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Hello fellow gamers. I finish the paper and wouldn't mind any feed back on how I did. I'm always open to corrections if needed.
English Comp/ Information Literacy
The Evolution, and Dilution of Survival Horror Video Games
By Erin Lange
The Life and Times of Survival Horror
We humans have always enjoyed a good scare. Have you ever looked at the hobbies, games, and things that humans do to themselves to receive a good “safe” scare? Halloween, scary movies, roller coasters, and even sky diving. We seem to always have had a need to be scared, but it would be only for a short time during an event or movie. When involving video games, the idea is to make the consumer feel like the protagonist. If the game developer could get someone so wrapped up in the game, this becomes the ultimate goal reached. Due to this, there are games that can effect a person so much so that playing for any great length of time could become over stimulating, forcing them to turn it off.
Throughout the digital years, video games have taken on many of the roles of more traditional entertainment. The oldest video game known today was made in 1958 to be played on oscilloscope, called “Tennis for Two.” and the first widely popular game was Pong by Atari (Kudler, 2007). Now, “Gaming consoles have changed a lot over the last 40 years. There are about eight generations worth” (Beck, 2009). Today, there are many genres of games that interact with each model of console. The main console focus of this paper will be around the Playstation. This is where the golden era of the genre called Survival horror came into play and I fell in love with it.
Survival horror video games became popular because they took a horror genre game, but gave it a new approach. The horror games were made to “Go out of their way to scare you” (Bettenhousen, et al., 2007). But the developers would do it in a more subtle way. The Retronauts podcast defined this as:
Any game that gave you dread. The dread is what made the game. It's a GOT YA or spring loaded cat concept, but you are aware that something is there and it's a threat, without really knowing where it is. Making the player think they are really vulnerable even though they have weapons. The biggest obstacle is the overcoming your fear of the obstacle. The bad controls of your player make it scary, along with the extreme camera angles. Once you see something in full, it's not bad. When you know something is there but you can't see it, that's what stops you. (Bettenhousen, et al., 2007)
The whole idea of these games is to start the player off in what seems like a normal routine of finding something innocuous such as someone who has disappeared or looking for a special artifact. When, as the player, you arrive at the starting point, something doesn't seem quite right and there is a mystery, which leads to a sense of dread. Unknown objects or creatures start to appear and there is a limited amount of protection, ammunition, time, and visual clarity. Non-player characters that accompany the protagonist begin to disappear (though they might return later with clues) which heightens the player's sense of isolation and dread of going it alone. When everything is placed together, add a few puzzles and limited space to hold collected items, this gives the full element of survival horror.
There is, no doubt, an argument in the gaming community to where this style of video game first started. Some say:
First, there was nothing. In 1992 Infogrames created the game Alone in the Dark on the PC, and many a nerd was scared silly in the middle of the night by goofy-looking Cthulhu-inspired nasties with strange voices. There were a few sequels, but the genre lay mostly dormant for a few years. (Beucheler. 2002)
Following Beucheler's (2002) article “An Atari 2600 Classic... and the True Progenitor of Survival Horror?”, he claims that the game Haunted House, released in 1981, “manages to contain quite a few survival horror elements.” Even though the game was made back when the Atari was popular, and compared to today's standards of what games are to look like, Beucheler has a great point:
Creepy themes? Check. Item collection? Check. Limited inventory management? Check. A variety of monsters? Check. ...that all behave differently? Check. Rooms inaccessible until you have certain items? Check. ...that can sometimes be accessed by finding alternate routes? Check. If that ain't survival horror, then I don't know what is. (Beucheler. 2002)
However, according to D.Alexander (2010) of Happy Video Gaming Nerd, games like Sweet Home, made by Capcon and released only in Japan in 1989, and based off of a cheesy Japanese movie, was: “Often considered to being the Great grand-daddy of modern day survival horror.” Everything stated about Haunted House's check list, also applies to Sweet Home, but Sweet Home was an “RPG (role playing game) like Final Fantasy”. K.T. Jensen (2010) says in his Survival Horror Video Game top 11:
Sweet Home laid the ground work for many concepts that later survival horror games would imitate. Sweet Home establishes many design concepts that would later resurface in Resident Evil, including the mansion setting and even the "opening door" loading screen.
Resident Evil didn't come out in the United States until 1996, but it took the world by storm. Reviews would say:
Although zombies claim to be underrepresented in the media, they are no strangers to the spotlight. Zombies have graced nearly every system under the sun, but never have they looked this good. In Resident Evil for the Playstation, the game opens in a mansion just outside of Raccoon City, where a team of S.T.A.R.S. (Special Tactics And Rescue Squad) members have come to investigate the downed helicopter of their unfortunate colleagues. You play as either Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine, as you happen upon the weird goings-on at the mansion while trying to escape back to civilization. You will have more than creatures barring your escape as you puzzle your way around the grounds, seeking a variety of keys and other means of unlocking doors. (White, 2002)
Everyone who ever played the game, will tell you about the famous first encounter in Resident Evil. Being forced to explore the mansion looking for clues, your protagonist comes around a corner and there is a cut scene. You find a man hunched over a limp body on the floor, and a ghastly crunch noise is heard. Blood starts pooling on the floor and the man slowly turns around to look at you. What you see is a horrifying zombie with blood staining around his mouth. The zombie engages in the typical stumbling around until it's destroyed or has converted the protagonist into a zombie as well. This sets the mood for what is to come, all in the first 5 minutes.
Any where in the gaming community when survival horror comes up in subject, Resident Evil is the biggest name. However, it's not the only well known game of the genre. In 1999, Silent Hill was welcomed to the gaming world. According to Fidler's (1999) review:
Silent Hill's creators remarked that one of their main goals with the game was to frighten people on an instinctive level, and that's something that, in my mind, they've clearly succeeded at doing. While similar horror titles, like Capcom's Resident Evil series, work well at making you jump in a "boo!" sort of way, Silent Hill establishes a very unsettling atmosphere that at once puts you off and creeps you out.
I can personally say YES to this statement. There is a mini movie introduction that sets the story before entering the game. A man, Harry Mason and his daughter Cheryl are traveling by car at night. Harry sees a young lady walking across the highway and swerves to miss, which makes him crash. This is what brings you to pressing the start button. The protagonist wakes up from the accident and notices the child is missing, and is forced out of the car to find her.
The Harry is confused from the start. The street is very foggy and it is very overcast, and it's snowing. In a distance, there is a sound of foot steps and difficult outline of what could be the child running away. Instinctively, Harry follows. Disturbing images begin to unfold as he pushes on, like old looking gurney and piles of blood in random areas. The camera angles start taking on their own life, making it stressful to walk straight. The controller in your hands begins to pulse like a heartbeat picking up speed as Harry keeps moving forward. Harry is forced to a corner of an alley with a unthinkable image hanging from a chain linked fence, the world around him looks black and septic/rustic and from behind, demon looking creatures approach. The music is dark and the disturbing sound of a siren is blaring. Harry passes out and everything goes black making you wonder what happened.
The makers Konami, helped spooked people out playing this game because of items collect to help along the way. A flashlight that would help in the dark, but attract monsters. A radio that:
Although useless for communication purposes, this radio emits white noise as enemies approach. The sound actually changes depending on the direction and number of creatures. (EGM, 1999, p. 86)
The rest of the items were all helpful like bullets and health drinks, along with random items to help with puzzles. The plot does open up to a few non-player characters, many encounters of several types of creatures (most favored where the nurses), but over all... the town is deserted. Up to four different endings could happen depending on the choices made, and even a fifth spoof ending dealing with aliens.
The Electronic Gaming Monthly Magazine (Dec 2000) issue 137 leaked information about Silent Hill 2 telling gamers the second install would keep all of the same basic spooky elements of the first. Which is did a wonderful job and even higher ratings with some reviews. James Sanderland is drawn to the disturbing lake town, Silent Hill by receiving a letter from his wife, that had been dead for three years prior. (p.100) This is where the most famous antagonist Pyramid Head is introduced. Even Silent Hill 3 got wonderful reviews, and stuck well to the basic concept behind the game. However, after SH3 the ideas of the game started to take a twist that didn't go over very well.
IGN's Silent Hill 4: The Room:
Konami changes little in the series' forth iteration. Like it or not, the survival horror genre has reached and passed its zenith some time ago. Say, three or four years ago. Silent Hill 4: The Room is neither brilliant nor terrible. Instead, it falls into that weird ether world of limbo, a game that's good in parts and weak in others. Perry (2004)
After watching at a walk though on youtube dealing with this game, I could see why it would get the reviews it was receiving. The game could take only 10-12 hours depending on the willpower of who's playing making it one of the shortest Silent hill games made. Graphic's are superb and the storyline isn't that horrible, but if you, as the player, have had contact with any of the other 3 games, there could be some disappointment.
In the 2000's the genre started to struggle with the original ideas, attempting to out do the last successful product. Zero Punctuation from the escapist magazine says:
I love the SH series, but it's hard to tell if it loves me back because I feel like an abused spouse, no matter how many times I'm beaten with Mr. Frustrating combat and Professor dodgy camera positions. The series dribbled away with SH4 with leaving me and several others with with giant Silent Hill blue-balls, then sooner or later some PRICK would try to take my blue-balls and hand wring out some of my money to pay off his hookers which created SH:Origins. Climax (a studio who took part of making the game) who couldn't of missed the point if they fired in the wrong direction and the point was in a different country all together. It feels like a fan game so to me SH series is over. (Croshaw 2008)
Three more SH games have been released since Origins, and all have had dodgy reviews from both the fans and creators. The last in the series Down pour has some hope, but earlier this year the company Game Front posted an article called Is Survival Horror Dead or Just Sleeping? (Sterling 2012) and points out that “the slow pace and puzzle-focused activities seen in the original Resident Evil games have no place in Capcom's world anymore.” claiming that Capcom wants games that sell as well as Call of Duty. It says that what made the games scary “is now considered criminally unfashionable.” There are survival horror elements coming out of current games, but players are more bloodlust then brains. Silent Hill's Downpour:
has hopes with gamers to having the old like style of the original game with modern twists. The game still forces players into a certain style of combat but it still demonstrates how the genre can survive without sacrificing everything that makes the genre what it is. (Sterling, 2012)
There are still a future in the genre, but new traditional horror element have been mixed in to keep it alive. I have hopes but it's only a matter of time before we see another genre take the world by storm.
Alexander, D. (2010/10/31) Retroware TV: Happy Video Gaming Nerd-Sweet Home. Retrieved from: http://retrowaretv.com/happy-video-game-nerd-sweet-home/
Beck, T. (2009) A look at every major game console ever made. Retrieved from: http://thehottestgadgets.com/2009/08/a-look-at-every-major-game-console-ever-made-004120
Buecheler, C. (2002/12/8) Haunted House: An atari 2600 classic... and the true progenitor of survival horror. Retrieved from: http://www.gamespy.com/articles/490/490366p1.html
Croshaw, B (2008/1/9) Silent Hill Origins. Retrieved from: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/zero-punctuation/20-Silent-Hill-Origins#
Fielder, J., (1999/2/23) Gamespot review on Silent Hill. Retrieved from: http://www.gamespot.com/silent-hill/reviews/silent-hill-review-2549297/
Kudler, A. (2007) Timeline: Video game part 1: early years. http://www.infoplease.com/spot/gamestimeline1.html
Jensen, K.T., (2010/2/10) UGO. Com Survival Horror video games Top 11. Retrieved from : http://www.ugo.com/games/survival-horror-games-top-11
Perry, D., (2004/9/23) IGN. Silent Hill 4: The Room. Ready for a familiar fright? Retrieved from: http://www.ign.com/articles/2004/09/23/silent-hill-4-the-room?page=4
Ricciardi, J., (1999, Feb) Silent Hill: Death takes a vacation. Electronic Gaming Monthly, 115, 85-86
Sharky, S., Bettenhousen, S.,Koher, C., Frank, J. (2007/8/23) Horror Survival games (Ep 29) Retronauts Video Game Podcast. Podcast retrieved from http://www.1up.com/do/ministie?pager.offset=3&cId=3156908
Sterling, J., (2012/3/28) Game Front: Is Survival Horror Dead or Just Sleeping? Retrieved from http://www.gamefront.com/is-survival-horror-dead-or-just-sleeping/
White, A., (2002/5/1) Game Revolution review of Resident Evil. Retrieved from: http://www.gamerevolution.com/review/resident-evil
N.D., (2000, Dec) Preview Gallery: Silent Hill 2. Electronic Gaming Monthly, 137, 100