Salutations my friends,
Sit around the campfire and hear my tale of woe and misfortune!
Today I’ve been thinking about survival horror games. There are plenty out there and I have realised why most of them don’t work as either survival and horror. They are missing two important element. The first element is surprise. The second is loss.
In most survival horror, or even just straight horror when you die (which you know is inevitable) you reload your save and you will then have the knowledge of what will be happening. That removes the surprise. Yes you have the immediate surprise of that very first time, but after that… It is gone. This ties in with loss. When you die, you reload. Anything you have you’ll still have. You lose nothing.
So here is the story that I have for you, while I was thinking about all of this I was playing Minecraft -I really am enjoying it again, so much I’ve picked up the Minecraft Documentary. Expect a review tomorrow!- and I had found an underground ravine. Anyone who has played Minecraft know how annoying these things can be. They are bad enough with open air above but underground they are a mass of ledges both above and below.
When confronted with something like his my tactic is to start at the top and work my way down so that there are plenty of torches to stop things spawning above me. Skellys can be a killer (literally) when above you. So there I am, at the top of this ravine… There is a very long way day and I am not great with heights but here I am, putting down torches as I go. I hear zombies below me and the rattling bones of a skeleton. But it is okay, I see nothing up here… Then suddenly, from an area I hadn’t even noticed, a creeper falls in front of me. In my utter panic I press the E key, which brings up my inventory… I hear the hiss and then BOOM, all while staring at my inventory… All of my stuff I have, the iron pickaxe, all of the materials I have found… This is where the sense of loss comes in.
You die in Minecraft and -unless you are in Hardcore mode- you respawn… However you respawn with nothing. Everything you had is left where you died. Now this is fine if you die right next to the spawn points so you can just pick up all of your items, some of which are hard to come by or create. So you have a lot to lose and not only is there that loss but the surprise because you don’t Know what will happen. Sometimes there will be a massive area and it has not a single enemy… Other times a very small cavern can be wall to wall with nastiness. You won’t know until you get there, this gives you the sense of surprise, plus the fact you can not only be killed by enemies but you can fall to your death, or mine in to lava or drown or even get crushed to death in sand or gravel!
Boom! I am flung off of the tiny ledge I was on… I fall… Expecting to hear the bone crunching splat of my cranium becoming best friends with the stone floor of the ravine. However, luck is on my side, I end up on the floor but slowly thanks to a wonderfully placed waterfall, only a small one but it just saved my life! I sit there and move back to my small base I’ve set up so that I have somewhere to store things I find before taking them all back up to the surface. I then spend a few minutes just calming down. My heart-rate is increased, my breathing short and sharp. The surprise and sense of losing all of my items had given more of a sense of a survival horror than other games that call themselves survival horror.
Where Minecraft has both an advantage and a disadvantage is that you can change the difficulty options. After this booming I slowly headed up and saw the ledge that the creeper was hiding, moved my way up and found a skeleton hiding behind a corner and decided ‘sod it’ and turned the game to Peaceful mode, removing all the enemies.
So the question I pose to you is this: Am I talking utter bollocks or do you agree? Is there more to it? I’d love to hear your thoughts!