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Do you find that films nowadays just don't scare you like they used to?
For those not aware, the Resident Evil games have been around for over 2 decades. They've always been a blend of jump scares, complex puzzles and realism. To overcome the lacklustre processing power of earlier computers and consoles, they would paint an ultra realistic scene, where the only 3D animated aspect of the image was the main character.
The hero, would collect items explore mansions or scientific laboratories and solve complex puzzles to progress. In between at key moments, usually when the players mind would be in a state of inquisitiveness, dogs might crash through a window, creatures might appear from nowhere or plants might burst into life to attack. These jump scares are usually infrequent enough to make the game enjoyable, but frequent enough to keep players on their toes. Relaxing, they are not.
So far, so normal.
Over the years, as consoles have become more powerful and technology has moved on, the games have naturally become more realistic. Scenes have become photorealistic 3D playable worlds, graphics have improved to make the game become far more believable, and now, the last offering has full support for Virtual Reality.
It was inevitable really, but now we're here, what's it like?
Well to be frank, it's terrifying. It's scary enough when the character (that is the source of fear) appears suddenly on a TV screen, but it's a whole new dimension when, after you've crawled your way under the floorboards to escape, the same character that was chasing you, appears inches away from your face! It's also different when you can see their teeth up close, their facial features and you're looking into their eyes! However, in order to defeat these monsters, like in the previous games, you have to slay them. Either with a gun shot, usually to the head, aimed by physically moving your own head to look them in the eye before pulling the trigger, or if you don't have a gun, more graphically the player will need to use the next best thing, like a knife.
The realism is becoming more and more immersive and with that, comes some inevitable ethical questions. It's a virtual simulation of killing another being, and that's weird, right?
So what is the point?
Well after playing for around 6 hours or so. I can tell you, I feel great. There's a benefit to real 'virtual terror' that I don't think we understand. I need to be careful here, I'm not suggesting at all, that experiencing kidnap, false imprisonment, or being threatened in real life does anything besides traumatise and damage victims, and I'm also not suggesting that doing the killing is great for your mental health. But being in a safe place, and playing games that stack adversity against you, limit your freedom and scare the bejesus out of you from time to time, and fighting for your own success, is invigorating. Solving puzzles and traps set to hold you back, being brave, feeling the fear and doing it anyway (copyright - Susan Jeffers), overcoming and escaping demons? That's empowering stuff.
There is also research (2010 Texas A&M International university) that concludes playing violent video games can reduce aggression. Survival Horror especially teaches players to become resourceful and tenacious. And finally, they help with anticipatory anxiety, as the scares are frequent enough to give you time to prepare yourself for the next shock. Something anxiety sufferers are prone to. The few sessions I've had where I've played, I've experienced goose-bumps over, and over again. A whoosh of adrenaline and fear. Something is happening when people play these games, something that scary films fail to deliver unless and my initial educated guess is, it's good to have a proper scare once in a while.
Ironic, but I think we need to face these demons, open the debate and find out what the positive (or negative) implications of these games are.
Want to understand more check out this video of users playing it here
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