So, I really like horror games- and I really liked Amnesia. But the recent release of Outlast 2 has me thinking about how much Amnesia influenced our mainstream horror games, and how I think that hasn’t been totally positive.
(To be clear here: I’m talking specifically about structure/mechanics. A discussion of Outlast 2’s real thematic issues is a whoooole other thread.)
When Amnesia first came out I hadn’t really played a horror game like that before- where I’m largely powerless and my only options are to run and hide. It got me real good!
But nothing in that style has hit me as hard since. It seems like so many of our more mainstream horror games follow that formula now; creepy scripted sequences bookended by stealth “arenas” where you just have to crawl painfully slowly and hope the monster/zombie/pickaxe-lady doesn’t see you. I think that’s scary exactly one time. In the 2-3 hours I spent with Outlast 2, I literally ended up in a position where I would die, and then I’d press play on a podcast because all the tension was immediately gone. Now I knew the enemy was there, and I just had to execute on this kind of tedious, fiddly stealth section.
With SOMA, I eventually just installed the mod that removes all the enemies. It was like it didn’t have confidence in the (really effective, existentially troubling) story it was telling; it needed to put some creepy monsters in there.
The problem is, I’m no armchair game designer. I get the appeal of “You aren’t a person who can fight back” as an approach to getting the player scared. I know I don’t like it, but I don’t know what a good alternative looks like either. So what are your ideas? Or, even better, what awesome games am I not aware of that already have genius different approaches to horror?
EDIT: Oof I wrote a novel here didn’t I.