It’s not news that the mainstream horror game is in a bad way: Resident Evil 6 was an atrocity, Silent Hill hasn’t been relevant in years, and the Dead Space series (which, to be fair, is excellent) seems to be moving in more of a pure-action direciton. At FMV, Matt Butler takes heart in a groundswell of indie horror games like The Dark Descent and Slender:
What is most fascinating about this new wave of indie horror is how utterly ruthless and uncompromising it is. At a time when the mainstream’s so-called horror titles are nothing more than shooters with a few zombies in them – falling over themselves to empower and entertain the player with gung-ho gore and bravado – the indie upstarts in question are doing everything they can to render the player utterly impotent and powerless.
The question of why horror has found new inspiration in the hands of independent developers is an interesting one. Obviously, it is likely to be something of a backlash against the decline of psychological-led experiences in the mainstream, and the rise of action-centric shooters in their wake…But there can be little doubt that there is a real commercial appetite for psychological-horror, too – and this is the key hook for entrepreneurial teams and individuals.
It’s a cliche, but I’ve always found that the less a horror narrative shows me and the more it implies, the more frightened I become. The new mainstream horror games are orgies of visible gore and violence. In this sense, the technological limitations of the new indie horror games may be an advantage: they simply can’t show everything. They have to suggest.