Control & horror.
I’ve been trotting through ‘Amnesia: a Machine for Pigs’ the past few days, while thinking about the functioning of horror in games.
When I was discussing ‘Phantasmagoria’ with my wife she argued that its use of cutscenes heightened the sense of fear in the game precisely because it wrenches control away from the player at key moments.
Running AMFP on our aging PC unintentionally brings about a similar effect. The controls and movement are sometimes very slow to respond, and I’m constantly hoping that I don’t run into any scary monsters, because I’m not certain I can flee properly when it’s necessary.
A sense of control is central to feeling safe in the real world, so the same applies to any fictional worlds we inhabit. Compromising (physical) control is one tool games can apply to engender fear and threat in a player, even inadvertently.