The ‘Amnesia torture rooms’ and why, to me, they were the scariest part of the game

I think it’s safe to assume that if you’re a gamer, whether you’re a horror fan or not, you’ve heard of “Amnesia: The Dark Descent.” To tell the truth, while I liked the game a lot, I don’t think I found it half as scary as most of the gamers out there.

On my previous post, I briefly explained why I don’t find Amnesia as frightening as other horror games, like Silent Hill or Fatal Frame (jump to the paragraph right below the first image). Basically, any monster encounter in Amnesia is some sort of adrenaline rush where you have to run for your life and hide before the monster catches you (and kills you). This is solely based on the fact that monsters in Amnesia cannot be killed.

Just like any other horror game, Amnesia focuses on making an under-powered player character, but it does it by removing any kind of combat-related mechanics like carrying weapons (like in Silent Hill) or any kind of item that counters enemies (like the camera obscura in Fatal Frame). The result is that the players are given the choice of run away and hide, or stay and be killed. On paper, the idea sounds cool.

The only problem is that, after the 11th encounter or so, I was wondering if I was playing a horror game, or a match of “hide and seek.”

(At first I’d spend two thirds of my play time crouching behind a barrel, but after an hour or so I was like “the hell with it” and would just try to outrun the monsters… and then I’d hit the restart button when that didn’t work…)

On the other hand, every time I fight the Kiryu twins in Fatal Frame II, I’m on the edge of my seat.

(That’s why I don’t like people hugging me…)

So, basically what I’m saying is that a monsters-filled combat-less game, a horror game does not make. I’m not saying, however, I want “guns, lots of guns” that turn my character into a walking tank either.

But what does that have to do with the title anyway? Near the end of the game you find a series of torture rooms, and to me that’s where the game would shine.

Why do I think this is the best part of the entire game? Well, first of all because I did find it scary enough to make me say “what the f—“ many times. The place was unnerving, unsettling and very unpleasant. It wasn’t the same kind of fear I’d get from fighting the weird twins, but it was equally effective.

IMO, the torture rooms are based on a few premises (please note I say “premises” not “rules”).

A typical human being will not like the sound of another human suffering/being being hurt (unless it’s done out of revenge, and thus you hate the person being hurt). In these areas you hear flashbacks of actual people being tortured. You can hear the pain and despair, and that alone is uncomfortable enough to make the place work.

They let your brain do the actual work. Every time you get into one of those, you see a weird device, you hear the flashback, and then you let your mind fill in the blanks. In horror it’s known that “what’s unseen is often more scary than what’s seen,” and this is the perfect case. They could’ve very well put a dude on top of the Judas Cradle just for the lulz, but they didn’t because putting the thing in the room and playing some sounds is enough to make us stand up and say “ouch…”

It’s a “man” doing all of this (although Alexander was not really a “man”). It takes a violent person to beat someone up. It takes a sick person to cut someone in half using a saw. Need to say more?

You can’t help to relate. While I was playing that part I kept thinking “damn it would be very painful to be cut in half alive/burned alive/sit on that pyramid thing/whatever.”

That doesn’t mean these are “my rules” to make a horror game. As I said earlier, to me Silent Hill is more frightening, although at least 2 of the four elements I mentioned are not present in the game. However, Silent Hill is a different kind of game, just like Enola is a different kind of game. In Enola the only premise I’m using is : “the antagonist is a serial killer, a sick person capable of doing very cruel things” (and there’s also the fact that there’s no combat in Enola, but that’s because there are no monsters to fight so combat is not needed).

I don’t think there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to make a horror game. To many, Amnesia is the scariest game of all time, but that’s not my case. I simply happen to perceive things differently than other people, and thus things that scare some people don’t scare me.

In the end, according to my experience, making a horror game is about finding out what is scary/unnerving/unpleasant/whatever to you, and build a game around that, and not around pre-conceived rules like “let’s add torture devices and people screaming everywhere” or “well, the game will be a lot scarier if we remove all the guns so the only thing in their arsenal is a pair of chopsticks.”

Have a nice week Smile

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~ by nemirc on January 7, 2013.

One Response to “The ‘Amnesia torture rooms’ and why, to me, they were the scariest part of the game”

  1. […] already talked about Amnesia, and also certain overly-hyped game featuring a tall pale dude, and now it’s time to talk a […]

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