Fear factor

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!

12 thoughts on “Fear factor

  1. I’m a very jaded horror movie lover. Horror nowadays relies way too much on shock effects (the obligatory cat that leaps into frame, etc.) and not enough on slowly ramping up the willies. A perfect example of the latter is The Exorcist, which has so many of these little moments in it that pile up the fear factor until you can’t take it anymore.
    So far (not out of Kingstown yet), TSW seems to fall somewhere in between. I’ve had a few sudden scare moments, but there’s plenty of ramping-up-the-willies as well.

    Kingstown reminds me of a typical Stephen King town (perhaps Funcom had the same idea, what with locating it in New England and naming it Kingstown) and if anyone is a master at growing his readers’ feelings of uneasiness, it’s King. I wonder if he’s playing it. Seems right up his dark, foreboding alley.

  2. I get what Lenn kinda said above as it relates to Kingsmouth. After I had initially gotten to Kingsmouth the thought that slowly crept into my mind was Stephen King and felt like one of his movies I’ve seen a few times. I couldn’t help but notice he also resides up in the NE states and the town name starts with well Kings. Maybe none of it is even related but that’s what I thought right off the bat in Kingsmouth.

    What I found tense and scary is allot of the sounds in the game environment that help to foster impending fear of the unknown. There are many tense moments that seem to build up in the game, some helped by other players suddenly appearing out of the shadows for example in the Black House.

  3. King lives (or did, at one point) in Maine, and has set some of his stories there. I suspect the town of Kingsmouth is a tribute to both Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft (his In the Mouth of Madness is classic horror). There is also, of course, a Lovecraft Lane in town. And I am pretty sure I remember some NPC talking about a local writer – a cranky, reclusive sort – which I took to be a playful reference to King.

  4. Black House was the first place I was actually startled in game. There are several things that happen that might cause a bit of panic in people.

  5. Gah – Lovecraft’s story was At the Mountains of Madness, which I believe inspired the Carpenter film In the Mouth of Madness.

  6. The Black House is one of my favorite story missions in TSW. The horror is not overt but rather very subtle. The House itself is very creepy but is complemented by an excellent storyline that explains the whole sordid tale.

    TSW is full of these moments. The game is perfect for the explorer-type player.

  7. Look carefully, at all the street names, etc. There are no coincidences. “Fletcher” may be perhaps a little obscure, taken from the main character in the 80s whodunnit show “Murder, She Wrote,” Jessica Fletcher. There are others.

  8. If you thought Kingsmouth was “a bit scary at times”, wait until you get into the Savage Coast. The Black House had me wanting to get the hell out of there and the amusement park was downright creepy when I first got into it.

    And of course the tree house and the accompanying mission 🙂

  9. Eventually someone going to write an interesting blog post of the Top 6, 10, or 20 creepiest places found in TSW. Will be waiting to read that one.

  10. The treehouse wasn’t creepy, the treehouse was awesome. I want one of those for myself!

  11. There is a Stephen King/Peter Straub book titled The Black House. It is the Sequel to the Talisman. One of his best works. It takes place on the coast too… I have decided to buy this guy based partially on the inclusion of Stephen King references and atmosphere. I will be paying close attention, searching for additional ones, as I feel they could take quite a bit from his novels for inspiration in this game.

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