Editorial: The Seduction of Horror

When I look back at the past few years, while it may not be accurate to say that I have come a long way in that time, I can notice a few baby steps in my progression as a human being.

Guys, I'm losing my captioning touch
I talk about this game later in the article

A few years ago, pepper was too spicy for me. Today spicy foods still do not top my list. However, I now enjoy a wider variety of dishes on account of not auto-refusing anything claiming to be a little spicy.

A few years ago, it would have taken a lot of money (or doughnuts or moose or whatever we Canadians take as bribes) to ever get me to watch a movie even halfway into any sort of “scary” genre. Today, I still do not clamour to see the newest horror movie, but I have recently allowed myself to at least watch classics such as Alien or John Carpenter’s The Thing, and I feel I am richer for the experiences.

My barely-bravery combined with the most recent Humble Bundle inspired me to try a few games that I never would have before. Although it is important to note that I played both of these games with a companion.

Remember: baby steps.

The first was Limbo. The game is not a horror game, but it is certainly creepy. However, it is the unsettling and creepy things that frighten me far more than gore or cheap scares. While the second half of the game trades in thoroughly unnerving images for more advanced puzzles and more dull surroundings, the title overall works very well as a short story. It packs themes and an open-ended plot with a thick mood into a few hours.

Other people who have played the game will likely agree that it loses most of its scares after a certain enemy is taken out. This happens before the game is half-over. A younger Ethos would probably have been happy to have the scares over with. This time – although I still would not describe being scared as being “fun” – I did feel the experience was lacking when it lost its spooks.

With Limbo completed, there was still some time in the weekend to try out Amnesia: The Dark Descent. This game was a far greater test of my nerves and even playing with someone else and not even glimpsing anything that would threaten the main character’s health, I was still ready to exit the title after a very short time.

Still, despite my fraidypants quittiness, I was able to have an appreciation and fascination for the game that I may not have had a few years ago. While I still might not be able to stomach being too scared for too long, I now understand the unique place the genre has in media. There is a mood and a connection in suspense and horror that cannot exist elsewhere.

I am not eager to go back to Amnesia, dear readers, but I am curious to go back.

Baby steps.

What games do you find yourself playing now that you may have never played a few years ago?


  1. New gaming experiences, huh? Well, I’ve found myself playing a host of PC style strategy games I wouldn’t have even glanced at 4 or 5 years ago. Of course, getting a gaming PC in that time helped. In fact I could probably just say PC gaming in general, the whole keyboard mouse setup, is one I have fairly recently been been made familiar with.

    Well, technically I did used to play some PC games in the 90’s when our first home computer was worth a crap. Rise of the Triad and The Neverhood come to mind.

  2. “Other people who have played the game will likely agree that it loses most of its scares after a certain enemy is taken out.”

    Entirely true. The game is never quite the same after that, though the creepy children which one encounters make up the balance a bit. I think they are even worse than a shadowy version of Ungoliant.

    Amnesia is too dark/horror/fright-based for my enjoyment. Games like Limbo, which primarily use it for atmosphere–couching puzzle-platforming in the guise of unnerving darkness–those I enjoy very much. It is when the horror becomes a vehicle of the gameplay: monster closets, things leaping out, cheap scares, or just disgusting enemy design created only to foster revulsion in the viewer; that I part ways. The 7th Guest, yes. Silent Hill, no.

    Good article: actually, the first time I think we’ve ever discussed this topic here in any form. An untapped mine!

  3. Silent Hill 2 got real psychological, but I can’t blame anyone for being turned off by the revulsion factor. But its a bit more clever than it seems on the surface…which can’t be said for the other Silent Hills.

  4. @Mel – Me too re: PC games actually. Strange that I didn’t even mention that in my article when I played both Limbo and Amnesia on the PC. Have been playing Bastion on it as well.

    @Lusi – Re: Amnesia, in the hour or so I played, I didn’t see a single creature. Only rooms and documents, but it was still thick with mood and – as you say – unnerving darkness. I hear that the scares and gore come on pretty strong later on, but the game makes a strong case for building a very strong mood without resorting to cheap scares. At least it shows that it’s capable of it in the opening section.

  5. @Ethos: Sometimes what you don’t see is more frightening than what you do.

  6. @SN – Exactly. That’s why I hope that Amnesia stays on that path. I know that it has some disturbing images too, but it would be nice if it continued to build on the suspense of constantly EXPECTING to see something.

  7. I’ve played Amnesia for a few hours, and I have to say the game does a wonderful job of atmosphere. At the point I’d reached, I’d seen a few disturbing things and a couple of enemies, and the game keeps suspense going constantly. I definitely need to get back to playing it at some point.

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