We don’t get scared. None of us do… Ok, well we might actually get a bit scared, especially when it comes to video games. So, given that it is Halloween, we’ve asked out writers to give us a moment of their gaming life when they experienced their scariest moment in video games. There’s no red rings of death or end level crashes here. No, we’re talking about the atmospheric, jumping, heart in mouth moments that only the immersive nature of video games can provide you. So here are our team of delicate souls that we call writers who have spilled their honest guts about how they’ve had to check their undergarments thanks to the scariness of video games. Feel free to tell us your scariest moments and memories too on Twitter and Facebook.
When Sean first asked me to write about my scariest moment in video games. One thought sprung to mind – Duke Nukem Forever. However after taking my medication to help resolve the mental state recalling such a monstrous memory. Sean explained that it was meant to be a horror game – and then threatened to unleash the devils horde upon me for not complying. (*cracks whip*- Ed)
With such encouragement I have been able to think of another scary moment. One that did indeed occur from a horror game and for the right reasons. I’m not normally one for horror games. I confess I’m not that big into horror what so ever, but there was one stand out moment for me though. One that made me jump from my chair and cry into my pillow at night.
The game in question was Dead Space. The moment was when I first heard the necromorph scurrying above my head in the ventilation system. The game was full of atmosphere, with its dark art style, clever shading and shadow work made you flinch at the slightest sound. I could hear the thing above me… I knew it was hunting me.
I felt the panic reaching out from the bottom of my stomach. I tensed, awaiting the inevitable fight that was to occur.
I was so captivated by the sounds of these alien monsters scurrying above me, I forgot to look around. When I did I fricking jumped! There was one of the monsters heading straight for me. I cut it down and then I heard a massive clang behind me. It was there right behind me. I nearly screamed with fright. Dead Space I salute you. You have been one of the few games that has scared the hell out of me and made me enjoy it!
I, like many of you, have suffered through many a jump scare or an eerie moment. The sound of chainsaws and angry Spanish. The sudden appearance of Alma on the top of a ladder. James Sunderland sticking his hand into a toilet.
But my scariest moment is a bit more of an existential dread: the first time I saw my dad playing Doom. Now, readers of this site surely know how deep and all-encompassing my love for Doom and its associated series is. It wasn’t always like that, dear reader.
My dad’s work always required him to have pretty good computers at home, and like any PC owner worth his salt he was always looking for the newest and most system-demanding games to test their mettle on. In 1992 (when I was, oh, five or six) there was no better game to test a PC with than Doom. He called some of his friends over and even let me stay up a little late to watch him play it, which I gladly did.
At first. This was clearly a BIG SCARY GAME FOR GROWN-UPS and I couldn’t deal with it. None of the monsters were cute! You used “real guns”! Everything bled! And the worst part was that it was in first-person, which terrified me in ways I couldn’t elaborate for years. In every other game I’d ever played up until that point, you could see the character. It wasn’t ME getting shot by robots, it was Mega Man, he just needed my help. Mario was the one going down pipes, not me.
Not so in Doom. All of that was happening to ME. Those monsters wanted ME dead. I pretended to not be scared until my mom told me to go to bed, and I didn’t sleep for days. I gradually forgave Doom, and it’s now my favorite game of all time. Partly in spite of how I was originally exposed to it.
I should have known. The minute I walked in, the atmosphere became even more oppressive than it had been already.
Dark became darker. Unease became panic. Dead became undead.
I knew that those bodies – strewn all over the area and seemingly lifeless – would soon rise, but it was still a horrifying moment when it happened, exacerbated by the fact that the only weapon I had wasn’t really meant to be a weapon at all. Hell, I’d been using it to play basketball, no more than 30 minutes beforehand.
Not only was I going to have to fight my way through, but I was going to have to do it through sheer improvisation. I quickly scanned the room for anything that could be used. All I found were circular saw blades and gas canisters. Far from ideal, but better than nothing.
I heard that first familiar moan and instinctively picked up a saw blade, blindly firing it. Got lucky. Took the head off first time, but that was only the beginning. Soon, several more surrounded me. I began picking up anything in close proximity. Blades, canisters, broken bits of wood. I gradually navigated my way through the area, and I could see my goal. A large elevator that would take me to safety.
So, of course, it wasn’t going to be that easy. Between me and that elevator lay several more of them. To be honest though, I was starting to feel a little confident. I strode forward with purpose.
And that’s when they came. Holy s**t, what the hell were they? Why were they moving so quickly? I ran as fast as I could to the elevator. In it was a single flammable barrel. I picked it up, swung round and fired in one fluid motion.
Only, one of them was right in front of me as I did. It wasn’t the only thing to die.
And that’s why we don’t go to Ravenholm…
I’d like to preface this by admitting that I’m a coward. I don’t watch horror films, I rarely touch horror games. Please bear that in mind when I say that my scariest game moment came when playing TimeSplitters 2. Y’know, the cartoonish, silly, fast-paced PS2 classic which nobody else found even remotely scary? Yeah, that one. To a kid not well-versed in horror, even trope-filled horror spoofs can be terrifying.
The first level was set in a Siberian dam, the mission deliberately giving off a James Bond kind of vibe. The opening cutscene hinted at the impending zombie menace, but I was brave, right? I could handle it. I settled in, sneaking around the base, offing masked guards and taking out security cameras with my silenced pistol. Twelve year old me was beginning to feel like a badass. And then it all went wrong. I take out all of the guards in an operating theatre, easy enough. The doors lock, the lights go out and all the guards get up and come after me. Except this time they want to eat my face. To finish the level, I have to head underground into zombie infested tunnels. Tame as this undoubtedly was to veterans of Resident Evil, Silent Hill and other, genuinely scary games, I was really, really uncomfortable. Something about the shambling gait, the stumble to avoid your panicked shotgun blast, the unexpectedly fast lunge towards you scared the hell out of me.
It didn’t help that at that time I had a propensity for getting lost in games and wandering around to try and find what mission trigger I had missed. Roaming around lost, with my fear of more zombies jumping out at me made me end up skipping that mission altogether, using a cheat code to get to the next level. Which, as it turns out, was even creepier and packed with more ghouls. I like to think that I’ve got tough since then. I can handle the first 5 minutes of Outlast, no sweat. Just don’t ask me to play any longer than that.
I begin this tale of fear and heavy metal shame in a similar manner to some of the other writers here; I’m too cowardly for horror games. Because of this I avoid them, throw a little sci-fi in the mix and I might be forced to give it a look. Chances are, though, I’m going to avoid your game/film/tv series/slam poetry evening if it’s going to make me jump. Now pop on this Halloween themed hat I bought you, sit down listen to my tale. Don’t tell anyone, though, this is just us talking here, as friends.
So there I was, 17 years old, I’ve got long hair and mostly wear t-shirts that let you know what metal band I like the most (it was generally Strapping Young Lad). I wear steel toe capped work boots that are black, because that’s more metal and bad ass than trainers. Obviously, due to how metal it was, I bought Doom 3 when it came out for the original Xbox. I also decided that playing it with my equally long haired, heavy as a really heavy thing, metal loving buddy was a good idea. What a dope.
I feared imps and cyborg pig things but little did I know it was the very things that wanted to help which would be my undoing. I don’t even think I thought anything when I moved towards the item box, what a little idiot I was. “BONK!” the game shouted. I exclaimed “OH!” in a manner only acceptable from Princess Peach. As it fell out of my mouth time slowed and shame jumped out of a wormhole to consume me. My friend laughed. “That’s enough of you!” I said and turned the Xbox off, attempting to own my shame. The laughter continued. I traded Doom 3 in and never let horror darken my door again.
I’ve been reliably informed that my previous scary moment in gaming, that of the Face-Hugger from the original Alien Vs Predator game, isn’t the fright that it once was. So I’ve been having to wrack my brain for something more scary than the jumpy, hardly seen, alien insemination creature jumping out at you.
So my first port of call was to look at Doom 3 where the tales of people, including myself, playing the game in the dark and having the trousers almost literally ripped off them was unavoidable. But my first scares actually came from a now well know game series called Alone in the Dark. I was around 8 or 9 at the time and the games that you had weren’t realistic… At all. So in a strange way I think you immersed yourself more in to the game, into the story and in to the atmosphere. As Edward Carnby drove up to that spooky mansion and the midi soundtrack increased with fear, you went on edge a little. As you entered and the door slammed shut behind you and your character looks around, that was it. I was already scared. By the time you get to the attic and the monsters start trying to get through the trapdoor, banging at the blocked entrance (if you blocked it), that’s it. You’ve gone to get the toilet roll.
I’m not that much of a scary game player in so much as I’m not easily scared. No masculinity propping here, I just think it’s down to these early experiences. I still jump when Slender comes at you, when the girl in the bathroom in P.T. appears, when a head crab comes out of nowhere in Half Life, a creeper hissing behind you, and even occasionally when people do quiet memes that end with the screaming girl from The Ring (what a game that could have made). But if it wasn’t for Infogrames and their moody trilogy of games that undoubtedly inspired Resident Evil, then I would be cowering in the corner as soon as a Dragar jumped out at me in a Skyrim dungeon.