I know what you’re thinking. Where could he even be going with this? As always, I ask that you hear me out anyway. Now, I want to start out by saying that I think we can all agree that lighting is a very important element in horror games. Everything is just scarier when things get darker and foggier and gloomier. It helps give off an eerie or even haunting sort of vibe that goes very well in a haunted setting. However, you can’t have a game be pitch black since games using typically have some visual aspects to them. There is a difference between having an atmosphere and having the atmosphere choke any and all light sources to death. So usually there will be some lighting of some kind to make sure you can actually see, especially if the game is first person. That is where the handy tool known as the flashlight comes into play. It is there to make sure you can see just enough so that you can at least make out your general surroundings. It may not be the best thing in your arsenal, but it is probably the most reliable thing you’ll use in a horror environment. Although I have to say, the game developers definitely don’t want you relying on it too much. As evidence for that, let’s take a look at some scary games you might know.
In Dead by Daylight, the flashlight is an optional perk you can give your character. Its purpose is simply to give you a better shot at survival along with the other kinds of items you can find and equip. However, it isn’t used it the typical fashion as it is mainly used to blind the killer so as to prevent the innocents from being caught. Unfortunately, it has some of the world’s worst battery life as it only works for a few seconds before it becomes unusable. So it is best used in that game as a distraction tactic. In Slender, another well known horror game, you have a more traditional flashlight to explore a dark forest. However, you have to pace it just as much as in Dead by Daylight since the battery life is also not great. It isn’t as bad as that game, but using it too much will ensure it will run out before you have reached the halfway point. And in a game where you are required to search for things in a dark environment while a mannequin in a business suit chases after you, it is helpful to have the ability to see. Even in the original Five Nights at Freddy’s game the lights were the last resort to not getting caught by the gang and let you know when to close the doors. Leaving it on would severely drain your power so it could only be used sparingly. Flashlights in other games in the series are used in similar ways as well and don’t really help you feel very protected.
However, there are times when the games give you flashlights that seem to never run out of battery and so they can only take them away when certain things happen such as the plot demanding it. Like how in Outlast when you have that indestructible camera that you can use to see just about everything and for some reason your character decides is the best way to not garner attention in an insane asylum. Or in Phasmophobia where the flashlight will last pretty much forever as long as there are no ghosts nearby waiting to cover your eyes and put you to sleep. And of course in the Luigi’s Mansion series where the flashlight is essentially a god-tier item that is the only thing preventing Luigi from being possessed by an angry ghost. I know that game isn’t actually that scary, but I will never miss an opportunity to somehow bring up the man in the green cap since he is the best of the brothers( #numbertwoisnumberone, #alwaysgogreen). Sorry, the point I am trying to make here is that lighting is either totally nerfed and only usable a couple of times before it isn’t very useful or it essentially indestructible and fully charged because the plot demands it. So can we have some sort of middle ground. Like for instance, and I am just spit-balling here, maybe adding a pickup that could keep your flashlight from going out and having it dim over time. You know, maybe call the pickups batteries or something like that. Then adjust the amount of batteries you find based on the difficulty you are trying to go for in the game. Look, I am trying to just keep things balanced. Every scary game feels like it is either on easy mode or hard mode with no middle ground between the extremes. This is just something I think could be used to help with certain balancing issues in the genre. Lighting is such a key factor and yet very few games use it to enhance the experience effectively. Half of them just make it dark and don’t even give you any breathing room. I am just asking for some time to breathe after you try and give me a heart attack. That’s all. See you next week.