Game Development Reference
but you'll end up with a dead frog—also works for dissecting scares. Say too much
and the threat's dimensions become known; known threats can be planned against,
countered, and fought on an even level. The point of horror is that the enemy is not
understood and not defined, that it cannot be faced as though it were a normal form
In practical terms, this means figuring out what the player needs to know at any
given time and giving them that, but no more. Additional mood or flavor material
can be useful to reinforce the game's tone, but providing too much information can
be deadly. It engages the analytical part of the player's mind while shutting down the
visceral response, exactly the opposite of what a horror game should be doing.
Someone always has to save the day, or at least try to. Building and writing a horror
game protagonist means figuring out who the hero is, why he's particularly suited
to be the hero, and why he's not headed for the hills at the first sign of alien slime
Getting the job. Why the hero is the hero is an important question. “Wrong place
at the wrong time” is a popular answer, but it's rarely enough to serve as a strong
motivation. After all, lots of people can be in the wrong place at the wrong time
when there are monsters afoot, and most of them end up getting called “victims.”
The hero needs a special reason he's the one who's on the scene and who can survive
long enough to provide some reasonable gameplay. Whether it's military or police
training ( Resident Evil , Cold Fear ), psychic/magical powers ( Siren , Eternal Darkness ),
a seriously good camera that turns out to be effective against ghosts ( Fatal Frame ), or
superior knowledge of the situation ( Necronomicon ), there has to be an aspect of the
hero character that allows him to act effectively when the rest of the world can't.
Character rationale. There also has to be a reason the hero is the hero and isn't
running for his life instead of kicking monster butt. Any sane character, after all,
would get the hell out of town after the first zombie attack. Building a believable
hero means building a reason for him to stick around.
The rationales for staying in the horror zone can be broken up into three rough
groups: doing it for themselves, doing it for someone else, or doing it for the world.
The last is the easiest to understand but also the broadest. It usually comes down to,
“If I don't save the world, no one will.” This also covers the more military style of
horror game, whereby the hero has been ordered into the danger zone and it's his job
to stay there. While saving the world is a noble and understandable motivation, it's
also a fairly generic one and doesn't do much to individualize the protagonist.
More interesting is the notion that the hero is there for someone else. There's
someone that the hero has to save, protect, resurrect, or otherwise take care of, and
that person is the real reason they're in the danger zone. Leon Kennedy in Resident