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Article - 'Basics of creating a SCARY game!' by EvilDemonCreature

An item about Game Design posted on Aug 8, 2003


A nice article, detailing how to create FEAR in your game!


Well, it's Halloween, so I will debut my first tutorial by teaching all you whipper snappers about FEAR! And how you can apply it to anything you are working on (mainly games in this case).

The basis of creating fear:

No matter what the game has in it, IT'S JUST A GAME! You can't change that, and sitting in front of a glowing screen isn't going to be that intimidating. This is the main obstacle you have to overcome when trying to scare the person playing the game. There are two ways to go around this. One is acheived by getting the person so into the game that he forget's that it isn't real, if only for just a minute. The other is by playing on the fear of the gamer. I'll get into that one later, first I will list the types of fear you can create when you acheive the first one...

Types of fear:

(1) Basic Fears: This is when something trigger's your inner most animalistic types of fear which caused you to survive in the wild barbaric world of the past wich is still deep rooted in your mind even though you spend all your days in front of a glowing screen away from all dangers of the known world.

Theese fears include fear of death, and fear of pain.

Triggering this fear was the main objective when people first created the horror Genre. Theese include Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Friday the 13th series.

This fear is less focused on nowaday and it is quite hard to effectivley acheive with tiny pixellated figures. I would avoid this unless it is absolutley necissary and even then try and use well drawn cutscenes (using Show Picture/Move Picture function if youre using RM2K).

(2) Sophisticated Fears: Theese are fears that come with an evolved brain.

Theese fears include fear of a lost mind, fear of being useless, and fear of knowing you can't escape a situation no matter what you do.

Theese fears are usually played out in Novels and books mainly because they don't need extra senses and fancy graphics in order to create the fear. Examples include Stephen Kings's Misery, and (a personal fav) Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away. This is the better bet when making a game, it's simply easier to play out in development of the game and doesnt require many huge sound files/ picture files.

(3)Emotional Fears: I don't know if theese really count as fears, but it's the essential thing when making horror. This is because it includes symapthy for the character the player watching (or empathy if he's had a messed up life) And since the player isn't really the one there, you sorta HAVE to use this when making a scare scene. But there's a way around this... Which I will discuss...

Playing On the gamer's fears:

What I mean by this is by creating fear of loss of the game, or creating fear of a lost ally, or loss of a powerful item. One way this can be done is by putting a boss in the middle of the level unexpectedly, or when you know the player has low health. Now don't get me wrong, you can't make the game impossible, you can make the game scary without making it hard. Just use your best judgement...

Well, I guess that's it, I might have missed something since I had to save this halfway and my mind went blank, but I think it will help you out in your quest for the scariest game ever... Happy haunting! ^_^