Design and documentation journal for my interactive fiction (text games); also reviews and other miscellaneous stuff.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Horror Musings

Horror is one of the few genres in IF that is done reasonably frequently. There's been a couple large, fully realized Lovecraft-type games in the past few years, and a reasonable number of smaller ones, some more successful than others.
I've been looking a horror IF recently in comparison to the sorts of sub-genres we see in horror movies and books, trying to think about what might work and what probably won't.

Slasher movies - rely strongly on building a cast of characters and killing them off, usually with the big reveal that one of them is the murderer. I don't think IF is really the right medium for this sort of thing - let's face it, characterization isn't easy, and timing the events would be a giant pain in the neck. It might work as a walk-through, but I have a hard time imagining this working well. Part of this is that I think IF can do atmosphere building well, but not so much the big reveal. Gore is appalling because it's visceral; the kind of writing needed to get across jetting arterial blood requires a deft hand. (And then implementation when the player tries to DRINK BLOOD and TOUCH BLOOD and DRAW PICTURES WITH BLOOD.) So what I can imagine working: the PC returning home and finding blood tracking through the house and unmentionable horrors upstairs. What I can't imagine working: the traditional run through the woods with the madman after you. In other words, anticipation rather than fulfillment.

Supernatural - there's a fair amount of ghouls and ghosts in IF, perhaps because the ritual is something to enact. From a traditional IF standpoint, puzzles can tie in well to the cleansing of a ghostly presence. First you have to find the bell, book, and candle, and then you have to find the ritual, and then ...
This is something King of Shreds and Patches did well at, although towards the end, it got a little heavy-handed. This is a pretty specific sort of supernatural horror; I haven't played anything similar to Korean/Japanese supernatural films, which I think would also work well for this sort of thing. In a lot of the East Asian horror I've watched (not that I've watched a ton), horror intrudes into everyday life through ordinary things that become sinister. You go to turn on the tap, and it keeps running, and suddenly there's hair in the sink, lots of hair, and the water is spilling onto the floor, and it's cold and something is breathing down your neck. Or it's the static on TV, or the ringing of your cell phone. Whatever the intrusion is, it starts out small and creepy, and comes to dominate. This doesn't have to be quiet horror - Uzumaki does it with the most innocuous thing imaginable - a swirl shape. In fact, I think Uzumaki the movie might have been a better IF.

Creature Feature - in creature films where the creature is only out for blood, there's the same problem as slasher flicks. What has potential are the films where the protagonist is the beast, and is being subsumed by it.

No comments:

Post a Comment