Jimquisition: Scare Tactics

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I like how even in the episode defending Jump Scares, he kinda admits that jump scares aren't scarey. His entire argument was that when a jump scare happens, suddenly the time where there aren't any baddies trying to eat your face becomes the scariest part of the game. The anticipation of something scarey happening is far, far more effective then anything the game could throw at you. No one says jump scares are bad on their own merit, it's just that over reliance on them becomes tedious and lame. It's far more effective to only use them once or twice, because then you're constantly on edge the entire rest of the game dreading an experience that probably will never happen again; far better at getting under your skin then just running in the room and punching you in the balls.

Jump scares aren't scarey. They're startling. But startling someone once and then putting them in an environment where it might happen again but never does can lead to real teeth gritting horror.

Those familiar with the discussions at the Expo may understand when I say that it feels like this might have been Jim's response in a debate with Yahtzee as to why horror games are bad now.

In all honesty, jump scares are best at making a person want to scream like a child. I can't deny that about Dead Space or Doom 3. However, Dead Space 2 was just annoying with it due to the fact that EVERY room you entered had them show up. That build up was gone.

Psychonauts Kinect... that would make me completely lose faith in humanity (I still have a little scrap of hope for it).

As for scary games, well, I'm a nerve wreck and although I'm not a fan of Doom 3, I must admit it did have lots of effective, although cheap scares. I also liked Dead Space.

Thief is another great game with horror elements, kinda like Amnesia, you have to hide to avoid combat, but unlike Amnesia, you can defend yourself, but it's a very ineffective way to dispatch guards and monsters are even harder to kill. Not known as a horror game, but it definitely can get quite scary sometimes, especially Thief 3.

Also Stalker and it's randomness of creepy-as-shit monsters can make (almost) anyone jump out of their seat.

My problem with jump scares is that they're usually scripted events and, honestly, I die a lot in games. Not because I'm bad, but because I try to find/do everything and, well okay, my resource management is pretty bad.

So the second time (and third and fourth and...) I'm walking up a flight of stairs and the same demon tries to grab my legs, it's not scary, it's just tedious.

Aliens Vs Predator 2000 was the BEST for scary mouse throwing pants peeing moments.

Well worth $5 if you haven't played it yet http://store.steampowered.com/app/3730/

The engine was written from the ground up to capture the feel of the movies and it pulled it off perfectly.

Also the game had no static spawns except for a very few "boss" fights, and almost no static lighting, all of which could be destroyed.

By a few marine plays through you started tossing grenades at your feet whenever you heard the click-click-click of a face hugger scuttling around because getting killed by one was the best jump scare in any game.

Honorable mention goes to STALKER SoC for the underground levels. No scarier moment than when

I never play horror games, jump scares or no, because I don't like being frightened. That people actually play these things willingly has always puzzled me.

While I get the point about jump scares.... There's nothing inherently wrong about them, but no matter what Jim says about em, they're always the lowest form of horror. Even if you can make them more effective with extra care, they're still the easiest to pull off by their very nature, and thus: the cheapest.

Dead Space? Pacing? You lost me, that game bored the hell out of me and I really didn't get a feel of pacing in it. I ended that game feeling like a janitor tasked with cleaning out a spaceship of monsters and that killing monsters was just as boring and mundane a job as mopping. Shoot the legs, shoot the arms, rinse, repeat.

So, long story short, the key to an effective scary game is the right amounts of atmosphere and pacing. As you play, you just know something scary is about to happen; it's just a matter of when. I haven't played any Silent Hill games (I know, shame on me), but they nailed it.
I also like scary moments in games that don't fit in to the horror genre. Examples: Ravenholme and the Headcrab zombies from Half-Life 2, and the Cyber-ninja carving up a hallway full of Genome Soldiers and any bit with Psycho-Mantis from Metal Gear Solid.
What about the rest of you guys, any moments like that you can recall?

i think the real issue here is that jump scares have their place in horror, but they do not define the concept of horror

horror is, at it's core psychological torture

once you realize this, you understand that the 'jump scare' is simply one tool in the horror scare box

used at the right time it could be devastating, used poorly and repetitively? not a chance
in my opinion a truly first class game will use the jump scare every 3-4 hours
and use it so well you wet your pants
and use it someplace that is not the obvious 'jump scare point'
instead of opening a locker and seeing goo drip out, have a creeking noise follow you then a ceiling panel drop on your head and knock you down and a big ass thing standing on you
as far as the player is concerned.. any ceiling panel is now a threat but what are you going to do? avoid the roof? no. you're going to realize bad stuff is after you and if you don't play well it might overwhelm you
'creaking noise' 'looks at ceiling' 'nothing happens' 'player waits a minute' 'nothing happens'
^ psychological horror.

if every door you open has a zombie behind it screaming at you, it quickly stops being scary and starts to become boring routine and annoying unimaginative padding
a game cannot exist entirely on the jump scare

that would be like trying to bake a cake entirely consisting of Cherry's
you might well end up with something hot that is cake shaped,
but it would be abusing the medium and not produce something worth having
( a sticky sickly mess. )

if you use all the established elements of horror, or cake making you have a far better chance of producing a quality scare or tasty treat

Bottom line: the jump-scare is the cherry of horror, use it wisely and nobody complains
( even if they don't like Cherry's, 95% of the cake is not a cherry. )
The other 95% is a lie, if you're keeping score. now i feel meme dirty :(

Personally I don't see why people think no jump scares is a good thing, to a point they're almost necessary,
let me give an example of a rare occasion, I was playing Bioshock, good game pretty scary, and they're came a point where i was in a tiny room and tense music was playing, I had an image of Raving insane Psychopaths outside the room trying to find me, Now I believe i had a glitch going on that was making the music still play even though the splicers were gone because i was in there for a while, however my brother, decided to play a prank, he opened the door very quietly and said
"Hello Beautiful" in a creepy voice, that scared me, not in a screaming manner but i was seriously scared. now this was all a rare coincidence however it was a very scary moment it showed how a game can scare you by keeping you on the edge of your seat thinking you will die, but there's a major catch, you need to have a release, a payoff after this tension. if that music had kept playing and I had not surprise eventually I would have realized it was a glitch, and just gone out, in that instance even if there were monsters it's wouldn't scare me because the tension had gone out, imagine a tight cord on a bowstring being pulled back, as you pull back the cord, it gets more and more tense, there's a continuing thought, when is it going to snap? when will the arrow be released, if the bow is held taught for a while it will build tension, you know it's won't hold, its got to snap, this causes little panic, you need to release that arrow though, and you need to do it at the right moment.
If you don't have a release a jump-out scare to release the tension you lose all chances of being scary, you also can at times use a surprise without scary pacing.
I once want into a haunted house sort of building at first i was all cocky and brave laughing as we saw skeletons and such this was lulling a false sense of security I was expecting a lame jump out scare and static scenery. then at a door a loud noise sacred me and everyone else, a voice told us to come closer.
now I'm going to try to analyse how this scared us so well.
1. the door we were to enter was dark. they essentially removed light after this scare before this we had some light to see where we were going.
2. The scares, used tactics, they'd trick many into thinking they were someone they knew, the classic who;s holding my hand, and when this is discovered it give a monetary scare, and also makes it scary because you don't know who is really close. separating you and removing the group safety.
3. the Cheesy and lit area at the beginning created false expectations, you assume you'll be able to see and predict when a scare might come out. this meant when we saw the dark doorway in my head I wasn't expecting anything odd because before I could see anything that I assumed was supposed to scare me.

SO a pop out scare works, the only real problem is knowing how to do it correctly, as such I'm going to make some plans on Halloween.

this week on the jimquisition, Jim learns how to auto tune!

I agree that jump scares can work; I stopped playing Rescue on Fractalus back in my 'tweens when the game stopped cluing you in that one of those damn aliens was going to jump up in front of your windshield.

The problem I have is that games like Doom 3 and Dead Space (especially the former) have such a short menu of scare tactics that they become annoyances from a game-play standpoint, annoyances that persist long after their ability to actually scare me have faded. Yes, Dead Space, I know I died; can we skip rubbing it in with this long-ass animation sequence for once? Oh look, Doom 3 is offering me a little cache of supplies out in the open. I wonder if this time grabbing it isn't going to trigger an ambush?

Actually, no; no, I don't.

So every time I pick up ammo, I backpedal a few paces and prepare to feed the horror d'jour a face-full of buckshot; every time I see a human corpse that might jump up and say boo, I pre-emptively carve it into nibblets. Not because I'm scared, or scared of being scared, but because the same tactics that are attempting to scare me are making me grind my teeth at another cheap attempt at chewing off a few life points or a few rounds of ammo in desperation fire.

It strikes me that these things could be more effective in many cases if they weren't a) rote and b) punishing. If the games were more willing to reward players for daring behavior that will expose them to scary things rather than make it advantageous to minimize them, we could enjoy the scares and feel a kind of empowerment from testing the limits of our own courage. I know that some people will argue that horror and empowerment don't remotely belong on the same page (and others will argue that this is part of the reason so many horror games, torn between the apparent contradictions of those two words, fail), but I think there's something to be said for recognizing the player's own contribution to the atmosphere the designer is trying to create. I think it can be much more effective to make players complicit in the experience, rather than trying to make them feel helpless.

Filtering out all the crap; we can all agree that "jump scares" aren't good nor bad but it's how they're used that counts.

If your movie/game/story is all jump scares, then you risk losing your audience fast.
However... If you solely rely on nothing but suspense, you'll risk similar consequences.

Unfortunately, Jim, you're arguing the wrong case.

Anyone who says jump scares should never be used is being dishonest with themselves. Jump scares CAN work and DO require effort....when done well. But it's when you build the entire movie/game around them, or when they become predictable, that they aren't really clever effort-requiring works....they're just lazy and futile attempts to startle you. And startling a person over and over is NOT true horror. For most people, it just starts getting annoying, and it's bound to just wear out their nerves after a while.

Take for example, Dead Space (your key example). Not many people criticize the original Dead Space for its horror, but many people DO criticize Dead Space 2. Why? Because while DS1 develops its story and horror elements, you're literally face-to-face with a necromorph within minutes of playing DS2 and it's a cheap jumpscare at that, and the game only continues the process from there.

It did amuse me you pointed out Slender as well, because I don't find Slender even slightly terrifying. It's actually downright boring.

You want to know what scary is? The first sequence in Amnesia where you're wading through waist-deep water and you hear the faint splashing sounds of some....thing in the water. Something you can't see. You can only hear its presence. THAT is damn scary: knowing there's a monster somewhere near you (but you can't tell how far away it is) that might come running to eat you whole at the faintest sound of a splash from you. THAT sequence was the scariest part of the game for me bar none, and even now it still sends chills down my spine when I watch others play it even though I know it's there. That's the sign of good, lasting horror. A jump-scare can only achieve that effect once. Watch/play again and it's not going to catch you off-guard again (unless you forget things easily). But good horror sets up the environment for you and lets your imagination run wild, knowing that you'll create phantasms more terrifying in your mind than anything they can show you.

Another thing: if the "scary thing" in question is on the wrong end of my shotgun, it instantly becomes significantly less scary. Giving me the opportunity and knowledge that I can kill the big bad scary thing hunting me is enough to significantly reduce or even neutralize my fear. Which is another reason why games like Dead Space just don't work that well on me. Sure, you might startle me, but a second or two later, I'm emptying my clip into whatever it is, so my fear turns instantly into flight-or-fight....and with a gun in my hands, no doubt that I'm gonna fight.

that ending....*shudder*.

Jim, that was a great episode.

That house is not a tree, Im going to let that one slide for now but I saw neither zombie nor zombie dragon in your video! I am disapointed. Your choice in music created such high expectations but did not deliver. You leave me no choice, im going to boycotte your show. (unless I really want to watch it)


Dead Space is not scary. A game can't be scary if you are prepared to deal with the threat. I get that the weapons are ill suited to the job because they are more tools than weapons, but that does not matter. A Sledgehammer is meant to pulverize larger rocks into tiny ones, but that does not mean it won't pound a person into hamburger. The fact that I have a chance, albeit small, removes the horror aspects of it.

Also, a gun that shoots sawblades into the enemy renders the horror elements useless. How can I be scared when I have something that awesome in my arsenal?

Play the game with melee attacks and kinesis then. But we know you won't, will you? You have to have every bullet you can curb stomp out of a corpse, go out of your way to grab every power node you already know is waiting for you like a good little scavenger.

OT: Thank you for giving Dead Space some cred, Jim. A jump scare doesn't last, but honestly I couldn't care less. The game does an amazing job of establishing its atmosphere and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Sorry to disprove your stereotype of me, but I have already done that. It still was not scary.

Hate to break it to you, but when you know where the scares are, you are prepared for them.

You may find it scary and that's good on you. But I don't. It does not matter how I play it.

Here's the thing, and I think this is pretty critical, your not scared of the MONSTER, you're scared of being STARTLED. With the right build up ANYTHING could be scary.

I was hoping jump scares would be the topic when I saw the title, as I definitely agree with what Jim says on this one. Jump scares can absolutely be effective. They can be a big payoff for creating a creepy tense atmosphere, and they give the tension some climax. I'm not a huge fan of "unjustified" jump scares, for instance cat-scares, where the scare is something not really scary, like a cat jumping out at you, or someone friendly tapping you on the shoulder, but jump scares are I feel a big part of horror. Not to say they're necessary, but they can work very well.
I'm also glad you brought up Dead Space, as I love that game, and it definitely scared me when I played it. I feel like as much as it uses jump scares to the max at times, it just so much uses atmosphere and creepiness to set the tone.

Also, the OST is just pure genius, amazing stuff.

I love the horn blaring effect combined with the strings.

I generally hate the horror genre from the bottom of my heart. :D I just get scared SO easily. For example, one time when playing Morrowind I freaked out when dungeon-crawling in some cave where I had accidentally passed by a vampire that thought he'd give me a nice pat on the back... So, then give me Amnesia or some other actual Horror game and I'm crying in a corner after 5 minutes :P.

But yeah, those jump scares certainly have their place (except when in games that aren't horror >:E) and I appreciate the actual work that goes into making those things so scary. I nonetheless have played Slender, Amnesia and Penumbra (mostly because I was forced, but still.. :D) and they have made me feel genuinely scared or at least anxious. I can certainly see what makes a horror game "good" but I just can't enjoy them. I wish I could though. The stories and the effort that's been put into making the perfectly scary and agonizing atmosphere would be a thing to behold, in a bit greater detail than the occasional drunken dash in to the world of horror.

I don't think Doom 3's monster closets were effective at all. After about 2 hours you can basically call when and where the monsters will end up coming from. I found myself turning around at all the right times to kill the very obvious monster that would come from behind me.

cant stop laughing, you look like oogie boogie from nightmare before xmas in that mask lol

I don't think it's jump scares that people have a problem with. It's the over use of jump scares that annoy people. Yes a jump scare can work, but not if you've used a dozen of them in the past minute. Use them too often and it starts to feel like clay bird shooting but with monsters.

I love horror games. From the cheap jump scares of Resident Evil to the slow-burn psychological tension of Silent Hill.

That's one thing I hate about the new Resident Evil games. RE5 and RE6 are simply NOT scary. They lack any sense of atmosphere, horror pacing, or slow-burn tension.

Jump scares, though, are GREAT if used correctly, and sparingly. Some of the best scares in games came from jump scares used in the right way. Silent Hill 1's room of glass and locker scene, Silent Hill 2's bathroom door, Resident Evil's dogs and windows, Condemned's locker body, Dead Space 2's crypt...

I think Jim's analogy of a kid with a jack-in-the-box sums it up best. You wind and you wind, but you can't quite tell WHEN it's coming to come out. You're bracing for it. You know it's coming. It's not the jump itself that's scary but rather the agonizing wait for what you KNOW is coming. The inevitable. The unstoppable. It's coming and you're helpless to prevent it. It makes you feel vulnerable and weak.

Good horror games still do this; they make you feel vulnerable and weak. Amnesia, Slender, Silent Hill. Hell, I've even seen some people here saying Dead Space isn't scary because they're an unstoppable force of nature, to which I'd say "raise the difficulty, cowards" because anything other than easy and normal strips you of your unlimited resources, health buffers, and makes every single encounter a life or death struggle where running away might just be a better option than facing it head-on.

What's funny is games that are scary to 99% of people, but that one gamer out there is just unfazed. I'm not terrified of Dead Space (I DO find it very scary), but I made my roommate play it and he was screaming and crying and running around the game like a chicken with its head cut off, dying very early on because he could not compose himself to face the enemy with his nerves intact.

Still, I want more games in the horror genre. With so many falling away or abandoning their horror roots, we need it now more than ever.


To be honest I'm completely envious. I wish I could get scared like that the way I used to, but I think I burned myself out on it. It's my favorite genre (though I hate horror movies) so I'm constantly exposing myself to the tricks of the trade.

My scariest games? A tie between Silent Hill 3 and Haunting Ground. Yes, I thought SH3 was scarier than 2, though 2 was the better game overall. That huge deformed troll-man who chases you in Haunting Ground scares the hell out of me when very little does anymore. Hiding under a bed, watching his ankles as he frantically tries to find you? That's how you do that shit right.

As always, great job Jim, as yes you do know just what scares gamers. Ricitello, man of the year? FUUUUUUU

Great costume man!

I don't know if anyone is in the same camp as me, but I used to not do horror very well because I would take it too seriously. Other forms of violence were easer for me to handle, maybe because of my understanding of social standards that I learned form movies and TV, but I was very sheltered from horror films while I was growing up. Gaming to me was very "Nintendo Clean" (Mario jumping on Mushroom heads) and Disneyesque, so after renting the original Silent HIll I had to take it back after just an hour of playing it because it was way too much for me. That said, I had to try Dead Space because I'm a huge sci-fi fan (Space Rules!). Though I couldn't sleep right for weeks, it was the best gaming experience I've ever had. As I'm not as well read on the subject of jump scares and monster closets as most of the people on this forum, I'm curious as to what people might not like about Dead Space.

Thought this episode was pretty meh but then, the ending. Apple gaming...noooooo

The thing with jump scares is, yeah, they can be really fucking awful and REALLY fucking obnoxious. In movies, at least, they tend to be done poorly more often than not in my experience.

I agree though, they can be used to excellent and memorable effect with the right style.

Best jump scare of my gaming career, this motherfucker right here;

If you've been to planet phaaze, you know what I'm talking about.

With all the atmosphere of the metroid prime games, a jump scare like that works tremendously.

Really ? Dead Space 2 ? Doom 3 was scary, for all things you mentioned. But Dead Space 2 is complete opposite, mainly because of the de-limbing (is that a word ?) gimmick mechanic.

Just WATCHING someone play SCP-087 gave me the creeps. One guy made over 300 flights of stairs!

And I'm glad someone acknowledged how well the scares worked in Doom 3. Like when I saw a new weapon sitting on the far end of the room, such as the plasma gun... I knew something was going to happen when I picked it up, but I didn't know what and I looked around for a good minute or two before getting the courage to grab it... then thelights shut down and the zombies came out. Scared the shit out of me.

I must disagree. Games that are a "train" of jump scares simply don't work. Jump scares depreciate too quickly for them to be effective on sober individuals. A three minute train ride works well enough, but when you're playing a game for three or more hours they simply don't work. Doom 3 is a great example of this, it's effective for the first 30 minutes or so, but after that point your mind becomes steeled to the stimuli and you no longer react to monster closets. After that point the only thing that's unnerving is the excellent sound design.

The problem is that jump scares force a person into a hidey hole in their mind until they expect to see a monster in every crevice, behind every door and to appear behind you after every powerup. This isn't paranoia, because a horror game that has nothing but jump scares necessarily needs to overuse the jump scare to make it's fear quota, so the monsters will be behind every door, in every crevice etc. in the same way they that are in Doom 3

Speaking of which, this is why F.E.A.R. effectively used jump scares, because you would only encounter them after a period of FPS action. It played with your expectation. You would be looking around every corner for a squad of soldiers, which is what made it so unnerving when you would look around the corner and see girl covered in blood two feet away staring into your soul. It constantly changed your expectations of your current situation. Sometimes you'd be working on a valve and gate puzzle or something and just after you get through the gate you'd find yourself in the middle of a room with eight soldiers looking directly at you. Other times after you just karate kicked the crap out of a soldier and you turn the corner and find yourself in a warehouse covered with symbols written in blood and a little girl would be pointing at you menacingly. In Doom 3 you can only expect imps and zombies, constantly, same thing with Dead Space.

The most frightening games I've ever played are constantly taking steps to bring you out of your hidey hole, usually by introducing a new mind fuck so you're wide open for the next scare. There are few games that do this, because most horror games oppressively browbeat you into a steely paranoia that makes you so ready for everything to be the worst thing ever that when the next attempt to scare you is an imp stepping out of a storage closet it's defeated without a moments contemplation or feeling.

Good show. And no finer points was ever made about the psychology of jump scares. I used to fight and my coach used to ask me, "when you hurt someone enough times with a tactic, what do you do?" To which I would respond, "keep doing it?". At which point he would say, "no, you go ahead and let them think it's coming and you hurt them in other ways". There was this part in FEAR. You get the radio distortion like Alma was going to jump out at you and I would frantically look around for her. The distortion goes away and I think I missed it. I go to go down a latter and as soon as I turn around, BAM! I jumped out of my seat. It was masterful. Being able to anticipate them lets the game set the pace. And when it doesn't come,you let your guard down, and that is when it happens.


Honorable mention goes to STALKER SoC for the underground levels. No scarier moment than when

By far one of the most frightening moments I've experienced in gaming.

What jumpscares? Dead Space had 1 jump scare, at the end. Plus whoever said every room had predictably the same scares is just wrong. There were a lot of times in that game were the developers are just fucking with you. Probably my favourite is at one of the workstations, now i did NOT expect that, at all.

Now Dead Space 2...that was indeed predictable. I remember in DS1 i was waiting when they play the "necro jumps into the elevator from the vent above", and it never happened. It did in the second game just as expected.

By the way, Silent Hill 2 wasnt scary either...no, i mean its one of my favourite horror games but just as other games has their own way of predictable scares, SH games has the same with the "usually nothing happens even though the music and sound effects are fucked up" style.

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