Why I'm Afraid to Play Scary Games
The Horror genre has always been a fascination of mine, ever since I was twelve. I'd ask my parents if we could watch a horror movie, only to be told no - despite the fact I’d watched Gremlins 2: The New Batch four years previously. By the time I was fifteen, I knew about all these supposedly terrifying movies but - lacking Wikipedia - didn't have the slightest idea what they were really like.
I finally managed to convince my parents to let me record Nightmare on Elm Street from one of the movie channels. I then had to wait until the weekend, when my parents had gone to sleep and my older brother wasn't around, to watch it. After all, none of them "like that sort of movie".
I was hooked, as Freddy Kruger took out all these teens in showers of blood in many imaginative ways; sometimes showing boobs, which especially hooked me at fifteen. From then on, I recorded every horror movie I could - even watching some of them as they’re aired at various times - and enjoying them thoroughly. Though I regretted eating cold chicken drumsticks whilst watching Return of the Living Dead Part II - more on that later.
So when I eventually got a PlayStation, I was eager to play that Resident Evil that everyone was talking about - it had been popular enough to get a sequel and rumours in magazines were that there would be a third too. With trepidation I took control of Jill (because I’d read it was easier and also boobs) and took her from the lobby into the next hallway. Then came the first zombie reveal - and I found myself actually afraid as I unloaded Jill's revolver into it.
This was a first for me. The only part of horror movies I had been legitimately bothered by was in Nightmare on Elm Street, when Freddy is dragging the bleeding bag through the hallway. The score really hit something in me and I muted it, which made the sense of dread quickly abate. So, I figured, if I turned down the volume it would be alright to resume playing Resident Evil.
I played a good couple of hours, but often found myself in a near panic as zombies, dogs and even plantlife tried to consume Jill. Except they weren't - they were trying to eat me. I didn't realise this as I decided to stop playing and go back to Final Fantasy VII, but that was what bothered me.
I tried my friend's copy of Resident Evil 2, but didn't make it much past the first Licker encounter before deciding it was going back in the box. I loved scary B-movies, so there was no reason to be afraid of scary games - they were the same thing. I never went back to the Resident Evil series after 2, but I tried other horror games:
I played a few minutes of Dino Crisis, even going back to it via PSP emulator years later at lunchtime in my crowded office, but couldn't play it because my heart was racing so much.
Vampire: The Masquerade was just a vampire FPS, not something that could be called a 'horror' title. So I thought. Try telling me that when I'm Alt-F4ing my way out of it during the haunted mansion mission.
In Silent Hill I didn’t even make it to an indoors area, so freaked out by the fog, radio static and creatures.
I even tried Clocktower on a Super Nintendo emulator, which was still too much for me.
Zombies and vampires in movies or comics, I can handle. Even in a non-horror game they don't bother me, such as the comedic Dead Rising or the action-oriented Legacy of Kain series - even The Elder Scrolls and Fallout titles. Though I did not enjoy the Ravenholm level of Half Life II, because it comes across as definitely a horror level; with dark areas, surprise, terrifying enemies and the dreaded music.
So why do I feel this way? What prevents me from enjoying the chase of Pyramid Head in Silent Hill 2, or stumbling around Japan with only a camera in Fatal Frame 2? Why can I love Nemesis chasing Alice across a city, but quake at the mere thought of him chasing Jill controlled by me? Eating those chicken drumsticks whilst watching Return of the Living Dead Part II? I began to feel ill - I had eaten whilst watching horrific stuff before and since - but the zombies were eating people and ripping limbs off. Which becomes slightly more immersive when you're actually eating the limb of something.
It's because I don't like being immersed in horror. I can experience it fine, with maniacs and realistic zombies galore - the Resident Evil movies I can watch all night long. But the second it's no longer a discussion of "That character did this" and becomes "I did this", I hate it. Becoming immersed in games is always a plus, but not so when the thought of actually being chased by a maniac makes you jump at shadows.
I love horror movies, the jumps and terror happening to other people. I hate horror games because it's no longer other people - it's me.