I’m a horror fanatic. Besides cookbooks, it’s pretty much the only thing I like to read these days. That being the case, it’s really the only type of IF that I enjoy playing. No matter how beautiful, masterful and moving a piece of IF is, if it isn’t surreal and horrific, I’m not buying.
This frustrates me because I can’t find any truly good horror IF. I say this with the disclaimer that I haven’t finished Anchorhead and I’ve barely started Shreds & Patches.
In searching IFDB, there are shockingly very few games tagged as horror, comparitively. When I do find it, it’s flagged as “Lovecraft crap”, basically, which I can’t understand.
Just played Shade for the first time. Just now. Just played through it. Twice. Hated it. Absolutely hated it. About five minutes into it, I already knew what the end result was and was just trying to see what profundity would accompany the actual revalation. There was none. Just a “my turn”. Maybe the game is too smart for me, but I don’t even know what the hell that means, forget being deeply affected by it. This isn’t to say the game is bad or that I could do better. I just… don’t get it and it didn’t move me. I didn’t find anything about it “creepy” or “scary” in the most charitable definition of the term.
Ecdysis… I absolutely loved this. Not because it was particularly well written, because I don’t think it was. But I do think it was ballsy. And it was Lovecraftian. Very Lovecraftian. I happen to be a fan of Lovecraft. I happen to have two plush Cthulhus on my desk at work. One is wearing a straw hat and a Hawaiin shirt and is sporting several pins of Lovecraft and Crowley. Holdovers from a younger, more ignorant day. Beside the point…
Played “One Eye Open”. Hated it. Very well executed game. Very campy and desperate. Everything eats you. The washing machine can eat you. The laundry chute can eat you. The hallway can eat you. It’s very Star Wars Meets Silent Hill. Lots of potential for an excellent psychological thriller/surreal horror. Never met that expectation for me. Tried too hard and I wound up quitting about twenty minutes in.
Games I’ve been put off playing: Lydia’s Heart, Dead Cities, Critical Breach. I tried Slouching some time ago, but for some reason got put off by it and just never picked it up again.
So to come back to my original point: why all the Lovecraft hate? And why the comparative void of horror in IF? Is it too cliche? Has Lovecraft become cliche? What isn’t cliche? What hasn’t been done time and time and time and time again? Psychiatric hospitals? Check. Hordes of random animals/insects? Check. Viruses? Check. In a medium ripe with possibility, we get “Shade” and “Gonna Eat You Up Hallways”.
I want something that’s going to make me think. Shade showed that Plotkin has an interesting take on what dying in the desert feels like if you’re in limbo or something, despite probably having never died in the desert or been in limbo. But that didn’t make it scary. Anchorhead is still the proverbial carrot. Ecdysis was perfect bite-sized horror, despite the vehicle making no sense to someone not having ridden shotgun.
So… what gives?