The Horror! What Scares Us At Kotaku...

Dead Space 2 is coming out this week, so we're all about horror this week at Kotaku. Today I went around the office and asked some of the Kotaku crew what scared them - what moments in video game history left them terrified?

Mark Serrels: Kotaku Editor Horror games tend to pace themselves via a set of rules. In Dead Space, for example, you're usually safe when buying things from the store. In Resident Evil you tend to be safe from zombie harm when using Ink Ribbons to save your progress. It's when those rules are broken in a bowel-shifting fashion that I truly begin to lose my shit.

One such moment occurs in Resident Evil 2. I tip-toed my way through that entire game absolutely terrified of 'Mr X' - the lumbering Frankenstein-a-like that patrols the decrepit police station at the heart of Racoon City. I thought I was safe wandering through the same corridors I had back tracked through plenty of times - that was my first mistake. My second mistake was believing that walls could not be busted though by the afore-mentioned 'Mr X', leaving me a trembling, shivering mass cowering in a pool of my own liquids.

When 'Mr X' blasted his way through a fricking wall, all the rules I had come to know and take for granted came tumbling down alongside it. That's what made the whole scene so scary. I fully didn't expect Mr X to appear in this corridor I had walked down five or six times previously. I certainly didn't expect him to come crashing through a wall. Simply put: I lost it. If memory serves me correctly I actually squealed like a little girl.

Elly Hart: Night Editor I like to think that I'm pretty brave, but I'm totally a girl when it comes to video games and movies. I have a mini heart attack every time I get ambushed in first-person shooters, and I'll admit that I almost shat my pants playing Limbo. The creepy presentation, eerie lighting, lack of plot, and the spider. Oh my god, the spider. The gameplay was like nothing I've ever experienced before. I wouldn't be unhappy to never play an oddball game like that ever again.

Even Fable 3 had me jumping. The ominous tune that indicated wolves/bats/hollow men were blocking my path would send me into a button-mashing frenzy, fireballing in all directions. To lighten the mood, I would make my Princess traverse Albion in just her underwear, and I would fall off the couch laughing when NPCs said dumb shit like, "Are you nuts?! Where are your clothes, girl?!"

I never finished Limbo or Fable 3. The more I progressed through the game, the more I felt like I would keel over and die from a heart attack. Bring back Jazz Jackrabbit, already!

Nick Broughall: Gizmodo Editor My scariest moment in a video game was during Heavy Rain. Don't laugh, it's true. It was the scene where Madison goes to investigate the evil doctor's house and ends up being tied to a table while doctor psycho gets his drills ready for some rather disturbing experiments.

By this stage of the game, I was emotionally invested in the characters and I knew that my performance with the buttons mattered. So every missed combination as I battled for freedom was like an injection of adrenaline directly into my heart. Yet somehow, every time I stumbled and I thought I was about to die, I almost miraculously managed to regain my composure. After what seemed like an hour of non-stop, heart thumping battle (but was most likely less than five minutes) I had survived, although I literally had to stop playing the game for a while to let my heart slow down and my mind to come to grips with what had happened. It may not have been a true horror gaming moment, but it definitely scared the crap out of me.

Ben White: Kotaku Web Designer When a game has a decent story, my play style changes. Things slow down, I don't rush from scene to scene, I really immerse myself in the environment. For some unfortunate reason, I decided that it would be a good idea to do this in Silent Hill 2. I was doing so well until Toluca Prison.

My guy was just chilling, doing his thing - suddenly the ambient noise went insane - banging, thumping, metallic noises followed by a high pitched gargling noise from one of the cells. My heart started racing, my body went tense, my face stern. I proceeded to leg it.

After the noises had slowly faded, I was left feeling of deep regret and shame.

I was certain that I had missed some kind of vital clue in my haste to escape, but I knew that I could never, ever go back into that hallway.

Seamus Byrne: Publisher Doom was my first nightmare-inducing game experience, and I can’t say I’ve seriously had a game get to me that way since. I would have been playing on a 386DX40 with a 15-inch CRT, and we all know what the graphics were like. But one night I turned out the lights, and most significantly I ran an audio cable from the computer to our household stereo and cranked it. The sound was everything in that game, and suddenly I was 100% in the world and freaking out. So, so much fun!


    Resident Evil 2 was the first game to scare the crap out of me when playing at a friends place.
    My god i jumped like a girl the first time zombie hands came bursting through walls, or a licker ran across the outside of a window.. :|

    My first sole scares came from Vampire the Masquerade in the Ghost house levels - they scared the CRAP outta me... the atmosphere was just so.. eerie.. and terrifying!

      YES to Doom! I did that too as a teen with the same results.

    Love the Seamus zombie pic!!!

      But seriously, Resident Evil 1, the first time the zombie dogs jump through that window near the start. Was about fifteen, "under the influence" and at a mates whilst his parents were away. I know it was a "Boo" scare, but with cutting edge (LOL)graphics and my mates stereo.... games just DIDN'T do things like that back then. His girlfriend at the time didn't let us play again until the sun came up!

      Firstly: zombie Seamus is not really a zombie. It's all just make-up and junk & stuff. He's the best looking person on Sunrise & the 7pm Project and tv and everything!!
      if i had to pick only one: Resident Evil 4 [gamecube] really struck the brown note for me. Made me really shits the old jolly jodhpurs in the most magnificent of fashions - if you catch my drifts?

      Just being so deep in that spooked out village. And when you arrive nobody even likes you; which certainly makes things worse. Then everything just keeps getting worse & worse. Setting and characters worked well to create the sensation of being in a very bad place & the game just makes you walk deeper and deeper into the nightmare. You're lost in a Creepsville and just everyone wants a piece of you.

      Bioshock: 1 (Rapture) did a very similar thing - put you deep behind enemy lines and just kept marching you deeper into the abyss (but just wasn't as scary?). & Left 4 Dead where you are once again deep behind enemy lines and surrounded with no plausible means of escape.

      Scientifically speaking: my research suggests scary movies are scary (Shits-Worthy) & scary games are not scary (Farts-Worthy). Its when you can't tell the difference between these two scientific classifications (Shits-Worthy & Farts-Worthy) that true fear is born.


    No Project Zero??

      I second that. The closest thing to Project Zero on here is Limbo. I find too many games focus on "boo" and not the psychological horror. It's the latter that is extremely hard to achieve.

    My first frightening experience with a video game was also Doom. But not only did it scare the pants of me, it managed to do so to my family and a few family friends at the same time. Dad bought us (my family) an IBM 486DX33 when I was about 10years old. Along with the computer, he bought me a copy of Doom and my sister some Beauty and the Beast adventure game, I lucked out big time! I was playing it on a pissy CRT monitor, only connected to crappy PC speakers, but with the lights out and the sound up, it managed to scare everyone in that room watching me play. It was those damn pinky bastards growling/grunting in the distance only to pop out at you as your rounding a corner. Good times!

    The earliest game I can remember really scaring me was Pathways into Darkness on the Mac. The first time that I went to sleep in the game only to be woken up by a monster that basically was just a pair of glowing eyes... bleh. And you couldn't hurt them with guns either. Marathon also had a few scares like that - Bungie used to be pretty good at that.

    In terms of actually being creeped out, though, Project Zero/Fatal Frame still has pride of place for me, as does the original Alone in the Dark.

      In a bit of a retro-spree, I picked up a copy of PiD last year and played through a bit and it's quite good - holds up pretty well for a 15+ year old Mac game, and the monsters that get you while you're sleeping/resting scared the shit out of me the first time it happened too.

    I don't think that's really Nick.

    I refuse to believe a tech editor can have any kind of stubble but the traditional "nerd beard".

      I believe it's Nick, but all i can think of is this...

      I assure you, that's me :)

    The first real scare I had was on the Atari Jaguar play Alien Vs Predator.
    We had hijacked the presentation room at work on the weekend, and had a 3m wide screen and surround sound in a pitch black room. The only noise was the aircon in a totally empty office building.

    We were sitting on stools in the middle of the room and when the Alien leapt out at us we were screaming running backwards yelling "shoot it, Shoot It, SHOOT IT!" until Paul fell backwards off his stool.

    We were genuinely terrified and decided to turn the room lights on ever so slightly before continuing the game.

    For me the only games that have scared me are:
    Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire
    Amnesia: The Dark Descent

    and one game that kind of scared me but more shocked and made me sick at the horrors it displayed was the PC game "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream".

    Only those 3.

    Slight sidenote, but Seamus' mention of DOOM as a nightmare reminded of how I use DOOM to escape my nightmares. I've been playing the game since I was 3 years old (1993 or 4, I forget) and for the about 10 to 12 years I used to escape a dream like it was a game of DOOM - I'd press escape on an invisible keyboard in front of me, press down 4 or 5 times to get to "Quit Game" at the bottom of the menu, enter and Y to exit. Saved me from getting killed in dreams for about a decade, but then one dream a couple of years ago it failed, and I don't think I've ever used it since.

    Back on topic, the few moments of Amnesia I have played scared the shit out of me. I remember a couple of moments in the original DOOM freaked me out to such an extent that I don't think I actually completed the gmae until last year. FEAR had me jumping at a few points, as did Bioshock, but I think Amnesia takes the cake for pure, non-stop terror.

    Watching my brother play Res Evil. He used to let the zombies get real close before shooting them. The suspense just waiting for him to shoot the damn things, and when he finally did I'd jump about a mile out of my chair

    Totally unrelated to the article, is there some sort of a Burn Notice thing going on with Nick and Ben?

    Very first impression I got looking at the photos, before reading the article: "Wow... Nick looks a little like that guy from the Burn Notice... oh hey, Ben looks a bit like Ash... who's played by Bruce Campbell... and he's also in Burn Notice?!"

    So is it a coincidence, am I going crazy and they don't look anything like them, or is there some secret Burn Notice conspiracy going on? >_>

    (Mark can be the Irish chick, 'cause it's close enough)

      Hahahahahahahahahahahaha, you know what? Yeah, I see it!
      Give Ben ~30 years to grey out, and a loud Hawaiian shirt, and it's there.
      I can only really see Nick as Burn Notice guy from the face; the facial structure isn't quite right, but ti sort of looks like him when he's smiling I guess?

        Yeah, Nick's got the expression but not quite the same facial structure - but expression counts for more anyway

        ...can I get an autographed photo from Nick and Ben, signed as Michael Westen and Sam Axe, respectively? :P

    Believe it or not, one of the scariest games I've played (though not necessarily THE scariest) was Metroid: Fusion on GBA.


    The premise of Fusion is that Samus has been infected with the X Parasite (such an inventive name) and as a result dons an organic suit of armour for the duration of the game rather than her typical power suit. Unfortunately, after her suit is surgically removed, the remnants of the virus begin to multiply and eventually become a sentient organism called the SA-X, one equipped with samus' fully upgraded arsenal. One that is completely impervious to Samus' attacks. And one that wants more than anything to kill you.

    Whenever the SA-X approaches, the background music dims to a low drone, and the only realy sound you hear is Samus' steady heartbeat as you desperately search for any nook or cranny to hide in until the danger has passed. As you huddle in your corner, you see the SA-X approach on the other side of the wall through the darkness, it's torch illuminating the darkness until it comes to a complete stop, no more than a meter away, staring directly at your hiding spot. And then after long seconds, it leaves Samus huddling in complete silence and eerie darkness.

    Now imagine you've made your way in to a restricted part of a space station. You've broken past a security door several times thicker than samus herself, and as you stroll through the laboratories in the station's depths, past tubes of mutants and monstrosities in complete silence, an alarm not trigged by Samus begins to blare.

    'Warning: no entry without authorisation.'

    Resident evil ever made me awake for the whole nite !!

    I actually found the docter scene in Heavy Rain to be funny the second time round, only because of how random it actually is. Like Quantic Dream wanted a background for another fight scene but wanted it to be unique, so they threw a mad doctor in there. I always found it funny how the doctors death is never mentioned after he gets all.

    I'd say the scariest moment I've ever had in a video game was that one moment in RE3 where Nemesis jumps through the window in the Police Station... I was 8 at the time.

    Honourable Mention when Lucas eats the magic mushrooms in Mother 3 and it all gets weird and wacky. Also when he gets his powers from the magypsy (basically a transexual fairy)... that was strange.

    Amnesia: the Dark Descent.
    I really, really, REALLY want to play this game... but I can't even get past the demo because it scares me so much. The damn water monsters, seriously... I need stare at a wall for 5 minutes after I play that to get my composure back together.

    Strange thing is, like Elly, I like to think of myself as a pretty brave person IRL... compared to my friends, at least.

    crawling through a air vent in f.e.a.r only to have alma come screaming at you doing her best impression of a spider.

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