Playing With Fear
My experience with computer games (or “video games” as they became to a cooler generation) runs pretty much concurrently with the development of home computers. I remember playing Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” on the Tandy TRS-80 and being particularly fond of my Amiga 500, thinking it was pretty much the most futuristic thing I would ever have. However, parental and financial constraints meant that my gaming was kept in check, and apart from the odd liasion with a Sega or Nintendo console it became a thing of the past, relegated by new found passion for music.
Fast forward to the late 90’s and I had virtually no idea what was going on with PC or console gaming. A friend of mine was enthusing about a game called “Half Life” which was absorbing all of his time and his flat mate had purchased himself a PlayStation. So was my downfall engineered. Finding myself bored and poor and stoned, I visited my enablers and watched as friend A made his way through Half Life. It was utterly amazing and terrifying. Even watching it was terrifying. The puzzles, the graphics and the size of the game all impressed me but what really hooked me in was the fear. As a veteran horror film fan it became virtually impossible for new films to scare me, but being in the driving seat added a whole new dimension to the horror experience. A new passion was born and with it I was lucky enough to catch the release of Silent Hill on the PlayStation. This legendary game is still revered today for a host of justifiable reasons. It was insanely difficult. It created a whole host of evil foes who made your heart palpitate at just the sound of them and while I still don’t really know what it was about it set the standard for me.
While other games have occupied me pretty intensely (FPS and RTS in particular), survival horror has always managed to attract my attention at various times. Finally owning my own PS3 meant that I got to enjoy Dead Space, which was another legendary moment in gaming. Superb sound design and totally grotesque monsters conspired to make me too scared to play the game unless it was daytime. Seriously. I would have placed it at the top of my “best game of all time” list if it hadn’t been for the recent phenomenon of The Last of Us. It feels strange exhorting the benefits of a game that is the fastest selling of all time on PlayStation3, but there’s a reason for its success. It feels like the moment that games grew up for me. The soundtrack is perfect, the voice acting is perfect and it’s stunningly beautiful but all of this is secondary to the gameplay. When you have shoddy movie remakes and crappy reformed bands touring all around you, to get something that is this well made feels like a blessing. And while it may well draw from a variety of survival horror classics, for me it sets the high water mark with ease, which draws me (finally) to the point of this rambling article.
While I have no interest in the history of FPS or RTS games (they speak for themselves pretty much) I am fascinated with the lineage of survival horror games. I didn’t realise this though till I came across the Kickstarter project for “Playing With Fear” which is being put together by Anthony Carpendale and Paul Dissolved (who you may know as the man who provided the music for our many podcasts at Sitting Now.). Scanning through the plans for this project only highlighted how little I know about what’s going on out there. There are a host of indie game studios who are working on (or have worked on) a bunch of fascinating games, ranging from the macabre to the mind bending. While I may not have the time to play each and every one, a documentary that focuses on the best of the genre sounds like an ideal way to see what I should be playing next. So if you’re a gamer or a horror fan go and visit the Playing With Fear page to see what’s planned. The video trailer gives you an insight into what you can expect and you can keep up with the daily progress on the Facebook page.