Archetypes of Fear – That’s how horror terrifies us
Goose bumps, sweats, panic attacks. Survival horror games want to drive us crazy. Developers address fears that have been dormant in our genes for ages.
An enthralling plot, a comprehensible main character, a convincing presentation, a plausible scenario and a control that instantly conveys the right body feeling. All these are the basics that should make sure we get a game under our skin. But it’s going to be really hard to meet this special nerve that makes us bibble. Survival Horror should grab us, scare us, panic us, shake us.
Since every human being ticks differently, it is very difficult to hit the sensitive spots on our soul. The safest way for developers is therefore to focus on archetypes of fear . These are the primeval fears that each of us inherently carries, even if the expressions are individual. Here’s what we’re going to explain to you, which are surefire means for game developers to create goose bumps. Or driving us crazy.
Loss of Identification and Urangst
The Urangst is defined differently by psychoanalysts. Some refer to it as an uterine trauma that is triggered the moment a newborn baby leaves the womb. It was a state of total security that man has been trying to subconsciously since then. This includes the feeling of security, as well as bliss and fulfillment of life, which can be brought about, for example, by religion, art or treachery.
During this journey, we build our identity. Any doubt about it leads to instability. The emergence of doppelgangers , for example, can question how unique we really are. Even the loss of memories assures us. Although the protagonist suffering from amnesia may be an overused trope, it is partly due to this psychological background.
Ein hoher Identitätsverlust kann auch zu Märtyrertum führen. Die Angst vor Wertlosigkeit lässt Protagonisten in dem Fall Handlungen ausführen, bei denen sie sich selbst für eine Sache oder andere Personen opfern. So etwas kann bei einem Spiel durchaus am Ende der Geschichte geschehen, doch NPCs können auf dem Weg das Gleiche für uns tun. Sie werfen sich vor Monster, stürzen sich in Flammen oder vergiften sich, um uns Zeit zu verschaffen.
In the context of action scenes, such scenes often seem profane and predictable. If they are well written and the secondary characters have grown dear to us before, the twist can still work. In the optimal case, the horror world makes it even more dangerous when potentially every character can die. Above all, this supports the fear of being isolated from the civilized outside world in such a place.
Other scientists use their fears to describe the instincts left by our ancestral ancestors in our genes. In the wild we were chased by animals and had to assess everything as a danger, which we did not understand. In this connection is the subconscious, the fears stored deep in the brain. Often, one’s own imagination is worse than anything a computer game could portray.
Developers are talking about Negative Space , an area intentionally left in the dark for players to fill in by themselves. In these gaps, we are at the mercy of our imagination, which can get out of control, especially in scary situations. Kholat , for example, uses exactly this method in a scene: with our flashlight we stare into a snowy forest, while suddenly the sound of the blizzard recedes into the background and we only hear the cracking of the branches. We can not make out what lurks between the tree trunks, but our minds start from the worst.