Scary Video Games: Why Can’t I Play Them?


I pride myself on having very open game tastes.  There is very little that I am completely unwilling to try and, in fact, trying weird games that don’t sound like my sort of thing have led me to some amazing titles (Danganronpa is coming to mind).  In spite of my best efforts however, I cannot get into the horror genre and refuse to try games of this type because of one key reason:  I am a huge baby.

My issue with horror games is a bit confusing, as I am not easily scared in any other form of media.  My favorite book is The Stand by Stephen King, I go to horror movies and don’t even flinch, and I can even watch others play horror games if I am interested in the story.  Still, the second that I am attempting to play the game, I don’t make it far.  Since there are a lot of fantastic horror games out there, my inability to play them has been frustrating.  Why can’t I enjoy this highly popular genre?

The answer, I suspect, boils down to immersion.  When I read a book or watch a movie, there’s this level of distance that keeps me out of the minds of the characters I am watching or reading.  In a game, however, I am directly controlling a person who is scared and alone, causing me to relate to the character’s plight and form a connection.  As soon as that connection is formed, I am too immersed in the game, causing everything to become far too scary for my tastes.

Why do I do this?  When other people play horror games and enjoy them, do they have the same issue with immersion?  Do they actually enjoy that connection?  These questions haunt me as I look through my backlog at all of the horror titles that I am unwilling to play.  Amnesia:  The Dark DescentUntil Dawn, and Outlast are all titles collecting dust on my shelf as I work up the courage to press “play”.

If my fear of horror games kept me from avoiding just this singular genre, this wouldn’t be a huge problem.  Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.  When I played The Vanishing of Ethan Carter a few years back, I couldn’t finish the game until a friend was willing to play through the jump-scare heavy bit in the mines on my behalf.  I had a similar issue with Bioshock Infinite due to the asylum level having a notorious jump-scare at the end.  It feels downright embarrassing to get almost all of the way through the game, only to be stopped by something so trivial.

This is why I reach out for help from the blogging community.  First of all, if you personally have had a difficult relationship with horror games, how did you get better acquainted with the genre?  Secondly, are there any “beginner” horror games that will get me into the genre without completely terrifying me?  Since October is starting up and that is the dedicated “spooky” month, I’d like to give a few games a try and slowly, but surely, dip my toes into the plethora of games I have been missing out on.

Thanks for reading, and for (hopefully) not judging!

Note:  This post is imported from a prior blog, HannieBee Games.



14 thoughts on “Scary Video Games: Why Can’t I Play Them?

  1. I completely understand your immersion aspect of it. I try and play all games but some horror games I check out of quick. Amnesia is one of them. Didn’t even see a monster and there was my siloutte in dust as I ran away like a Looney Toons cartoon.

    The games you listed are games where you can’t defend yourself which I find the scariest. How are you with Resident Evil or Condemned where you have weapons?

    My partner loves all horror media but can’t play the games at all because of the immersion. She handles it a lot better if I play them though and watches and helps. If you’ve got a partner, friend or family member to play games with, Until Dawn is a great time for that.

    I played the controls and she made the decisions. Was a good time but we still had to play in 1 hour intervals to keep the dread at bay haha.

    Nice read, anyway.


  2. I feel a similar way 🙂 I’ve tried to play several horror games. But Silent Hill on the PS1 is the only one I got through. I just can’t handle horror films or games. Too stressful for me! 😝

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m not touching most horror games with a 10 foot pole, haha. You hit the nail on the head with the immersion factor. If I really like the game’s story a lot, that can make me brave enough to play it (Resident Evil and Hellblade come to mind as games I enjoyed). I’m planning on giving Soma a try in October. Tis the season for spooky things! 👻

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ooh, I’ve been debating playing Soma on the mode where the enemies don’t function, so there’s no jump scares. Sort of feels like cheating, but I’ve heard the story is good and I want to experience it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I hear you! I really enjoy watching my other-half play horrors but I’m a complete wimp and can’t play them myself. You’re not the only one who had to hand the controller over to someone else to get through that bit in The Vanishing of Ethan Carter.

    Part of the problem is that I have an overactive imagination. A frightening scene from a game will stay on my mind for days afterwards and I’ll swear I can hear things in the dark…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I can’t deal with horror games as I’m such a scaredy cat. I can’t put myself through a game that tries to scare me, I also don’t watch horror films. Basically I avoid horror as much as possible. Also what I consider horror is probably very mild to some people. I jump at trailers for horror films so I’m not great at scary things.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I can’t stand games too heavy on the horror either. But it’s not just the horror itself, they tend to also feel excessively dark and lonely. I do enjoy some dark games, but prefer if they mix things up rather than being dark and scary from start to finish. I like the sense of relief you get from exiting that underground area or whatever, and you’re robbed of that feeling if the game is all dark. I love the Last of Us (who doesn’t) and it has a good balance, plus a companion — it’s amazing how different it feels with an in-game companion.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love survival horror games, but I disagree that horror is, in your words, a highly popular genre. From what I have heard, horror titles actually don’t sell very well, which is tragic because I’ve been dying to see a followup to Alien:Isolation. When they do sell, people are often too scared to play the game they purchased. The immersion really is on another level compared to books and films. It’s a great genre, but I definitely understand why it can be so difficult to approach for others.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve been playing horror games since I was merely 8 years old, my first horror game ever being Clock Tower 3. It wasn’t a very good game, to be sure. But soon after, my dad allowed me to get Fatal Frame 3 from the rental store, and holy fucking cow, my 8 year old brain had nightmares for months (that crawling woman under the floorboards still freaks me out!!). But I absolutely loved it. Overcoming fear is an intoxicating feeling for me. Ever since then, I’ve played tons of horror games, some great, others not so much.

    Unfortunately I have the opposite problem to you. Since I’ve been exposed to the horror genre since I was a really young boy, I’ve been really hard pressed to find another title that truly terrifies me. The only games that managed to scare the bejeezus out of adult me are Fatal Frame 4, Resident Evil 7, Outlast, and some VR indie titles that were especially effective, and even then, the feeling was fleeting.

    My advice to you is to savor that feeling. Because after you’ve had too much exposure like I have, they just aren’t that fun anymore. On the flip side, I’m incredibly brave and sometimes even reckless in real life because of this. I’m not afraid to stand up to adversarial bullies when I was in high school, spiders don’t wig me out and I’m content to let them chill in my house so long as they don’t get too close, dead things don’t creep me out, not to mention these games helped me conquer my fear of the darkness as a child. I can say without a doubt that horror games have made me a better person, if not a little twisted. They will always be one of my favorite genres of all time.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh my god, I feel the same way.
    I can watch horror movies, I can even watch let’s plays of scary games. But playing them is a big pile of no thanks. I think to me specifically it all comes down to being chased by something. I hate it when it happens in my nightmares, and I hate it when it happens in my games. I prefer to be predator rather than prey.

    Liked by 1 person

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