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The Psychology Of Horror: The Appeal Of Horror Games


The sheer number of genres in gaming can often be difficult to keep up with. From the traditional adventure and platform games to the likes of simulation and text-based adventures, the industry is ever-growing with new styles of play but one genre that has certainly stuck is that of horror. The spine-tingling, heart-racing style of play is one that gamers keep coming back to over and over again in the form of console epics, MMORPGs and even online casino games UK – but why is scaring ourselves silly so appealing when it comes to games? We’re taking a look below.

What’s The Appeal?

While studies into the psychology of horror have certainly existed, the true outcomes can ultimately depend on who the person is and how they react to stimuli. An article that originally appeared in GamePro Magazine back in 2010 suggested that the attraction to horror games can ultimately be due to three separate reasons: a craving for the relief pay-off, an inherent attraction to the horror genre or a need to prove oneself or fulfil an expectation from society.

The Sense Of Relief

When we do anything remotely fearful, the sense of relief that we get once out of that situation and in the safety of our own homes can be understandably addicting. The high we get after something unpleasant or scary comes to an end is often enough to keep us going back for more. We scare ourselves to the point where our nerves and senses are aroused and heightened and so when it’s over the relief hits, it’s intensified. What’s more, the sensation of finally giving the ‘villain’ of the story – whatever horrific creature or being that might be – gives us a sense of control over things that might otherwise scare us. Think about it – if you’re arachnophobic and the villain of choice is a spider, destroying that stimulus gives you a sense of relief and pride in yourself for being able to rid yourself of it.

An Addiction To Horror

We’ve all known someone in our lives who have a strange liking for anything that can get their heart’s pumping. Whatever risky or usually fear-inducing activity they partake in, whether it’s swimming with sharks or partaking in an extreme sport or two, they do so to get a sort of emotional high and horror films and games can provide something very similar. By providing the viewer or gamer with some sense of control over this fear – in other words, the ability to hit pause or have a deeper knowledge that it’s all fake – is what’s needed to sate this appreciation for scares and can do so in a safe, not-so-scary environment.

Society’s Expectations

Another often-found cause for a liking for horror games is the need to fulfil society’s expectations. While often associated with men more than women, the need to prove themselves ‘worthy’ and not afraid of these horror stimuli is what can often keep them coming back for more. Being able to tackle the darkest and most terrifying of games can give them a sense of fulfilment after having proven themselves. While this is associated with men more often, women can often suffer the same due to the ‘gamer girl’ culture that has devastated the industry. The trend for tearing down girls as being unworthy or not able to play can lead to more and more girls feeling a need to prove themselves and in a similar way to men, sitting through a horror game can be their go-to way of doing precisely that.

Horror games aren’t for everyone, but as one of the most popular gaming genres on the market, there’s no denying that plenty of us do. Regardless of the cause for the appeal of horror games, more and more people are opting for darker games and it could all be down to psychology. What do you think?

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