There’s a bunch of news ranging from a new trailer for some New Mutants, WandaVision and Christian Bale. Plus, I take a look at Captain America: Winter Soldier as part of my Marvel Movie watch through. Where does Captain America: Winter Soldier rate for you…
Yes, I’m just doing one author. The other scary books that I’ve ready, They generally have heavy fantasy elements, not saying that Stephen King’s works don’t often times have that, but he’s a classic horror writer, so I decided to focus down a little bit…
This was a topic that they talked about on a Backtalk on The Dice Tower, or more specifically, board games causing emotions. They spent a bunch of time talking about it in terms of horror though. So that got me thinking, one of my favorite games, Betrayal at House on the Hill has a horror theme, but does it bring in the feeling of horror, and thinking about it, I don’t think that it does.
So can a board game bring in a feeling of horror or can a board game be scary?
Obligatory joke, if the rules are bad it can be scary.
But the game itself can a board game be scary, possibly, and it elicit a sense of horror in a game? I don’t think that they can.
Board game are inherently social by nature. Sure, there is a huge push towards solo gaming, but with the exception of a few games, they aren’t only built for a solo audience. So you are experiencing something as a group. When you do that, things are generally less horrifying. Even when something scares you, you can talk about it and joke about it with the group. In fact, this is why when I go into haunted houses, I tend not to interact with my group or at least speak. I want the more immersive experience, but in a board game, it’s not built to work that way. Board games, in cooperative ones that could really draw out the most horror for the group, have you planning and discussing.
But board games can do a few other emotions that you can experience that get close to horror. Good board games should have a feeling of tension. Again, going to cooperative games, you can have a game where you are looking for that one card before a timer runs out. Or in Pandemic, you know that an epidemic is probably going to be coming up shortly and you hope that you get what you need or you can abate a situation before it happens in what could be that next card flip. You can also have a sense of dread. I think that Arkham Horror does a decent job of this as does the card game, you are pulling a chit from a bag and you are worrying that it is going to be something that makes the situation much worse. Or you are pulling a card and you know that there is something that might cause the big bad guy to win or at least show up and make the game way more difficult. And you know that it’s going to happen eventually and as you pull more good cards, the closer you are to that very bad thing happening and the more likely it is that the next pull is going to be that bad one. I think that Betrayal at House on the Hill does a solid job of this as you roll for the haunt after every omen.
What are board games missing, then, to keep them from feeling horrifying and can they get there?
This actually goes back to my apps in games or technology in games. Something like Chronicles of Crime isn’t horrifying with it’s VR technology as you look at a crime scene. Yes, it is a crime scene and they could make it easily horrifying if they wanted to, but they haven’t. Plus, that asks the question, is that part of the board game. You can look back into the archives and find that article if you want to discuss that more. But I think that’s an obvious way that you could create a jump scare, but I’m not sure that it would be a lasting sense of horror still.
Again, board games are such as social experience for me, and even when I solo game, that is basically always done on the stream, so I feel like I’m still engaged with an audience. So you’d have to get the whole group feeling horrified at the same time. I think another thing that is often missing that really can create a sense or horror and might work for a group is the ambiance. So you could turn down the lights, add in some spooky noise or music in the background and I think that would help create a bit more of a sense or horror, but I feel like it is still going to fall short. I feel like dread is the best word to describe it as you worry about the bad thing that is going to happen.
Now, it’s hard to say that dread is horror though, it might touch on that because you are getting a sense of fear from the card pull, but I think with horror, most of the time you are having fear but you don’t know of what. With dread, you are fearing what is inevitably going to happen. And again, with an app, you might be able to create more fear because you don’t know what is going to happen as you unfold a story.
I think that’s the final way that you can help create a sense of horror. I think with a good story that you can get a sense of horror in a game. Again, I’m going to say that an app is going to be helpful. A good narrator in the app is going to be able to read some part of the story in the right tone with the right background noises to make it feel more horrifying. If I were to read it myself, and I didn’t want to spoil what is coming up, I wouldn’t be able to intone correctly to create that sense of building tension and dread that you’d want. Even with that, I feel like it’s less horrifying, because you are still part of that group.
So, no, I’m not sure that a board game could ever truly be horrifying by itself. I think even with an app that is playing the right music and telling the right story that are part of the game, you are still part of the group. The other things, like dimming lights and creating a spooky feel, those are outside of the game that you can use to enhance a feeling of horror. Now, I think that’s probably a fine thing, I think the tension of a roll or a card draw and the sense of impending doom, those can be enough for a board game, because you don’t always want to be terrified. But because you can’t really do a jump scare, unless you are adding in VR to the mix, the game feels like it’s never going to be truly horrifying because you’re never truly afraid of what is around the next corner.
What do you think, can a game be horrifying or scary? What is the game that gets the closest for you?
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There’s an adage that all stories have been told. That everything written, every new story, is derived from something that has come before it. Your story is the heroes journey, it’s about death, love, taxes, or some other constant in the world, and all the stories about those things have been told.
I think the idea that all the stories have been told is false, but I’ll explain what I mean with that later. First, let’s break down the idea of a story a little bit. A story tells something as we follow a character or characters around and see how they interact with the world that they have been placed. These stories generally boil down to a handful of concepts, dealing with death, love, overcoming a monster, rags to riches, and a few more. So it might be correct to say that all the stories have been told, once the seven or so different basic plots have been told, is there a need for more or a need for something new.
Now, obviously I’ve already stated that I think this answer is yes. There is a need for more things to be written, having a few basic plots and stories with those plots is nice, and they can help ground your work as you realize what type of story you are trying to tell, but there’s more to a story than just a basic plot. There are several reasons why all the stories haven’t been told and even if the basic plots have been told a million times before, there are reasons to keep writing them.
The story you are telling is yours. This first reason is one of the biggest to keep writing a story with a plot that has been done before. You are writing a story in the way that only you could tell that story. I couldn’t write the same story that you are writing, you couldn’t write the same story that I might write. That’s because every single human being is shaped differently from any other human. You might have grown up in a very liberal or conservative town, you might have grown up in an urban area or in a rural area, you might like spaghetti and not chocolate. Some of these things might be bigger in shaping you, but everything about you shapes the story that you are telling. For that reason, whatever you write is going to be uniquely you. It is going to be a voice that is written in a unique way that can only be written by you.
The story you are telling is not yours. Now, this clearly contradicts the first point. But I’d argue that both of them are true. While the story you are writing can only be written by you, you are not writing it only for you. Now, maybe it is a story that is never published and only you ever read it, but you are still not just writing it only for you. You are writing it to release it from you and to send it out into the world on it’s own. Even if that world is just the hard drive of your computer, when the words are down on the paper, they are separate from you. This id a difficult process a lot of the time, you want your story to be yours and to have everyone see it the way that you did. If you get the chance to put something out there, people are going to read it differently than you thought they would. I’m going to repeat that, other people are going to read your writing differently than you intended. And that is great. Go back to the first point that I made about why you should write, the same is true for the reader, everyone comes from a different spot. However, people reading it differently is a good thing. These people are getting something out of your story that is meaningful to them that they might not have gotten out of any story, even if it isn’t what you had thought it would be. That is another reason to tell a story, even if the plot has already been done before.
Stories have a time and place. While there are some stories that hold up to the test of time, Lord of the Rings for example, or are at least considered classics that people should read, there are a lot of stories that don’t. Twenty years from now, heck, even now, people aren’t talking about Dan Brown and his literary prowess. That’s because he isn’t a good writer, and while I would argue that his books haven’t impacted anyone deeply, I do think that people read his writing and most likely it’s encouraged some people to take up writing. The hope, always, is to write the next Lord of the Rings that stands the test of time, but if you don’t, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have written it. There are certain books that will hold a place as something important for a given time or a certain place. Even a certain person might be influenced by your book. So while there are great books out there in every plot, if you adhere to the basic 7 plots, there is a time and a place for what you might be writing. And it is a way that you can hit on something for a certain time or place that a classic couldn’t because they aren’t part of that time or place.
Finally, Every Story is Unique. This ties back into a number of the other things, in particular the first one, but I wanted to talk about it in a different light. While your story might be about love, there’s never been a story written about the alien race of the Snarblax who are looking to conquer the universe in hopes of finding their supreme leaders true love who the oracle computer of the Bathari planet calculated must be out there. Sure, the story is about finding love and possibly then losing love, but everything else about it is uniquely mine. The places, people, and things of the world are uniquely yours, and that is why 200 people can be finishing up a story on love each day (or whatever numbers might be) and each publishing.A story about love or about death could be fantasy, sci-fi, historical fiction, alternate reality, a mystery, thriller, horror, romance, and each one of those is different from the other.
So, has every plot been written, sure? If you subscribe to there being seven unique plots, they have all been written. But the story that you are telling is uniquely yours and deserves to be told. Don’t feel like it might be redundant or that it might not matter, whatever story you write, no matter how long or short will impact someone, even if it is just yourself getting the idea down onto the paper, it will shape who you are for the future.
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