Spooky season has arrived, heralding a time for bright oranges and deep purples. Black cats and evil spirits abound… So what games are you playing this season? October and Halloween call scary movies and supernatural vibes to the forefront of our attention, and video games are not to be left out of our consideration and enjoyment. Afterall, what is more compelling and thrilling than playing a game where your own interaction can trigger frights and terror?
Video games nature actually lends a strong hand to a goal all spooky media seeks to instill in their audience: fear! What could be more freaky than knowingly walking into the shadowed halls of a long abandoned sanitarium? A game like Phasmophobia charges you and your friends with just that, in the goal of determining what kind of ghost haunts its demented halls. Watching movies or reading a book with a scary theme can evoke chills, don’t get me wrong. However, the agency a gamer has when playing a scary game transforms you from a passive viewer into the active participant. In some cases, you aren’t just a participant… you might be the victim!
This is what makes video games interesting when considered as art. While interactive art is not unique to video games, it is a requirement of the medium. When one considers that you must insert yourself into the place of the character in a video game, the subsequent actions and fate of your character only becomes even more pronounced. While we can appreciate and despair along with Laurie Strode in Halloween we must feel even more terror when controlling Isaac Clarke in Dead Space. If you are the driver of the story, then every door you open, every corner you round, is an active choice… one that might spur a monster to leap out and try to brutally murder you.
This month is a great time to dive into these experiences headfirst and I encourage you, the reader, to embrace the fear. The chance to shock and horrify yourself is a truly exciting experience and to that end, I will list several spooky time games I personally enjoy and will be playing.
Sam’s Spooky Suggestions:
Phasmophobia - A great game to play with friends. The premise is simple, yet effective: You must gather clues using a variety of instruments to determine what kind of ghost is haunting various locations. However, linger too long and you might just anger the ghost…
Dead by Daylight - This asymmetrical horror game pits 4 survivors against 1 killer. The survivors must work together to fix generators and open the way out… or find themselves offered as sacrifices to the mysterious Entity.
Dead Space - Isolated aboard a planet-cracker ship, Isaac Clarke must determine the fate of his beloved… or fall victim to the gruesome and twisted Necromorphs that have taken over the Ishimura. Cut off their limbs, or lose many of yours…
The Mortuary Assistant - One of my personal favorites, this game has you stepping into the shoes of a young, newly minted Mortuary Assistant. Work to prepare bodies for their funerals and watch as the world around you becomes increasingly infested with evil and a distinctly demonic presence.
Subnautica (1+2) - This might seem an odd choice for a horror game, but if you know the term “thalassophobia” then you would be keenly aware how the deep abyss that is the ocean can be teeming with frights. Good luck trawling the depths when the Reaper Leviathan gets hungry…
What games are you looking forward to playing? Are you going to tempt yourself with the thrills and chills of an interactive horror? Or will you watch others stream them, to spare yourself the jumpscares? Whatever your choice, have a spooky October and a happy Halloween!
BONUS LIST: My horror movie recommendations:
As Above, So Below - my favorite flavor of Horror is supernatural, especially demonic. This film may be solidly in the B tier as far as cinematography goes, but the concepts are delectably twisted.
Annabelle Comes Home - this 2019 entry into the Annabelle series (would saying Annabelle cinematic universe be too much?) sees us return to the Warren household, this time the inhuman entities confined to the collection are able to break out and torment the daughter of the Warren’s and her babysitter.
Sleepy Hollow - not the scariest movie on the list, but an adaptation of the famous novel. Johnny Depp as Ichabod Crane alongside Christina Ricci is amazing as he investigates superstition come to life in perhaps some of the most beautiful Autumn settings of Upstate New York.
Hellbound: Hellraiser II - my favorite entry in the Hellraiser series. The story sees Kristy Cotton return and is further tormented by the Cenobites. This time, the machinations of a greedy Doctor spurs the action, and ultimately opens the Lament Configuration again.
The VVitch - A movie set in early Colonial America, the central family is cast out of their settlement for their exceedingly extremist religious views. Alone in the wilderness, dark powers and sinister forces threaten their family.
V/H/S 2 - A film that follows a vignette style of storytelling, involving a frame story in which the characters watch disturbing and sometimes unbelievable events unfolding. It’s a found footage film, and seeks to immerse the watcher in horror of someone actively recording their often grim demise.