This one might also double up as a “The Scariest Place” themed post for Murf’s NBI Screenshot Challenge, except I have trouble deciding which one might be the scariest in terms of looks, nor were they exactly scary to the player most of the time either.
So I will leave it to Murf to decide which, if any, counts as part of his challenge, and continue on to the nostalgia.
In a world primarily composed of office and warehouse tilesets, Dr. Vahzilok’s set piece lair in the sewers was rather memorable. Dr. Vahz is also pretty spooky in his own right, teeny featureless face in a massively brutish body cobbled together from various bodies.
The Circle of Thorns are kinda magically demonically spooky… and then there were the endless Oranbega maps which nearly everyone dreaded, with its neverending corridors, connected by portals that would never let you through (your whole team would get through on the first or second try, but you’d just keep bumping and bumping into them and getting teleported back a dozen times), plus more portals that you had to close at the end (all twelve or thirteen of them, behind the narrowest tunnels and corner curves one can never spot) with the constantly respawning demons… which then got nerfed into not giving ANY xp after some patch or another…
Then there’s falling….
…down something that looked like the petrified gullet of a ginormous beast.
(This might have been the Eden trial, but I’m not 100% sure anymore.)
A set piece mission map villain-side, but I can’t remember what it was about either. I just remember the very ominous looking cavern at the end, shaped like a big ol’ toothy maw.
Arachnos-controlled areas were ominous, in a shadowy kind of way.
A hero-side map (Croatoa, I think) that happened to have a nice set piece of it being aflame, with the conceit of this screenshot implying that my fire/fire dominator and his imps were the scary badasses to blame.
I believe this was one of the “more recent” set piece maps that entered the game nearer the end of its lifespan. I was pretty impressed by the update in graphical style, this spooky crypt entrance to a cave system looking like something that might belong more in Skyrim (or Legend of Grimrock, at least) than City of Heroes.
I dunno, I find it hard to judge what’s scary or not, because the honest truth is that I don’t really find even games specifically in the horror genre “scary” these days.
FEAR was effective on me because it was one of my first introductions to the concept of horror movie jump-scares being used in a first-person shooter game.
(Also, they twisted the then-common expectations of the time – ie. you’re always safe on ladders cos you were locked in a ladder climber animation and it would be unfair to present a player with a situation if you give them no animations to react with – almost reach the top and AHH, freaky little girl face staring right at you and then ghosting away. These days, stuff is sophisticated enough to let you dangle from ladders and shoot now, I think.)
But then I started watching a couple of horror movies and being mostly squicked out rather than scared per se at the repeated tropes that lent themselves more to gore and gross-out factor, and recognizing jump-scares for being what they were, and then I played Doom 3 and most of the horror kind of drained out of the genre from the endless repetition, and by the time everyone was singing the praises of Amnesia, I got about fifteen minutes into the game before getting bored out of my skull from the darkness and sneaking and “you don’t actually see anything but there’s spooky horror sounds and shit, and if you don’t act like how we want, it’s an instant game over, try again” mechanics…
…and stuff just stopped being scary for me because I ended up viewing them from a more meta design or film-critical lens.
“Ah, note the shaky camera angle meant to imply uncertainty in the protagonist, or induce a sense of motion-sickness in the viewer/player.”
“Here comes the mysterious magical little girl/doll meant to prey on our mental imagery of small female children being vulnerable and helpless and needing to be protected, turning instead into a monstrous crone figure or a giant threatening vulva or yeah, something of that nature.”
Also, there’s that whole ‘game’ aspect: it -is- a game, the real self is one step removed, the character you’re playing is in a scary, threatening situation, but you’re not. (At least, I hope you aren’t. Don’t look out the window at night while you’re mucking about with fictional horror, yeah?)
NBI Writing Prompt: I could cop out and ask you to tell me about (or show me screenshots of) things you find scary (or not) in your games.
Or I could ask you to write about stuff that scares you, and whether or not you have the same response in games.
(eg. Snakes and scorpions freak me out in real life, and I generally have a big healthy fearful respect of any critter that’s venomous or fatally dangerous to a human and am perfectly ok with this response and not interested in dulling this instinct.
A picture of a snake or scorpion in a game or a video is okay, no problems with that.
In real life though, I’ll just be way over there if something that could kill me is over here though.)