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Mind-Full Gaming: Striking Fear Into Gamers

by William Schwartz

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We can all agree that most of us enjoy getting scared or startled every so often. I’m personally not a fan of horror movies, games, and other media, but a large majority of people I know adore it. Take a look at how many horror movies and series Hollywood and the TV networks will pump out in a given year and you can see what I mean. But there’s also horror games. Survival Horror games have been a part of gaming for a long time, but they came into their own during this past generation of gaming consoles and games. The number of series that makes up the genre is absolutely massive, but why is the horror genre of gaming so big and popular? In reality it’s the way both your mind and society enjoy and accentuate the aspects of the horror genre of media.

Fear itself is something that is supposed to be, well, feared. Fear is a reaction to something that our brains know can cause harm to ourselves or others, so it’s a warning mechanism. However, in recent times it’s begun to be glorified. The main reason for this is that the human race has essentially broken our primordial fears with the advent of modern technology. We have lightbulbs to pierce the darkness, weapons to kill enemies, constant supplies of food, and our supplies at home usually don’t need to get dangerously low before we can restock them. Everything our ancestors back in Africa and on felt has become virtually irrelevant to the modern man. So, what’s left to fear, you might ask? What we fear now are either man-made situations or diseases. However, these are fears that our original ancestors that lived as nomads didn’t have to deal with. Virtually every problem we fear now is due to our own faults in some form.

So, if we have all of this technology, medicine, and supplies, why do we need to feel fear? To put it lightly and in a slightly cliche’ way, we like to feel fear to feel alive. But why is it we like a feeling that crippled us for so long? To put it scientifically, fear makes us happy and excited. Fear releases several kinds of chemicals in the brain as a response. These chemicals make us more aware of our surroundings, and also increase our stamina and strength as a means of instinctually fleeing or fighting off the danger that is threatening us. These chemicals give off a kind of high energy “high” of sorts, making us feel, well, alive. The fear you experience playing a horror game or watching a zombie movie creates a similar response to something like skydiving. It’s all fear in the end.

Fear makes us feel alive, excited, thrilled. This also makes us enthralled into whatever is making us afraid in the first place. This was originally done with movies, but then when video games got huge, it was only a logically step to make horror games. And, as with most ideas when the industry first started, it was a huge moneymaking success. As graphics, response times, and system capabilities have increased, so has the payout of horror games. People who like to get scared buy horror games to get scared and feel exhilarated each time an alien tries to tear their intestines from their living bodies. It’s thrilling for the gamer, and that experience gets better as games get more realistic. If I had to make a list or a chart describing that, it would easily make for a 50 slide Power Point presentation, or at least a nice portfolio. Maybe I could even put some fake blood on the cover for a nice touch, eh? I’m sure that’d add some life to it, or well, death.

Horror games will continue to be one of the biggest genres and markets in the industry, and they will continue to make money, for essentially as long as people are still interested in games. If we ever do reach the point that humanity no longer likes to get scared or, even worse, stops playing video games. Oh my, excuse me, I think I just had a slight panic attack at that thought, or ulcer, either one. Only then will horror games stop being produced or consumed. I pray I never see that in my lifetime, but it’s still within the range of possibility. And despite the fact I am a person who doesn’t like getting scared, watching zombie movies, or play survival horror games, I still respect the genre for the necessary niche it fills in society. This is Saxy, and let’s keep on gaming.

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