Image by Flickr User brava_67

Dread and Gaming Emotions

Image by Flickr User brava_67
Image by Flickr User brava_67

Most games are experiences that are easy to jump into, they are easy to play and easy to enjoy. There is another other kind of game though. The sort that is most definitely fun, but demands consideration; taking it in as you go along. Fans of horror games, RPGs and perhaps even adventure games probably know the feeling. It’s an odd sense, one of feeling like you’re a part of everything that’s going on on the screen even though you’re really just an outside observer. You’re definitely not there, yet none of what’s transpiring onscreen could have happened without you. 

Like most entertainment, games have the capacity to play with our emotions in unusual ways. Take the emotion of dread for example. Dread usually isn’t an “odd” emotion; in fact it’s rather clear-cut. It’s a negative emotion, a warning. However, with horror books, movies, and especially video games, it becomes an essential ingredient to an enjoyable experience. Silent Hill, Eternal Darkness, Amnesia, Five Nights at Freddy’s. All of these are built around filling the player with a sense of dread, and then manipulating that feeling to twist it into something fun. After all, in horror…well anything really, the fun isn’t in the actual scare but in the build up to that scare. The scare is all well and good, but the anticipation is what a player ends up carrying with them, and is what inspires that aforementioned sense of dread before starting up that game again.

I suppose i just find it incredible just how much and how often our games are able to to turn our emotions on their heads. Dread is turned from something unpleasant into something fun, happy times can signal something bad on the horizon, sadness can take a character or story and make it endearing. Granted, most forms of entertainment can prompt these, but games have the ability to drive them home. We’re “there” with our characters and NPC’s through all of it, so in a sense we’re able to share in everything that goes on. Be it alone in the claustrophobic halls of the USG Ishimura, exploring the stars with Commander Shepard and crew, or saving the world in a “Tales” game, we get to share in all of it.

What sorts of games most easily draw you in? How much of that sense of sharing are they usually able to get across?

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