Horror Games: From Niche to Nonsense

Is mainstream gaming ruining the horror game genre?

taken from pixabay, public domain

Maybe I've become too desensitized over the years to enjoy modern "horror" games. Lately, I've just felt that such games have either fit into two categories: "cliche horror trope bingo" and/or "trying way too hard." I'd say a perfect example of the first of those categories is the recently released The Evil Within 2. I honestly don't know what is impressing the gaming news giants to give it a high score... though I think IGN would be impressed with a game about paint drying. 

The Evil Within 2 was made by Bethesda, which was strange because the first one was made by the creator of Resident Evil. What's strange is that the sequel is trying to be more like Resident Evil than the original game that was made by the dude that made Resident Evil. How's that for a meta mind-screw? At least the first Evil Within had substance, even if the character development was extremely lacking. Ironically, the sequel is playing off the character's backstory, which if you hadn't read all the journal entries of the first game, all you know is that Sebastian is a drunken detective stuck in a mind-meld machine. Here's a fun game: take a shot every time something cliche happens in The Evil Within 2. By the end of it, you'll be dead from cirrhosis and boredom. 

My example for "trying way too hard" would be Outlast 2. Yep, another sequel, but really the only way it's a sequel is that it's called Outlast 2. Literally, ten minutes into the game, your character is filming dead bodies on stakes, reading gruesome torture porn notes, and walking through a room of dead babies. WOW. I was actually both fascinated and utterly repulsed by this game because I just expected it to blow up on the news and cast gaming back into the "video games cause violence" shadow. And if you're trying to find the connection to the first game, bring a microscope. The connecting plot point is so horrendously fudged in, I can't even spoil it. You need to feel that disappointment for yourself. Or look up a plot guide if you can't be bothered. 

I bring this up to express my disdain for what mass marketing has done to the horror genre of gaming. The only port in the storm at this point is going to be VR, but even then I can't be too optimistic. However, I have not completely lost hope. If you happened to play the new indie horror game, Little Nightmares. It is a greatly rewarding game that makes you question everything because there is no spoken dialogue. It's a game that shows and doesn't tell, your English professors' dream. The player is allowed to draw their own conclusions because, so far, no theories have been confirmed by the designers. I honestly don't remember a horror game like that since the first four Silent Hills. I'll finish this post with a plea that will never reach game designers' eyes, probably: If you've reached the point of dead babies, you've gone too far. 

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Horror Games: From Niche to Nonsense