LoadScreen talks horror with Thomas Grip of Frictional Games

Feature

– Karolina Firman

Survival horror has become one of the defining genres of modern gaming. The basic underlying theme behind them is to dump a hapless character in a dangerous and unusual place, (maybe arm them, maybe not) and see if they can survive the horrors that await.

There are a lot of split opinions when it comes to what makes a good horror game, is it jump scares and gore, or an underlying sense of dread and psychological trauma?

Or... all of the above?

Or… all of the above?

We thought it would be a good idea to ask expert Thomas Grip of Frictional Games, the twisted and talented minds behind Amnesia: The Dark Descent and SOMA, his take on the genre.

Starting with the basics, we asked Thomas how he believes players should survive in games and unsurprisingly his answer was disturbing.

“Oh that depends on the game,” he said. “But the general idea is not to optimise survival, but to be as immersed as possible. For me the point of a horror game, is not to beat it; it is to be deeply affected and scarred for life 🙂 .”

At this point I should make it very clear that I did not add the smiley face. That’s some next level sinister stuff, Thomas.

Great, now all we can imagine is the devs using emoticons to describe our fear.

Given that we now know Thomas is out there trying to permanently traumatise people, we asked him why he thought these kinds of games are so popular:

“I think it is mostly due to many people liking to have a safe outlet for their fears. In the early days of mankind, being afraid of lurking horrors (bears, sabre-toothed tigers, what not) were part of everyday life. But nowadays we have very few of those things, and I think that many people sort of ‘miss’ that feeling.

“Horror games provide a safe outlet for facing your fears, similar to how roller coasters and bungee jumping work. I even think that is slightly connected to why we have parks in big cities. There is this drive inside us to once again be part of the wilderness, and horror games cover a certain aspect of that.”

Remind me to never go to the park with Thomas.

Remind us to never go to the park with Thomas.

Since he is such an advocate of scaring the shit out of people, we thought we’d ask his thoughts on the future of survival horror.

“To move away from more ‘hunted by monster’ and go into deeper subjects. What I love about horror is that it puts you face-to-face with the most disturbing aspects of existence and forces you to ponder things you might not want to think about.

“I think many people like horror because it asks them these disturbing questions. Even teen slashers that seem very shallow at a first glance can make you face pretty tough questions, e.g. would you rescue a friend in need?”

So what have we learned from this little chat with a brilliant mind from the survival horror genre? Devs get off on scarring people and use smiley faces. If you need us we’ll be playing Farmville and telling our mothers that we love them.

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