I've covered horror and gaming for many years, yet it never ceases to amaze me that certain titles, like Silent Hill, are incredibly realistic and even frightening to play alone in a dark house.
These days when I watch trailers for games, I’m amazed at how closely they can resemble a real horror film, and I was surprised to learn that one game went through a familiar battle many gore films participated in over the years.
Late last year, the rebooted Syndicate FPS was banned in Australia, as it didn’t meet the standards of the Australian Classification Board, much like horror films can get hammered by the ratings board. Apparently over in Australia, the game wasn’t granted a rating, the equivalent of an R is an MA 15+.
Electronic Arts put out the game, and they wouldn’t appeal the decision or change the game for Australia. This kind of back and forth battle is again very similar to what happens when a horror movie fights with the ratings board over violence and gore.
While the Australian Classification Board was unhappy with graphics where characters were “explicitly dismembered...accompanied by copious bloodspray and injuries,” EA responded that they tried to go along with the Australian government’s decision to adopt an 18+ rating for games, yet they also said in a statement that “delays continue to force an arcane censorship on games, cuts that would never be imposed on books or movies.”
Where a game like Syndicate is intentionally full of blood soaked action, the horror site Bloody Disgusting just ran a story about games that were unintentionally scary, like Limbo, which almost looks like a more frightening version of something Tim Burton would do, Bulletstorm, which is similarly gory to Syndicate, and funny enough, Pokemon! “Two words: Animal slavery,” writes Adam Dodd. “Let’s add three more words to that: animal slavery, marketed to kids.”
There will certainly be continuing arguments over graphic violence and disturbing imagery in games, although as we recently reported on TG, the hottest new thing in horror games, Slender, has been scaring the hell out of gamers with what you don’t actually see.
Truly there’s no right or wrong approach with horror and scary games. The best horror films in history were never exclusively one way or another. There’s plenty of great horror films that didn’t show anything, and plenty that soaked the screen in gore, and a lousy game will never become any better by adding blood and dismemberment.