Options

Cosmic Horror and Video Games

CaptainNemoCaptainNemo Registered User regular
edited November 2010 in Games and Technology
How do you feel the cosmic horror genre has been handled in video games? Alan Wake, Eternal Darkness, and Mass Effect seem to be the only ones that tackle it well. Are the concepts of it too abstract for a primarily visual medium like gaming?

PSN:CaptainNemo1138
Shitty Tumblr:lighthouse1138.tumblr.com
CaptainNemo on

Posts

  • Options
    Kuribo's ShoeKuribo's Shoe Kuribo's Stocking North PoleRegistered User regular
    edited November 2010
    that covers a wide range of shit, though

    are you talking like, Lovecraft, or Event Horizon?

    Kuribo's Shoe on
    xmassig2.gif
  • Options
    CaptainNemoCaptainNemo Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    Both.

    CaptainNemo on
    PSN:CaptainNemo1138
    Shitty Tumblr:lighthouse1138.tumblr.com
  • Options
    L.E.O.L.E.O. Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    mass effect a horror?

    L.E.O. on
  • Options
    CaptainNemoCaptainNemo Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    The Reapers. An ancient alien race completly beyond our understanding who are less antagonists and more an unstoppable force.

    CaptainNemo on
    PSN:CaptainNemo1138
    Shitty Tumblr:lighthouse1138.tumblr.com
  • Options
    L.E.O.L.E.O. Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    a horror has to have a certain aesthetic, maybe you thought mass effect was scary but its by no means a horror, its a space opera.

    L.E.O. on
  • Options
    XagarathXagarath Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth handled it pretty well.
    So did Amnesia: the Dark Descent.
    You could argue Darkseed, too.
    Go play more good horror games.

    Xagarath on
  • Options
    ShrieveShrieve Game Designer CaliforniaRegistered User regular
    edited November 2010
    The Reapers. An ancient alien race completly beyond our understanding who are less antagonists and more an unstoppable force.

    They've got a real Azathoth feel to them. The whole Reapers plot is very Lovecraftian in style and structure.

    Anyways if you've played Eternal Darkness you've played the best cosmic horror game out there as far as I know. There are quite a few nice tabletop games that you could try instead though, like Arkham Horror.

    Shrieve on
    FkbtS.png
  • Options
    OrogogusOrogogus San DiegoRegistered User regular
    edited November 2010
    I thought Eternal Darkness sold cosmic horror about as well as you'd expect from something like The Muppets Present: The Horror from Beyond Time. The idea of an extradimensional horror becomes a lot less effective if it keeps talking about its evil plans and never shuts up, even more so when the object of its loquacity is a talking skeleton.

    Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth was a pretty good Lovecraft game, I thought. Walked the trope pretty much straight through, copied plenty out of the source material.

    Orogogus on
  • Options
    BlackjackBlackjack Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    I think the talkativeness of the Cosmic Horror in Eternal Darkness works really well if you picked Xel'lotath.

    Somewhat less so if you picked the others, though, yes.

    Blackjack on
    camo_sig2.png

    3DS: 1607-3034-6970
  • Options
    ShrieveShrieve Game Designer CaliforniaRegistered User regular
    edited November 2010
    Was that the green lady ancient?

    Shrieve on
    FkbtS.png
  • Options
    JintorJintor Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    misread title as 'Comic Horror'

    Jintor on
  • Options
    BlackjackBlackjack Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    Shrieve wrote: »
    Was that the green lady ancient?
    Yep.

    Blackjack on
    camo_sig2.png

    3DS: 1607-3034-6970
  • Options
    CantidoCantido Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    Cthulu Saves The World.

    Shadow Hearts 1 and 2, big time.
    Jintor wrote: »
    misread title as 'Comic Horror'

    Shadow Hearts has that too.

    Cantido on
    3DS Friendcode 5413-1311-3767
  • Options
    DartboyDartboy Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    Super Scriblenauts: Happy Polkadot Cthulhu.

    Dartboy on
  • Options
    FremFrem Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    One of the Penumbra games did a pretty fantastic job with that sort of thing, I guess? Like, in the first level, there's a section where you're crawling through a cave while hearing something shrieking nearby. Or maybe it was growling. And the tunnels you're crawling through keep rearranging themselves when you're not looking. It's rather unsettling.

    Frem on
  • Options
    DrakeDrake Edgelord Trash Below the ecliptic plane.Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    Stay away from Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened. It's a blending of Holmes and Lovecraft's Mythos, which sounds fucking awesome. The game is decidedly less than awesome though. More like painfully boring and crappy looking.

    Drake on
  • Options
    Ninja Snarl PNinja Snarl P My helmet is my burden. Ninja Snarl: Gone, but not forgotten.Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    I really wouldn't classify Mass Effect with the "cosmic horror" bit since the Reapers are just an older race instead instead of some inscrutable, otherworldly demonic horror playing by special rules. They play by the same rules of physics as everyone in the universe but are just a lot better at manipulating them. Plus, the Reapers basically give the galaxy a call to tell everyone that they're gonna come kill everybody everywhere. I mean, they could literally by defined as cosmic horrors, but that's more a matter of where they live than the type of fiction they're in.

    As for Alan Wake, I think the quality of that variety of story is largely a matter of taste. When playing the game, there were a lot of pieces that just didn't work for me because the story was playing more by arbitrary rules than consistent ones. Regardless of whether those points were due to poor writing or just the use of the cosmic horror angle, they just stuck out too much to me to let me enjoy the game much.

    Cosmic horror is a tough sell under the best of circumstances. Make it too mysterious and nobody cares. Make it too explicit and you lose all the tension of the mystery. Horror is a lot easier to pull off when the nasty stuff is at least relatable instead of seemingly random forces with unknown motives. As for how it's been handled in video games, I think it's almost always going to be a matter of making it appeal to people who like those sorts of stories rather than trying to making cosmic horror fiction everybody can get into.

    Ninja Snarl P on
  • Options
    DrakeDrake Edgelord Trash Below the ecliptic plane.Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    I think one of the things that really holds cosmic horror back in the world of video games is that they are such a visual medium. Part of what makes the genre so effective in print is that you will always be better at scaring yourself by piecing together details from the text. I think for gaming, Interactive Fiction probably does this sort of thing best.

    I'm not saying it doesn't work in video games though. The Frictional guys have done a badass job of proving that. If I can keep my shit together long enough, I may even get through Penumbra one day. Amnesia is really high on my to-buy list too.

    And finally, there is this. Eversion. This link is to the free version. There is also a version on Steam for pretty cheap that has all kinds of new features like Leaderboards.

    Drake on
  • Options
    SkexisSkexis Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    Three games occur to me, but only one puled off the fear aspect of it well.
    Doom started out as mysticism and demonic ritual in space, but turned into aliens attempting to capitalize on human fears. Of course, having a whole (effective) arsenal at your disposal tends to soften the idea of an enemy juggernaut spacial entity.

    Dead Space seems to fit the OP's bill as well. It still suffered from the intention that towards the end of the game, the player should feel more powerful instead of less, but I thought the idea of tying the whole ruckus to an artifact or ancient cosmic force went a lot towards establishing series credibility when I played through it.

    But to answer your question, I think it's enough of a niche genre that few games get the opportunity to do it well. These days, in order to get publisher dollars, you have to be able to pitch a game that is based on more than a pervasive sense of dread and foreboding*, which is why we're seeing people mentioning survival horror, action, and puzzle titles all mixed in with shooter. Perhaps more often than not, it's too abstract, as you said, to be able to convince a panel of people that it's worth putting into a video game. (Or at least, making it the main concept of a video game)

    *The third game I thought of-- Silent Hill was a perfect storm that thankfully led to more games of equal caliber. I don't know if it fits with the thread, but at least in the first game, the darkness and the town as a whole became a foreboding presence...practically a power unto itself.

    Skexis on
  • Options
    DrakeDrake Edgelord Trash Below the ecliptic plane.Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    Since this thread got me thinking about IF and Lovecraftian horror, I went and grabbed a copy of Gargoyle and went searching for some quality IF that fit the bill. And I think I may have found something worthwhile called Anchorhead.

    I'll check it out, see if the old Interactive Fiction muscles still work and get back to y'all.

    Drake on
  • Options
    CaptainNemoCaptainNemo Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    Anchorhead sounds really good, I'll take a better look at it tomorrow. Now, I never finished Final Fantasy XIII because, well, it's made of dull angst and grinding, but I did enjoy how the fal'Cie were protrayed. Before I met Barthandalus, and then they became moustach twirling villains.

    Bayonetta had really interesting and Lovecraftian angels as well.

    CaptainNemo on
    PSN:CaptainNemo1138
    Shitty Tumblr:lighthouse1138.tumblr.com
  • Options
    XagarathXagarath Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    Bayonetta was about as far from a horror game as they come.

    The Siren games weren't precisely cosmic horror, but they had an awful lot of the same feel as they went on.

    And, again, Amnesia.
    If you don't play it you're mad.

    Xagarath on
  • Options
    KrathoonKrathoon Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    Okay. Okay. You guys keep on bringing Amnesia up. I guess I will get it. GOD!

    Krathoon on
  • Options
    kowikowi Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    I never felt that Mass Effect was horror in any way. It was more of a space adventure.

    kowi on
    PSN: kowi - WiiU: kowi - XBL: KoWi - twitch.tv/kowi profile.png - "Yes, Kowi is the King of All" - smilie.png Unbreakable Vow
  • Options
    Psychotic OnePsychotic One The Lord of No Pants Parts UnknownRegistered User regular
    edited November 2010
    Krathoon wrote: »
    Okay. Okay. You guys keep on bringing Amnesia up. I guess I will get it. GOD!

    Wear a diaper

    Psychotic One on
  • Options
    WotanAnubisWotanAnubis Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    kowi wrote: »
    I never felt that Mass Effect was horror in any way. It was more of a space adventure.
    Yeah, a big part of horror, for me, is that the protagonist has blundered into a situation they aren't quite capable of dealing with.

    Shepard just kicks ass and takes names.

    WotanAnubis on
  • Options
    Psychotic OnePsychotic One The Lord of No Pants Parts UnknownRegistered User regular
    edited November 2010
    kowi wrote: »
    I never felt that Mass Effect was horror in any way. It was more of a space adventure.
    Yeah, a big part of horror, for me, is that the protagonist has blundered into a situation they aren't quite capable of dealing with.

    Shepard just kicks ass and takes names.

    Shepard is pretty much the video game definition of "Did you just punch Cthulhu" from tvtropes

    Psychotic One on
  • Options
    BlackjackBlackjack Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    It gets dropped really, really quickly but Fable 3 sorta fits
    The introduction to The Crawler is pretty great.

    Blackjack on
    camo_sig2.png

    3DS: 1607-3034-6970
  • Options
    CantidoCantido Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    Prey?

    Cantido on
    3DS Friendcode 5413-1311-3767
  • Options
    KayKay What we need... Is a little bit of PANIC.Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    Eternal Darkness (especially when opposing Xel'lotath).
    Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth.
    Silent Hill Series (1-4, and Shattered Memories. Origins is okay. Avoid Homecoming).
    Dead Space (play it on super hard, otherwise it's too easy)
    Condemned. (Not really 'cosmic').
    Alan Wake. (Not really 'cosmic').
    Clive Barker's Undying.

    I can see the Reapers, as a theme, could be considered 'cosmic horror', but Mass Effect itself is anything but. Definitely a fair heaping of Body Horror though, like Dead Space and Condemned. I wish that Jericho had been better.

    Thinking on it, Cosmic Horror is pretty hard to do in games. There's a certain amount of stuff you need to know, and that needs to remain constant in games for them to actually work. The theme's a favorite of mine, I find that it works especially well in table-top RPGs that are handled right. We need more of it in video games, though. I love stuff like that.

    Kay on
    ew9y0DD.png
    3DS FCode: 1993-7512-8991
  • Options
    MachismoMachismo Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    Kay wrote: »
    Eternal Darkness (especially when opposing Xel'lotath).
    Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth.
    Silent Hill Series (1-4, and Shattered Memories. Origins is okay. Avoid Homecoming).
    Dead Space (play it on super hard, otherwise it's too easy)
    Condemned. (Not really 'cosmic').
    Alan Wake. (Not really 'cosmic').
    Clive Barker's Undying.

    I can see the Reapers, as a theme, could be considered 'cosmic horror', but Mass Effect itself is anything but. Definitely a fair heaping of Body Horror though, like Dead Space and Condemned. I wish that Jericho had been better.

    Thinking on it, Cosmic Horror is pretty hard to do in games. There's a certain amount of stuff you need to know, and that needs to remain constant in games for them to actually work. The theme's a favorite of mine, I find that it works especially well in table-top RPGs that are handled right. We need more of it in video games, though. I love stuff like that.

    Not sure how Dead Space needs to be on Super hard to satisfy the Cosmic Horror genre.
    IMO, Dead Space was pretty tough on normal.

    Eternal Darkness is, IMO, the best for this type of game. It is clever as hell and breaks new ground in this realm. All of the gods you deal with are like right out of the Mythos. They have their own styles and influences on the game, but remain so massively out of our realm that they remain rather frightening.

    Machismo on
    steam_sig.png
  • Options
    NickTheNewbieNickTheNewbie Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    If your doing a lovecraft style game, and your protagonist isn't insane or dead by the end of the game, you're doing it wrong. Eternal Darkness did it right many times over.

    NickTheNewbie on
  • Options
    XagarathXagarath Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    Eternal Darkness actually always felt to me like a kind of over-literal attempt to cram the Mythos into a game without the license- like the developers were so busy crowbarring in everything they forgot to get the basic feel right.
    Amnesia, in the meantime, nails the mood perfectly. Cosmic, traditional and personal horror, all interwoven. It gets the spirit of Lovecraft (and his contempories and inspirations- Machen, Hodgson, Blackwood, Chambers, etc) right without directly referencing anything.

    Xagarath on
  • Options
    ParadisoParadiso Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    If your doing a lovecraft style game, and your protagonist isn't insane or dead by the end of the game, you're doing it wrong. Eternal Darkness did it right many times over.

    Randolph Carter would like a word with you.

    Paradiso on
  • Options
    ShrieveShrieve Game Designer CaliforniaRegistered User regular
    edited November 2010
    Paradiso wrote: »
    If your doing a lovecraft style game, and your protagonist isn't insane or dead by the end of the game, you're doing it wrong. Eternal Darkness did it right many times over.

    Randolph Carter would like a word with you.

    Well you always get a Mary Sue when you write yourself into stories.

    Shrieve on
    FkbtS.png
  • Options
    OlivawOlivaw good name, isn't it? the foot of mt fujiRegistered User regular
    edited November 2010
    Penumbra did a better job of conveying cosmic horror to me than Amnesia did. I like the story to that game a lot

    But Amnesia is a better game

    And then there's always Call of Cthulhu, though I've never played it

    There really isn't quite enough of this particular brand of horror in games. Dead Space had moments had smacked of Lovecraft-ian monstrosities and ancient evils, but it's never really scary, and the actual backstory for all of it explains everything, which goes against the entire "cosmic horror" philosophy

    The only thing it does consistently that's thematically appropriate to that genre is insanity. But even then, it's not caused by the right stuff to count, I think

    Olivaw on
    signature-deffo.jpg
    PSN ID : DetectiveOlivaw | TWITTER | STEAM ID | NEVER FORGET
  • Options
    XagarathXagarath Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    Maybe 2012's Mountains of Madness film (which you should all be excited about) will attract a revival of the genre.

    Xagarath on
  • Options
    OlivawOlivaw good name, isn't it? the foot of mt fujiRegistered User regular
    edited November 2010
    Actually, Guillermo del Toro, the dude who's making that movie, signed a deal with THQ recently to personally oversee production on a "Lovecraftian" game

    But that's all that we know about that. At least until the VGA awards, they're supposed to have something about it

    In more current news, there's a mod for Crysis that literally came out today that is definitely all kinds of cosmic. It is called The Worry of Newport, and it is pretty cool! If you can get it working, anyways. Apparently modding Crysis is like pulling teeth

    Olivaw on
    signature-deffo.jpg
    PSN ID : DetectiveOlivaw | TWITTER | STEAM ID | NEVER FORGET
Sign In or Register to comment.