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I Played Horror Games For The First Time, Here’s How It Went

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I Played Horror Games For The First Time, Here’s How It Went

This article contains spoilers for The Quarry, Until Dawn and Oxenfree.

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The horror genre has never been something I’ve been overly inclined to explore. I don’t play horror games. I don’t watch horror TV shows and films. On the odd occasion that I have encountered something scary, I’m the type of person who will lie awake at night thinking about it. I know I’m an adult and I should know better but hey, I can’t help it. That being said, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows in my world and I do enjoy things with a darker edge. To date, I may not have fully immersed myself in the horror genre, but I have dabbled in it.

The Last of Us is my favourite gaming franchise and whilst it may not technically be a horror, there’s no denying that the series is heavily influenced by the genre. I spent a fair bit of time on pause, hyping myself up, before entering that room of stalkers during The Last of Us Part II’s convention centre sequence, and it’s impossible to turn on The Last of Us’ basement generator without being filled with dread. I had a similar experience playing Shadow of the Tomb Raider which seriously caught me off guard with its horror-fuelled suspense. Nothing quite puts you on edge like walking into a cave filled with echoing inhuman screams, as scurrying shadows dash across the walls.

There’s one game I’m definitely not brave enough to play: The Callisto Protocol. Check out this horrifying gameplay sequence ahead of the game’s release on 2 December.

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During all of the aforementioned moments, I probably couldn’t wait to reach the sweet safety of daylight. But when I reflect back on playing these games, the horror-inspired moments that I thought I hated were actually my favourite sequences. With that in mind, it dawned on me that maybe I don’t hate horror as much as I thought I did; so I asked the GAMINGbible team which three horror titles a genre novice like me should tackle. Before you all complain, I specifically opted for what I’m calling beginner levels of horror. After all, I didn’t want this experiment to end up with me lying awake at night for the foreseeable future, but here’s what happened when I, a scaredy-cat, tackled The Quarry, Until Dawn, and Oxenfree.

Shadow Of The Tomb Raider / Credit: Square Enix
Shadow Of The Tomb Raider / Credit: Square Enix
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I started my experiment with Supermassive Games’ latest, The Quarry, mainly so I could join in on the hype for the newly released title - and it was a rocky start. During the entirety of the prologue I thought to myself: what am I doing? It wasn’t because anything particularly scary was happening. It was because I was wandering through the woods at night full of anticipation over what could happen. Oftentimes, my imagination can conjure worse horrors than those the game actually has in store. Slowly but surely, the teases came and my overuse of the pause button eased. Wolves, a ghostly woman, and a family of hunters? I quickly started to feel better about my prospects.

Before long, I was done with the prologue and into the main belly of the game and here’s the verdict: I loved The Quarry. The thing is, I don’t think The Quarry is particularly scary. It certainly took a good few chapters for my fear to fade. I spent several early sections of the game stumbling around in the dark, terrified of what horrors my torch might land on, but The Quarry reveals its secrets pretty early on. You don’t find out how all the puzzle pieces fit together until much later in the game, but I at least knew what I was up against and who was a friend and who was a foe. After several chapters, I rightly assumed that the game wasn’t going to add any latecomer threats into the mix.

The Quarry / Credit: 2K Games
The Quarry / Credit: 2K Games
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I don’t want to venture further into spoiler territory so I’ll just vaguely say that The Quarry’s creatures are thoroughly disturbing to look at - but once I’d got over my initial terror, I became way more accustomed to them chasing me than I ever really expected. It totally helped that The Quarry generally had an upbeat tone thanks to its music choices, lovable characters, and humorous dialogue. I clutched onto those things like a safety blanket. All in all, The Quarry is the perfect game for beginners to the horror genre. I loved it so much that it convinced me into thinking I was brave. Hahahaha. I soon learnt my lesson.

Rather naively, I began Until Dawn with a certain bravado seeing as I’d beaten one Supermassive Games title with ease, unknowing that the same studio’s 2015 PlayStation exclusive was an entirely different kettle of fish. For those who are unaware, as I was, Until Dawn is jump scare central and, oh boy, those first few chapters were intense. The jump scares seemed to come every few minutes and each time they got me hook, line, and sinker. To begin with, they were stupid scares. You know, pranks between friends, a rather ferocious racoon, a falling shower curtain, that kind of thing. Still, they got me every time.

The tone changed a few hours in, yet my naivety continued to prevail. The game prompted me to keep looking through a telescope. Unable to find anything of note, I edged closer to the screen. BAM. Up pops the most nightmarish face I have ever seen and, yes, my audible yelp was probably heard by everyone in a one-mile radius. For a hot minute I contemplated quitting the game, but my stubbornness and curiosity told me to soldier on. Something in me changed though. I started to brace myself and expect the worst. I stopped investigating every interactive item after realising that, unlike in The Quarry, doing so often had terrible and terrifying consequences. By the time I reached that decapitated waving hand, I knew better than to investigate. The evolved me walked straight past. Nothing good could’ve come from examining that.

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Until Dawn / Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Until Dawn / Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Playing Until Dawn certainly taught me a few important lessons about approaching horror games, and reminded me why I was so fearful of the genre. As the game progressed, the scares did get genuinely more terrifying yet, because I’d changed my approach, I found myself dealing with them better - and, dare I say it, I had fun. I’d happily play Until Dawn again. The thing is, I know what to expect now. Something this experiment has taught me is that I hate the unexpected and walking down dark corridors. I’d much rather complete a QTE chase sequence or watch a spooky cutscene then actively lead my character into the unknown. I had my doubts at the beginning, but I did make it to dawn with most characters intact. Like I said, Until Dawn was a fun experience in the end, but definitely one that filled me with too much fear and dread to repeat on a weekly basis.

So here I approached my final game, Night School Studio’s Oxenfree. The Quarry conned me into thinking I was brave. Until Dawn taught me I had a few lessons to learn before that proved true. Where would Oxenfree leave me? Despite my mildly traumatising experience with Until Dawn, I actually approached Oxenfree with the utmost curiosity. The animated visual style didn’t strike me as being particularly scary and I was advised in advance that it was a more unnerving strain of horror, as opposed to outright jump scares. Oxenfree was very much an underwhelming end to my experiment. That’s not to say that the game isn’t good. I did enjoy it, but I actually found the whole thing a rather chilled experience after my earlier adrenaline-fuelled antics.

Oxenfree / Credit: Night School Studio
Oxenfree / Credit: Night School Studio

I wouldn’t say that Oxenfree is absent of scares. A few of the screen flickers caught me off guard and as I walked around Edwards Island, I couldn’t escape the eerie feeling that I was being watched by the island’s ghostly inhabitants. The game was unsettling, but I found myself wanting the game to push that feeling further. Midway through, my group of protagonists gathered to take a photo. The red eyes of a creepy figure loomed in the background. A short while later, another photo was taken and the elusive figure loomed with just a bit more intensity. By the end of the game, I expected the figure to have fully revealed itself via a physical presence - yet the moment never came.

Whilst Oxenfree may not have scared me, it did convey a very important lesson in my little horror experiment. Never in my life did I think I’d be left wanting a game to be scarier. I wanted Oxenfree to make me jump. I wanted that creepy figure to step out of the shadows. Pre-experiment Kate certainly wouldn’t have wanted any of those things so here we go: the conclusion. 

I think I’m going to admit that actually, I quite like horror games. I’ve certainly ended this experiment wanting to play more. As I said earlier, it’s not the kind of genre I’d be running back to week-on-week as I still approach all darkened areas feeling the upmost terror, but I ended up enjoying the rollercoaster of emotions far more than I ever expected. I had to learn a few lessons along the way. If everything seems swell, it’s probably because there’s a scare just around the corner. If the game cuts to a cutscene, s**t is about to go down. If the game is forcing you to do something, you’re probably being lured into a scare. I have evolved. You may even say that I’ve adapted to survive. I’ll be honest, I can’t see myself getting hyped up enough to face The Callisto Protocol later this year - but who knows? I definitely now have the urge to see what Resident Evil is all about. All in all, an enlightening experience and one that I’m proud to say I survived.

Featured Image Credit: 2K Games, Buena Vista Pictures Distribution / Meme, Sony Computer Entertainment

Topics: Opinion, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, Indie Games, 2K Games

Kate Harrold
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