Horror IF

What are some of the best examples of Horror in IF in your opinion? I’m just curious to see what design elements are included.

Oh boy…

The touchstones of Horror in Interactive fiction are probably Anchorhead, Vespers, and the games of Michael Lutz and Porpentine.

Also of note are The Warbler’s Nest and One Eye Open, or Ecdysis.

I’ll write a summary of them in a sec, and I’m sure other people will weigh in.

+1 Anchorhead.

Arguably, Babel.

The King Of Shreds And Patches I haven’t played it, but everyone seems to rate it very highly and I’m antecipating it.

Ecdysis does what it does extremely well.

Fish Bowl is very atmospheric. YMMV, but I found it worth playing and can recommend it.

As far as design goes, “loneliness” seems to be a common theme, which is EXTREMELY easy to do in IF. :slight_smile: In fact, it’s hard to achieve the opposite!

Anchorhead:A very long Lovecraftian horror parser game played out over several days. Effective horror moments include:when you try to sleep in a huge mansion and realize you left the door open, a creature that you hear but never see that you have to hide from in a claustrophobic well, your husband slowly becoming stranger and stranger and creepier, finding hidden passages and realizing someone was watching you.

Vespers:You are the father of an abbey where a plague has hit. Everyone starts acting more and more deranged. Scripture quotes constantly pop up, changing creepily over time. Creepy moments include:discovering piles of dead bodies, seeing your friend crucified, people rotting to death or gutting rabbits, violent suicide.This one was too gross for me.

Michael Lutz’s games: He has two widly popular Twine games, My Father’s Long Long Legs and The Uncle Who Works For Nintendo. Both play around with graphical representation, and both rely on taking ordinary life and making it more and more surreal and creepy.

Porpentine: Her twine games are almost synonymous with body horror. Cyberqueen is especially disturbing, about an evil spacecraft transforming humans. With Those We Love Alive is more subdued, relying on bizarre other worlds and a sense of Ennui. Howling Dogs and Our Angelical Understanding.

The Warbler’s Nest is an effective short Twine game that relies on atmosphere and slow realization. Major Spoiler:You discover that you are trying to decide if your crying child is a changeling who needs to die or a real baby.

One Eye Open: This is a gorefest (like Walking Dead’s amount and type of gore), where you explore a building that has allowed one man’s nightmares to take over.

Ecdysis: This one is definitely too gross for me. A short Lovecraftian horror game where you are very itchy. Major spoilers:You end up falling into the life of an alien that crashed into your house; eventually you accidentally eat your children.

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I wouldn’t call most of Porpentine’s work horror; I tend to think of it as dark fantasy with body horror overtones.

I would say the main horror pieces for each era of interactive fiction are:

The Lurking Horror, Infocom’s entry into the genre. Lovecraftian horror with some parodic elements, very effective early use of sound in IF, and (as expected) some unfair puzzles.

Anchorhead, the major horror story of the classic Inform era. Much like TLH, it’s a Lovecraftian story; unlike TLH, the themes are played completely, totally straight. It’s probably one of the most atmospheric pieces ever written in that format (that umbrella!)

Slouching Towards Bedlam, released five years later, is a very disturbing story with very unusual themes and setting; it’s hard to say more without spoiling.

The King of Shreds and Patches is a Shakespearean riff on The King in Yellow; a long, polished, traditional parser game.

My Father’s Long, Long, Legs is the major horror classic of the Twine canon, a very unusual story that blends psychological and body horror.

If you’re looking at what’s been done in horror recently, sub-Q magazine publishes a lot of horror, including an adaptation of Poe (Prospero, which I wrote) and an updated reprinting of the aforementioned MFLLL. And Ectocomp just launched its games, of course.

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Oh, I forgot about Shade! Your apartment slowly changes. Really creeped me out.

It’s weird to me how The Warbler’s Nest is classified as horror. I don’t think of it as being horror at all. It is very good and interesting and worth playing.

Lime Ergot is one of my favorite games, and it’s also classified as horror, which I don’t really agree with. Still, another worthwhile one to check out.

craiglocke, mind the spoilers. :wink:

Thanks, Peter! I think I fixed it.

I classify things as horror based on how I feel when playing it. If I experience a sense of dread during gameplay, and if I feel that that dread is the main purpose of the game (whether it goes away at the end or not), I classify it as horror.

Yeah, I mean, I have to assume that most people did feel dread when playing Warbler’s Nest and I simply didn’t approach the material like that. It has disturbing content, but so do a lot of stories. I’d personally call it “literary,” which is maybe the most useless genre label out there. It’s just that whenever people mention it as a great horror game, it forces me to pause and evaluate how differently I must be processing it.

I think it affects everyone differently. As a parent, I find the scenario extremely plausible, and it frightens me to think that I might make the wrong choice. I’ve heard other parents make the same sentiment. I think that even among parents, some may see it differentyl.

I found Coloratura a very effective horror piece. What sticks with me most of all about that game was the contrast between PC and NPC viewpoints. From the PC’s perspective, it’s a fairly mundane problem: you need to get the aliens who removed you from your home to put you back there. From the perspective of everyone around you … Well.

Similar could be said for “The Baron”; deep rift between what’s going on in your PC’s head and what’s going on in everyone else’s.

I find that perspective tweak striking, and yes, horrifying.

Coloratura. How did I forget that. I loved that one to bits.

I supposed is struck me as more mystical than horror, due to the nature of the PC.

Legion is very similar to Coloratura, but I’m not sure it classifies as horror.

I considered The Baron, but I decided against mentioning it because, even though it’s horrifying (definitely), I’m not sure it counts as “horror” per se.

to me the scariest thing is knowing it, being able to perfectly predict it, while at the same time fearing it (for whatever reason), knowing i cannot avoid it, and having to choose to face it again and again because motives. stuff like that. the giant spiders’ cave (not to be confused with the giant spider’s cave, where there’s only one) is scariest at the point you’re just about to go in. it’s not as scary when you’re inside. you’re happy to be out. you’re breaking noses of local lumbermerchants when they say you gotta get back in there because fakk joo I aint going.

knowing it’s gonna get worse, and choosing for it. that’s what gets me.[size=1]
PS jump scares are for p*****s.[/size]

Hope that was… clear. and helpful.

Sounds like you’re talking about the old terror/horror distinction, Wes.

From the dawn of people using Inform, Theatre is still worth a look: http://ifdb.tads.org/viewgame?id=bv8of8y9xeo7307g. The beginning and middle game is stronger than the ending, but it’s still well worth playing.

Yeah, the nature of the initial flash you feel if you recall/consider Warbler’s Nest is in a minority for similarity, numbers-wise, compared to that coming off the majority of games called horror. It requires more thought to say ‘OK, Warbler’s Nest ultimately can belong there, too,’ but I think it does. I’d say the same thing about the film Picnic at Hanging Rock.

I’ve reviewed about 30 horror games on IFDB (maybe more, but I might have forgotten to tag them ‘horror’):

ifdb.tads.org/allreviews?id=pnol … tag=horror

This stretches from Apple II games of the 80s to a CYOA on Steam, with a fair bit of Inform and ADRIFT inbetween.

On top of what’s already been mentioned, I might plug a couple of games that I think have a particularly modern attitude. They’re both highly imperfect, but made an impression on me for going into contentious territory more aggressively.

Body Bargain - Weird world, weird characters, weird moral choices, tons of surgical gore and violence

Blind - A blind protagonist, sexual predation and torture

Plus, I want to plug my own game Leadlight, re-presented as Leadlight Gamma


I wouldn’t call Picnic at Hanging Rock horror either. But like Warbler’s Nest, it’s also great.

I don’t think either of these fit into any specific genre, hence the catch-all “literary” designation I used before, which basically just means “high quality” in this context. But it doesn’t really matter how you label them in the end. They’re both excellent.

I’d completely forgotten: “all alone”. It explores the helplessness of being a victim.

Snatches is a great creepy game where you play different people in turn.