Atmosphere in Horror Games: Multiplayer vs Solitude


I am a huge fan of horror games, but tend to punk out when I am playing all by myself. You clench your teeth, dreading to walk into the other room with uncertainty of what’s coming next. If you’re anything like me, you pause the game right before you feel a big event coming on, the adrenaline begins to build up in your body and you start feeling the anxiety. In my opinion, this feeling is one of the main reasons why I enjoy survival horror games.

There are different types of horror games, but nothing seems to affect me as strongly as a single player, first-person horror game. Silent Hill and Resident Evil are my two favorite series when it comes to horror games and I’ve always wondered what it will feel like if I had played the older games with someone by my side. Lately, I noticed the Resident Evil games haven’t been as scary for me because of the co-op/multiplayer option. I’m intrigued to see if there is any horror game that can pull off co-op and still scare the crap out of gamers. There are a few out there, but can they make your hair stand up as much as playing Silent Hill by yourself in a pitch black room on the highest volume?

There were some times during my Alan Wake experience where I wished that I could have let someone take my place online so that I could still watch the game even if I’m too terrified to continue. This would have helped a lot but playing with someone else might have taken away the core experience of the horror game. I believe the reason why game developers have not followed through with adding multiplayer mode to most horror games is because these games were never intended for that mode. The idea of mixing multiplayer with horror sounds a bit crazy but could it ever be accomplished?

A few years ago, Konami decided to give it a shot by adding multiplayer to Silent Hill: Book of Memories. The reviews concluded that the game was recognized as an adventure game rather than horror. Will there ever be a day where we can play a game like Fatal Frame with another player and still be afraid to go further in the game? I would like to see someone pull off a horror game with multiplayer, other than infected/zombie games, and still have the ability to terrify the players. According to Steve Papoutsis, producer of the Dead Space series, co-op and horror is possible. Papoutsis quotes during an interview with PlayStation.Blog:


I also think there’s a lot more to horror than things just popping out at you. There’s the atmosphere, the sound, the events, the things that you see in the environment – those all have different impacts on people. You can still have all that when you have two people walking around the environment.”


Maybe it is possible, but who can pull it off other than Dead Space?

Do you believe the gaming industry will try to introduce multiplayer options to more horror games or does it defeat the purpose of enjoying the experience knowing that you’re not alone? The idea is intriguing, but could it ever be pulled off successfully?



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Growing up with her big brother being a hardcore gamer, Emerald has been playing games as long as she could remember. She enjoys RPG’s and discovered the love for them after playing Chrono Trigger on the SNES. During her high school years, she looked forward to gaming on her PlayStation after finishing homework rather than hanging out with friends. Hence, this is when she discovered her true love for gaming and the gaming community. She’s a comical gamer, with a touch of randomness, who has a passion for media and writing. Overall, she enjoys the thrill of playing a game that captivates her attention and drives her to keep playing it until the end. Give her a game with an amazing story and awesome soundtrack, she’s content.
  • I completely feel where you’re coming from! Myself being a huge horror fan find that most of the games these days are just lacking when there’s a multiplayer element added to it. Some games such as Gears of War (kinda horror), Killing Floor, Dead Space and Fear did a good job with it. I didn’t really enjoy DS3, though that would be a whole different story. Lol. I think it’s a good possibility in the future that we could finally be graced with a true survival horror games with multiplayer, and not just another shoot-em up.

  • I don’t think making multiplayer experiences in horror games defeats the purpose of being scared. I believe it can be done and perhaps have been done but with indie games. If both players are dungeon crawling, it would be co-op and you still can’t see in front of you. So someone will have to be brave and get the enemy. Also, you can have split screens where you would each have to take a path to maybe get a key that would unlock the next level. There’s a large number of ways to make the experience fun and co-op. The real problem I think is marketing to the right people.

  • Also there was a little game that came out for the PS2 called Obscure. There was a local co-op option and I honestly feel that this is one of the only horror games to successfully pull of the use of co-op in a horror game. Each of the 6 characters in game had a unique ability and they all had to work together to get through that nightmare. You should check it out sometime if you haven’t. 🙂

    I recently played Beyond: Two Souls. Even though it’s not horror, I feel that if the gameplay element (such as switching controls to another player to handle certain scenarios.. Don’t wanna spoil anything! >_<) was added to a horror game we could have something satisfying within the co-op. *crosses fingers* I only hope for something awesome like this in the future!

  • Hmm… it is certainly an issue. I have had successful atmosphere building with friends playing the same game at the same time, but not in the same session. Er… as in playing Amnesia over skype. We did talk about this though, how if you are going to make an online horror game, you should be separate most of the time. Being able to hear your friend screaming or crapping themselves whilst you’re in another room doing something innocuous could be quite unnerving if done well. For the most part, as long as the game has a certain subtlety and restraint it should be a good horror game. The problem I had with Dead Space and similar games is that they concentrate too much on how the monster looks, rather than how the monster makes you feel. Ideally, you should be crapping yourself through an entire level that doesn’t even have the monster (*Amnesia* * cough*) because the game made you feel it could happen at any moment. The skinner box effect is also important- intersperse encounters at random. When horror becomes predictable, it ceases to be scary because you can plan in advance, whereas a good horror game keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole time.

  • Haha I’m the same way, I definitely need a break before encountering a scary situation. And idk I always hear you need to play the game alone to fully experience it, but my gaming experience taught me that gaming with someone is better, especially co-op, so long as you have the light off and volume blasted, I couldn’t see how you can’t get scared regardless if someone is there or not. And plus for myself, I couldn’t play a horror game by myself simply because the minute I jump, I’d hit pause and wait till someone else could pass it for me ^_^ .