You know, I kind of glossed over deception games in my previous post and I feel that they deserve more mention. So let’s talk more about them this week. The question that I want to focus on is what is it that sets it apart from single-player and multi-player games in the horror genre. If I think about it, deception games feel like they reach some kind of middle ground between the two types. On one hand you are on a team and are trying to work together with others, and on the other you are working by yourself because you don’t know who to trust. That is unless you are on the evil team and so your main focus is not getting caught. Everyone is doing whatever they can to prove they are not evil with no one having a clue until they are left for the innocent to find, usually in the form of a dead body. Now what makes this interesting is how fear can creep into the minds of other players and prevent them from being able to trust each other. That is especially the case in the games like Deceit where the game never gives you definitive proof that someone is actually a killer. Sure they give you a scanner to check for evil people, but you have to trust the person using the scanner first. Now let’s take some time to look at these games from both perspectives as an innocent party. We all know the bad guys are just there to have some fun.
So as a single-player experience the biggest sense of fear is the fear of the unknown. Of course the main reason for that is you don’t know who to trust. You know your goal to either to escape or survive and yet you can’t trust anyone. You might want to leave and do your own thing, but then you may be suspected for being the traitor/monster/impostor. So you try to stay in the group and be around others so that they don’t suspect you whenever a body pops up. In the multiplayer environment you are usually familiar with each other’s habits and find it easier to establish trust, but it just hurts that much more when you are betrayed. You work as a team player trying to do what needs to be done to survive and you just want to make sure you can do everything you can to help your team survive, even if they throw you out for it. A lot of the time working as a team is spent on deliberation more than anything by trying to figure out who are the ones not on your side. There is a good amount of tension involved with each game and yet it doesn’t feel like horror does it? Like it isn’t the same kind of game because even though you are helpless to the whims of those who would do harm against you, you don’t ever really feel that sense of dread unless you are getting down to the final stretch. Sure there can be horror elements, but the feeling of fear is different. The question is not when you will be attacked, but instead by whom?
That isn’t to say it can’t be scary. Getting attacked and viciously destroyed by something is enough to give anyone a good fright. However, there is a key difference is the relentless of the pursuit. You see deception games are based around deception. That means that the killers can only succeed if they are able to deceive successfully. Now imagine if Jason Voorhees tried to blend in with all of the camp counselors before he killed them. That sounds quite unnecessary since he is an immortal killing machine, figuratively speaking. The point is that deception is not necessary when someone is powerful enough to just stomp all over you without you having any way to defend yourself. While fear of the unknown can be quite scary, like ordering from a new restaurant on the other side of town, nothing is scarier than something that you have no control over, especially if it coming to get you at full force. As an example, think about the aftermath for your stomach after you have tried that new menu for the restaurant on the other side of town. You thought you could handle spice and you ended up paying the price. Okay there are obviously scarier things then that, but my job isn’t to scare you. You would know best what scenario would actually scare you best. So while deception games are fun to play, they do not give off a horror atmosphere because the bad guys are vulnerable. There is a way out where you can just get rid of the bad guys. Even if you are not 100% sure, the tension still lessens a bit as you get further into the game provided you are playing well. Compare that to being relentlessly chased or haunted by something and you see that what really sets them apart, no matter how you look at it, is dread. As a side note Metroid Dread is a lot of fun, but that’s for another time. Not next week though, I still want to play it some more.