Horror in video games comes in many styles of play. However, the most effective type of horror is found in first-person camera angles.
Horror games present some of the most unique perspectives in games that constantly scare you in different ways. Whether it’s a text-based psychological horror title like Doki Doki Literature Club or a powerful narrative about the human condition as The last of us, horror games are never the same. Two of the most common perspectives shown in horror titles are first and third person camera angles. While both offer intense scares in their own right, first-person horror games are usually the more effective of the two.
When creating a big scare in a video game, the scare itself is rarely the main focus. Instead, the world around scare and hoarding do most of the legwork. Creating the right atmosphere is crucial in a horror property where people can choose how they want to experience the story. However, first-person horror gives up a degree of control that players don’t realize and helps create the perfect terrifying atmosphere.
Five nights at Freddy’s is a prime example of how a first-person horror experience can make players feel less like they’re in control and more like they’re being controlled. For the duration of the experience, the player only has access to a screen and the doors that protect them from the animatronics outside. Almost no context is given, and the player is not shown how to move or fight, leaving him defenseless. Seeing only what is in front of them, it is easy for the environment to turn on the player, as the camera views show the animatronics moving and running. As the tension builds towards the big scare, the momentum picks up and the player feels less in control until one of the animatronics shows up to yell at the camera.
Another example of how effective first-person horror can be is shown in Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. From the demo’s prologue released before the game to the main story, the atmosphere inside Baker House immediately evokes a sense of unease. Unlike third-person games that offer a full 360 ° field of view, first-person views only offer the view of what the player can see at the moment. This allows the fear of the unknown to take the wheel, adding small sounds and moving objects to create little leaps of fear.
But third-person horror can’t be ruled out in its use of atmosphere either. Games like Past days and before Demonic resident Titles demonstrate that settings can make a big difference in the effectiveness of a scare. For example, when you meet a horde in Past days, music and the feeling of being exposed in a wide area rather than constricted create a general feeling of discomfort. The fear aspect works well, but unlike first-person horror, it doesn’t stay with the player nearly as long.
First person horror games like Alien: Isolation gives the player the feeling of being watched in areas that cannot be easily seen. This permeates the game and others like it in a way that a third person cannot replicate. By yielding some degree of security, fear of the unknown takes over and allows the game to be played with the mind of the player. First-person horror is effective because it reproduces a realistic perspective and because the player’s atmosphere becomes as vivid as the person playing.
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