Fear and Gaming – Part 1
Some time ago I wrote an article about fear, specifically the differences between terror, horror and gorror. I had been looking forward to breaking the ice on that subject for quite some time and I find myself wanting to expand on the topic still. Fear invoking games have always been one of my favorite ways to spend a weekend. I love it so much that I’ve decided that my vast knowledge on the subject will be cut up into a series of posts tackling aspects of fear and gaming.
Without further ado let us begin the discussion! The first theme I’d like to confer will be that of the interaction with non-playable characters(NPC). Within a game you’ll typically have characters that interact with the main character in a friendly way. They may be allies or competition but they allow the plot to progress and for players to create emotional attachments within the game.
Using NPC For Nefarious Purposes
Friendly faces can be incredibly useful in creating a fear torn environment for players. Depending on the story of the game you can use these characters in many different ways. Friendlies can give a player a sense of security, someone lending advice through a radio or having a physical presence can make facing fearful situations much easier to subject yourself to. What’s worse than a player never having that safety net? Giving it to them and taking it away.
Friends and Foes
One of the most obvious methods of removing this net is to have the friendly become an unfriendly. You could have them betray a player for greed, insanity, or be forced to by means outside of their control. A lot of what you can use depends on the story of your game but allow me to suggest some possibilities.
- In a pathogen situation your partner in crime begins showing symptoms and eventually either succumbs and dies, or is transformed into one of the horrors you’ve been facing.
- The NPC becomes agitated, irrational and fearful. Ultimately abandoning you for his or her own safety.
- The darkness of the environment you are being subjected to corrupts the morals of your cohort and you are forced to dispatch them for your own sake or the sake of others.
- Your partner switches sides to benefit his or herself, forcing an uncomfortable confrontation with them.
- The person you’ve been working with and confided in was always working for the enemy and reveals it at an opportune moment, you were a rube being used all along.
- The strain of the difficulties you encounter either drives them mad, or reveals an innate madness within them.
Another option for abandonment is that of your attachment being forcefully taken from you. Helplessness can be one of the scariest feelings you can encounter. Here are just a few ideas for you to consider.
- You witness someone or something murder your partner in a situation in which you cannot help them.
- You witness someone or something kidnap the NPC.
- Your companion runs after something and you become separated.
- Radio silence, or events that suggest that your radio contact is going to be or is compromised can invoke feelings of anxiety and fear.
The key to each of these events being traumatic is that you’ve established both dependency and emotional attachment to the character in question. The more likable the character you take away from them, the stronger the affection for them, the harder it is to bare their loss.
Got anything to contribute? Perhaps you have an idea for the next article? Post in the comments, I’d be happy to hear what you think! We’ll continue diving deeper into the fear genre of gaming in our next article.