Survival horror has departed from its original roots of Silent Hill, Resident Evil, and Fatal Frame. With new games such as Day Z, 7 Days to Die, and Rust taking the mantle and expanding upon the world, players are now fighting with a new enemy: each other.
The newer installments into the series, primarily created by independent game developers, have forged a path into new terrains. Although ZombiU and the Walking Dead have made their impact in mainstream markets, the genre has been shaping and improving upon itself with each new iteration and addition. However, the multiplayer aspect has added a new consideration for developers to tackle in the form of human survival instinct versus moral values.
Although Amnesia and Outlast may fall upon this list, they lend themselves to a solitary single player experience similar to the games of old. The linear storyline and preset events tell a crafted story that mitigates when and where scares will occur through scripted events, and lead players on an adventure into the darkness.
Games, such as Anna and Huntsman: The Orphanage, have taken another approach with the genre by challenging the human mind and creating a new subgenre that I call exploratory horror. These games take into account human interaction and response to craft the game around player movements and decisions.
The genre itself is moving forward rapidly and has grown immensely in recent years. However, the biggest threat to this genre so far is the direction that the interaction between players has been moving towards. More games have been utilizing an MMO experience to help add character and life, but have not taken into account the unwelcoming attitude of the communities that currently resides in them.
Players are usually inundated with a fear of being killed more by other players than the monsters that plague the game and the unforgiving nature of advanced players lend way to a different approach when starting a new game. Morality becomes an issue as whether to help or assault other players in order to survive.
This has corrupted many experiences and changed the dynamic of interaction with other players to a point that the mantra “kill or be killed” is a common thought. This regression to animalistic behaviors carries a degrading ideology and working together becomes possible only in necessity, which most games of this genre have failed to provide.
Games such as Dead Island, which focuses on smaller groups of players coming together, have created gameplay that focuses on progress and teamwork, but newer games in the genre fails to incorporate this. The success of Dead Island lends itself to a common goal that bridges players together and is a point that newer games need to incorporate.
Although single player adventure games share their story, the longevity of the games die within a few hours as most are relatively short or become repetitive easily. This leaves developers with one option of creating expansive worlds that base itself off realism and practicality. Each one slightly differs due to gameplay styles or graphics, but still retains the base ideology of surviving.
Most games have now started expanding upon skill systems and interactivity, but many have been haphazardly made and lose their aura of fear after a few hours of play. Essentially the survival horror is lost as the same iterations of concepts are repeated. Yet, new games such as Dying Light and Fort Night are still bringing hope to the genre.
Developers now need to focus on creating a game that shares the mood and emotions but provides a welcoming atmosphere for new members that is based on survival and teamwork. And though these changes will come with time as the communities grow and developers design games based off of survival, the current genre is in a debacle that has fostered negative attitude and beliefs.
Morally, it is my hope that the games are not a forewarning of days to come, but the impulsive human nature of players have added a new difficulty to games that were meant to focus on the horrors and the stories they tell, not the other players around them. Developers will need to create a purpose for each player and foster a community that supports rather than hinders the story they are trying to tell.
Romer Jed Medina