COG Considers: More People Would Play Horror Games if You Could Turn Off the Scares
Today on COG Considers, let’s talk about horror games and the people who refuse to play them. No matter who you are, you know at least one person who doesn’t play horror games. Maybe they had a bad experience with one game in particular that they still aren’t over. Maybe they’re bad at dealing with dread and anxiety. Maybe jump scares make them literally fly out of their chair and across the room. Whatever the case, they don’t play horror games, and they probably have a good reason to avoid the genre. It’s good that they know their limits, but it still sucks to know that there’s a ton of great games out there they’ll never get to play. This is where safe modes come in.
As this trailer for Amnesia: Rebirth’s Adventure Mode shows, safe modes are designed to brighten up dark areas, remove the threat of being attacked by monsters, and strip out the off-putting audio and visual cues that make a horror game, well, horrific. The result changes the experience of a given game from pure horror to something more like a creepy adventure or puzzle game. This is may sound like it’s missing the point, or worse, ruining the game, but I disagree for one simple reason: you can’t ruin something that people literally won’t be able to play otherwise.
Do flatscreen mods for Half-Life: Alyx ruin the VR game? No, because the VR game still exists and can be played by purists. The mods are just providing an opportunity for people who are bad with VR or don’t own the equipment to play a game they would otherwise miss. Safe modes do the same thing by opening up horror games to people who are bad with horror. Even with the immediate scares taken out, a good horror game provides an interesting story, a fascinating world to explore, characters to get attached to, and puzzles to bang your head against. There’s a lot to enjoy there, even if the result is a different kind of experience. Also, I could finally get my friends to play the horror games I keep recommending them, which is a victory in itself.
Of course, safe modes can’t exactly strip out the distressing story beats that make horror horrifying, but that’s what content warnings are for.