Sleepless nights can both be the cause and effect of a great fictional horror experience (emphasis on fictional). Did the movie you watched, the game you played, or the book you read frighten you so good that you’re unable to catch a wink? I bet you could almost swear more than once that you felt a sinister presence in your room.
Or if you’re like me, you just have a tendency to be under an insomniac spell some days, and making the most of a bad situation, watching a horror flick or playing a video game scarcely seem like bad ideas to pass the night.
(Until the paranoia of being watched by impossible monsters lurking in the corners of your room kicks in, of course.)
As a fan of the horror genre, I firmly believe that the quality (or rather, the horrificness) of a horror experience depends, to some extent, on the medium in which the horror story is told.
Horror video games, generally, have left me with much more profound experiences than movies. I will let this article be my case for why I believe so.
Video games are immersive and put you, the gamer, right at the center
Let’s face it. The level of immersion in a video game far outweighs what you can experience vicariously in a horror movie or a book. Although it is easy to relate to the characters of a good movie, it just doesn’t compare to controlling your character and staying safe from the evils haunting your very soul.
In fact, researchers published an analytical paper to argue that horror video games tend to leave deeper impression and our responses to horror experiences in video games are stronger.
The co-author of the paper, Jens Kjeldgaard-Christiansen, maintained “The response to the scary computer game appears to exceed everything we’ve seen before. We project ourselves into the game and become more scared. Horror in literature and film doesn’t have the same effect.”
If you’ve played games like Alien: Isolation, Amnesia, SOMA etc., you’ll know what I’m talking about. These are games with fantastic narratives sculpted around helpless characters who are not only fighting for survival, but their battle takes serious psychological undertones with frightening, often unseen and indestructible enemies relentlessly hunting you down.
As a gamer controlling these characters, it would take serious effort on your part NOT to be terrified.
Although Netflix has rekindled interest in horror TV shows and movies with the release of some warmly received titles like The Haunting of the Hill House and Bird Box, it is hard to exceed the immersion that games with outstanding atmosphere, gameplay dynamics, and storylines offer.
Though I must admit that some modern horror filmmakers have earned my respect with original movies that are a fresh change from generic Hollywood zombie and slasher titles that manage to grip your attention and completely immerse yourself in the experience for a while.
One such recent movie that I particularly enjoyed is A Dark Song. It is a veritably creepy tale about a demon-summoning ritual gone wrong. Unfortunately though, many of my Canadian friends haven’t watched this movie, primarily because it isn’t available in Netflix for Canada.
If that’s you, then here’s an easy solution for accessing US Netflix in Canada. Make sure you give it a go if you are tired of same-old mindlessly gory “horror” movies and are yearning for a morbidly dark experience.
The fact that movies like A Dark Song comprise a small fraction of the horror movies released each year, the majority of which are based on ideas and scare tactics that have been beaten to death over the years further illustrates my point why video games are better.
In the gaming industry, you can rest assured that there will be a good number of outstanding horror titles to keep you entertained and frightened throughout the year. The rise of indie developers has particularly contributed to the variety of excellent horror video game titles.
Unrestrained by the pressures of production studios, indie developers enjoy the freedom necessary to get creative with storylines that suck the player into layers of immersive depths and offer as realistic a horror experience as the limits of suspension of disbelief allow.
The same unfortunately isn’t true with Hollywood, where filmmakers cater to the simpler tastes of audiences that enjoy the thrill of blood splatters without the substance to keep those fans hooked that are looking for more than a momentary excitement.
This, combined with the fact that the medium of gaming naturally puts the gamer in the center of a haunted world, naturally engrosses your attention to a degree that you can truly call a horror experience to remember and which you relate to on a deeper level than movies can ever achieve.
But of course, this is just my subjective take on the quality of horror movies, shaped over countless sleepless nights in a state of quasi-consciousness. Nonetheless, if you are a fan of horror fiction in general, then there is perhaps no other genre that is more readily adaptable to the medium of gaming.
I hope the gaming industry doesn’t suffer the same dilution that the Hollywood industry did, and we continue receiving the same quality of video games that make my sleepless nights almost worth it.