The first thing you see in the newest trailer for SOMA are tentacles stretched across a foreboding catwalk under flickering lighting. The obvious point of comparison is to the horror author H.P. Lovecraft, innovator of all tendrils long and slimy. Frictional Games, who are sort of the O.G.’s of the PC horror renaissance, have more to worry about than crafting a spooky yarn by flapping visceral alien-legs all over the place.
As they explain in this blog post, their challenge is to bait the player into the terror-inducing moments by using something we all are intimately familiar with—the language of play. “A good example is how we design puzzles. Instead of having the puzzle by itself, as a separate activity, it always springs from and is connected to some aspect of the story. . . There are always short-term narrative reasons and rewards for getting [a door] unlocked,” they write. This seems especially devious, using the logic of problem-solving to pull me into a scene that scares the shit out of me.