Bump In The Night

Bump In The Night
Fear Beyond Words

Nick Cowen | 30 Mar 2010 12:32
Bump In The Night - RSS 2.0

While Lake has a point, he may also be underplaying the horror aspect of the game somewhat. Even if Alan Wake's sinister antagonists spring from the mind of its protagonist, and even if the overarching doom-and-gloom atmosphere may be a product of his dark mood, that doesn't make them any less real - or any less frightening. Wake, as a character, is clearly being deployed to unsettle the player from the outset. According to Lake, it's part of the process of getting the player into Wake's headspace.

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"It's very important that the main character and the player are in sync," he says. "So early on, the player will be confused. They'll be learning the mechanics, but also learning about Alan and his situation. It's important that the player be as confused as Alan - they need to be feeling like they're trying to get their bearings.

"The experience should go forward from there," he continues. "As the player understands more about Alan and his predicament, so does Alan. The two learn at a pace which runs in tandem with each other."

It's Lake's contention that by syncing the player's emotions with Wake's and by leaving traditional horror elements to one side, Remedy's new IP can't be classed as a horror game. But the irony here is that the game's central conceit echoes a central theme from the works one of the most celebrated horror writers of all time, H.P. Lovecraft.

One of Lovecraft's most critically lauded storytelling devices was narrators and protagonists who couldn't determine if the horrors they were seeing were real or a product their own derangement. Lovecraft also employed the idea of a writer willing supernatural horrors into existence: The "old gods" of his stories were demons trying to return to our world through the written descriptions of those who had encountered them.

Wake's demons are clearly far more personal, but that doesn't make them any less horrific. Alan Wake is a game packed with heart-stopping tension and enough chills to fuel a dozen Outer Limits episodes. The splintered narrative recalls David Lynch at his darkest, and story of a writer battling demons in physical form is vintage Stephen King. But beyond its influences, Alan Wake seems to tell the story of a creative yet flawed individual whose doubt and anger causes his grip on reality to slip. Once it's gone, it seems Wake will tumble into darkness - and there are few places more terrifying to be trapped in than one's own imagination.

Nick Cowen is a freelance contributor to The Escapist.

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