I like to be scared. I remember being 8 or 9 and finding Alfred Hitchcock Presents Stories That Scared Even Me on my mom’s bookshelf and sneaking off to read it. Of course my mom found it in my room, and I was sure I was little more than dead meat. Surprisingly, she seemed more amused than angry. Then she told me to wait until I got to the story where the narrator speaks directly to the reader, saying he snuck this story into just my copy of the book, he’s watching me read it right now, and I’ll be dead before I reach the end.
“But it’s just words. I’ll know not to get scared, really.”
“I thought the same thing when I started to read it, too. But he’ll convince you. He’ll take all your doubts, all your reasonable arguments, and knock them down. One by one.”
“I’ll find it in the table of contents, and then I’ll know it’s in all the books!”
“Nope. Not in the table of contents, and the author and title aren’t in the index in the back, either. I was sure I was dead.”
“Sleep tight! Don’t let the bedbugs bite!”
And of course I read the rest of the book immediately. That story wasn’t in there. And I’ve researched it several times over the years, even checking out other Alfred Hitchcock short story collections and coming up with nada. I’m 95% sure my mom just made it up.
No, no, my mom is a nice lady. But I have never tracked down that story. Please, please let me know if you have any idea what I’m talking about.
But my mom’s awesome prank genius premise for a story was the birth of my long love affair with horror. Horror fiction, horror movies, and ultimately, horror video games. And horror video games hold an extra special place in my heart. The place where it feels like a fist of ice is holding on to it, keeping it from beating. While books and movies can certainly scare me, I find scary games legitimately terrifying. Obviously it has a lot to do with being an active participant vs. a passive one. And I think that active participation hurts me especially in this regard, since I identify my in-game avatars as most definitively me, whereas I merely picture myself in one of the various roles when I read a scary book or watch a film.
Check out my most recent work as Fran Kranz in The Cabin in the Woods. Who says I can’t be a dude? I know Joss Whedon writes good female characters, but I don’t want to be the virgin or the whore. Better a witty fool than a foolish wit.
So here are 3 video games that made me lose my you-know-what in fear. This is by no means supposed to be a list of the top 3 horror games or anything like that, and I’m going to give you some real talk right now: I didn’t even finish one of these. I was too goddamned scared. Feel free to point and laugh.
Silent Hill 4: The Room
Oh Jesus oh Christ oh god just take me now.
Silent Hill 4 is probably the most straightforward entry on this list, as it’s a fairly typical entry into the survival horror genre. I actually would have never bought this game for myself, since I had already learned long before its release date that it was futile to even pretend I was going to finish any horror game, especially those of Silent Hill’s ilk. But thanks to the boy, this game gained a permanent residence on our game shelf.
The main character is Henry Townsend, a regular everyday normal guy who wakes up one morning to find his apartment door chained and locked from the inside, with no way out. A few days later a portal to another dimension opens up in his bathroom. <insert zinger here> From there on, it’s pretty much all about exploration, logic puzzles, and killing a bunch of creepy stuff. But what makes this game, and the Silent Hill series (I presume), stand out from the crowd is its skill with creating a truly horrifying and surreal atmosphere. The score is phenomenal and the graphics are gorgeous.
They walk in beauty, like the night.
(Spoiler-ish) There’s also a neat optional twist halfway through the game that can change your heretofore “safe house” into a “really dangerous and unsafe house.” But I won’t ruin it by telling you how it happens. I’ll let you find about that on your own. Sucka. (End Spoilers)
Word on the street is that Silent Hill 2 is one of the greatest horror games of all time, and also up there in terms of general gaming awesomeness. It’s been described to me as 100% as creepy as Silent Hill 4 but 300% more sexual. Like the way the Alien franchise is sexual. I won’t be finding out for myself, but hey, good news for people who love to poop their pants!