As is traditional on themed holiday occasions, the VG247 crew got together to discuss some of the most important issues in gaming today.
At Halloween, it’s generally considered acceptable, if not advisable, to do a couple of things; the first is eat yourself sick on sweeties; the second is to dress up like a prat; and the third is to take in some form of horror media with the end goal of either being Too Cool For School or screaming like a ninny.
Naturally, VG247 staff members first look to games for their shocks and spooks.
“I think it’s that feeling of being on edge that I like, the fear of the unknown. It’s a different kind of adrenaline rush to melting someone’s face with a shotgun or landing a last minute KO in Street Fighter. It’s immersing,” Dave said, frightening the life out of us with a genuinely scary word.
Steph said she likes scary games because they’re much more frightening than movies; she jumped a bit in Scream, but has never been genuinely scared by a film.
“Horror games, are the opposite. I have gone to bed at night creeped out by a game more than once,” she said.
Pat put on his academic and “resident grump” hats on to say that he likes horror games but “they hardly ever work”.
“I like them for the same reason I like horror generally: at its best, it should be about testing an emotional boundary.”
Brenna likes horror games but needs someone to scream and clutch at or she ruins the discs by putting them in the freezer; Sam describes himself as a “wuss” who “feels the safety of the pause menu a little too much.”
“I just don’t really like the idea of jump scares and not knowing what’s lurking around the corner,” he added, nervously glancing around.
Dave chose this moment to drop a rubber snake down Sam’s neck with predictably hilarious results. When the meeting came to order once again and Steph had fetched Dave an icepack for his shiner, the subject was abruptly changed to which games are the scariest.
Pat said stoutly that he has never been actually scared by a video game – well, nobody’s made one about a worldwide chilli shortage, have they – but said the most “unnerving” game he’d ever played was Belgian developer Tale of Tale’s atmospheric adventure The Path.
“I felt uncomfortable playing it alone with my headphones on. I think it mainly worked because of the forest setting, the use of childhood themes and some fantastic audio,” he argued, which is a thing adult men do when they don’t want to admit they were terrified, like the way your dad gives you money instead of crying when you move away.
Brenna is scared of everything Belgian and also got a bit freaked out by The Path, but it was Amnesia: The Dark Descent that first had her doing the “nonono cat” impression.
“That game scared the hell out of me so badly I had to give myself a break every now and again. I even slept with the lights on the first night. Very scary and if someone hasn’t played it yet, they are missing out,” Steph added.
At this point a small argument broke out as Brenna tried to argue that Dark Souls is the scariest game there is because you’re so invested that you push on despite the intense and very real fear, but eventually Pat shouted at her to stop trying to shoe horn Dark Souls into every single article.
Meanwhile, Dave, Steph and Sam were going to town swapping stories about which classic Resident Evil and Silent Hill games scared them the most thoroughly.
Dave said the original Resident Evil is the scariest game he’d ever played, because he played it underage (the scallywag) and hadn’t seen anything frightening in a game before then.
“That bit when the dogs jump through the window signified the ‘true’ birth of survival horror for me. Terrifying,” he said.
Sam also gave Capcom’s premiere horror franchise a nod, saying Resident Evil: Code Veronica X was the first to really bother him.
“That game scared the living daylights out of me. I think it was the first time I had to turn my console off because I was physically frightened. I didn’t sleep for weeks,” he said.
“I haven’t played a lot of scary games, so I’ll say that Veronica was the scariest. The atmosphere was evil. I just remember being in every single room and being too frightened to push the analogue stick to move my helpless character on screen. Weirdly though I got through it – You then unlock some crazy first-person arcade mode, which was awesome. Like, I played that in my underwear and never was scared. Phew.”
The thought of Sam’s underwear is pretty frightening but nevertheless Steph nominated Resident Evil 2 as her first really scary game, having missed the first one, but become a down-to-the-bone fan since then – although she doesn’t like Resident Evil 5. Interestingly, she suffered a bit of a dilemma deciding whether the first Resident Evil and Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly for scare value. The zombie dogs got a mention again, but as for Fatal Frame, it just “really freaked” her out.
“I can’t pinpoint just one part of the game which scared me the most,” she said.
Steph also likes (and is terrified by) Silent Hill 2, Silent Hill 3, and Silent Hill: The Room.
Dave chimed in here to state wholeheartedly that Pyramid Head is the scariest enemy in games.
“What is it supposed to be? Does it have a conscience? What’s under that helmet? There are so many questions but Konami offers few answers. Again, the fear of the unknown can be powerful, although the more Konami use him (it?) in games to cash-in, the less scary he becomes,” he said.
Steph agreed that Pyramid Head is “pretty fucking scary” although she did note that he’s been “done to death”.
“I think Piggsy in Manhunt frightened me the most seeing him crouched in the attic and chasing me with that goddamned chainsaw. I thought I would have a stroke trying to get away from him. Ha ha! The first Manhunt was a great game,” she reminisced.
Sam, who at this point had gone a bit round-eyed and trembling, brought a chill to the room by mentioning his own horror nemesis.
“I’m still freaked out by F.E.A.R’s Alma. Like, she’s the devil to me. I could never play F.E.A.R – Literally played for one hour of the first one and then had to immediately remove myself from the game. I can’t stand super-natural shiz,” he said.
Pat said he’s never scared by anything because he’s an adult, but thankfully Dave broke the resulting deathly silence by cheerfully observing that the very first game to give him the willies was arcade classic Sinistar.
“It’s a scrolling space shooter that runs against the clock. Fail to meet the criteria in time and this huge spherical battleship called Sinistar chases you relentlessly. It has one of the creepiest digitised voices ever – YouTube it. It roars, screams, and taunts you by shouting ‘Beware Coward!’ Christ, I’m going into relapse just writing about it. I was very young at the time,” he added, apologetically, when Pat gave him a sort of disdainful look.
Pat’s disdainful looks are actually the scariest thing any of the VG247 crew ever encounter so we all suddenly found we had quite a lot of work to do. What about you? Which games scared the pants off you? What horror titles will you break out to celebrate Halloween? Are any of you brave enough to team up with Pat for Left 4 Dead tonight?