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Editorial: The Elusive Genre of Survival Horror

This is a discussion on Editorial: The Elusive Genre of Survival Horror within the Trophy Guides, Reviews & Articles forum, part of the Everything PlayStation; With the recent release of the smash hit horror game Slender , a fuse erupted inside of me that sent ...

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    Editorial: The Elusive Genre of Survival Horror

    With the recent release of the smash hit horror game Slender, a fuse erupted inside of me that sent an alert to my brain, telling me to crave more of these kinds of games. Unfortunately, Slender marks what may be one of the last true survival horror games that the industry will ever be able to conceive.

    In my eyes, Slender is the most perfectly simplified version of a horror game. You have a simple task; collect 8 pieces of paper scattered around a large forest, all while being stalked by a slender man who wears a suit and has no face. The beautifully done sense of terror is found in the little things. The easiest way to fail is to look at your chaser, yet curiosity nags at you to constantly check your surroundings for him. Additionally, if you see him, the only way to ensure safety is to turn off your flashlight and allow darkness to creep in. In other words, the easiest way to succeed is to further scare yourself. Brilliant.


    Slender, like many other survival horror games, oozes atmosphere.

    Yet Slender is just a diamond in the rough. These days, good horror games are few and far between.

    The last new IP within the genre, created specifically for consoles, and heralded as a major success was 2008's Dead Space. Yet even now, EA and Visceral have admitted to broadening the Dead Space experience to more casual audiences, ditching singleplayer scares and tension for a co-op action-packed game. Yet Dead Space isn't the only one. Hardcore Resident Evil fans also had a distaste for the action-heavy Resident Evil 5. So where does this lead us?

    Well, the answer is simple; we live in a day and age where hybrid game types like Action/RPGs and Action/Horror games rule the market. It's a beautiful thing to play Amnesia: The Dark Decent - arguably the best horror game of this generation - and not be able to do anything but run away and hide from enemies, but that isn't what sells. Why would producers and developers not want to make more money? Even though it saddens fans of the series, the creators of our beloved games want their cash. When games like Mass Effect or Dead Space sell so well, why not shape the way you make your games into something that appeals to a broader audience?


    The Dead Space franchise has effectively committed to action-heavy gameplay.

    It seems the biggest scares come from independent developers, and smaller games. Amnesia, Slender, Limbo, and others are the true innovators that just might push the genre forward. But how long is it until corporate greed forces them into incorporating action into their games? Only time will tell.

    That said, we do have a great suite of games at our disposal. Old or new, if you're a fan of tension and scares, there's plenty of games to go out and try or revisit. Just because horror games may be lacking in this generation doesn't mean you can't find and enjoy some old classics.

    Nevertheless, whilst people are off drooling over surgically impairing Necromorphs with a Plasma Cutter in Dead Space 3, I'll be enjoying shitting my pants after playing my copy of Amnesia.
    Last edited by JackAttack; 08-20-2012 at 01:15 PM.

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    I agree Jacko, people played Resident Evil for horror and zombie-killing fun. Now it's just zombie-killing, with less fun.

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    Just like movies true horror is dying slowly... Sad that you see very few of the genre in both Gaming and Film.


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    It seems the biggest scares come from independent developers, and smaller games. Amnesia, Slender, Limbo, and others are the true innovators that just might push the genre forward. But how long is it until corporate greed forces them into incorporating action into their games? Only time will tell.
    There are more indie horror games in development as of now,
    A game that is clearly inspired by Slender, Survivors: Survivors (Survivers) Co-op Horror and Slender Retrospect | TekGoblin
    And even another game by the Slender developers, Where Am I?: IndieGames.com - The Weblog Slender Developer Goes for One Good Scare in Where am I?

    But you're correct about corporate greed buying successful studios and ruining their games for money, except for Capcom, they chose to ruin themselves.
    You just have to wait for a trustworthy studio to start a horror game, a studio that would probably do best working with Sony, Kojima, or even Ubisoft, Naughty Dog is already working on a survival game but they have already stated it will not be survival horror, there are also rumours that Kojima is working on a silent hill reboot with his fox engine.
    You just need one studio and one big publisher that isn't going to get greedy and screw the studio over for money after the first or second game, old school resident evil had so much left to give but they just scrapped it all for action and COD fans after the 4th game, which while not the same as the previous instalments it was still really good because it kept a perfect balance between action/adventure and survival horror, it even invented it's own genre and won GOTY but after that the franchise (in my opinion) turned to complete shit.
    Also games like Slender are fun for the first 10 minutes, but then it's boring because there is nothing to do but the same level over and over again and for the record you can't even beat it.
    But there is still one massive survival horror game on the horizon being developed by resident evil creator Shinji Mikami, and it's codenamed Zwei, he said he is going back to his survival horror roots and is going to try and make the scariest game ever made, he also said it will teach you how to defeat your oppositions through a learning process instead of just running away from them but at the same time not going guns blazing on them, the game is set to be released on next gen consoles so that probably won't be for another 5 years, give or take.

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    I agree Jack. It has been becoming quite sad that most devs just want to sell a game by calling it "Scary", rather than making it scary. I do have hope for Guillermo Del Toro's game though. Hopefully it will surprise us all.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kid_Loser View Post
    I agree Jack. It has been becoming quite sad that most devs just want to sell a game by calling it "Scary", rather than making it scary. I do have hope for Guillermo Del Toro's game though. Hopefully it will surprise us all.

    Hate to say it sir, but i believe that game is dead in the water,Cancelled, finished even.

    Scary? Nah, no game is truly scary, it's merely dread and tension, close approximation sure, just not actual scary.It's a game after all, far less hangs in the balance because you can die but do it over again and again.

    Slender is a good example of a game that comes close to replicating terror but years of gaming and horror movies have left me quite numb to the majority of such things, Silent Hill Downpour was a decent stab at creeping dread and Dead Space 2 cranked up the tense moments and panic to perfection.
    Credit to the awesome ERICVOLTAGE for that. ^

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    In recent years, no big horror franchises have even remotely scared me, as they tend to pull towards action. Slender caught my attention, as the faceless man actually scared me for the first time in a few years.





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    I still remember playing resident evil when i was like... 6 or 7 or something, none of the newer games seem anywhere as scary as that even though now if you look back on them.

    Only games/movies make me jump every now and then but you see previews of some films with people full on screaming and so on lol.



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    I think for the most part, people are chasing for something that can't be replicated. When it comes to things that scare you, there are one of two things that could happen:

    a) it traumatizes you
    or
    b) it desensitizes you

    For most of us, it's one of the two, as gamers, and to be more broadly - people of the information age in general. We have access to so many things so easily, that a majority of things don't bother us anymore. Even the evening news is full of sometimes brutal explanations of events happening around us, and it rarely resonates with us., or affects us at all.

    Now if your game is going to do, one of those two above things, that means it's going to alienate a portion of the people who play it who aren't going to enjoy that experience and never want to do it again - causing serious damage to your brand, franchise, and most importantly to a company - your income. The rest are going to eventually stop falling for the cheap tricks, or shocking imagery or the content, like Trains said above in regards to Slender, you become bored with it after a while.

    When you were younger, and unused to these things - it worked, and each of us have a moment in somewhere that scares us. For me it's the old man in Poltergeist II that still sticks with me today, for some it's Resident Evil hallways, or Michael Meyers in a closet. But once you get used to the trick - your brain prepares you for it, and you know it is going to come.

    So why should a company make a survival horror game when it eventually is going to lead to people becoming bored with it (unless you want to tell me that Friday the 13th #11 has the same impact as the first few films) unless the franchise evolves, and attempts to appeal to a more mainstream audience. The reason the genre is dying, is because it is not something you can build a franchise off of, and it is something that unlike Mario, Zelda, or Call of Duty, can't be rehashed with slight tweaks and still bring it with bumps and scares everytime, instead just leaving you feeling numb and wondering how it scared you in the first place.

    I recently replayed Parasite Eve and Resident Evil: Remake, and I remember both games fondly for being able to cause me jumps and jar my memory with it's intense imagery. 10+ years later, both games are still fun, but they aren't scary anymore, because the novelty has worn off. It's no wonder why these series have either died a slow death, or changed drastically from what they were.

    With video games costing more and more, I don't think we will see a major revival of the genre anytime soon, especially from a major company. I do think that the indies will take a few unique stabs at it, and like low budget films such as The Blair Witch Project or V/H/S struck a chord with many people, it's likely to cause some scares for some (or trauma for others) with unique new ways of approaching the genre that the Kojimas and Mikami's haven't considered. It's possible come next genre, that some game maker will convince a major developer to green light another console "survival horror" game, but with comics/shows like The Walking Dead showing us that humans are scarier than any zombie, or books/movies like Twilight showing us that werewolves and vampires can be tamed into love interests - horror has shifted to mainstream and it's likely to remain there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rubicant81 View Post
    So why should a company make a survival horror game when it eventually is going to lead to people becoming bored with it (unless you want to tell me that Friday the 13th #11 has the same impact as the first few films) unless the franchise evolves, and attempts to appeal to a more mainstream audience. The reason the genre is dying, is because it is not something you can build a franchise off of, and it is something that unlike Mario, Zelda, or Call of Duty, can't be rehashed with slight tweaks and still bring it with bumps and scares everytime, instead just leaving you feeling numb and wondering how it scared you in the first place.
    Indeed, why would a developer create something that wouldn't succeed?

    The problem is innovation, and it's becoming increasingly lacking in most games today. With survival horror, however, it's different because the genre is so wide open. When you look at the FPS genre and ask why game within that don't innovate, it's because 1) it's a success, but more importantly 2) there's no room to innovate. It's a restrictive genre, you can only do so much with it.

    But horror is so wide open and can be taken in so many different ways. Rapture irked me due to tension and mood, Slender irked me due to jump-scares and paranoia. Yet the games are so incredibly different. I feel like there's much room to innovate within the horror genre, yet franchises jump to action because it moves more copies.

    It's not that all horror is going to become boring. Horror will become boring when put into uncreative hands.

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    It's not like good horror games won't sell well. Look at the sales RE1, SH1 or Dead Space got. It's just way easier and less risky to produce a run-of-the-mill game, especially if you have a good name to rely on. Look at RE6 - worst crap in video game history, yet ppl bought it like mad; some even thought it was good. Now if that isn't hilarious. Anyway, Dead Space came as a surprise when everyone was thinking survival horror was dead. There will be other games like that. It's up to us to support the good games and to boycott crap like RE6.

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    Horror--specifically surival horror--is my favorite genre by far. Getting a full 10 stars on Silent Hill (1) was one of my proudest achievements, gaming-wise; and yes, I realize that's very sad.

    I think there are still many good horror games out there--I'm a big fan of the Dead Space franchise, even though they've done the expected Alien to Aliens transition (horror to action), but then, there are many kinds of horror. There's creepy, atmospheric, disturbing horror (Silent Hill, Fatal Frame, etc.), and there's gross, monsters, supernatural horror with jump-out scares (Resident Evil--with the possible exception of RE1--and most mainstream "horror" these days).

    As people above said, I cannot blame a publisher for wanting to... you know, make money. That's kind of their mandate, and their boards of directors will be unhappy if they do not fulfill it. So in a way, we're getting the games that, collectively, we've voted for with our money.

    That said, I wish there were more room for idiosyncratic games and gamemakers (Suda51 comes to mind, though not necessarily in the horror genre, parts of Killer7 aside). On the one hand, as consoles get more expensive to develop for, and as gamers expect more and more photorealism in their graphics--not a trend I'm a fan of for horror--it squeezes out a lot of smaller developers. On the other hand, though, it's getting easier for an individual or small group of talented designers to publish a game on PSN; I just bought Dokuro, and have thoroughly enjoyed it, though I cannot imagine it succeeding as a mainstream release.

    I don't know... I'm kind of forced to admit maybe most people just don't like the kinds of games I do. I loved Martian Gothics (clumsy controls and blocky graphics aside), Siren (terrible controls and design, despite an excellent story scheme), and Eternal Darkness (though not as scary as I'd hoped). I'm always happy to see a game like the first Dead Space which felt so much more like an honestly scary and distrubing game. Things just popping out of me may startle me, but that's not really scary--it's just annoying.

    I don't think survival horror is "dead," though. I'm not sure it was ever a mainstream hit to begin with, as I'd define the genre. I'd also note that many "non-horror" games per se have horror elements; parts of Bioshock were creepy as hell. So maybe we just need to define the genre less strictly. And games--like life--are cyclical. So eventually, I think the wheel will turn, and people will get tired of random Call of Rainbow7 Black Ops or whatever. At least, I hope so...

    If anyone knows any obscure horror games I might like, though, please PM! I'm always on the lookout for ones I've missed...

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