I've always enjoyed horror. It's part of who I am. I love horror. But do I, really? I used to love the exhileration of running home from a friends after having watched a horror movie because I was so scared of what might be out there. I even enjoyed the fact that I had to run with my hands in front of my face because I thought someone had maybe strung a line of some sort to cut my face up in my path home. It becomes more bizarre still -- I actually cherished the nightmares I had because they were such a creative outlet and inspiration and seemed so much more real than my waking life in some sense. And so I've always loved horror. But those nightmares are long gone, and I don't run home from friends apartments anymore, and if I do hurry on my bicycle, it's because I''m afraid actual people might hurt me, and not Chucky the doll or a Terminator . And that's no fun -- that's no fun at all. There is a difference. But I do still love feeling alive, and I do love the bizarre and surreal.
I've come to the conclusion that I don't enjoy traditional horror anymore, but that I do enjoy horror tropes, existential horror and some form of cozy horror. You know, the eerie conversations between characters that take place in Silent Hill 3 to the sound of triphop beats. I feel that Kentucky Route Zero at times is the Silent Hill game I've been waiting for. It is a different beast altogether in many ways, but it has that surreal nightmare quality over it that I associate with Silent Hill as well. I loved Pathologic as a horror game, but don't think I at any time during it felt I had to take a break because I was too scared. And that's a good thing, it made it possible for me to enjoy the horrific qualities of it all the more. The darkness of Undertale isn't visceral but sublime. The horror of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories isn't visceral, but realizational. Slow-paced. It's the same with Kitty Horrorshows, David Szymanskis, Sherlock Connors and Cameron Kunzelmans horror games. They all have a long tail and haunt me after I've stopped interacting with them, because they bring something else to the table than a good scare. I'm not afraid of Chucky running after me in the dark anymore, but I still love how good horror experiences can get under my skin.
In theory, I adore the horror design of Amnesia: The Dark Descent. It's pure genius that you can't look directly at the horrors that haunt you, and that you must hide in darkness from them - the very place where your sanity is depleted. But an hour or two in and I just don't care anymore, even if I try to follow the story that takes places in the notes found. I thoroughly enjoy reading Thomas Grips blogposts about video game horror design and the philosophy by which Soma was created, but I need more than good horror mechanics to be interested, and if something's too scary, well, then even the parts that are "more than just good horror mechanics" become fuzzy enough to be blocked out. And fuzzy isn't cozy nor existential.
I can't wait to play Until Dawn with friends!