Why do we Love Playing Horror Games?
Horror is just one of the numerous genres of video games, but it seems to be the genre that people love the most and feel most compelled to experience and talk about.
Video games are works of artistic expression, and many create totally new environments – making up fictional cities and worlds to explore or get lost in. Many video games (especially in the last few years) have also implemented fictional plot lines to immerse yourself in and ‘play out’. Horror, as a genre, lends itself incredibly well to the element of ‘fantasy’ that video games provide. It’s a way to explore those dark corners of humanity – whilst never leaving the safety of your own home.
Different Games Captivate Different Gamers
Looking at horror, asking the question ‘why do people love playing horror games?’ is like asking ‘why do people like walking through never-ending hallways with the most unsettling of sounds and with an unreasonably scary ghost stalking you?’. These questions can only be answered by gamers themselves as reasons probably differ amongst the gamers. It could be the tension, the adrenaline, the graphics, morbid fascination… the list is endless.
From interactions with some random gamers, we were able to understand why people are so into horror, here are a few answers:
“Horror is a an easy way to experience ‘safe danger’”
When playing video games, there’s no actual danger, only the illusion it exists. It’s this safe danger that appeals to a whole lot of us; we’re not physically experiencing it, but our imaginations still get to experience the side-effects of danger – like adrenaline and increased awareness. Compare the experience to going on a roller coaster or if you were in a car going over the hills at a ridiculously high speed, it’s basically the same experience. That thrill, that suspense, that challenge makes it all exciting.
“Horror gives you the shock factor”
If you’re living a normal everyday life, it’s probably not often you experience moments of shock and fright. The shock factor could be the moment a zombie, vampire or monster jumps at you. That kind of ‘good’ shock leaves you breathless, exhilarated, with a rush of adrenaline, dopamine and lots of other chemicals relating to fright and flight. This flood of neurotransmitters is accompanied by elevations in our heart rate, respiration, blood pressure, and blood sugar. It’s like a natural ‘high’ and it’s something that many horror games aim to create for their players. The horror games provide the biggest shock moments.
“It helps overcome fear”
The most subconscious reason why people play horror games is to overcome fear. People see horror games as a healthy place to explore your doubts, worries, and fears, as many horror games actually play on very common fears. Every person has a particular phobia, maybe darkness, enclosed spaces, disfigurements, abandonment or something else. Horror games give us the ability or the platform to tackle these fears. When we do tackle them, we feel a sense of pride, achievement and relief.
“It’s pure escapism”
Video games are generally aimed at creating a feeling of ‘escapism’. By just pushing a button, you get to transform into different characters, and explore different places. This gives you a sense of control over the unknown, and it also lets you do things you (outside of gaming) would never usually do. An interesting example of this would be from the TV series ‘Westworld” where wealthy people pay lots of money to enter a fictional world where anything and everything is possible. Video games and gaming in general, provide this on a real-world level.
So which horror games are the most popular?
Presently, there are a whole lot of horror games, and it’s a genre that is constantly growing in popularity. Here are some of the top ones; Amnesia, Silent Hill, The Evil Within Series, Condemned, Fear, Resident Evil, Doom Series, Dead Space, Alien, Isolation, Killing Floor, Dead by Daylight and so many others.
Research has shown that getting scared has a positive effect on the brain and the body: it helps us cope in real life situations by strengthening our fear tolerance levels. It can also boost our immune system, because when we’re scared our body activates our white blood cells, thereby increasing our immunity. As if that wasn’t enough, the jump scares in games can help in burning calories too.
Taking it to the next level…
The next step in horror gaming is (of course) virtual reality.
Have you ever tried playing horror games in virtual reality? How did you find the experience?
For many people, it feels like you’re experiencing everything firsthand. It is the ultimate immersive horror experience, this heightens everything (including the fear and the adrenaline).
Survival horror games played in virtual reality can trigger intense fright and anxiety in gamers, something people find fascinating and love experiencing. It is the same reason why experiences such as Paint Ball are so popular – the fright and fear is more real because you’re inside the experience and immersed by it.