My Gaming Fear Engine

I’ve never been one to actively pursue playing, experiencing or consuming horror games or other such spooky media. Those with lazy arguments would atypically refer to me as a wimp, coward, or in my favorite instances, label me a ‘pussy’ since somehow not wishing to experience fear on my own accord makes me a lesser man. The difference between cowardice and not wanting to subject oneself to a certain type of feeling is so great that my hands would ache if I tried to type out the very list of differences. While I have subjected myself to frightening scenes, tense situations and horrifying sights in games previously in my life, never did I enjoy the sensation of having my heart rate increase, my hairs stand on end or have natural chemicals be released into my bloodstream should I panic and throw my controller out the window. For some players when a horror game loses the fear-inducing effects and they become numb to the scares, they would criticize that the game wasn’t designed well enough to keep them constantly sweating bullets and jumping at shadows. For myself, I don’t find that I’ve become numb to the fear, but that I’ve dominated it (we’ll get to this point later).

The scene has to be set regarding why I dislike purposely having the bejesus scared out of me, and that was in my childhood. I understand this is a cliche occurrence and I should not hold myself a ‘special’ case because of it, but abuse, intimidation and fear were at the forefront of my youth; dishes served with cold, unflinching brutality by my dad. The formula for him was simple: If he wasn’t in absolute, one-hundred percent control of everyone's respect, his face would turn red as a cherry, his voice would rattle the windows as he screamed, and his hands would tighten into fists to strike blows without a second thought. It goes without saying but my childhood was as far from happy as one could get, with myself in such frequent worry for my well-being that I would try to make myself as insignificant and tiny to avoid garnering his ire, the likes of which he would then direct at other members of my household lest he erupt. Years upon years of this abuse and physical harm has left me holding such a grudge, such a dark lump of coal on my soul that anything that even remotely reminds me of what I went through is enough to make me painfully anxious, put strain on my heart and have rage bubble in my stomach to the point that I feel like I’m having an ulcer.

To suggest ‘getting over it’ is once again a lazy argument since it’s always easy to make assumptions about someone else’s experiences or mental well-being when you have no context or basic understanding of what they’ve gone through - In short, you’re a blithering, ignorant asshole for such a shallow argument. If you haven’t gathered by now, feeling fear brings up these past scars that I’ve never been able to mend, and the struggle that my body and mind go through is simply not worth it just to go through some garbage Unity-made jumpscare simulator (insert relevant jump about the Five Night’s at Freddy series here). This is, supposedly, an unacceptable stance to take since I am a man, and ergo I must tackle horror games, movies and other media with gungho gusto and the bravery of a hundred lions, even if I’m making myself feel physically ill and have a streak of violent tendencies welling up within me. For those that know me know that I find this opinion to be utter bullshit, even if those with this opinion idolize Youtubers who play these games while screaming and cursing like banshees, hamming up and faking their reactions - They are somehow greater men than I for playing these games in the first place, despite not doing so with an iron-will.

But let’s go back to what I said about dominating my fears at the start instead of becoming numb to it, and I’ll be using my two strongest experiences with horror games in the forms of Resident Evil 4 and Dead Space. Both games feature great amounts of tension and dread, but the former relies on creeping eeriness while the latter relies on horrifying imagery and making the player jump at the slightest noise and sight. For whatever reason, despite the hesitation I felt about playing these highly rated games, I tackled both of them with clenched buttocks and a creaking hold on my controller. I cursed, I shouted, I ‘NOPE’d multiple times in panicked shutdowns of the console, had to pause to take frequent breaks and generally took me longer than the average player to get through even a quarter of their campaigns. Something however eventually clicked in my brain and it filled me with empowerment which caused my aim to sharpen, my heart rate to lower and to reply with a snarl at the scares that tried to get me: I could fight back - The very thing I was never able to do as a child lest I be thrashed to oblivion. I still feel the dread, anger and pain that I went through years ago when I fire these games back up, but the massive difference now is that I have such a mastery over the game, its controls and obstacles that I can fight back and make it look like an absolute joke in comparison to my abilities - That I can give a colossal middle-finger to the scenes of horror that once made me shudder like a lamb.

Perhaps that’s the deciding factor when it comes to horror games: Am I able to strike back and slaughter the very things trying to slaughter me? For most ‘indie developed’ games, the answer is no; you’re about as helpless as a declawed kitten with its mouth sewn shut. If I’m going to be assaulted by some otherworldly screaming monster and I can’t put up my dukes and punch it in its idiot face, then I have no time or patience to put myself in a terrible physical and mental state. If covering horror games is the supposed ‘only way’ I can ever gain a view count above fifty on Youtube while putting myself through utter hell, then quite frankly those viewers can get stuffed.

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