I’ve been seeing a little discussion online about the use of the mimics in Prey, and people keep coming back to this idea of jump scares being (or not being) “cheap.” I’ll note that I really hate jump scares, and they’ve kept me away not just from horror games, but also from seeing most horror movies in theaters. (Too loud!) But I acknowledge that they have a place as a horror technique, and I don’t think they’re inherently bad form.
I feel like part of the problem with Prey (and I’ve only played the opening hour demo, so take this with a grain of salt) is that its jump scares are so frequent. The actual scare part of a jump scare is less the jump itself than the gradual dread building up to the jump. You know it’s coming, but you don’t know exactly when, and that’s scarier than anything. Mimics are so common in Prey that there’s barely any time for that dread to build up. The thing that’s supposed to be unique about the mimics is that they transform out of ordinary objects, but from what I played, I never actually saw this happen. The mimics almost always showed up when I wasn’t looking at them, and I only knew they were there because of the blaring music sting. This made me jump, and I was briefly scared, but I think this is a good example of what people mean when they say a jump scare is “cheap.” It’s just a reflex trigger, and the game isn’t doing any actual work to make something scary.
So how do you all feel about jump scares? Are there games where you think they were used really effectively?