Republished on Monday, 31st October 2016: We're bringing this article back from the archives to celebrate Hallowe'en today. The original text follows.
Originally published on Monday, 27th October 2014: I absolutely adore horror movies. From the crackling campfires of the Friday the 13th franchise, to the lurid lunacy of the Nightmare on Elm Street series, there is something endlessly fascinating about the genre to me. But without a doubt, my favourite thing about a truly terrifying film is the power that it has to bring a group of people together.
There's nothing quite so unifying as being collectively scared out of your wits. You sit with a couple of friends – either in a cinema or at home – and share an experience. You shout advice at the screen, attempt to guess who the killer is, and to help lighten the mood, make jokes at the expense of the usually dim-witted characters.
But what about horror video games? Popular wisdom suggests that the success of a horror game is solely based upon how well it can create a tense atmosphere by immersing you. So, surely playing in a large group would ruin that atmosphere?
Rather than endlessly mulling this question over, I decided to do a test, and the game that I chose was Hideo Kojima's utterly terrifying P.T. demo. Now, I have to be totally honest with you here – I only managed to rope one friend into joining me. It may be true that the rest of my cohorts were too scared to play, but in the interest of national security, I can't divulge that information right now.
Also, if you've not played the game, and need convincing of its suitability for this test, know this: my father – a man who is affectionately known as 'Danger Dave', and is so butch that he can often be found scratching his face with a freshly sharpened chisel – walked in to watch us play. However, after witnessing the now famous secrets harboured in the game's bathroom level, he quickly scurried out with his tail between his legs.
But let's get back to business: I'm happy to report that the test was a resounding success. Yes, P.T's patented jump scares are slightly less petrifying when you're sharing the experience with a friend. But all of that other stuff – the shouting, the guessing, and the jokes – are just as amusing in a gaming context. In fact, you're so immersed in the experience as a group that the effect of all of those things is amplified exponentially.
And not only that, the element of interactivity creates a whole other set of fun things to do. We would pass the controller back and forth, force each other to scour the game's every corner, and – most enjoyable of all – create increasingly absurd theories as to how we might proceed through Kojima's convoluted corridors.
So, if nothing else, I'm hoping that this blog acts as a call to arms. Go forth, I say, and play horror video games with your friends. Not only does it make the titles themselves ever so slightly more bearable, but it's also a whole lot of fun.
Do you ever play interactive nasties in groups, or do you think that this defeats the whole purpose of the genre? Shudder with someone by your side in the comments section below.