Why do we love horror games? Psychologists explain our morbi…

True horror is something no human being wants to experience. Few people will actively want to throw themselves into a life-threatening situation or powerless against a scary creature. Isn’t it much easier to watch these things through a TV screen with horror movies or auditory creepypasta? It is through that outlandish curiosity that humanity has created many ways to experience nightmares without putting ourselves through actual hell. And one of those ways is through video games, which are one of the most interactive and immersive ways to take terror trips in a more safe way.

But as an active hunter of fear, I always wonder, “Why?” Why do we enjoy stepping out of our comfort zones and into these deranged realities? I love haunted houses, even though I’m terrified of giant animatronics that are out of this world. Similarly, I love horror games, although I hate the uneasiness of being powerless while being chased by demonic attackers. So what is it in our brains that motivates us to move from merely watching scary things through film to becoming active participants through gaming? The answer lies in our psychology.

entertaining fear

There are several studies on the science of fear that suggest that the sensation provides humans with a degree of “natural euphoria.” Our adrenaline surges, endorphins and dopamine are released, and we become excited because of these short bursts of fear. this is why i like games Silent Hill There is a lot of anticipation inherent in them. It’s a lot like waiting for Mr. resident evil 2, we have the creation and then release of all these chemicals, and that gives us massive gains and rushes that take us deeper into the shadows. Such experiences, visiting haunted houses, or even riding rollercoasters, are classified as recreational scares, and horror writer and psychologist Mathias Klassen is an expert at it.


“I think it’s in our nature to find pleasure in what we call recreational fear activities, that is, activities that scare us pleasantly,” Klassen tells . “Horror is a particularly intense kind of entertaining fear. We have evolved to find pleasure in playing with fear because we learn important things about ourselves and the world this way – what the dangers of the world are, how we ourselves react to fear, and what we learn about things like fear and anxiety. How to deal with negative emotions.”

This is why horror has grown into such a powerful genre in every medium and has taken so many forms: it has always been a glimpse into the inner human psyche. It gives us a visual way to experience and confront our fears, insecurities, and sins. You can find it on display in horror classics like silent hill 2A game in which protagonist James Sunderland grapples with the existential fear that he may be the worst of all monsters.

When you’re playing a scary game you’re not in real danger, and you know it.

Since their inception, horror games have pushed us into emotional states that we would never want to experience in the real world – other than showcasing some bizarre creatures. 1988 classic splash house The story is about killing demons one after another, but its most tragic moment comes when the hero’s lover turns out to be another demon to be destroyed. It toys with our emotions and shatters them, making it all the more personal. A game doesn’t have to be an overly scary experience to elicit that sensation. Even a game like Pepi mundane Transforms the fears of childhood and growing up into a charming RPG. These games put us into conflicts we would never have willingly entered into, allowing us to look inside ourselves and learn something new or deal with past trauma.

scary sweet spot

For some people, that digital experience may be too real. Is there such a thing as too much immersion when dealing with such strong emotions? This is where the latest technological advancement in gaming comes in: VR horror games. The technology is still young, so it’s no surprise that VR horror titles haven’t yet garnered as much attention as franchises like Dead Space or Resident Evil. However, it may not just be about low headset adoption rates. Klassen believes most players don’t want to get that close to their fears.

“When you’re playing a scary game you’re not in real danger, and you know it,” says Klassen. “The moment you forget that – the moment you get so engrossed that you forget it’s just a game – it stops being fun. It is no longer a playful, amusing scare but a real one, and it is not pleasant at all. I think that’s why VR horror games are a niche market. “It’s very real for most people.”

This is where psychologist Colton Scrivner’s “spooky sweet spot” comes into play. For them, the best experiences require careful planning to ensure there isn’t too much or too little scare. Too much, and the terror eventually overtakes the entertaining scare. Too little and eventually it becomes very boring. This is why the best entries in the Resident Evil series are so excellent; The fear is always there, but it is not so strong. The third-person perspective makes them a little less personal than first-person games, yet you still feel a little powerless along the way – at least during your first playthrough before you know where all the monsters hide. Has happened.

Ellie and Joel are hiding behind a desk with a clicker in The Last of Us remake.
naughty dog, playstation, sony

In conversations with Scrivner and Klassen, it became clear why the horror zombie subgenre in particular is so popular. as seen in the last of usTelltale’s Walking Dead series, and even resident Evil, the human element brings an infinite wealth of emotional possibilities. All the while, zombies are constantly looming, which activates some primal senses as we stand alert, waiting for an attack. It creates an almost ultimate entertaining fear experience.

“Zombies activate many aspects of our morbid curiosity,” says Scrivner. “Their rotting flesh piques our curiosity about the physical injuries. Their predatory nature arouses our curiosity about violence and predators. And their nature – neither completely dead nor completely alive – arouses our curiosity about the paranormal. So zombie horror usually has something for everyone.”

Zombies may be popular for a reason, but it doesn’t matter which subgenre you’re morbidly attracted to. All horror games pull different strings in our brains. While so many gaming experiences attract players with positive emotions and rewards, horror stands out as an attractive aspect. We want to be scared. We want to be powerless. And through those seemingly negative experiences, we find something within ourselves that reminds us why we love this genre all over again every time.

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