We live in a golden age of video game horror. In 2022, the indie scare increased, and 2023 is about to pick up the pace even more, promising a milestone year (opens in new tab) for big-budget horror. The deluge of disturbing and sometimes downright terrifying setbacks seems unstoppable. But for all their grotesque monstrosities and various displays of trauma hovering over their troubled protagonists, most of these games are instantly classifiable, beholden to a rigid set of tropes and genre conventions.

Despite its unusual perspective and signature melancholic mood, 2022’s breakout indie hit, Signal (opens in new tab)was marketed as a “classic survival horror experience”. The excavation of Hob’s Barrow (opens in new tab), meanwhile, combines a rarely tapped source of inspiration – cinematic folk-horror – with the recognizable trappings of a typical point-and-click adventure game. The shock of the new is tempered with the comfort of the familiar.

(Image credit: Narayan Walters)

This is not necessarily critical. Many memorable games have emerged from this delicate balancing act. But horror thrives on uncertainty, its impact heightened when you’re not quite sure what to expect or how to respond to it. Α glowing enemy weak spot, a clearly designated safe room – these are the kind of commonly accepted conventions that serve to allay players’ fears when faced with the unknown. Little wonder, then, that some of the more disturbing experiences of this recent wave of horror eschew long-held traditions in order to mend precisely that vulnerability, a disoriented uneasiness.

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By wy9m6

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