Thursday, May 28, 2015

What makes a good horror game

Me and my BOOM STICK!
Me and my BOOM STICK!

Horror games, a good source of adrenaline and excitement for those looking to best demons and creatures not meant for mortal understanding. But that’s not what makes them interesting. Deep down, what makes people, like me, interested in them aren’t the monsters that drive you away, but the mystery that they are trying to keep secret. After all, that’s what gives monsters their power, the thing they keep hidden from you.

The Secret World (TSW) is claimed to have some of the best storytelling in MMOs, and I tend to agree. But why is that? Is it because they have monsters? Is it because they have adult themes or cursing? Is it because they have magic and guns in a contemporary setting? Nay nay, I say, to all these. What makes TSW’s story so good is what they don’t tell you. Hence the word ‘secret’ in their name.

Illuminati Secret Lair
Illuminati Secret Lair

The key to a good horror is activating your morbid curiosity. That’s the hook to reel you in. They set up a scene and that’s it. The rest is up to you to piece together. Many games these days try and throw a wall of text at you, detailing the life story of the NPC. Then they give you markers or even a silly sparkle path to direct you to your destination for them to assault you with another wall of text once you arrive. But that’s not how you tell a good story. You have to let the audience piece it together.

What makes horror better at this is because they have the unknown on their side. They push you back with fear, anguish, or disgust to keep the story a mystery. They use your imagination against you. However, they tug you to get beyond the veil to see what is powering it from behind the scenes. What makes games like TSW, Dark Souls and even Five Nights At Freddy’s so good at telling their story is that they don’t leave fat on the bone. Everything in their world is another piece to the puzzle. They don’t try and throw red herrings at you, but they don’t make it apparent that everything you see has a purpose to solving the mystery or how their piece fits. Other games can learn a thing or two from this.


  1. I have to agree that when it comes to horror, not showing the monster, not jumping something out, not having anything happen except for the right sounds, lighting, and setting.... to let the persons own imagination scare them is the perfect way to scare them. We can all come up with gruesome imagery, we can all make jump scare like things, these only cause a quick shot of adrenaline and it is over. But to be on edge for an hour, worried what might be around the next corner, in the next room, behind every door or dark area, our mind fills in the blank to what might scare us most, and THAT, is truly horrifying...

    1. I agree. We know how to scare ourselves the best, so let us do it.