A Brief History of Horror Gaming
IN THE BEGINNING
As I write this, the second game in THE DARKNESS series is sat atop the shelves in stores worldwide. A game that utilises first person action, comic-book sensibilities and is blessed with a bucketful of glorious gore. Jimmy Stewart was right, life is indeed wonderful.
As a card carrying 80's kid, I was lucky enough to have been there at the start. I grew up with each consecutive gaming system, and watched the whole story unfold as games that today's generation would, rightly, deem so basic as to be laughable, filled our young heads with nightmares and fuelled our imaginations for endless hours. Put us in a dimly lit room with a twenty minute loading time, some monotone bleeps for a soundtrack to back up the unrecognisable graphics, and we were THERE, man!
|GHOSTS 'N' GOBLINS|
|ANT ATTACK 3D|
|IT CAME FROM THE DESERT|
The release of ID's DOOM (1993) was a landmark in gaming history, and introduced the world to the first person shooter. Taking its cues from ID's own WOLFENSTIEN (1992), and transferring the action to mars, DOOM essentially put the player in the eyes of the games character, pitching them in a fully real time 3D environment battling endless waves of demonic enemies, first within a space station and in later levels, within Hell itself. The game was renowned for its tense game play, dynamic lighting, contained hostile environments and a propensity for gore and mayhem that was unheard of at the time. While released initially as shareware on the PC, the game soon found worldwide fame as gamers across the planet got their first real taste of where Horror gaming would be heading in the future. It’s perfect mix of action and scares have secured its legacy in the annals of gaming, and its influence has been felt for many years since.
While many of these earlier games were barely horror in terms of scares, the content provided us fans with a new means to enjoy our number one interest, and for many kids, these games were their introduction into the genre. It’s rare for any genre fan to have found his/her introduction through literature, but I'd bet there’s a whole hell of a lot fell in love whilst gaming. After all, most upstanding parents were monitoring their child's viewing on VHS and TV, but how many parents had any idea there perfect offspring was spending their nights blasting the hordes of hell a new ass? Few, I would think, and bless the Gods of Horror for those small favours. These things may seem small nowadays, but this was important shit to an eight or nine year old back then. Trust me.
And if we'd known what was coming next, our heads may have exploded there and then....
THE BIRTH OF SURVIVAL HORROR
CLOCK TOWER (1995) brought the Horror goods to the next gen, yet the first game to be labelled ‘Survival Horror’, within the industry was Capcoms Zombie epic, RESIDENT EVIL (1996). A game so absolutely committed to instilling dread in the player it was ruthless. Although Capcoms previous release, SWEET HOME (1989), was the blueprint for their masterwork, THIS was the moment when everything changed. Action and fast paced gun play was gone, as was any kind of incidental horror imagery for the sake of Gothic nuance. No, this was a fully fledged horror movie in which YOU were the star. The influence of not only horror imagery, but the essence of what made horror so powerful was implicit here. FEAR. Your character was extremely vulnerable, held limited ammo, and was trapped within a claustrophobic dimly lit environment where horror's lurked around every corner, and it was often a far better strategy to flee rather than fight. Among its myriad strengths were its atmospheric music, explicit gore,effective jump scares and a very strong plot line.
Of course, the title was a huge success, and as the concept of ‘Survival Horror' lit up the gaming world. Developers were keen to hop on the bandwagon and create their own brand of fear fuelled gaming. The immediate years after the release of RESIDENT EVIL saw a whole host of horror influenced titles, both good and bad, emerge on the scene. Among the best were its sequels RE2 (1998) and RE3 (1999), and Capcoms own DINO CRISIS (1999). And while many clones were sub standard, there were some that truly understood the power this new style of gaming could hold, and set about creating their own masterpieces.
|SILENT HILL 2|
PART 2 - THE FALL OF TRADITIONAL SURVIVAL HORROR AND THE RISE OF ACTION BASED HORROR