Issue 4.4: Games that Go "Bump" in the Night (Part 2)
*Another* Brief & Horrifying History of Horror Games [Part of Game & Word's First Spooooktacular Halloween Special!]
Game & Word Special: Halloween 2022, Part 2
Publisher: Jay Rooney
Author, Graphics, Research: Jay Rooney
Logo: Jarnest Media
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Table of Contents
Summary & Housekeeping
Feature: “Another Brief & Horrifying History of Horror Games” (~35 minute read)
Food for Talk: Discussion Prompts
Game & Word-of-Mouth
Today, we’ll conclude our chronology of video game horror, examining its evolution from the turn of the millennium to the present day. We’ll also set the stage for next week’s Halloween bonanza!
Welcome back, everyone! Nothing much to announce here, just a few quick reminders:
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Feature: Another Brief & Horrifying History of Horror Games
👾🤔🤷 CONFUSED? ➡ NEW GAMING GLOSSARY! 📚💬🧑🎓
Confused by any of the gaming jargon, slang, lingo, or other “insider terminology” on this newsletter? Just click on the term and it’ll take you to its entry on Game & Word’s comprehensive and user-friendly Glossary of Gaming Terms!
🚨🚨🚨 SPOILER ALERT 🚨🚨🚨
This post contains spoilers with varying degrees of spoilerness for Silent Hill, The Last of Us, Yume Nikki, System Shock, BioShock, OMORI, Lamentum, and The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow. You've been warned!
⚠️⚠️⚠️ CONTENT WARNING ⚠️⚠️⚠️
This article contains discussions and visual depictions of horror and everything that comes with it. If you’re easily frightened, disturbed, or upset, please proceed with caution. Portions that are particularly squicky/gruesome will be labeled, but be warned… even the warning labels themselves can be pretty heavy. Reader discretion advised.
⚖️⚖️⚖️ ETHICS DISCLOSURE ⚖️⚖️⚖️
This article contains affiliate links. If you click on any such link and purchase the linked product, Game & Word gets a small cut of the sale. This helps keep the newsletter sustainable without needing to put up paywalls or ads.
A review copy of one of the games featured in this article, The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow, was provided to Game & Word by the publisher. This did not factor whatsoever in my decision to include the game in my coverage, nor did it influence my evaluation of the game.
💡💡💡 POINT OF CLARIFICATION 💡💡💡
Just like last week, this article’s title is “Another Brief History of Horror Games,” which you might have noticed is NOT “Another Complete History of Horror Games.” This article (like the one before it) surveys just a small fraction of the many, many, MANY games that constitute the horror gaming canon. Covering (or even mentioning) every single one would take an entire book, nevermind one issue in one humble newsletter.
So if you’re annoyed I left a game out, it wasn’t intentional. I either missed it, or had my reasons for not including it. If you’d like me to comment on a particular game, though, feel free to drop me a comment or DM letting me know. No promises, but I’ll consider your request.
On a similar note: the categories and subgenres I list here are fluid, and there’s a significant amount of overlap between them. So if you believe I should’ve put Game X into Category Y instead of Category Z, I’ve most likely thought about that already. But you’re probably right. We’re both probably right. At the end of the day, this is just one guy’s opinion.
So, let’s not get hung up on split hairs. Instead, let’s just have fun geeking out and getting spooked over this wonderfully horrifying niche within this wonderfully wonderful hobby we all love and share.
Games Who Fight Monsters: The Horror Genre Mutates & Evolvees (2000s)
“If you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”
[CW: mental illness, depression, psychosis, schizophrenia, dissociation]
Silent Hill marked another inflection point in horror gaming’s evolution, but it was so subtle I doubt a lot of players even noticed the shift at the time. On one hand, Silent Hill was undeniably a survivor horror title—in some ways, even more so than the Resident Evil juggernaut that preceded it.
For instance, there was far more of an emphasis on actual survival. The elite police/military/mercenary sharpshooters1 you typically play as in Resident Evil games are clearly battle-hardened and trained for survival situations, which blunts the scare factor somewhat.
This is increasingly pronounced as you near the ends of these games—by then, you’ve cleared out most of the monsters, stockpiled enough ammo to easily take down the rest, and been long desensitized to the once-scary and foreboding atmosphere after hours of jump scares and increasingly predictable chase sequences.