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Horror Gaming on the Oculus Rift

by on Mar.05, 2016, under Musings, On Game Development, Software and Games

I have been intrigued by several of the very innovative horror games released recently. Some of these are designed for the Oculus Platform (Slender: The Arrival, Alien Isolation) and some are not (Five Nights at Freddy’s, Emily Wants to Play). These games are very often developed by independent or small-scale studios or individuals, and often feature very unique gameplay.

Despite their success, they can also tend to be quite simple. Alien:Isolation is an obvious exception to this, since it isn’t an indie game, but even it relies on somewhat non-standard gameplay, ie, instead of fighting enemies, the player must generally hide, or outsmart them.

Games like Five Nights at Freddy’s and Emily wants to play involve no combat at all. I think this greatly amplifies the sense of fear and helplessness. I remember playing F.E.A.R and I found the sections without combat more frightening. Removing firearms from the game basically removes the players ability to defend themselves, and I think this has a strong psychological effect on a player, and changes how they see the game. If a player is armed, they feel like they are in control, if they are unarmed, they are helpless.

Most big-budget games, horror games included, follow a fairly similar pattern, they are essentially either shooters or “survival horror” games. FEAR, Doom, Resident Evil, Dead Space, etc all follow this pattern.

However, independent game developers are not forced to follow the same pattern simple because it sells well, they are free to come up with new and innovative ideas.

This is why I feel the Oculus Rift, and VR headsets in general, can be a great boon to gaming, since in many ways it levels the playing field. Computer gaming, with the possible exception of mobile gaming, is dominated by a small number of big companies, which tend not to take huge risks with regards to gameplay or innovation.

The rise of VR gaming could create a new avenue for gaming, which, for a time at least, should allow all developers to have a blank slate with which to rewrite the rules of how games are created and played. This could be very good for the industry.

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