Missing one day doesn’t mean I skip the day, oh no! I am bound and determined to keep this going work be damned!
As a kid, as I mentioned before, I had a tiny limit to what my fragile mind could take before I was on the brink of madness. I could only handle so much of a scary thing that I would limit my intake of said spoops. Fast forward to Junior year of High School to see someone more likely to take the risk of being scared, but since I sheltered myself from every possible scary thing, the effect was much stronger and 10x worse than if I had been exposed to it as a kid.
That being said, there were and still are certain things, particular themes that still keep me up at night too afraid to shut my eyes.
I don’t just mean like ghosts, I mean like possession, demons, shadow monsters, etc.
The best example I can give is the night I watched Paranormal Activity. The idea that any of the demon possession, the foot-prints, and the shoddy camera work could have been real gave me nightmares. Well, I would have had to sleep that night to actually have nightmares, which I think I spent a whole day and a half wide awake, afraid that someone or something would be standing over my bed, waiting to trick me into my death. Yes, it was that bad.
Even at the end of the movie when my friend pointed out all the things, the trademarks, and credits that proved it was all silver screen magic, I still couldn’t sleep. My mind couldn’t handle it. Sometimes it still can’t handle it.
That’s what the two games I want to mention did to me as well. Fatal Frame and Alan Wake.
I know what you’re thinking, that Alan Wake really wasn’t that scary, that it was only a story about the things that lie in the darkness and in the shadows of one’s mind. It was about a writer for god’s sake. However, the themes exist and go well with the idea of what lurks beyond the light that we can see.
Fatal Frame, for obvious reasons, can cause these same effects in people because the obvious Poltergheist aspect, and even though you can only see them with your camera, you are also placed in the situation where you can’t do anything to them unless you have the camera on them. Yet this isn’t what spooked me the most, the thing that got me was when you left the game idling for 5 minutes, a very startling ‘screen saver’ would start running over the main gameplay. Fatal Frame 1,2, and 3 did this, yet the one that bothered me the most was in Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly. This scene, in particular, has an image of a woman obviously possessed flash on the screen in random increments. I learned of this by a friend who was playing at the time while Instant Messaging me (yeah I know, I’m old). Play by play of this from them and then experiencing this myself sent me reeling and I couldn’t shake it for days.
Sometimes when I am focused on my work and I feel something or someone looking over my shoulder, I can see that face in my mind’s eye. As if I am terrified that when I look over, that will be the last thing I see.
As for Alan Wake, well I haven’t been particularly fond of the darkness. Even as an adult I still can’t stand total darkness in any situation. The idea that the darkness could become monsters of my own creation scares the hell out of me. Think about being the most creative person in the imagination department and you are faced with your biggest fear. You suddenly modified your biggest fear into something much greater, something mutated to hell and back. Afraid of spiders? Well now imagine the spider the size of your house and it’s eyes visibly turning and blinking with an evil red glow. Afraid of bats? Imagine turning one bat into a whole colony of bats swarming you from every direction where their wings block out all light in the world.
Being afraid of the darkness, something incorporeal and just the absence of light, suddenly your imagination forms bodies, form monsters, turning what could be everyday horror tropes into more malignant beings fused with shadows. Alan Wake is one of my favorite games out there, and it never just gave me nightmares outright but the dark thoughts put into the writer’s mind was enough to make me hate what might be lurking in the dark corners of my room. It was something I admired about Alan Wake, it took a creative stance on the darkness within the mind.
There you have it, the things that go bump in the night and just how spoopy the gaming world has been for a few generations at least. Next post I’ll dig a little bit more into childhood innocence and how even the most simple of concepts can be terrifying to a wandering mind.