This week I bring to you the second guest post of the month, again on the topic of horror. The blogger I’m featuring this week is the always entertaining and insightful Duck of gaming blog The Duck of Indeed and one of the admins of United We Game. Remember to check out both of those sites for more awesome gaming stuff! Also, remember to check out my post on his blog when it goes up. I’ll reblog it here over the weekend too. Without further ado, over to Duck!
This month, the bloggers over at “United We Game” have been participating in simul-posts most suited to the month that Halloween calls home, where we write guest posts on our fellow bloggers’, well, blogs on the topic of what’s scary in video games. Unlike many others, the Duck is not very familiar with the horror genre, but I still have experienced scary things in my games. So when I thought over this topic, I asked myself, what scares the Duck in video games? And what scares me that shouldn’t and what should scare me but does not?
I only own one video game series in the horror genre, the “Hunter: The Reckoning” series. These games involve up to four players fighting off all kinds of supernatural creatures. Well, by “all kinds”, I don’t really mean all kinds. I mean the stereotypical creatures everyone thinks of. Hoards of zombies, hungry for brains (and perhaps brownies, babka, and baklava, as it’s a well-known fact that all zombies love treats that start with the letter B), vampires with machine guns (what, vampires don’t typically tote totally terrifying, um, no more T-words, sorry…), and rather bulky gargoyles. Not to mention these mutated…other things. And being an M-rated game, there is plenty of blood, as well, which I see whenever my nose bleeds….
And you know what, it’s not scary. Not once was I afraid of these things because it’s just so uninspired. Zombies (unless they’re ReDeads from “Zelda”), vampires, skeletons, mummies (unless they’re Gibdos from “Zelda”), werewolves, etc. These things are not scary to me. They’re overdone, and so I expect to find a zombie in a scary game. Big whoop. The only obvious thing that might frighten me are clowns (which are not meant to be scary, even though they scare practically everyone on the planet), evil dolls (also not supposed to be scary, or else little 5-year-old girls are much braver than I), or particularly startling ghosts.
For me, you need to be a bit more creative to scare this waterfowl. Not that I’m brave, but I need something not normally associated with fear, or something particularly unexpected or out-of-place. I need a surprise. Without that surprise, there is no fear. Without something unsettling about the creature or situation, without something surprising me or showing me something scary I never would have thought could be scary, I am not afraid.
And so, what scares the Duck? I suppose it’s time that I got specific. First of all, “Muramasa: The Demon Blade”, when your character has to venture through hell. Very rarely must I go to such a place in a video game (aside from the Underwhere of “Super Paper Mario”, though that was not scary), and hell is the scariest place imaginable. This place is the stereotypical flaming underground cavern, but with more. Not only have I always been freaked out by two particular monsters in this place, two bipedal humanoid creatures with hooves and either a horse head or an ox head (much more creative than a zombie), but what’s moving around in the backdrop. Horribly thin, ravaged people, trudging along, just thin silhouettes of misery. They just pop up in a rather unnatural fashion, walk for a while in a most despairing, slow gait, before they fall to the ground. It’s so simple. It’s not in your face. It’s just there, happening in the background. A depiction of people that are doomed to suffer for eternity, with no hope of relief. That is what disturbs the Duck.
Various enemies from the “Zelda” series. This series, for me, has some of the scariest enemies in any game I’ve ever played, and they are almost always E-rated, too. This series can make the expected terrifying. Zombies and mummies (ReDeads and Gibods, respectively), for example. Not so scary on their own, until you approach them, only to hear this blood-chilling scream and find your character paralyzed in fear. Then, they come for you, slowly, as you watch your death approach. Yeah, if you button-mash like a crazy person, you can get away, but once these creatures catch you in their paralyzing grip just once, you will never get over that fear. I first was attacked by a Gibdo about 10 years ago, and I’m still terrified of them. This is what gives the Duck nightmares (literally).
And then, who wasn’t frightened by the ghosts in “Twilight Princess”, on several occasions? Ghosts can be seen when you’re a wolf, and most aren’t that scary. But, in two places, they are. One is the Arbiter’s Grounds. I remember when I first saw a ghost in a room, but I couldn’t see-it, see-it yet, you know. And I thought it was just a typical ghost, and so I switched to wolf-form, and bam, there was this terrifying thing, tall and thin with this freakish face. I didn’t expect it, and it terrified me. Then, in Hyrule Castle, they did this to me again, when I turned into wolf form and had these skeletal soldiers appear, with no indication whatsoever that any ghosts were here to begin with. Once again, it was unexpected to have freakish ghosts pop out of nowhere, and I was in for quite a shock when it happened. This is what startles the Duck.
And then there are the more creative creatures. “Zelda” has these, as well, in the form of Dead Hand, this bizarre creature that appears, at first, to be simply long, white arms with red splotches sticking out of the dirt. Already pretty creepy, huh? And then, when one of them grabs you, the body comes out of the ground, this lumpy blob of flesh, arms that end more in hooks than hands, and the head, held high on this long neck, this hideous face with black eyes and big teeth. Terrifying. Another “Zelda” creature, the Guardians that haunt the Silent Realms of “Skyward Sword”. They look scary, but that’s not all. Much of the time, they won’t come after you, unless you do a certain thing, such as get caught by these little, ghost things or fall into this certain water, and they wake up. Then, the music changes to one much more frightening, and they come for you, and there is no way to stop them unless you can grab a certain item. It’s terrifying, made much more so by the music that plays, music that sounds like frightening footsteps as you run for your life and hope these things aren’t right behind you. (And let’s not forget that Link can only run-run for short periods of time before he slows down.) You have no idea how much I screamed when these things chased me for a good several minutes once. These things instill terror in the Duck.
And the creative horrors of other games. “Okami”, with the big, squishy seaweed hand that comes after you in one room of the Sunken Ship. It comes out of the water, and it moves so fast and in such a strange fashion, it just freaked me out. Not to mention I had no idea what the heck it was. And then there’s the Waterwraith from “Pikmin 2”, a most bizarre creature if there ever was one. In one cave, it appears after a short while on almost every single level to torment you, this clear, humanoid blob, with its arms and legs somehow attached to these rollers. It rolls around the place, making these strange groaning noises, and it’s just so strange and mysterious and horrifying. And since you can’t harm it until later, it gives you no choice but to hug the wall and let it pass, then run for your life, forget the Pikmin, it’s every tiny alien for himself! And don’t get me started on the Flood in “Halo”…. These things, too, make the Duck flee!
These are the things I find scary in video games. Not the obvious, uninspired zombies that do nothing but limp after you. Not the skeletons that, honestly, wouldn’t be able to move anyway without muscle, stupid, unrealistic animated piles of bones! Not even vampires wielding a ridiculous amount of firepower. What scares me are the things that aren’t so obvious. Things that may not even attack you, but stay off in the background to instill fear just from their mere presence. Bizarre creatures like Dead Hand and the Waterwraith, creatures that are so strange and disturbing and mysterious even, you can’t help but be afraid simply because you can’t figure out what they even are. Or things that are unexpected, or creatures chasing you relentlessly, or monsters that freeze you, and you must simply wait, knowing full well your death is coming. I don’t need blood or gore to be scared. I simply need something different. It’s the expected I can prepare for. It’s the things I didn’t expect, that I couldn’t plan ahead for, that leaves me helpless in the face of something I never knew could possibly exist, that is scary.
A Duck That’s Not Afraid of Duck Zombies with Machine Guns, Either