Sure, zombies running through a city, chasing you while releasing the occasional spine-chilling moan might be a scary thing to you in general, but you're not helping things by playing the game in broad daylight. Light and day are warm, comforting entities. Darkness and night, however, put us on edge and make us more guarded, and thus, flappable.

Remember what it was like when you were a kid, reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles under your covers by flashlight, growing ever more fearful with each word you read, questioning if that noise was just the creaking of the bed, or possibly the cry of a being not from this world? We have just as much of an impact on how scary a game is to us, and as such, should put forth an earnest effort to make these survival/horror titles as down-right scary as possible. Perhaps "Play Under the Covers" and "Play After Dusk" should be put on the back of packing next to "Memory Stick Required" and "Wi-Fi Compatible (Ad Hoc)."

Now, developers can't force us to sit under the covers with our Nintendo DS or Sony PSP, but what they can do is rework the way they construct survival/horror titles on a portable scale. We know the constraints, the fact that the graphics aren't there yet, there isn't a massive amount of support, but we have to stop focusing on the negatives. It's time to innovate.

Just like Hideo Kojima broke the fourth wall in Metal Gear Solid by having Psycho Mantis toy with us by reading and commenting on our memory card save files and even making the screen go black like the PlayStation was on the fritz, developers of portable survival/horror need to try new ways to scaring us. Play with our heads a little: Have the brightness shift on the unit to recreate the flickering of lights in a horror movie. Pull photos and music from our memory sticks and insert them into the game; how weird would it be to see pictures of Mom and Dad on the wall when we take a closer look? The cerebral, mental scares are where it's at, and it's high time to capitalize.

There's really no simple way to create practical, portable survival/horror scares. A compromise between gamers and developers has to come about before we can truly enjoy survival/horror in a portable variety. Gamers have to put themselves in a position to be scared, and developers have to be willing to reach beyond standard convention to scare them. Until that middle ground is reached, we're left with mediocre scares, and paying another buck to go in the carnival's haunted house because the horror movie we want to see is still years away.

Dan Dormer is a videogame freelancer who keeps a poorly updated blog
at his personal
site
. He's also afraid of seeing scary movies. True story.

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