This week’s Gameological Q&A comes from reader Christopher Arp:
I was recently bragging to some friends that I had never been truly frightened by a game. Sure, any game can make me jump with a loud noise or sudden visual. But deep, creeping fear? That’s less likely. Not even Dead Space—a game that creates suspense more than anything approaching terror—gets to me. But then I remembered an ancient, excellent PC game called The Dark Eye. Eyeless clay-looking characters? Playable Edgar Allan Poe stories? Bone-chilling voice acting? My bowels, they tremble at the memory. What games, if any, have terrified you?
Our writers weighed in, and now we want to hear from you.
—Gameological Q&A: What games have truly terrified you?
"In the 2000 game, the biggest threats are oppression and harassment from authority figures. In the 2008 game, bullying and toxicity threaten to destroy the culture from within. The kids of World are placed in a direct competition that can only have one winner, forcing them to view each other as threats. They also have to contend with the Reapers, older teenage enforcers who target players for sport. In World’s vision of Shibuya, kids their own age are a threat, and the older kids are a source of fear and persecution instead of guidance and support.”
—For Our Consideration: Two ultra-hip Japanese games of the 2000s showcased youth culture’s uplifting power
"The pyrotechnic stress of spy-craft blooms when secret agents act on the fly, but there needs to be a plan in the first place before it can go off the rails. Something has to go right before it can go wrong. CounterSpy’s got the moves, the look, and the sound, but it doesn’t have the smarts, the tension, or the carefully crafted plans to live up to spydom’s best. Going in without a plan is built into the game’s guts, and it’s poorer for it.”
—Review: CounterSpy packs the style but not the drama of spy fiction’s best
"That’s why I was never moved by Aerith’s death. Yes, she, like Shadow, is a member of my party, but her death isn’t my fault. It happens in a maudlin cut scene, out of my control. Far from shedding tears, I was instead annoyed at how presumptuous the Final Fantasy VII designers were to give me responsibility for a character and then abruptly take it away for the sake of a tearjerker moment.”
—For Our Consideration: The most compelling Final Fantasy death isn’t the one everybody talks about
"The ‘retro’ style has been distorted, intensified, exaggerated. It’s a delirious and strange techno fever dream awash in neon light. It could be called the contemporization of an obsolete aesthetic—an effort to make the old-fashioned once again new and re-invigorated, gloriously chopped and screwed. But it’s also a pointed corruption of the past, of players’ pasts. Hotline Miami is like the games you’ve played, but nothing is quite as you remember it. It’s like a dream of a game only half recalled. Everything seems hazy and indistinct.”
—For Our Consideration: Hotline Miami warps the simple stories of games past to make its point
“Hohokum focuses instead on encouraging players to do what the title suggests, and just play. It’s no coincidence that the opening section of the game demands players to spin around in circles and bump into things. This return to a more childlike fun, one that values simplicity and testing boundaries, sits at the very core of Hohokum.”
—Review: Hohokum’s vibrant sandbox invites childlike play
"The Bristol Renaissance Faire is filled with shops, taverns, and rides, and it’s populated by a mix of costume-clad staff and customers who take on medieval roles ranging from knights and noble ladies to sorcerers and monsters. It’s a place to spend a day of watching shows and eating giant turkey legs, but for the past seven years, it’s also been the setting of a massive role-playing game."
—Gameological At Large: RenQuest turns a renaissance faire into a massive role-playing game
"Once the game gets past some colorful menu screens with chubby cartoon versions of Sheen, Berenger, and what looks like an anthropomorphized version of the poster logo, what’s left is a spare baseball simulation. Options include paying against the computer, a friend, or watching the computer play itself. There are indeed 14 teams, but it’s impossible to distinguish between them since the menu doesn’t give them names, just letters. The team portraits at the bottom don’t even change once a team is selected."
—Adapt And Die: A Japanese studio turned Major League into an extraordinarily dull video game
"He’s malleable, squishy, and moldable, a character that’s both lovable and deeply functional. Sakurai’s pink puff slots logically into almost any role, whether it’s deeply traditional or playfully experimental, making him a perfect icon for Nintendo. The company’s built an empire on indulging its oddest and safest impulses simultaneously. Kirby isn’t the face of Nintendo. He’s not Mario or Pikachu, but his 22-year career embodies Nintendo’s appealing creative spirit, vacillating between staid routine and weird experimentation."
—For Our Consideration: Kirby embodies the best and worst of Nintendo’s malleable creative spirit