Friday, January 14, 2011

The Experiment is over: Anthology of Horror is cancelled with good results.

The idea for this project was to see if the horror told through creepypasta like stories could translate well to "flesh and blood" experience. The answer, in short, is no. There are too many margins for error here including visuals, sound, depth and atmosphere all being dramatically different and harder to control than a simple text narrative is. But why?


People perceive what they see usually as fact, which is why it is hard to scare a lot of people with movies or games. When you rely on audio and visuals to guide your thinking process you get one of two reactions. The first is the negative or cynical one, where the person observing the events or structure you have created is analytical of a ton of flaws that draw them out of the immersion, ultimately lowering and eventually destroying the intended experience's scale of depth. The other reaction is one a branch of horror relies all too much on: The brains defensive mechanism. Making you jump, yell, sceam, feel ill, try to focus, etc. is what many, many creature flicks or "cat out of the bag" horrors need in order to get a reaction. This causes a certain thrill that many people seek, and which is why some people watch the same slosh over and over in theaters like Saw.
But when you're perceiving what is on text, you lose that anayltical value, you lose that cynical attitude, and you only have one companion: your imagination. It is true that the fear of the unknown is the oldest, greatest fear, and when you are describing events so uncanny or so shocking, you can directly manipulate--hell, you can control--someones imagination. This is done through grammar, narrative, linguistics, choice of words and the division of acts to slowly immerse the reader into your concise little nightmare.
Because when you describe something through text, or use minimalism in wording, it makes their imagination run wild. What is the monster? What does the castle look like? What is the protagonist seeing when he went insane? And so forth and so on. Direct control of imagination is literally impossible through something like Anthology of Horror, which is why it has been closed down completely as a project.


In closing, it was a fun experiment. People liked the atmosphere and likened the minimalism of level design to the half life 1 days, which I appreciated, as that was the intended goal. However some people--like on here--were negative about that. I was amused when people had troubles reading the directions, misinterpreting the ending, flying off a purposefully left in cliff edge instead of ignoring it, etc. Shelter was a good experiment though, all things considered, even if the facts I learned disappointed me. I was able to beta test my book reading system which has been refined for the Newport series, as well as introduce myself to modern settings, which I will no doubt use in the future when making mods not set in the 1930's of all things.
Seeing your criticisms and reactions to Shelter was fun. I learned a lot as a game designer and through intentional manipulation of incorrect minimalism and narrative, have learned both what kind of bugs people notice most, and also how creepypasta does *not* work in a game.

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