Jimquisition: The Ugly Secret of Horror Games

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I largely have to disagree with the premis. REMake had a high graphical polish and was scarier in a lot of areas. A lot of it is , yea, the addition of more Gotcha moments with the crimson heads and the bonb zomibe, but also the added tension of creatures that could hide in the shadows easier or bleand into the background. Then there's Eternal Darkness, which, aside from some fantastic jump moments (the body in the tub, the more clever sanity effects), had the added suspense of most of the characters meeting a bad fate making most levels feel lost even if you "won".

Of this generation, Bioshock has a great creepy atmosphere, and audio tapes of Raputre citizens are brlliantly dark and draw you in. The ammo supply isn't quite as limited as RE, but the ferocity and number of enemies make up for it leving you just as desperate and isolated. Now if Big Daddies staklked you like the Nemesis it'd be perfect.

And sometimes the crap quality can hurt, as any devotee of MST3K can tell you. It's hard to be scared of a monster that can barely waddle a few inches per second. RE's beneath porn level acting brought us out of the scares, and even those Clash of the titans skeletons left me thinking "they're slow and clunky, run around them".

I've got to disagree with the main argument that horror games need to be ugly. Nostalgia plays a big part with forming opinions of older games and frankly someone playing Friday 13th for the first time now, will not be frightened in the least. A lot of monsters rely on the 'uncanny valley' of incorporating human and inhuman aspects creating an unsettling whole, this can't be achieved if the game is a low-res mess.

He's closer when he cites gameplay choices: Fear, Dead Space and Resident Evil are primarily shooters, not simply horror games and having a massive gun over-rules a sense of helplessness. The sense of helplessness is key to creating the right atmosphere in Amnesia (along with lighting and ambient sounds, the rule of show don't tell, etc). I also agree that graphics shouldn't be the focus for developer and that photo-realism isn't always the best way to go...

I firmly agree with Jim here, jumpy motions that are very non-human just scare the crap out of me. That's why I don't play Bethesda RPGs, because the stuff like Deathclaws just freak me out in the way their movements are really jittery and un-natural on top of the way they look and attack. I find it simple to kill humans in video games because I feel I can relate to the way they think and feel, but when the time comes to kill an animal or an alien, I run for the hills, because I can't relate at all, and most of the time their movements are jittery and unpredictable. I think Jim really hit the nail on the head here.

I don't think so .
deadspace2 isn't scary because it's more oriented towards action than horror. But to give you an example of a game I think can be absolutely terrifying while looking good ( or at least it looked good at the time) is S.TA.L.K.E.R shadow of Chernobyl. the game is ridiculously atmospheric and can be incredibly scary while having good graphics and tight controls .
As an example look at this

The fear you felt while playing those old games is more of a side effect of crap'y controls and shit'y sound than anything else (also nostalgia) . good looking games can be scary if done right it's just that horror doesn't sell so almost no one ever bothers to put in the time and do it well.

Even bioshock had it's moment's and I think that game looks good even by today's standards

So if Amnesia was made 5 years before it wouldn't have been scary for a few years until graphical standards caught up?

Obviously this is complete nonsense, yes big-budget games aren't scary but he's mixed up correlation with causation. Horror games as opposed to "blowing the crap out of monsters" games aren't mainstream, if you aren't mainstream you don't get multi-billion dollar budgets. As a result all good horror games will be ugly, either by being made back when you could compete with a smaller budget or by being indie. The only possible help ugliness can be is that things are always scarier in the shadows and that's also the best way to cover up deficiencies in production. But a scary game will ultimately have to know this, it's almost impossible to just stumble on it blindly.

I usually agree with Jim -- even in the early episodes.

But he's completely wrong here.

· Plenty of ugly horror games are not scary. Plenty of us didn't find any Resident Evil game to be remotely scary, and tons of old-school horror games aren't scary.

· Dead Space is a piece of crap from a horror standpoint because it has a terrible plot, weak pacing, and horrible mechanics for a horror game (though standard fare for a shooter).

· Crap controls and bad graphics are hackery. They're the video game equivalent of making a character an orphan to both make a cheap play at sympathy and exclude any knotty family ties in the plot. They're what you do when you suck.

· Amnesia was a beautiful game. Seriously, the idea that bleeding edge graphics are always pretty and older-style graphics are always ugly is simply a lie. That equivalency was explicitly made in Jim's presentation.

· And remember his intro, uber-example, Friday the 13th? What was the scariest thing about that? When it broke out of its low-res graphics and presented the player with a high-res image.

Pacing, emotional connection, thematic mechanics, and compelling characters are the ingredients for an excellent horror game. Asthetics don't enter into it.

Seriously, I can't believe he called Amnesia ugly. WTF. You can go on YouTube and check it out -- some of those scenes are gorgeous.

Another thing that kills horror is when you are too well armed. For example, I was playing Dead Island and I had read that a zombie called The Butcher was scary and could kill you easily. When I finally met one after a cutscene it died in 2 seconds from my semi-auto rifle. I had plenty of ammo to spare and I had both a pistol and shotgun in reserve. The scary zombie game had gone from tense "I only have a stick and 5 are chasing me" to "Where can I find a horde to gun down for teh lulz?" The fun of zombie movies is that the survivors have dwindling resources, in Dead Island later in the game you have more bullets then the freakin army and can kill anything easily. There's even a section where you man a mounted machinegun with UNLIMITED AMMO. A better horror setup would've been a load of shell casings around the gun, maybe 30 bullets in the belt, and a corpse nearby to show that even an MG couldn't stop the undead.

As it stands when you give the player too much firepower all fear is gone.

Just reminded me of the ACID BATH OUT OF NOWHERE.

I agree with your point Jim, but um... don't think I didn't notice that you spent 7 minutes essentially repeating yourself over and over.
We expect better from you sir.

I don't because I enjoyed those 7 FUCKING minutes of completely repeating. Actually, I restarted the page because I thought the video was repeating itself, but otherwise, I enjoyed yet another reason why Horror games fall flat. *Sighs* Please don't go back to making bad videos again?

Admittedly, this doesn't necessarily have to apply to just horror. Proper art design for any game in any genre makes the game better regardless of shiny graphics. A lot of modern games, not just horror, fall flat because they focus on making it look good than making a proper game with good aesthetics.


This is an excellent point. Another way to scare,however, would be to put it where you least expect. For example, Half Life 2's Ravenholm, Max Payne's drug induced nightmare and Hitman Contracts slaughter house, I have also heard of things about Thief's Cradle level.
An example of a good horror game related to the Escapist would be Yatzee's Chazo Mythos(which I played before I knew about ZP or Yatzee), which uses bad graphics as well as completely unexpected scares.

I agree to some extent but if Jim thinks Amnesia isn't better looking than unreal engine console games then he needs to visit the optician again. He's falsely trying to fit the evidence to his own bias.

so true in fact a lot of old games are accidentally scary ever tried the first elder scroll.

I remember playing Amnesia, I was fucking around with chairs and generally laughing my ass off. It wan't the right way to play of course, but it kept me quite entertained. *FCk YOU CHAIR! YOU DON'T TELL ME WHAT TO DO! [hulk smashes the thing around the room for about a minute] good times ahhhhhh* *stares unseeingly in distance*

God: Jim says thanks.

Another problem I think is a major issue in new video games and movies is a lack of tension or suspense. Everything has to be GO GO GO action otherwise people will get bored. That example with the Medusa from Clash of the Titans is a great one to show what I mean.
You never see a slow suspenseful scene like that anymore.

It's got nothing to do with the fidelity of graphics and everything to do with the art direction. Imagine Amnesia being made in Metro 2033's engine with the same texture and polycount standards. Yea, bricks would be shat.

But actually, Amnesia boobs up your theory because it is a nice looking game. It's art direction more than makes up for it's older graphics.

Sorry, but you're way off base with this. There has to be a good mix of the uncanny and the shadow for a good horror game. Both of which require a certain amount of suspension of disbelief and SoD comes from at the very least, a touch of realism.

Something like the old RE games are not going to spook a modern audience. You're speaking from nostalgia, nostalgia is bad for objectivity. You'll find a much larger percentage of people shitting bricks at the shock horror of Deadspace than you would pooing with fear from a shitty comador game.

This is one Jim, were you're not right. At all.

I have to completely disagree with the video. Amnesia would not be less scary if it had higher resolution textures, better shaders and higher polygon environments. Amnesia is scary because it gets the pacing right as well as it effectively employs core horror elements. These elements are isolation, hostility and vulnerability, tension and the unknown, urgency and despair, the illogical or impossible, expectation and anticipation, and hope. These elements in the context of Amnesia are expressed as:

1. Isolation: the player is trapped in a keep with no one to turn to or depend on. Most horror stories involve physically isolating the protagonist. Mental isolation is more difficult to convey but can be just as frightening if not more so. There may be people with you but your way of thinking and seeing things perplexes or agitates them, making them incapable or unwilling to understand or help you.

2. Hostility and vulnerability: the player is in a dangerous environment that physically and psychologically threatens him. Worst of all, he does not have the strength or the means to successfully combat this threat.

3. Tension and the unknown: Tension is always tied to not knowing. Long-term tension is brought about by trying to find out why you lost your memory, who or what is out to get you and why, how did you get trapped here, and how will you make it out alive. Short-term tension is produced by not knowing if your limited resources will last, what is creating those strange footsteps and growling noises you just heard, and what cast that odd shadow you just saw move in the corner of your eye.

Even in normal, day-to-day activities, tension is derived from not knowing. You are tense about a performance because you do not know if it will be received well, you are tense about an interview because you do not know if you are qualified, you are tense about a date because you do not know if you will make the right impression.

Tension is the most important element in horror. Keep the player or viewer guessing. Set up expectations and then don't deliver. Ask questions but don't answer them. Then pace the tension with brief moments of respite or enlightenment that invariably lead to more questions and expectations. In Amnesia there is a letter you wrote to yourself that asks you to kill someone. You have no idea who this person is and why you should kill him. Eventually you find out who he is and what he did. This revelation answers those two questions but it now forces the player to ask why this person did what he did and can this conflict be resolved in any way but murder.

4. Urgency and despair: the player is reluctantly forced into action. If he sits still the lamp oil runs out, his sanity drops and his persecutors get closer. However, his actions bring about despair. Every step he takes and every piece of the puzzle uncovered seems to bring him closer to the very thing he is trying to get away from. Every action takes him opposite the intended direction but he is pressured into acting by forces beyond his control.

5. The impossible: we like living in a world that makes sense and fits into our understanding of reality. Disturb that and the mind has a hard time coping. The supernatural elements that haunt the keep are just that: supernatural and impossible. Admittedly, the occult is one of the easiest and most universally accepted ways of conveying an impossible reality. Unfortunately, its pervasiveness makes it alone an ineffective way of depicting horror.

6. Hope: despite the overwhelming and unknown odds, there is a tiny bit of hope that with enough luck, caution, and perseverance, the player just might solve the mystery and make it out alive.

Note how none of these elements are tied to any visuals. Visual elements can be used to help convey some of these concepts but it is how they are used that makes them effective, not the medium in which they are defined. (high poly vs. low poly, text vs. film, etc.)

I loved Dead Space but it did not deliver well on some of these principles. It relied too much on frequently startling the player (even pacing). Many "scary" areas or events were obvious due to recurring patterns (met expectations). The player eventually grew too powerful, making you feel competent enough to take on the enemies head on(lack of vulnerability). The threat was too well defined, allowing you to logically interpret and asses the danger around you (understanding).

If it were up to me, I'd make the monsters in Dead Space invulnerable. You can incapacitate them to the point where they can do little more than inch very slowly towards you but you can't kill them. With a bit of care, you can easily circumvent them once they reach this state but, as you travel deeper and deeper into the ship, in the back of your head you know there are literally dozens upon dozens of relentless, mutilated monstrosities inching their way closer you so you'd best keep moving. Instead, once I "clear" an area I know it's safe and I can just chill out and look for hidden loot, only moving on to the next area and new dangers on my own terms.

Going back to the first point (isolation), I can't help but bring up Alice: Madness Returns. The game itself is not horror, just visually creative and stylized, but I think it does a fantastic job of visually portraying isolation in a world filled with people. In the opening sequence you play as Alice prior to entering wonderland. Alice is rendered as a beautiful, young female yet every single person, young or old, male or female looks off and twisted. Sometimes I think they are not really twisted, but Alice perceives them that way because of her trauma. Regardless of the reason, you can immediately tell she is not one of them and is alone in the world.

The fact is that a truly scary story, movie or game takes a great deal of planning and careful execution outside of the visual and aural. I'm not surprised that these elements are better expressed in a labor of love, like Amnesia, than in a AAA conservative title like Dead Space. There is no reason why Dead Space, with its high production values and huge marketing campaign, could not have been as scary or scarier than Amnesia.

You make a fantastic argument.

This is my first time watching a video of yours, and I must say I'm hooked now mostly because of your accent XD

A game doesn't necessarily have to look like shit for it to be scary. There are little things called pacing and atmosphere. The problem with modern horror games is that they are so fixated on showing you the horrifying monstrosities in their full HD, glossy glory. Case in point, Silent Hill: Homecoming, Dead Space series...etc. It's just frustrating to see modern games entirely miss the point of horror. It's much more terrifying to see the shadow of the monster than the monster himself, less is always more.

Also with modern technology, developers can pull off wonders with effective use of lightning, shadows and effects. I would love to play Amnesia, It's been a long time since I've scratched my itch for proper horror games.

If you want to play Amnesia now is the time. It's $4 on Steam (80% off) on their Halloween sale. I think it ends tonight so I'd jump on it ASAP.

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Well put mate.

I'm currently writing my dissertation of the psychological aspects of horror in games and... well books and films.

Do you mind if I reference a few of your points?

Silent Hill 4: The Room, The Stuffed Rabbit, need I say more?

Also, Silent Hill 3, at the corrupted mirror thing (whatever the hell that thing was, you know what I mean).


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Well put mate.

I'm currently writing my dissertation of the psychological aspects of horror in games and... well books and films.

Do you mind if I reference a few of your points?

Sure thing. Glad to be of some help.



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Well put mate.

I'm currently writing my dissertation of the psychological aspects of horror in games and... well books and films.

Do you mind if I reference a few of your points?

Sure thing. Glad to be of some help.

Nice one.

You don't happen to have any required reading on a few of those points do ya?

Currently I'm focusing quite heavily on The Uncanny and the Shadow. It'd be good to throw a bit of reading in there about other quintessential themes of horror.

I disagree with this. Bad graphics don't make a game scarier. What I think mostly does it is the environment. Dead Space was not scary because pretty much all the monsters jumped out, screamed, and then ran after you. When something jumps out, goes "booga booga", then comes after you, it is a lot less scary than wondering around a place that seems empty and then hearing noises all around you without ever seeing what it is.

I think the issue is that horror is by definition a niche genere, and anything that attempts to find mainstream appeal outside of that niche cannot really remain horror.

It has nothing to do with the graphics, or whether things look pretty or ugly, expensive, or cheap, it has everything to do with whether the developers are willing to push the envelope and try and freak out jaded horror fans. In doing so it should be understood that those who are NOT horror fans are liable to get really offended, and the producers need to be prepared to deal with that.

See horror, fear, and shock are by and large negative feelings, they are something only a few people can actually enjoy, oftentimes retroactively. Today "horror" has become about kitsch and un-offensive trappings that don't really offend anyone, things like zombies have become like Coca-Cola and hamburgers, despite being tenatively inserted into the horror catagory.

If you seriously mess around with themes involving religion, satanism, cultural traits, or other things grounded in reality someone is going to complain, rally the left wing, and then producers are going to fold even if the core, niche, audience embraces the product. If you start playing around with concepts like Voodoo, Native American Monsters/Shamanism, and other things in a horrorific fashion, then your going to get called insensitive to those cultures. Likewise if you mess around with things like graphic rape, child murder, and similar things, there is going to be a negative backlash. Basically nobody wants to genuinely be scared or made uncomfortable and the response to succeeding at this is exactly rhe kind of response producers don't want from the mainstream... as a result we wind up seeing a ton of action kitsch with recycled zombies, aliens, or perhaps generic "demons" that are toissed out devoid of much context and don't do anything paticularly demonic except try and kill you using the standard array of video game conventions.

Whether it's movies or video games, it's important to note that back during the 1980s producers were not creating exclusively for the mainstream to the extent they are nowadays. This is why you hear people talking about "corperate sell outs" especially when it comes to video games (Hollywood has always been incredibly corperate, but it used to have more guts). The industry didn't much care if you could kill children in "Fallout 2", and despite the outcry from certain quarters franchises like "Halloween" didn't exactly get nixed in the long run because they upset some people... this despite (pretty much untrue) allegations that the "Halloween" movies ruined the holiday by being the inspiration for real psychopaths.

Really, the solution here is that game companies need to produce horror games for horror fans, and be content with the profits that brings in, while having the willpower to just laugh off the criticism.

By the same token I will also say that the geek media needs to stop giving the left wing a platform for grabbing five minutes of fame. I mean it's the fault of the geek media that we had stupid accusations of racism circling around "Resident Evil 5", and just had contreversy over the use of the word "Bitch" in the recent Batman "Arkham City" game discussed here on The Escapist's podcast. Basically as soon as you start taking claims of games being offensive to someone or some group seriously, it just never stops, and horror being the most offensive genere by it's very nature is understandably going to be hit the hardest.

But Amnesia:TDD had quite glossy graphics, it was the sounds and screen blurring that made that game scary. And now I think about it Terminator 1 had those very weird loud sounds which I think made it scarier than T2 and especially T3.

Yeah, actually I don't think visuals make much of a difference, it's definitely those sharp loud sounds that make something scary. Sorry Jim, I disagree!

Also, at 6:19 in the video... What the fuck!...




Well put mate.

I'm currently writing my dissertation of the psychological aspects of horror in games and... well books and films.

Do you mind if I reference a few of your points?

Sure thing. Glad to be of some help.

Nice one.

You don't happen to have any required reading on a few of those points do ya?

Currently I'm focusing quite heavily on The Uncanny and the Shadow. It'd be good to throw a bit of reading in there about other quintessential themes of horror.

Unfortunately I don't have specific sources from where these points are drawn. I just have an interest in the mechanics of good story telling, horror or otherwise. I'm sure that if you do a search for elements of principles of horror, you will come across similar and better articulated concepts.

Afraid I have to disagree with you, Jim. What you are talking about is not horrifying the audience, it's "gore-ifying" them. Anyone can make a game or movie with lots of blood and gore, ugly or otherwise, but what makes horror truly be horror is the hopelessness and the unknowable. It's finding oneself trapped in a situation in which you have no control, no understanding, and no escape. With each moment, you never know whether it will be your last, and the best horror film/game, for truly creating a since of horror, would give you a singular moment of hope, only to take it away from you at the very end. But, it doesn't just take away that hope; it demonstrates that you never really had any hope to begin with. Whatever hope you thought you had was only an illusion, a trick being played on you. That's really horror. Real horror is malicious.

Often times, horror is implemented through suspense, a deliberate act of concealing what lies ahead but forcing you to continue forward anyway. You are constantly made to ponder what could be before you, but you are never given complete information of what it could be. Instead, you are given only shadows of possibility that play upon fearful human imaginings to increase the level of tension and apprehension. With your imagination running away and your fears at their peak, you become recalcitrant to proceed forward. Unfortunately for you, there is no other direction to go, and you can't simply stay put where you are. You are compelled, either by force or curiosity, to continue forward. It is not what you can see that makes you afraid; it's what you can't see, yet, imagine to be there that makes you afraid. Even worse, to know something lies ahead, but you have no idea what it is and can't even begin to imagine or comprehend what it is.

Using hopelessness and playing upon our fears of the unknown and incomprehensible, that is what makes horror be horror. Creating bloody, ugly, or grotesque mannequins or twisted, perverse creatures does not really create horror so much as simply perturbing us from our comfort zone. True, this can be made to be a component of horror, but it is not the true essence of horror. It is not the grotesque looking monster that makes you horrified; it's the fact that you perceive you can do nothing against it that makes it horrifying. No one's going to be afraid of the monster they can kill just by beating the shit out of with a tire-iron, but everyone is afraid of the monster that takes no damage at all from any attack you make against it. However, if you really want to make it truly horrifying, you beat the shit out of it with a tire-iron, it lays there like it is dead for just a moment, and then it slowly gets back up, wounds healed and completely unaffected by your attacks. A moment of hope, only to have that hope taken from you, and to reveal that you actually never had that hope to begin with. It was just toying with you.

Creating this kind of horror requires a keen sense of artistry in the narrative, game design, and pacing of the game, not the graphics. The graphics can be pretty or shitty, it doesn't actually matter, because the graphics aren't what creates the sense of horror.

EDIT: Double post. My first post initially gave every indication that it got lost and flew straight into the aether. Sorry for that.

Jim Sterling:
The Ugly Secret of Horror Games

It's Halloween, the day that St. Spooky was born for our sins. On this haunted occassion, Jim Sterling discusses what truly makes a horror game scary, and decides that the worse a game looks, the better it is at frightening you. Oh Jim, there are no tricks when you're around. You are only ever a treat. And sexy.

Watch Video

You would have been totally creepier with a chainsaw machete.

Serious time: I do not disagree with your opinion.

in the old movies it sure looks more scarier then today. they dint use CGI like today and so things just looked more creepy.
like the clash of the titans comparison. new one, more action and the snake (forgot the name now) looked even beautiful and sexy. old one, more creepier and had tension in it when she was looking for him.
the original japanese version of the grudge was actually scary. the remake was still alright and well made, but not as good the original of course.
movies like the omen, the exorcist etc, they still look more freaky then todays. as jim said, they focus too much on looks then horror.

but with games, i dont think its scary at all when the graphics are not really nice looking. i dint find resident evil 1 scary. sure sounded creepy when you have heard the zombies or what ever in the distance, but scary, no.
the same with amnesia. sure, its a good game and has a wonderful atmosphere, but i dint find it not one bit scary. seriously. amnesia dint scare me or frighten me.
dead space was actually scary for the first 2 levels but after that, it was the same and wasnt scary again.
silent hill 2 was really good and was creepy. like few mentioned before, this long staircase with that weird sound coming closer was freaky and made feel really uncomfortable.
the only game, which scared me, was FEAR 1. no other game actually scared me like this one. just seeing alma was creepy because you never know what she will do. either she just stands there or comes towards you and you have no idea what will happen if she kills you or just disappears again.

I have to disagree. A game doesn't need to be ugly to be scary. For example there are a number of areas in Dark Souls that more than qualify as scary: New Londo and its ghost, the Catacombs and its regenerating skeletons, the Tomb of the Giants and its pitch black darkness that hides giant skeletons waiting to chop you down or knock you off a cliff.

Also a lot of people associate horror with a feeling of helplessness but that's not completely correct. Horror is linked directly to futility the feeling that no matter what you do, you will die/lose regardless of what tools you have, what information you possess, or what you are physically and mentally capable of accomplishing.

Let me give you an example. In amnesia they don't give the play any weapons to speak of, creating a feeling of helplessness because you don't have any tools to kill the monsters.

Suppose they gave the player a rocket launcher with infinite ammo that could kill the monsters in one hit; but when killed the monster would then just instantly respawn and pursue you even faster. In that scenario the game would still be scary even without the player actually being helpless.

Another example of this would be the movie Drag Me to Hell. For most of the 2nd and the entire 3rd act the protagonist was never helpless. She had the coin, she had the information, and she had ability to get rid of the curse. But the movie was still scary to end because of the sense of futility in every action she took even with everything she had at her disposal.

I do believe we are missing something here Jim...

Lex Darko:
Dark Souls

Not a horror game, he was talking about horror games not games with horror elements.

dont know if this is realted...but I found the "darkseekers" in I am ledgend absolutly terrifying at the time BECAUSE of the uncanny valley with the CGI, at the time I couldnt explain why (as I didnt know what the uncanny valley was)

but yeah...the scream bit with the c64 is effing terrifying

Yeah sorry I don't buy this one.
The scariest game I played was probably Thief (yeah odd choice, whatever) but that's not because it had shit graphics. It's about the lack of character empowerment. New games aren't scary because from what I've played, the player is usually pretty good, he doesn't have a REASON to be scared of things because a lot of the time he can just kick their ass. Why get scared in something like, FEAR when your character is a complete badass?

The scariest moment I had in a more recent game was FarCry (which itself is very old), and it wasn't the normal game play, but one part you get stripped of all of your gear and have to sneak through a forest infested with monsters to get some new guns. And while some of the monsters were dumb, some of them would sniff me out, chase me down and kill me from behind. Again, not so much about how ugly it is, but how powerful the character is.

In Thief, you had very few arrows, the melee combat was shit and there's already an emphasis on sneaking. Plus the sound design was brilliant for quite a few levels. I'd get shivers just fighting against weak little spiders, because of the sound they'd make and because it was hard me to hit 'em with my sword while trying not to lose health. The silent hill games on the other hand are I believe mostly about survival, not fighting. Run not to die basically.

So if you want scares, put the player into a creepy environment, get some good sound going, some good creatures and give them reason to fear combat.

Oh and play it on a PC! Because nothing is more atmospheric than sitting in a dark room with headphones on, just you and your game.

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