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October 4, 2012 by misterblank22

When you were a kid trying to sleep in your room you saw things in shadows coming at you from every angle. You’d call out and were given a light source to calm you down, and also probably told to shut up. Once you held onto that flashlight you could destroy the night. The witch in the corner turned out to be a coat rack, the eyes staring at you from the closet were just your cats. For some reason the light saves you, you can finally go to sleep.

The only flaw with light is it will show you what is hiding in the darkness, which is sometimes worse than the thing you originally thought it was. What you thought was a stain turns out to be a big spider when the lamp is on. The eyes in the closet turn out to be an intruder. Sometimes what you don’t see can save you just as much as it can kill you.

Survival Horror games were built on this element. It is really a safe zone for game developers dabbling in this genre. It is a guaranteed scare; everyone has some fear or at least a problem with being alone in the dark. Alan Wake, Silent Hill, Dead Space, Resident Evil, Siren are just a few that are built with this element.

In Dead Space Isaac’s helmet glows a light blue allowing the player to see in the darkest levels that the game has to offer. Alan Wake is built completely on the use of the flashlight; it is Alan’s most powerful weapon. In Siren the light can help you but it will attract those enemies faster than your footsteps which makes Siren the only game I listed to actually give me a scare. Siren combines stealth with fear. The player must find their way around the levels that are completely dark to get away. The enemies don’t let up either; they will pursue you forever once they get your scent. They can kill you in one or two hits sending you back to the beginning of the level to do it all again. When I play it I feel as I would if I was at a cemetery at night (which I like to do a lot). I’m alone with only my flashlight in the country without a house for miles. There could be strange people around every corner waiting to get me or a ghost. I’d rather see a ghost then a crazy man in the dark.

The only way to get through these games is to face what you find in that darkness that surrounds you. You can run around for hours with the flashlight turned off in hopes of hiding out but you’ll never get anywhere. Turn it on to use the key you found, turn it on to rearrange a puzzle on the wall, turn it on to read a scribbled message on a lost kid’s wall. How are you going to get anywhere running aimlessly scared? What you might find may scare you or disturb you but you have to see it. That thing may hurt you or push you, but with its push you just got closer to the end credits. Really that’s all that matters.


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