Why Horror Games Need Better Plot Twists

From Until Dawn

When you’re coping with mental health issues, horror games can be a good temporary escape. There’s nothing like engaging in some safe, cathartic screaming to clear your head, right?

Unless, of course, you’re screaming from the frustration of encountering yet another sloppy, stigmatizing portrayal of mental illness.

Content warning: spoilers for The Park and Until Dawn.

Over at I Need Diverse Games, writer and artist s.b.r shares her thoughts on how games like Until Dawn and The Park are missing the chance to serve an audience that’s tired of seeing itself reflected in the monsters, not the heroes.

Spoiler alert: people with mental illnesses can like horror games, too. I for one love horror, and I live with a long list of illnesses. I can even handle a jump scare or two if I am warned beforehand that they’ll occur. I enjoy being scared when I know what to expect. That may sound counterintuitive, but if I know ahead of time that a game contains x or y mechanic, I know I can trust the game not to throw me something I can’t handle. I may not like Five Nights at Freddy’s, but I know what to expect from it. I can let loose and have a little fright.

The likelihood of a game actually telling me what to expect, however, is slim to none, especially when it comes to one of my biggest triggers: the demonization of mental illness.

Nobody knows how to talk about mental illness because, well, nobody talks about it. The only way to learn is for people like me to talk, and for other people-perhaps you-to listen. I for one will continue to yell about my experiences from my tiny homemade soapbox that includes the ultra vulnerable and cathartic art I am making primarily for myself. I will do what I can to shine light on people with “scary” illnesses who speak out so bravely in a world that seems so indifferent to us. I will keep looking for horror games I can actually play, because I do love being scared–when I know I’m not the poorly executed plot twist.

Be sure to check out the full article for more.

If you’re a fan of horror who’s tired of navigating the minefield of mental illness tropes, you may want to check out the games of Asylum Jam, which asks creators to make horror games that “explore the genre without negative mental health or medical stereotypes.”

[I Need Diverse Games, via Critical Distance

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