A check list for ‘good’ horror games

Some great points, varying in importance, for making a great horror game. I plan on making this an active list, as I always enjoy playing (or watching) any new horror game that comes out – even if I am a wuss and they do scare me. That’s the point of them anyway. So here we go.

1. Don’t be formulaic – this kills a good horror game, we know when things happen so there’s no suspense.

2. Don’t be afraid to be really dark – it’s a horror game, it needs atmosphere.

3. Don’t go for a grey mush – that’s all it is. I would like to say this applies to all games forever.

4. All of the scares in your game don’t have to be explicit, implicit horror lets us use our own imagination.

5. Every creepy encounter doesn’t have to be about fighting something off – it could just be a creepy sight in the distance or a noise.

6. Use running away as a good tactic, but not the only one – games where you can only do one or the other can get boring in terms of general game play.

7. Sounds are key to a creepy moment.

8. So you’ve established an atmosphere, now use it to build to an event, a confrontation, actual game play, otherwise all you have is atmosphere.

9. Invest in your creepy environments, think about the area’s and game’s theme and develop it accordingly.

10. Isolation – we’re much more frightened on our own in a dark creepy corridor, especially if we know that the noise at the end can’t be another person.

11. A great point if done right – insanity effects! Keep them simple, but add to the game play with them.

12. Try to aim to be both fascinating and horrifying – when we see something in game we want to know what it is and how it works, but it should also be horrible to look at.

13. Know what story you’re trying to tell, don’t adopt a ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ attitude. If there isn’t a reason for an object, encounter, place etc. consider removing it.

14. Make your main character interesting, or at least well fleshed out. We need the main character to pull us into the game, not necessarily by making us feel like we’re supposed to be him (in other words, don’t use an ‘Everyman’), but by showing real emotion and motivations.

15. Don’t be too linear – choice and exploration make a game more interesting, exploration is a great staple of horror games.

16. Don’t be afraid to prey on age old fears. Spiders, blood, darkness, etc. They may seem cliché, but they’re over used for a reason. People are scared of them.

17. Attention to detail and good storytelling are more important than differentiating your game from others.

18. Shiny current-gen graphical aesthetics aren’t necessary.

19. Core game play is still very important, it needs to play well as a game before it’s a horror game, just as all the small details are important – things like menu’s, cut scenes and subtitles all working together make for more polish.

20. Invest time in bringing together all of the elements of a story – art, writing, music, programming etc. A mood or fear can be achieved much easier if everyone knows what it is they’re aiming for.

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