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Subverting Systems: Cyber-Horror Games and Societal Fears

Lauren Watson

Film and Television


Year of study:



As video games are a fundamentally interactive art form, self-awareness has always come more naturally to the medium. Players are aware that they are playing, and games are aware of their players. But what happens when this meets the horror genre? Horror has a history of highlighting societal anxieties: from the fragility of the body, social norms and culture, or daily physical spaces, horror exploits the fears that comes from these being transgressed or desecrated. Video games are no stranger to this tradition, and through fear it can test and push that relationship of self-awareness with the player. Games such as Welcome to the Game and Doki Doki Literature Club include immersive horror elements that go outside the player’s normal realms of control. Welcome to the Game can access the microphone to immerse the player further, and Doki Doki Literature Club can move the interactive narrative into the user's own computer files, or access players’ information. Their mechanics show what games are capable of in ways other mediums cannot achieve, and prompt self-reflection from players. Cyber-horror can bring into question the assumptions of player power. These games highlight user complacency, and how we feel about our digital spaces being encroached upon. They reflect modern societal anxieties by forcing us to consider the privacy of our digital spaces and how much control we have over them.



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