of Resident Evil

Resident Evil is a popular survival horror game series that was first released in 1996. The game was a huge success and helped to popularize the survival horror genre. Resident Evil was created by Capcom and was directed by Shinji Mikami. The game’s success led to the creation of many other survival horror games, including Silent Hill and Alone in the Dark.

The Birth of Modern Survival Horror

Resident Evil is often credited with being the game that popularized the survival horror genre. The game’s success was due in part to its use of a new formula that combined elements of horror and action. The game’s emphasis on exploration, puzzle-solving, and combat set it apart from other horror games at the time. Resident Evil also introduced a new type of enemy known as zombies, which would go on to become a staple of the survival horror genre.

Crafting a New Formula

Resident Evil was also notable for its use of a new type of camera system. The game used a fixed camera angle system that gave the player a sense of a real environment. This new camera system helped to create a more immersive experience for the player and set the stage for future survival horror games.

Other Notable Games

In addition to Resident Evil, there are several other notable games that helped to shape the survival horror genre. These games include Silent Hill, Resident Evil 2, and Alone in the Dark.

Silent Hill

Silent Hill is a popular survival horror game series that was first released in 1999. The game was created by Konami and was directed by Keiichiro Toyama. Silent Hill is known for its psychological horror theme and its use of a unique setting. The game’s emphasis on storytelling and atmosphere helped to create a more immersive experience for the player.

Resident Evil 2

Resident Evil 2 is a popular survival horror game that was released in 1998. The game was a sequel to the original Resident Evil and was created by Capcom. Resident Evil 2 was notable for its improved graphics and sound, as well as its use of a new storyline. The game’s emphasis on combat and puzzle-solving helped to make it a classic of the survival horror genre.

Alone in the Dark

Alone in the Dark is a survival horror game series that was first released in 1992. The game was created by Infogrames and was directed by Frédéric Ray

Key Elements of Survival Horror Games

Key takeaway: Survival horror games have evolved over the years, incorporating elements from various influences such as the Ataribox and Haunted House, with Resident Evil being a major game that popularized the genre. These games use atmosphere, tension, and player agency to create a terrifying experience for the player. The subgenres of psychological horror and cosmic horror have emerged, with games like Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Bloodborne as prime examples. The indie horror boom has led to new and innovative survival horror games, and VR technology has the potential to revolutionize the genre. The future of survival horror holds new technologies, challenges, and opportunities for the genre to continue to evolve.

Atmosphere and Tension

Ambience and Mood

In survival horror games, atmosphere and mood play a crucial role in creating a sense of fear and tension. Developers use various techniques to establish the game’s atmosphere, such as lighting, color schemes, and camera angles. For instance, dim lighting and dark colors can create a foreboding and eerie atmosphere, while bright lighting and vibrant colors can evoke a sense of hope and relief.

Sound Design

Sound design is another essential element in creating an immersive and terrifying experience for players. In survival horror games, developers use a combination of music, sound effects (SFX), and voice acting to create a sense of fear and tension.

The Power of Music

Music is a powerful tool in creating an atmosphere of fear and tension. In survival horror games, the music is often ominous and foreboding, with a slow and eerie tempo that builds up the player’s anxiety. The music can also change dynamically, becoming more intense and faster during gameplay sequences, such as chases or battles, to create a sense of urgency and danger.

SFX and Voice Acting

Sound effects and voice acting are also essential in creating a sense of fear and tension in survival horror games. SFX, such as creaking doors, footsteps, and whispers, can create a sense of unease and alertness in players. Voice acting can also be used to create a sense of realism and immersion, with characters delivering lines that convey fear, anger, or confusion.

Environmental Storytelling

Environmental storytelling is another technique used in survival horror games to create a sense of fear and tension. This technique involves using the game’s environment to tell a story and create a sense of atmosphere.

World Building

World building is a crucial aspect of environmental storytelling. In survival horror games, developers create detailed and immersive worlds that are rich in history and lore. These worlds are often filled with clues, puzzles, and hidden secrets that players must discover to progress in the game. By exploring the game’s world, players can uncover the history of the game’s setting, the motivations of its characters, and the backstory of its monsters and enemies.

Puzzles and Exploration

Puzzles and exploration are also essential elements in creating a sense of fear and tension in survival horror games. These elements encourage players to explore the game’s world, discover hidden secrets, and uncover the game’s story. Puzzles can range from simple obstacles, such as locked doors or hidden switches, to complex challenges, such as riddles or puzzles that require players to think creatively and use their knowledge of the game’s world. By solving puzzles and exploring the game’s world, players can also uncover clues and information that can help them survive and progress in the game.

Progression and Player Agency

Pacing

  • In survival horror games, pacing is crucial to maintaining the balance between fear and frustration.
  • If the game is too slow, players may become bored and disengaged, while a game that is too fast-paced can cause players to feel overwhelmed and lose immersion in the game world.
  • Pacing can also affect the timing of scares and tension-relief moments, which must be carefully balanced to keep players engaged and invested in the story.
Tension and Relief
  • Tension is created through various means, such as ominous music, creepy environments, and unexpected jump scares.
  • Relief can come in the form of solving puzzles, defeating enemies, or finding a safe haven.
  • It is important for the game to strike a balance between tension and relief, as too much tension can lead to player burnout, while too much relief can make the game feel predictable and dull.
Scares and Exploration
  • Scares are an essential element of survival horror games, and can be achieved through a variety of methods, such as jump scares, atmosphere, and enemy design.
  • Exploration is also a key aspect of survival horror games, as players must search for clues, items, and information to progress through the game.
  • However, too much exploration can lead to frustration and a loss of focus on the main objective, so it is important for the game to provide a clear sense of direction and purpose.

Character Development

  • RPG elements, such as character stats and abilities, can enhance the sense of player agency and progression.
  • Multiple endings can provide replay value and encourage players to explore different paths and make different choices.
  • However, too many choices can lead to a loss of focus and a fragmented narrative, so it is important for the game to provide a clear sense of direction and purpose.
RPG Elements
  • However, too many RPG elements can lead to a loss of focus on the main objective and make the game feel like a chore.
  • It is important for the game to strike a balance between providing enough RPG elements to enhance player agency and progression, while avoiding overwhelming the player with too many options.
Multiple Endings
  • However, too many endings can lead to a loss of focus and a fragmented narrative, so it is important for the game to provide a clear sense of direction and purpose.
  • It is also important for the endings to feel meaningful and impactful, rather than simply being a result of different choices.

Subgenres of Survival Horror

Psychological Horror

The Psychology of Fear

The psychology of fear plays a significant role in the development and success of psychological horror games. It is important to understand the human psyche and how fear can be manipulated to create a terrifying experience for the player. This subgenre of survival horror games focuses on creating an atmosphere of tension and dread, often by exploring themes such as paranoia, isolation, and the unknown.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent

Amnesia: The Dark Descent, developed by Frictional Games, is a prime example of a psychological horror game. The game’s story follows a protagonist who wakes up in a desolate castle with no memory of how he got there. As the player progresses through the game, they begin to uncover a dark and disturbing history of the castle and its inhabitants.

The game’s mechanics focus on creating a sense of dread and unease, rather than relying on traditional jump scares. The player is forced to navigate through the castle using only a candle for light, and must conserve their resources in order to survive. The game also features a unique sanity mechanic, where the player’s character begins to lose their grip on reality as they experience more and more terrifying events.

Outlast

Storytelling and Suspense

Outlast, developed by Red Barrels, is another notable example of a psychological horror game. The game’s story follows a journalist who is investigating a mysterious and dangerous asylum. The player must navigate through the asylum, avoiding detection by the dangerous inmates and staff members, while trying to uncover the truth behind the asylum’s dark past.

The game excels in creating a sense of suspense and tension, often using the environment and sound design to create an unsettling atmosphere. The game’s storytelling is also a key element in creating a terrifying experience for the player, as the player is forced to piece together clues and information to uncover the asylum’s dark secrets.

Sanity Mechanics

Both Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Outlast feature unique sanity mechanics that add to the psychological horror experience. In Amnesia, the player’s character slowly loses their grip on reality as they experience more and more terrifying events. In Outlast, the player’s character is also subject to the effects of trauma, with their sanity being affected by the disturbing events they witness and experience.

These sanity mechanics add an extra layer of tension and fear to the games, as the player must balance their character’s mental state with their desire to survive. They also add a sense of realism to the games, as the player must consider the psychological effects of the terrifying events they are experiencing.

Cosmic Horror

Lovecraftian Influences

Eldritch Abominations

Cosmic horror is a subgenre of survival horror that draws heavily from the works of H.P. Lovecraft. In this subgenre, players must face off against eldritch abominations, which are creatures that defy the laws of nature and logic. These creatures are often described as being otherworldly and incomprehensible, making them all the more terrifying.

Cosmic Mystery

In addition to facing off against eldritch abominations, cosmic horror also often involves a sense of cosmic mystery. This means that players are faced with a sense of awe and wonder, as well as fear, when exploring the world of cosmic horror. The sense of mystery and the unknown can be just as unsettling as the horror itself, as players are left to grapple with questions that have no easy answers.

Bloodborne

Gothic Architecture

One of the most iconic aspects of cosmic horror is its use of gothic architecture. In Bloodborne, players explore a dark and foreboding world filled with crumbling buildings and decaying structures. This atmosphere of decay and decay adds to the sense of unease and fear that permeates the game.

Yharnam’s Lore

In addition to its use of gothic architecture, Bloodborne also delves deep into the lore of Yharnam, a fictional city that serves as the setting for the game. Players are introduced to a rich history of the city, including its inhabitants, its culture, and its traditions. This immersion in the lore of Yharnam helps to further immerse players in the world of cosmic horror and make the experience all the more terrifying.

Survival Horror in the 21st Century

The Indie Horror Boom

  • A New Wave of Fear

The 21st century has seen a resurgence in the popularity of survival horror games, with indie developers taking the genre in new and exciting directions. With smaller budgets and more creative freedom, indie developers have been able to push the boundaries of what is possible in the genre, resulting in a new wave of fear that has captivated audiences.

  • Amnesia: The Dark Descent

One of the standout examples of indie horror is Amnesia: The Dark Descent, a first-person survival horror game developed by Frictional Games. Released in 2010, the game follows the player as they explore a creepy castle, uncovering the dark secrets of its past and attempting to survive the horrors that lurk within. The game’s use of tension and fear was revolutionary, and it has since spawned several sequels and imitators.

VR Horror

  • Immersive Experiences

Virtual reality (VR) has also had a significant impact on the survival horror genre, allowing players to experience fear in a whole new way. VR horror games place the player in the middle of the action, making them feel like they are truly part of the terrifying world. This level of immersion can be both thrilling and terrifying, as players must confront their fears head-on.

  • The Future of Survival Horror

As technology continues to advance, the potential for VR horror games is immense. With the ability to create truly immersive experiences, the future of survival horror looks bright, and players can expect to be scared in ways they never thought possible.

The Future of Survival Horror

Ongoing Evolution

New Technologies

  • Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)
    • Immersive experiences through VR headsets and AR smartphone apps
    • Expanding the potential for interactive storytelling and terror
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Procedural Generation
    • AI-driven enemy behavior and adaptive environments
    • Procedural generation of levels, enemies, and items for infinite replayability
  • Increasing Accessibility
    • Accessibility options for players with disabilities
    • More diverse representation in games and characters

Challenges and Opportunities

  • A Crowded Market
    • Standing out among the numerous survival horror games released yearly
    • Differentiating from established franchises like Resident Evil and Silent Hill
  • Maintaining Quality
    • Ensuring polished gameplay and avoiding glitches or bugs
    • Meeting high expectations of dedicated fanbase
  • Staying True to the Genre
    • Balancing modern innovations with classic survival horror elements
    • Adapting to changing player preferences without sacrificing the core experience

Predictions and Speculations

The Next Big Thing

  • Virtual Reality (VR) Integration: As VR technology advances, survival horror games may seamlessly integrate VR for an immersive, terrifying experience. Players can expect heightened sensory engagement, with haptic feedback and 360-degree environments enhancing their sense of vulnerability and isolation.
  • AI-Driven Gameplay: With the rise of advanced AI, survival horror games may incorporate dynamic, adaptive enemies that challenge players to think and strategize on their feet. This would add a new layer of realism and unpredictability to the genre, forcing players to confront their deepest fears in ever-evolving scenarios.

Emerging Trends

  • Social Horror: As social interactions and online communities become increasingly important, survival horror games may explore the darker side of human connection. Players may be forced to navigate complex webs of trust and betrayal, as they question the loyalty of their fellow survivors and face the consequences of their decisions.
  • Psychological Thrillers: The genre may delve deeper into psychological terror, focusing on the inner demons and psychological traumas of the characters. Players will be challenged to unravel the mysteries of their own minds, as well as those of their tormentors, in a quest for survival and self-discovery.

Niche Genres

  • Eco-Horror: As environmental concerns continue to dominate public discourse, survival horror games may explore the dark side of humanity’s relationship with nature. Players will face terrifying threats from a vengeful ecosystem, forced to balance their own survival with the preservation of a fragile, dying world.
  • Cyber-Horror: As technology advances and becomes more integral to our lives, survival horror games may delve into the darker side of the digital realm. Players will navigate a world of augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and cybernetic enhancements, grappling with the consequences of their own augmentations and the ethical implications of their choices.

The Evolution of Horror

The Cycle of Fear
  • Familiarity and Predictability: Survival horror games may cycle back to familiar tropes and settings, providing comfort to players who crave familiarity while also subverting expectations with unexpected twists and turns.
  • Reinvention and Evolution: The genre will continue to evolve, pushing boundaries and experimenting with new narrative structures, gameplay mechanics, and visual styles.
Horror in the Mainstream
  • Accessibility and Mass Appeal: Survival horror games may aim for broader appeal, embracing accessible gameplay mechanics and less-confrontational scares. This approach could introduce the genre to new audiences, expanding its reach and popularity.
  • Maturation and Social Commentary: As the genre matures, survival horror games may explore more complex themes and tackle pressing social issues. Players will face horrors that reflect the anxieties and fears of modern society, compelling them to confront their own beliefs and values in the face of unspeakable terror.

FAQs

1. What is the genre of a horror game?

A horror game is a type of video game that is designed to elicit feelings of fear, anxiety, and suspense in the player. These games often involve dark and eerie environments, supernatural elements, and terrifying creatures or monsters that the player must avoid or defeat. The genre of a horror game can vary, but some common subgenres include survival horror, psychological horror, and action-adventure horror.

2. What is survival horror?

Survival horror is a subgenre of horror games that emphasizes survival and evasion over combat. In these games, the player is often trapped in a dangerous environment and must scavenge for resources, avoid or hide from enemies, and solve puzzles to progress. The player’s character is often weak and vulnerable, forcing the player to rely on their wits and instincts to survive.

3. What is psychological horror?

Psychological horror is a subgenre of horror games that focuses on creating an atmosphere of dread and unease through psychological manipulation. These games often use elements such as darkness, isolation, and paranoia to create a sense of fear and tension. They may also involve supernatural or otherworldly elements that challenge the player’s perception of reality.

4. What is action-adventure horror?

Action-adventure horror is a subgenre of horror games that combines elements of action and adventure with horror. These games often feature a larger, more open world than other horror games and may allow the player to explore at their leisure. They may also include combat mechanics and a greater emphasis on exploration and discovery.

5. What makes a game a survival horror game?

A game is typically considered a survival horror game if it includes elements such as a vulnerable player character, a dangerous and claustrophobic environment, limited resources, and a focus on evasion and survival rather than combat. Survival horror games often have a slow, creeping pace and rely on building tension and fear through atmosphere and setting.

6. What makes a game a psychological horror game?

A game is typically considered a psychological horror game if it focuses on creating an atmosphere of dread and unease through psychological manipulation. This may involve using elements such as darkness, isolation, and paranoia to create a sense of fear and tension. Psychological horror games often challenge the player’s perception of reality and may include supernatural or otherworldly elements.

7. What makes a game an action-adventure horror game?

A game is typically considered an action-adventure horror game if it combines elements of action and adventure with horror. These games often feature a larger, more open world than other horror games and may allow the player to explore at their leisure. They may also include combat mechanics and a greater emphasis on exploration and discovery.

8. Can a game be both a survival horror game and a psychological horror game?

Yes, a game can be both a survival horror game and a psychological horror game. In fact, many horror games combine elements of both genres to create a unique and terrifying experience. A game that focuses on both survival and psychological manipulation may be particularly effective at building tension and fear in the player.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *