1992’s Alone In The Dark Scared The Absolute Shit Out Of Me

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1992's Alone In The Dark Scared The Absolute Shit Out Of Me

Image of the article titled Alone In The Dark Scared The Shit Out Of Me

Screenshot: Alone in the dark

I’m afraid of a lot of things in video games. Sharks mostly, but there are other things. Nothing has ever scared me as much as Alone in the Dark from 1992.

Image of the article titled Alone In The Dark Scared The Shit Out Of Me

The Infogrames classic is one of the most important horror games ever made. Everything from Silent Hill to Resident Evil owes a debt of gratitude to Alone in the Dark. Its mix of polygonal characters with static backgrounds was pretty common back then, but using it for a horror game was something new and terrifying. For most games, restricting the camera while allowing 3D movement was just a visual fad of the day, but for Alone in the Dark it let horror take on a cinematic quality, with each piece designed and depicted with a eye to scare the crap out of you.

This leveraging of technological limitations has extended to your character animation. The playable characters in the game — Edward Carnaby and Emily Hartwood — are portrayed in about as limited and 1992 a fashion as they can get, all limbs hanging down, faces jagged, and marches shuffling.

Image of the article titled Alone In The Dark Scared The Shit Out Of Me

Screenshot: Alone in the dark

Still, their slow, deliberate pace helps add tension to the game that a faster, smoother character would jump. And it also helps the bad guys; The zombies and monsters you fight in this game are heavy and hideous creatures, whose polygonal frames look more frightening in the abstract than if they had been fleshed out.

The artistic conception of Alone in the Dark was also remarkable. When we think of horror games, we tend to think of horror clichés like ruins, rain, and darkness. Resident Evil 7, basically.

But Alone in the Dark had none of that. Its first steps may make you wait for a convention, as you walk down the aisle to a clearly haunted and abandoned old mansion, but as soon as you walk inside you notice two things. This game is lit, and this game is colorful.

Alone in the Dark’s color scheme is perhaps the most defining thing about the game. Where almost every other horror game out there has been content to work with blacks, grays, and splashes of red, the AitD levels are teeming with greens, burgundy, pinks and blues. It’s beautiful, in a way interior design historians and ’90s PC gamers are best equipped to appreciate.

Image of the article titled Alone In The Dark Scared The Shit Out Of Me

Screenshot: Alone in the dark

Yet for me, it’s also the source of the game’s greatest horror.

There are a great passage in the art book Half-Life 2 where Ken Birdwell recounts the hiring of artist Ted Blackman, who had just shown Gabe Newell an illustration in his portfolio of a monster dog with a huge cock. “Well, I was thinking, what is it that scares our target audience?” Birdwell remembers saying Blackman. “A lot of them are 14 year old boys, they’ve seen all the big brutal monsters with guns in their hands before – that won’t really do – so I wonder what fears do they really have?” ? So I decided to opt for something that elicits a homophobic response ”.

The real horror is not stereotypes. This amplifies your existing fears and sends them back to you. I hate sharks because they are representative of the unknown deep beneath the waves (I almost drowned in the ocean when I was 15), and I was terrified of Alone in the Dark because it reminded me of … my aunt’s house.

Image of the article titled Alone In The Dark Scared The Shit Out Of Me

Screenshot: Alone in the dark

When I was a kid I would sometimes drive a few hours with my parents and stay on weekends with my aunt, who lived on this old farm in an orchard in the middle of nowhere. It was a beautiful house, and I had a lot of fun there during the day, but at night, this place scared me.

I was born and raised in the city, so the fact that we were staying in one house on top of a big hill freaked me out a bit. Looking out the window and seeing … nothing seems really peaceful to me as an adult, but when I was a child I found the loneliness and darkness unsettling.

The most frightening was the wind. Being on top of a hill at night the wind could really howl, and because the place was surrounded by trees there was this constant noise as the branches swayed and hit the windows of the house.

I have this defining memory of having to go to the bathroom one night, when I was probably around 6-7 years old, and leaving the light and heat of the living room to walk down the hall. It was pitch dark, and all I remember was freezing in my place halfway down the hall as the branches rattled against the glass, my focus strangely fixed on the age of the house, with its burgundy walls, green roof, and intricate black and white tiling. .

Fast forward to 1992 and … oh.

Image of the article titled Alone In The Dark Scared The Shit Out Of Me

Screenshot: Alone in the dark

Oh no.

Image of the article titled Alone In The Dark Scared The Shit Out Of Me

Screenshot: Alone in the dark

Great. I was there, trying to enjoy this revolutionary new video game, and I found myself trapped in a childhood nightmare. Only now there were also zombies.

For all of Alone in the Dark’s efforts to scare people through animation, sound, and level design, the biggest impact it had on my heart rate had simply been the accident of making her sound like haunted mansion at … my aunt’s house. Great job, video games.

If you’ve never played the game, it’s available on PC marketplaces (and app stores if you’re desperate). And while that might seem squeaky by modern standards, that’s half the point, and other than the artistic design, I think the game’s open world, non-linear design has aged really well.

READ MORE:

Murder House is all that is terrifying about low-poly horror

Image of the article titled Alone In The Dark Scared The Shit Out Of Me

Screenshot: Murder House

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Article source https://kotaku.com/alone-in-the-dark-scared-the-shit-out-of-me-1819788909

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