Within this contextual report and Digital Artefact process, it was the goal of the researcher to critically analyse a game media text, paratexts, platforms and practises. This research was undertaken through the methods of observational research and the analysis of social and academic sources online. This research of a game media texts specifically looked at the relevance of horror games within the game community and utilised the platform of Instagram to draw out why game users are so attracted to platforms that are designed to initiate fear and terror within. As previously stated, Instagram was the main platform for research and observation, with regular posts being used to draw out audience reactions and comments to add to the basis of the hypothesis and results of the research.
The methodology utilised to undertake this research was primarily observational through the use of Instagram posts and reddit to gage the reactions and movements of horror game users. This was done through the following of other horror gaming pages for inspiration and to increase the presence of @the.horrorfiles online. This allowed my research to gain followers and increased the chance of user interaction, therefore starting the iteration and feedback loop process. Although my Digital Artefact was focused around observational research through Instagram, research was also assisted by scholarly and academic sources in order to gain a more formalised view on the topic. A review of three academic sources was undertaken to gain a broader view of opinion across social and academic viewpoints and allowed the researcher to come to a non-biased, fulfilled result to the research question and research process.
Within the body of the research we have found that there are various reasons that game media users are attracted to horror games, mainly surrounding the feelings of controlled fear, the trending factor horror games in the media and the similarities between games and movies.
Through observation and academic research conducted, two major findings were uncovered. The first revolves around the ideology that game users love a sense of controlled fear in that they can feel all the feelings of danger without actually being unsafe. The second major finding was that game users interact with horror media due to its trending nature and popularity online creating an interest surrounding what is disturbing, a common phenomenon amongst what is commonly viewed as scary or gory.
Firstly, the researcher analyses the observational features of research, primarily found within the DA’s Instagram page, reddit and user comments/ reactions. One of the main aspects of this digital research process was to utilise the audience in order to critically analyse why users play horror games. By asking questions of the Instagram horror community through ‘stories’ (Appendix) and regular Instagram posts. Answers were found regarding specific instances of why these game users play the games they do (Appendix). The most common answer that showed to be prevalent within the research conducted was the users interacted with horror games due to the aspect of adrenaline and fear from a safer vantage point. This ideology of “controlled fear” was also proven correct within the interview conducted with Jemma Harrison* (Appendix) within statements such as “I only play scary games to actually scare myself because I know I won’t get hurt” and “they are the closest thing to danger as you would want to get”.
One of the main concepts that was researched throughout this Digital Artefact process was the social utility, feedback loop process and iteration stages of research. This can be shown in a dramatic way within the beta process below. The social utility of this research process was simply to investigate and provide gamers and non-gamers alike with an interesting insight into why horror games exist and what draws us to them. The aim was to provide an entertaining and sharp social platform that could be accessed by anyone and anywhere. Instagram was chosen due to it’s accessibility and ease in posting.
After conducting this primary research throughout the Digital Artefact process, the next necessary level to approach was the utilise scholarly and academic research to support the findings that were unravelled throughout the primary research process. Online article ‘Nothing to Fear? An Analysis of College Students’ Fear Experiences With Video Games’ was analysed in order to draw connections between horror game media and the users that interact with them. Teresa Lynch and Nicole Martins of Indiana University looked at college students’ experiences with horror video games and found that about half of their sample (53 per cent) had tried playing such games and been frightened by them. They also found that: horror games produce these fright responses by targeting our evolved defence system (evolution has shaped us to be easily scared by the dangers that threatened our ancestors). Users being paratexts to the game and actually bringing the game to life is what makes games scary so investigating why we do this continually and on a somewhat addictive level will be incredibly beneficial.
‘Gaming Horror’s horror: Representation, Regulation and Affect in Survival Horror Videogames’ by Tanya Krzywinska also proved to be incredibly useful in the search for answers regarding the psychology behind media paratexts and gameplay. As Krzywinska states “Conceptions of affect provide an important dimension to our understanding of how Horror has formed around certain enticements, patterns and sensations: this more-than-meat or -machine, sensing and definitional corporeality is fundamental to consciousness, experience, creativity and agency”. Achieving an in-depth review in to the gaming user’s mind, the online article helps in uncovering the psychological factors leading up to game play and the reasons behind why these games are created. The quote “Horror art generally seeks to disguise the representational frame that helps to mark it out as fiction as a powerful means to intensify its affective effect, a trick that requires novel textual deftness to mislead hermeneutic expectations; games follow this suit” allows us to view game media as not only a text but as an artform that has it’s own specificites, tastes, paratexts and fandoms. Why these fandoms partake within the genre is as found. Videogames are systems built around a set of outcomes and arrays of feedback events that are contingent on a player’s momentary responses and (ideally well-timed and precise) actions. Feedback might be procedural yet it is also representational, symbolic and sensory. It provides negative and positive reinforcement which works invisibly on affect’s subtle body (odd then that game culture has been characterized, cued by William Gibson, as driven by a desire to be rid of the body). A leading pleasure of games is that they provide an ordered, predictable system which afford players a multi-sensory, clearly demarcated affirmation of their skill, competency and autonomy, thereby providing a counterweight to an arbitrary, unpredictable and anxiety-inducing real world.
In conclusion, my analytical framework of investigation, research and iteration cycles throughout my whole digital artefact process has, in the end, highlighted direct answers on what the research intended on finding out. It was found that game media users were attracted to horror media due to the ideologies of controlled fear and interest in the unknown or dangerous.
This blog post contains the main body of text for research purposes, however, a cover page, index and bibliography is included in the official submissions.