Now this week, we will shift gears a bit. Some people don’t play horror games just to get scared. Not everyone is a thrill-seeker or looking for an excuse to get a new pair of pants. Some people want to use scary games as an opportunity to build close bonds with one another. Of course there is the slight possibility that they just want to have their friends experience the fear with them so that they can laugh at the later, but let’s just go with the more wholesome option. There exist a good number of games that are geared towards being scary and have multiplayer elements. Usually they go one of two different ways. The first type involves everybody being part of the same team against some sort of evil monster(s) and they have to work together to accomplish their goal (usually to survive). The second type is when there are two teams where one or more people is trying to eliminate the other team either through deception or just raw power and ability. Now, I don’t want to talk about whether or not these kinds of games are scary. They obviously are since they each give you a sense of helplessness in the face of some sort of evil threat. The question I want to look at is whether it is scarier if it is an AI trying to get you or if it is more terrifying for your friend to be the cause of your demise. So let’s get started.
Now the biggest difference is these categories is the fact that this is the AI vs. another player. So first let’s look at the advantages the AI in the horror aspect. I would say the biggest advantage that an AI has over another player is that their actions can be hard to predict. Of course, AIs always have some level of predictability, but that can’t save you every time. The AI is also programmed for a specific purpose in mind and unless the game allows you the option to alter its behavioral patterns in some way, there is not much chance to get the better of it unless you possess a decent amount of experience. Also, in regards to difficulty settings, I am pretty sure that at higher difficulties, the AI can go random to the extreme and break any rules it wants so long as it gets to crush you. However, the AI is not without its faults. So long as all the players are experienced enough there is no reason why they couldn’t predict the behavioral patterns of the AI where at least one of them survive. Unless the players get overwhelmed by a number of zombies like in the Left 4 Dead franchise, there is no reason that you wouldn’t be able to defeat an AI so long as you have a solid grasp of the game mechanics. However, everything changes once another player is the one pulling the strings.
Now, when another player is the person chasing after the others, there is a different sense of danger. The reason is because the player on the evil team can think ahead and adjust their plans should something go awry. They might not know where the players are, but as long as they have enough experience, they will be able to sabotage the players’ efforts to succeed. Games like Dead by Daylight usually set the win condition as escaping since there usually isn’t much you can go against an immortal killing machine. One thing that players do exceptionally well are laying traps the others are forced to walk into so that they can ambush them. Or maybe they want to do it to mess with them since there is really no telling what a player might do. The thing about a player on an evil team is that even if there win condition is clear, they may troll or do something crazy because they finally got the chance to mess with their peers and there is no way they can let the opportunity pass. So sometimes while they might not reach the target goal of eliminating the other team, it is possible they may single one person out for a nice playful game of constant mental torture. Some people can be harsh guys. So does that make them scarier? That is not necessarily the case if they are not very experienced. And typically being surrounded by people you know takes some of the tension out of it.
So we didn’t really come to a conclusion there since both have their strengths and weaknesses. Usually experience seems to be the biggest factor as to whether or not a game feels scary or whether it feels enjoyable to play. I think the thing that stands out to me from all of this is that this experience of enjoying scary games with friends is generally less inclined to the rush of single-player horror games. It probably matters less that you are getting through the encounters and more that your teammates are not dragging you down to be sacrificed as a sign of mercy. Everyone can have fun running away, so long as they are not tripping each other. Although from what I have seen, teamwork doesn’t usually get the job done. So I guess at the end of the day, it is all about the scares, but it is about trying to drag other people into getting scared with you. After all, no one wants to be scared alone. Well, unless they are a YouTuber.