The Many Different Types of Horror

The Many Different Types of Horror

In celebration of the release of The Evil Within , we here at Cheat Code Central have decided to take a look into the different kinds of horror the gaming world has to offer. Why? Well The Evil Within just so happened to touch on most of these on its own, but also because if we understand what makes us scared, we can more effectively develop games that scare us, and more effectively analyze the horror genre.

1. The Jump Scare

The Jump Scare is the most primal scare out there. There is no higher order thinking going on when a jump scare takes place. Something unexpected simply happened quick and close to us, and our lizard brains trigger our fight or flight response. That’s why jump scares can still be effective, even if someone simply shouts BLAH in front of your face. There’s nothing inherently dangerous about that, but you are scared anyway. Five Nights at Freddy ’s made great usage of the jump scare.

2. Anticipatory Panic

Anticipatory panic, perhaps better called “the fear of endings,” kicks in when we feel like our time is going to be cut short when we still have things left to do. For human beings, the most profound version of this is actually fear of dying, but this fear kicks in when a vacation is going to end, when a deadline is coming up, when anything important is coming up and you are unprepared. In a game, this kicks in when the player feels like they are about to die, but don’t. Allowing the player to linger on that last pixel of health will keep them on the edge of their seat because we know that death is coming and nearly inevitable.

3. Disgust

Perhaps not an honest to goodness fear, the fear of the disgusting is simply an aversion to things that we have been conditioned to not enjoy being around. When you are forced to root through a man’s innards for a key in The Evil Within , you have a deep reaction of disgust. In actuality, the man is a corpse. Unless you get infected by some disease, which wasn’t at all the premise of the scene, it’s entirely harmless. But the profound feeling of discomfort that comes with doing it is very real and very frightening, and it’s because this realm of viscera and gore is a sort of taboo in our mind that tells us something very wrong is happening.

4. Atmospheric Horror

Silent Hill is perhaps most well-known for its use of atmospheric horror. This is the sort of horror that kicks in when you feel as if your surroundings are out to get you. It’s a difficult horror to deal with psychologically because it’s not a person or thing that is causing you distress, it’s where you are. Atmospheric horror is the horror you feel when you are walking home alone in a bad neighborhood, or lost alone in the woods at night.

The Many Different Types of Horror

5. Fear of the Unknown

Perhaps the greatest fear that the human race has to deal with, the fear of the unknown exploits what we don’t understand. The less we know, the scarier things become. This is why so many great horror games start with a mystery. “How did all these people die all at once? How did my dead wife send me a note asking me to come back to Silent Hill? What truth is there to the reports of ghosts in the haunted mansion?” What you don’t know has a chance of hurting you, and so good horror games make sure to hold just enough information back from the player, to make them terrified of what answers might lie in wait for the questions they have.

6. Fear of the Self

Finally, we have the fear of the self. Human beings are capable of some pretty reprehensible actions. Many people come to a point in their life where they question whether or not they are a good person or not. So what better way to scare the player to make them doubt the main character, or even worse themselve?! Learning that you may have been the villain all along is a gut wrenching experience, and many of the best horror games of our time utilize this well. Silent Hill 2 comes to mind. As for The Evil Within … well… just play the game and find out.

Of course a couple of these horror types leak into each other. Sometimes atmospheric horror also has elements of the fear of the unknown, and being afraid of yourself also has similar elements. Sometimes the gross out factor of disgust is combined with the jump scare, if say a bunch of spiders or snakes suddenly drop on you. There are also likely many other types of horror out there as well. What do you think? What makes you scared in horror games? Let us know in the comments.

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