SAVING MR. BANKS: The Film Babble Blog Review - *SAVING MR. BANKS* *(Dir. John Lee Hancock, 2013)* You don’t have to have had read up on the all the inaccuracies in this fatally fluffy film to see how...
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The Rise of the Dead: the Increased Popularity of Horror in Games
A lot of people believe before Resident Evil arrived on the Playstation in 1996 all computer and video games were cutesy platformers involving blue hedgehogs and Italian plumbers. The horror genre, however, has long been a mainstay of the video game industry. While the Playstation’s graphics engine made the cut scenes from Resident Evil particularly awe-inspiring, and the combination of suspense and puzzle solving was groundbreaking at the time, horror gaming goes back a lot further than the events at Racoon City.
Back in the Day
The 1980s was a golden year for horror. With a VHS in every home, it was a decade of the video nasty. Previous X-rated cinema release such as Dawn of the Dead, Evil Dead and The Haunting, were now available to watch in the comfort of a lounge chair at home, where viewers could relive the gory moments time and time again by rewinding and pausing. Sadly, video games were a pale imitation to the realistic graphics and fast-paced game play of the modern Xbox or Playstation 3. The only console available was the Atari 2600 (so called because that was its memory - in bytes). But while Pac Man and Space Invaders will always be remembered as some of the first commercially successful video games, Atari also ventured into the world of horror, with their 1982 Haunted House. Of course, the block graphics that depicted a pair of floating eyeballs and rather unconvincing ghosts hardly had the scare factor, but with the horror-inspired game cover and basic idea of using horror as a basis for a video game, Haunted House set the ball rolling for future efforts.
Europe had the edge on the video game market in the early 1980’s, and the ZX Spectrum, the first choice for most European game’s enthusiasts, had its fair share of horror titles. Zombie Zombie, released in 1984 took all the basic elements from George Romero’s classic trilogy and allowed gamers to feel the suspense of a city populated by the undead. However, it wasn’t until the PC became a favored gaming platform did the horror genre really flourish.
Rise of the Undead
Mindscape’s, 1986 DOS release, Uninvited, provided the basic elements of survival horror that sparked such games as Resident Evil and Silent Hill. A point and click game, Uninvited involved a player regaining consciousness after a car crash who was forced to enter a mysterious mansion to find his missing brother, only to be faced with a plethora of puzzles and zombie enemies (sound familiar?). While virtually unheard of today, Uninvited is probably the most influential horror game ever, because without it, it is doubtful Resident Evil, Silent Hill or Alone in the Dark would have arrived when they did.
Another major milestone in horror games was Doom. Doom not only took the first person shooter and made it a mainstay of modern gaming (although Castle Wolfenstein got there a lot earlier) it had two things that changed horror genre forever - gore and suspense. Any gamer who loaded the DOS version of Doom onto their PC were not only struck by the sheer joy of chainsawing a demon in half, but the trepidation and suspense the game created too. Doom was the first game that truly introduced fear into the game playing experience. No game before it had ever pulled off the feat of making your heart thump and sweat drip from your forehead as an army of demonic beasts surprised you and chased you back out of a room.
Horror is Alive
Of course, horror games have gone from strength-to-strength ever since. The Resident Evil franchise, Silent Hill and Alone in the Dark all went that one-step further, presenting more horror, more suspense and more gore than previous games. Recently, the Left for Dead series added a competitive multiplayer option, combining the best of horror, suspense and action. L4D also took horror graphics to a completely new level, with unrivalled cinematic quality.
The future of horror gaming is certainly not stuck in conventions. Unlike other genres of game, such as the first person shooter, where new titles introduce little other than improved graphics, modern horror games are continually introducing new elements to ramp up the suspense and game play. Microsoft Game Studios’ use of black and white tones, atmospheric lighting and limited sound in Limbo, made the experience of playing the game more akin to watching a film. While, Friction Games’ Amnesia - The Dark Descent, introduced the novel ideal of keeping a character sane by avoiding unsettling events; this created a new level of suspense to the game play. Horror is one of the most innovative and compelling genres of video game at the moment and continues to surprise, innovate and unsettle - long live the undead.