Escapist Podcast: 039: Game of Thrones and Survival Horror

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039: Game of Thrones and Survival Horror

This week, we discuss the 1984 Olympics, Game of Thrones, the state of the survival horror genre and some reader questions.

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Schuyler ignore Susan, that Thriller joke was gold.

Great podcast, usually I am not a fan of changing up the team, but this was a really good podcast.

Big George R R Martin fan and I really really hated book five. I've noticed that the people who hate it the most are the people who waited six years for it. I'll avoid my details for my dislike, don't want to spoil it, but God it is a slow book with very little pay off.
Also I hear they are splitting up book three into two seasons because it was so packed with content, good move.

I've seen some of the trailers for the new season, I think they are going to try their hand at glimpses of the battles. Personally I think the big battle in season 2 is too big to treat it like season one.

Very important to a certain characters development.

And man, now I am jealous of this Maze, as a kid I always wanted to go to one of those...

On game of thrones, they already plan on covering books 4 & 5 in chronological order. Also, I will say that I really enjoyed all of the books. However, I didn't have to wait 6 years for it so my view may be colored.

To this,

Ramith:
I've seen some of the trailers for the new season, I think they are going to try their hand at glimpses of the battles. Personally I think the big battle in season 2 is too big to treat it like season one.

I will point out that Tyrion gets all of the knocked unconscious pretty quickly. They will need to cover that major battle with Tyrion in the second book though, twas kinda important.

First - Thriller joke, holy shit, funny.

Song of Ice and Fire
Read the first four books, liked them a lot, and the show was rather fun, looking forward to the new season. When it comes to the magic in the book and the fantasy setting that is one of the things that got me into it. I started reading the first book last year (or two years ago), knowing almost nothing about it, and the small hints to magic but remaining believable was really nice, then when the magic came in I felt it was like Magical, it wasn't just "oh, a Dragon" , it became "Holy Shit Dragon! No really, Dragon!" because the magical aspect was held back and revealed in small doses. I generally don't read Fantasy because the magic aspect of them just seems mundane, I didn't get that from a Song of Ice and Fire.

Survival Horror
Great point on the RE-make with the window and Cerberus, I was telling my computer the same thing just before you brought it up. I'm a fan of PSOne survival horror, and I think you all brought up good points, more and more it's about action these days, and it's just not the same. I like Dino Crisis 2, but it is a lot more Action oriented like survival horror is today, you get rewarded for killing more Dinos, ammo is plentiful, but I still like it as a survival horror title. I think I'm in denial about DC2.
When it comes to survival horror games and day light, I think it can work, I think whether these games are in night or day wont change them, I think there's more to it than that. Playing Resident Evil 4 I did not find the game scary, or unsettling, creepy, I found the action took over too much, the only time I my hair raised was early in the game, during the day light, facing the first, second, maybe even the third Dr Salvadors (?) before they became easy. When night came in RE4 I didn't become more sacred it just became harder to see. I think night can make it easier for horror, sure, but I don't think it is needed.

As a huge survival horror fan I think the character in the game not being pushed towards something is the main reason why I don't like where the genre is going. For me, the character being pulled towards something and having them try to figure out why that's happening to them, as well as the horrific creatures and events around them, is what's scary to me. Just throwing a character in the setting and not having a motivation to continue on or even just using the character as a blank slate where they clearly have no reason to be there or stay there to portray the surrounds does nothing for me, and the biggest reason why I hated SH: Origins with a passion.

I was sad to see Resident Evil go towards the action-adventure genre and not be scary anymore, and I wonder if it's because they pitted themselves in a corner because of who the main villain in the story is, Umbrella Corp., and you just kill their unholy off-spring. With Silent Hill, the main villain is the town, or that's how I see it, and how the place draws people in to make them go through their personal issues whether they like it or not. With Amnesia, that game did have enemies, but the atmosphere really sold me on the terror aspect and the overall story of the game. Justine did the same thing for me, same atmosphere, but the suitors were terrifying in their own right with what each of them had to say, especially the last one.

Also, I really love the randomness of the podcast, so no need to apologize.

Romania part of the soviet union? Wow.
They even competed in the 1984 olympics.
Sorry for being such a smart-ass, but that bugged me.

Love the podcast btw.

Pet Peeve - please don't refer to Fallout 3 as "Fallout". It's not Fallout. It's Fallout 3.

Thanks.

Ironic how Movie Bob's intermission this week had a part about how horror movies are more comedies than horror.

Okay, if you have any real interest in Survival Horror, here is what you need to know:

#1. The biggest problem with Survival horror is an industry that is not willing to push the envelope far enough to do what they need to do. Horror in general is all about pushing people beyond the limits of their personal comfort. Most people by definition do not enjoy this, even retroactively, which is why horror is a niche genere in any form of media and has been under constant fire from people who just do not get it (read up on say the UK "Video Nasties" list from the 1980s). When your dealing with people who are hardcore horror fans, they by definition become jaded and need to be pushed further than relatively normal sorts to get the same results, products that are by definition aimed at horror fans thus have to constantly be moving forward in terms of intensity.

Psychological horror by definition does not really work with the serious horror fan, because if you just run into wierd stuff that is unsettling to the everyman, it's going to be shrugged off as "expected" by the person used to the genere. Stuff that doesn't make sense and is never explained is going to be viewed as a cop out, and really any kind of explanation to stuff that is just "creepy" is probably not going to deliver on the stuff that a real horror fan already thought up... and really their thought processes aren't building up dread, so much as going down a checklist of cliques and even alternative stuff they have already experienced.

Most of the people involved in talking about survival horror are people who have played a lot of games in the genere, and thus become so jaded that the stuff that might be scary to a relative "virgin" to the genere has no real effect. When it comes to something like Resident Evil 6 or whatever number they are up to now, is that most people playing it played the last 5 games, or at least a few of them, have seen it all because they don't add in anything to really screw with those people's comfort factor.

With "Silent Hill" they kind of lost the series after the first one because they started becoming too concerned about offending people to really progress the series. For a VERY long time I refused to buy Silent Hill 2 (and I eventually got a copy used because I refuse to give the company money for that title) because when they released the demo they actually censored the games due to complaints over all of the skinless children getting bludgeoned to death. I do not support censorship, but the point is that once they showed the willingness to consider people's comfort factor, especially people in the mainstream when dealing with a niche title, they destroy the entire thing. It is utterly amazing that they managed to turn Silent Hill 2 into a success (and a big one) and carry it on for one more game, but in the end the problem with Silent Hill is that they stopped doing anything to move forward because they set a clear limit as to what they were willing to do. Things got formulaistic, we know the monsters, we know the setting, and we know the general progression of events because they keep doing the same things. If say "Downpour" was your first game of it's sort you would probably see things a lot differantly, but really at this point anyone who buys survival horror is not going to be playing their first game of this sort at this point.

One thing I will also point out is that guys like "Steven King" tend to sell so well because they really aren't horror, at least not anymore. His famous technique for psychological horror and not spelling many things out and letting the reader do all the work, makes his work inoffensive and doesn't push many people's buttons. Hence, he tends to be mostly be scorned by serious horror fans nowadays, but well liked by more casual and mainstream readers who do not want to have their limits pushed by their fiction.

#2. I tend to think that survival horror also seems to have problems with budget and planning. Right now it seems like most horror games are dialing it in compared to other productions. The effort put into say "Downpour" seems to be many degrees less than say "Mass Effect". It's not difficult to understand why given the niche audience, but at the same time it does show.

#3. Connected sort of to point #1 and #2 there is no real issue with the idea of having heavily armed and capable protaganists in horror, being able to achieve the same effect as a traditional one is a matter of writing. Good example of this would be say "Jericho" or say the movie "Aliens" which managed to be freaky and definatly horrorfic while having some very deadly protaganists. Indeed part of the whole point of "Aliens" (the movie) was how bad the situation got given the sheer power of the marines. That got turned into an action video game franchise, but the movie itself, especially the first time you saw it, was not the same.

Basically you need someone who knows how to WRITE very descriptive horror to create the concepts at the very least, combined with good designers. Jericho had "Clive Barker" behind it to create the scenario, lore, and ideas, it was just bad game designers that kind of dragged it down. Get someone like him, or say splatterpunk writers like "Edward Lee" to do a game, and then put a good team on it, and you'll see a good game, and it won't matter how action-like the game is, it's going to hit all the buttons and leave no doubts it's a horror game.

-

In parting I wanted to also give a correction about Silent Hill, ever tried to leave the town? Ever notice you can't do it... the roads just kind of end into mist. That's an aspect that isn't played up in most of the games so people don't think of it. I was kind of impressed how the "Silent Hill" movie, for all that it did wrong, made that point.

If they actually focused on the effects of a protaganist like the guy from "Downpour" or "Origins" trying to do the common sense thing, and finding out they can't leave, the simple motive of escape can be a driving force for the story.... a point that isn't explored so really you don't see a pressing reason for these characters to be there, the characters don't seem concerned about not being able to leave, so the players tend to forget about it. Basically they need writers who know what the frak they are doing.

See, the classic gimmick of not being able to leave is a big part of horror. The door of the old manor house slamming shut and not opening under any circumstances is one of the driving forces to the classic haunted house scenario, and why the guys in the story don't just leave.

They can't just not show the battle in the second season of GOT, it takes up 1/3rd of the book, and it does have plenty of character development (Tyrion, the hound, Davos etc.), not just blood and gore.

the romanian republic was never part of the soviet union.
and yes we were and are bad ass at gymnastics
romania was at the 84 olympics and won 53 medals

Did any of you ever play any of the Fatal Frame games? If not, you should try it out, especially if you like survival horror but even if it isn't your thing. For example, if you like games that are built on story or have a unique gameplay element you should give it a shot as well.

It's also the only survival horror franchise that I know that hasn't gotten worse as it went on, in fact the fourth one is my favorite. They are all based on the same style but something different is added in each game to set it aside from the one that came before it.

I have come to love your podcast with a fiery passion but if I could ask for one change, when you come back from your breaks could you fade the music down quicker or alter the levels on your mics to bring out the speaking a bit more? Its frelling hard to hear some of you with the music overlapping! Though not Susan, beautiful diction!

Otherwise loving your good work, keep it up!

Things can be well lit and still scare the bejesus out of you. First time running around the Von Braun in System Shock 2 I was bricking it and thats a well lit spaceship. I do think zombies can still be scary if they're done well, they just usually aren't. I offer up the first time you come across a witch in L4D, though I suppose that is about 5 years old by now

Referring to that elder scrolls discussion, I gotta agree. I loved playing skyrim and just feeling like I already had a pretty good grasp on the world. And it's funny that you mentioned noticing when something was 'wrong' with the world. The first time I heard someone say "by the eight!" I was just like wait a minute, something is very very wrong here.

Purplecoyote:
Did any of you ever play any of the Fatal Frame games? If not, you should try it out, especially if you like survival horror but even if it isn't your thing. For example, if you like games that are built on story or have a unique gameplay element you should give it a shot as well.

It's also the only survival horror franchise that I know that hasn't gotten worse as it went on, in fact the fourth one is my favorite. They are all based on the same style but something different is added in each game to set it aside from the one that came before it.

Loooooove Fatal Frame. Genuinely terrifying.

C'mon guys. You can't keep having discussions about survival horror when you don't get around to play Amnesia. Chop chop! :-) In all fairness, it does get on your nerves so much that you have to routinely shut it down and stay away for a while before you get back to it, but never has any other medium (book, movies, haunted house at theme parks) scared me as much as Amnesia has. It's a disservice to you fandom of the genre not to at least experience some hours of it. That's homework right there.

Hyya Escapist fellows.
This is in particular to Susan.
Have you ever watched/listened to the Game Station Podcast?
Its run by Totalbiscuit, Jessie Cox, Dodger, and a random guy.
Thats the ONLY 3 hour podcast I listen to and I highly recommend it.

doesn't several of the books happen at the same time.... so they would have to show those during the same sequence...

Great podcast guys and girl! A few things though...

Romania was never part of the USSR and never will be.The one who got a perfect score multiple times(American Cup,Chunichi Cup and Montreal Olympics)was the romanian girl called Nadia Comaneci.

Just to make things clear here.

I have been a huge ASoIaF fan for some time, I picked up AGoT in about '98. I have Valar Morghulis tatooed to my arm, i love the books that much.

The show...has its ups and downs. There are several small things that I wish they hadn't taken out, but overall Season 1 was awesome. Season 2 they need to step some things up, notably the battles. I'll be very disappointed if Blackwater is not done well, it's one of my favorite battle in the books.

And Jaqen H'ghar better be awesome too.

And Renly better stop being so openly gay and pull a peach from his cloak.

A Dance With Dragons...I enjoyed some parts, to be sure. Jon Connington is a great character, and "FOR THE WATCH!" is one of my go-to awesome phrases now.

But too much of the damn thing was FILLER. I waited 6 years for that book, I was expecting so much more. Hopefully GRRM pulls his head out his arse and gets back on track with Winds of Winter.

Quick note on Harry Potter. From what I heard, it was Rowling who requested that they split the lšast book in two. Then, as you say, they were probably not sad about the prospect of making twice as much money.

To comment on the beginning, I would totally listen to people talk for 3 hours. All Gen Gamers have episodes that long sometimes. You don't have to listen to it like at one go. You can listen to it like in 4 parts or something. ;)

In the first Nightmare on Elm Street Freedy Kruger was a child killer not a child molester. They made the character a child molester in the remake.

Romania was never part of the USSR, their athletes participated in the '84 Olympics (partly to oppose the soviet boycott) and actually were 2nd on medals earned after the U.S. They also won the gold on the vault :P Mary Lou Retton got the gold on women's all-around individual :p

Also can't wait to see how the 2nd season of Game of Thrones turns out. Hope it's not going to be just 10 episodes though. I just don't see how they can cram all the content in 10 hours...

Bitches be hatin' on my Media Sandwich?

Also another top notch podcast. Keep up the good work, but keep the hatin' down. :P

Dear Escapist podcast peoples: Would you say what survival horror is missing is subtlety, on top of the things you mentioned in the podcast?

You guys get 50000 internet points for mentioning The Bugle podcast. Go see it at www.thebuglepodcast.com.

Also, thanks. Loved the podcast. :)

Another example of losing the "scary" the longer you are exposed to it, (This may be hard to believe) Predator.

When the movie came out, it could be anything killing and skinning this group of soldiers. Predator 2, we get exposition and a lot more scenes of the alien and his tech. Now, the movies are just action and tech/gore porn.

Not that I have a problem with that.

Note to self: Don't reference events from when you were 13 unless you look them up on Wikipedia first. :)

Rainboq:
Dear Escapist podcast peoples: Would you say what survival horror is missing is subtlety, on top of the things you mentioned in the podcast?

Very well put. The more suggestive something is - the more it leaves to your imagination - the scarier it tends to be. Survival horror seems to have lost that in favor of putting everything right in front of your face, then asking you to shoot it.

I sort of agree with the Skyrim question. I definitely feel like it is very over rated and I am disappointed after buying it.

Though I do love the snow in Skyrim.

One thing about the ASoIaF series: I have heard that they plan to do seasons 4 and 5 as a mash-up of books 4 and 5, putting all the pieces in chronological order.

Makes sense, at least because of contractual issues with actors (most of whom you just wouldn't see in one season or the other).

You want Elder Scrolls that's not "by the book". Play Morrowind! The combat may be terrible, but the world and the story are probably some of the most unique fantasy you can find. Where else can your ride giant fleas.

I loved/ love Skyrim, it is what it is. Add mods to it then it becomes much more.

Romania was never in the USSR... Also it's also not a salad and it has a temperate climate and some mountains.

Currently listening through this a second time, and something really does irk me. Not about the podcast itself, that I like(seriously, you guys are great), but how much Survival Horror feels to have fallen this console generation.
For a while I thought it was just me and some kind of "Things were alot better back in MY day!"-sense of overwhelming nostalgia towards games like Silent Hill 2 or even Resident Evil 4, but I can see(and have seen over the past few years) I'm far from alone with this...
I think alot of it is, as someone above me pointed out, the lack of subtletly. Which is where both Dead Space and Alan Wake kinda lost me.
Not saying they aren't good games mind you, but I really wasn't that scared by either. I think it's not really a problem that only exists in the horror-genre for games though, we've really seen this with movies too over the past... well, existance of movies, but the last decade/decade and a half or so.
I think it's partly a budget-thing. I mean look at Amnesia, which really was working on a comparative shoe-string budget.
A game I still haven't finished because it just freaks me out too much. But because of the constraints of their budget, the developers had to leave alot more to the player's imagination. And nothing anyone can show you will ever be scarier than what you're imagening.
I mean sure, I could show you a picture of some deep-sea angler fish(but I won't) and you might be slightly un-nerved by it and make you not want to go deep-sea diving for a few days, but I think if anyone sits down and calmly explain it's appearance in a slightly exaggerated way, followed by just handing you a snorkel and push you into the ocean at night, well...
Ok, first off that'd probably be mostly dickish but still. Might be scarier.

... I had a point I was going to make, I'm sure of it.
Screw it, I'll just ask this one question:
Do any of you think there's a way for Survival Horror to recover, and if so how?

Sorry for the rambling.

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