The Secret World is intriguing to me because I’ve never had to deal with the issue of fear in an MMO before. Sure, I’ve played games like Alone in the Dark, Silent Hill, Resident Evil, and whatnot, but my taste for survival horror has waned over the years, as has my preference for watching scary movies.
The thing is, I like scary stuff for the interesting settings and inventive twists. I think there’s a lot of creativity in horror — and no, I’m not just talking about different ways to kill people. The horror genre (books, games, films) is about facing your own fears in a safe, controlled environment, and the elation that follows when you “survive.” It’s kind of like going on a rollercoaster. Odds are very, very good you will walk off that ride okay, but your instincts and brain are gibbering at you that you’re going to diieeeeeeeee.
I’m still trying to get a handle on TSW’s fear factor, because some of it purely atmospheric (which is fine with me and not scary at all) while other parts skew into pants-wetting horror. Our cabal (guild) keeps lighting up with discussions about recent quests that made some of us tremble as we went through them or locales that set off the willies in our spine. These aren’t constant, which actually plays into TSW’s hand; you might be lulled into thinking you have a handle on all this, and then the game messes with your mind so bad that you just log off and go watch some My Little Pony or something.
On one hand, TSW makes it a lot harder to scare you because it’s allowing two things that most survival horror games deny: adequate firepower and a near-constant presence of other people. The monster that popped out of the dark may have startled me, but I’ve got a giant shotgun with calming “boom” noises as a proportional response.
Also, it’s different for different people. Some players aren’t going to be freaked out by anything in this game because they’ve seen it all and this is tame, beginner’s level stuff. Some will engage their overactive imaginations and scare themselves without any help by the game whatsoever. I’m a little in the middle there. I have a few techniques I use when games start getting to me: I’ll pull back the camera and run like crazy through a place to trigger whatever effects and mobs there are, I’ll chat with friends, and I’ll just play it out of the corner of my eye instead of head-on.
Still doesn’t work all the time, of course. I’ve got a very active imagination. I was thinking last night about how some places you visit in the real world give you a bad vibe that all but shouts at you to get away, go away, stay away. Some houses are like that. When I was a kid, I hated our basement because it gave me that feeling (didn’t help that it was half-finished and underlit). And in TSW, the opening areas have plenty of these places. This whole island is a place that I don’t want to stay on one minute longer than necessary, and I can’t imagine why the heavily-armed survivors are just trying to wait it out instead of making a break for it.
Enough ramblings for today. Time for a little Friendship is Magic!