While some may contend that whatever one does on the internet will come to haunt them, streamers, on the other hand, seem not to care one bit.
As witnessed in the years of cringe-worthy jump scares and high pitched screams, both the YouTube and Twitch platforms have indirectly allowed for the devolution of the horror genre. Names like PewDiePie, Empirrre, and Pokimane have downgraded the way horror games have been made and experienced. As one Redditor so eloquently puts it: "Watching streamers playing SOMA makes me lose faith in humanity."
The necessity of likes and followers, alongside constantly entertaining viewers, has come to degrade the once extremely terrifying world of survival and psychological horror.
WARNING LOUD! 😢 playing Blair Witch game with a jump scare command is the worst decisions.. #BlairWitch #blairwitchgame #horrorgame #jumpscare #scary #funny #lmao #gaming #games #stream #twitchclips #FridayThe13th pic.twitter.com/3AhtHWAAnp— 𝗧𝗿𝗮𝘀𝗵𝗽𝗼𝗼𝗹 (@trashpool) September 13, 2019
Cheap Scares Over Chilling Narratives
Despite games with horrifying narratives being released this year, such as Home Sweet Home, Blair Witch, and The Sinking City, their hype and anticipation were nonexistent. Gone are the days when horror games were well-regarded. Coupled with an intricate narrative and major release, the horror game of yesteryear tended to have massive followings.
For proof, look to Nintendo and Silicon Knights' Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem. Though few of us would consider it among the best horror titles of all time, its following and reception proved that (at least in that era) horror games could stand tall with the rest of them. Unlike today, where they are relatively ignored and if anything laughed at rather than feared, in those days titles would relinquish actual nightmares.
In the past, the typical horror video game focused more on storytelling the survival aspects inherent in the genre. Most of the best survival horror games were made amid the late '90s and early '00s. Titles like Dead Space, BioShock, Silent Hill, and F.E.A.R used jump scares to some degree, but were more so filled to the brim with skin-crawling sequences, haunting characters, and stories that went on the influence the medium as a whole. Though the rare top-shelf horror game will surface these days, few (if any) have struck the same chords as their predecessors.
How could anyone forget that intense opening to BioShock? After a long-winded address from the infamous Andrew Ryan, a splicer begins to rip and slash into the hull of the player's submarine. Tense, nail-biting moments from the very beginning like this defined the genre in those days, long before the jump scare took precedence.
Screaming For Screaming's Sake
It's often very noticeable when someone is faking fear. Though most streamers are good at hiding it, given their job as entertainers, PewDiePie was one of several that rarely ever seemed to be actually afraid. He's made countless videos playing horror games like Resident Evil 7, Until Dawn, Layers of Fear, and more. His series of Amnesia replays depict a multitude of canned screams for the pleasure of the audience, rather than in accordance with the game. Years of this took hold of the industry. PewDiePie wasn't the only one to blame but was a major factor in leading developers to ignore psychologically twisted storytelling for quicker in-your-face frights.
Pokimane and Empirrre were just two of countless other streamers who weakened the horror genre by feeding into the scare for mere entertainment value. As the trend evolved, the games themselves took these ideas to heart. Nightmarish suspense was replaced with a light scream at every corner taken and door opened in-game. These titles, in essence, became a series of walking simulators. Just look at Amy, a 2012 VectorCell title that had players literally escorting an 8-year-old around (it received a 2 out of 10 on IGN). These developers actually took notice and adapted games to fit what the audience wanted to see, rather than experience, showing just how important the realm of streaming had become.
By simply reacting theatrically, blowing out viewers' eardrums with high-pitched wails and rage quitting out of fake terror, the downgrade of an entire genre had begun.
The Wasted Revival Era
The explosion of streaming only intensified the issue. Despite more recent games with terrific stories and gameplay, such as The Evil Within 2, Alien: Isolation, and Resident Evil 7, they generally went unnoticed. Most gamers had begun to see the horror genre as nothing more than jump scares and quick frights. The nuanced storylines and nightmarish dreamscapes were eradicated to bolster streaming. Even though some developers actually tried to make video games rather than walking simulatorsly, they were forgotten before even being released.
The downward spiral of the horror genre in this industry can almost be typified by the cancellation of P.T., another highly anticipated horror game that never saw the light of day. While the genre's film equivalent has seen its own resurgence in the forms of IT, A Quiet Place, and Get Out, the likelihood of horror video games ever making a comeback as such is highly unlikely. Not only is it a slight level of fatigue that can be attributed to the genre's disliking, but it's also the fact that many simply can't handle psychological terror.