Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Horror in Games (Stolen from Turtles All The Way Down)

This was my reply to Turtles All The Way Down.

Another Lovecraft quote I like: “Never state an horror when it can be suggested.”
—H.P. Lovecraft

Lately, similar to brining fear into a game, I’ve been thinking of how to create real horror in games. This largely comes down to creating fear.

I like Lovecraft’s advice - it’s somewhat similar to ’show don’t tell’. It’s scary to be give the raw sensory facts to players, as this is how their characters would perceive, and not simply say something like “Four zombies are standing in front of you.” This makes the threat of zombies sound mundane. Instead describing the stench of the corpses, the way their faces are rotting, their jaws hang loose might cause more fear.

Another way to take what he says is to just hint at the horrific undertow. Let the players know true horror exists just behind the curtain, but make it somewhat intangible. Something that can’t simply be beat by their fists. They might stop specific horrific threats, but something deeper, darker, and alien is still there despite their success.


Typhinius said...

That's interesting, particularly in that I had kind of come to that conclusion myself within just the last few days when trying to think of ways to create horror in Hunter. The game thus far has not been horrific at all, and I really want to create some mood in it. I plan on using a lot of sensory input, and describe what the players see and hear rather than telling them that they see something specific.

On a related note,I've been reading Stargazer's blog lately, and he keeps bringing up music as a tool to invoke mood and horror, but I'm not sure if I should incorporate something like that because the players might feel like it is a gimmick and create the opposite reaction of what I am going for. Any ideas on that?

Ishmayl said...

Lovecraft was a genius with that stuff, and every quote you can find of his is bound to bring wisdom. I really like what you mentioned about the “deeper, darker intangible undertow,” and believe I will have to definitely incorporate that into some adventures soon.

Anonymous said...

I've got an old but detailed essay on evoking horror in gaming. Like everyone's, it has some Lovecraft inspiration :-)

Horror in Roleplaying

Jack Phillips said...

yeah, I agree. Hunter has been more of a survival in a dark fantasy world game thus far. I welcome in horror you can bring in.

Lovecraft was a genius. Other than House of Leaves, At The Mountains Of Madness is the only book to make me feel fear while reading it. Again, great post on your part.

I've only begun reading your essay, but I'm really enjoying it. Thank you for linking that. You've clearly put a lot of thought into this, and your advice is really appreciated.