Top 5: Action Horror Video Games

(cross posted at )
These are my top picks for video games that manage to give you all the action you could want while while making you piss yourself just a little.  If I’m being honest; more than movies, more than literature it is video games that are my first and greatest influence in how I approach and understand story.

(Note: I’m encompassing survival horror under the banner ‘action horror’ cause… well, I want to.)

5. Resident Evil:

Or ‘Biohazard’ as it is known in Japan.  One of the first games to do justice to zombies.  Forget the increasingly terrible movies and remember instead the ‘holy shit’ awesomeness of running and gunning the T-Virus infected dogs… because Umbrella help you if all you had left was a knife.  Seriously Resident Evil, thank you so much for ensuring I never, ever had enough ammo.  Bonus points for the series giving up its addiction to camera angle scares (starting in Resident Evil 4) but staying just as scary.

4. System Shock

This game did not get the wide adoption it deserved.  Probably one of the best examples of video game writing I’ve ever seen.  All you have is your weapons, your wits, and your psionic powers against an army of I don’t even know whats and the psychotic AI that’s managing it it all.  Unlike a lot of the games on the list… SS remains almost entirely out of print today.  Which is too bad.

3. Bio Shock

This spiritual successor to System Shock definitely lives up to its pedigree.  An Ayn Rand flavored under the sea extravaganza which with so many delightful vignettes courtesy of the deranged ‘splicers’ of Rapture.  Granted, I do think that the final boss was a little… silly; in the way that all super steroid final bosses are.  But everything up till that point was pure gold.  Love the tension of weighing ‘should I or shouldn’t I attack that eight foot tall armored mutant over there to suck the life essence out of the little girl he’s protecting.’  Decisions, decisions.

2. Half Life

Still one of the pinnacles of the first person shooter genre.  The level of polish and care that went into the game shames 99% of the first person shooters out there.  One word: headcrabs.  Nowadays, we have two words: poison headcrabs.  Recently found out the ‘zombies’ sounds are actually a man’s screaming voice begging for help.  Neat!  Now I have more things to have nightmares about.

1. Doom

Ahh doom, you will always have a special place in my heart.  With the exception of the film Aliens, this is why we’re obsessed with with space marines battling unimaginable horrors in spaceeeeeee *echo, echo, echo*.  Looking back on it now, it’s easy to forget that the demon design used to scare me.  But they really, really did.  I remember grabbing an ‘unprotected’ key only for the walls to lower and five of these guys come rushing out throwing fireballs and making my soundblaster contort itself into the low-res language of hell.  Good times.

Honorable Mention:

Left 4 Dead 1 & 2:  Great game(s).  Pitch perfect take on the ‘infected’ style zombies.  Amazingly designed to force you to work as part of a team.  More homages than you can shake a chainsaw at.  The director AI is a thing of beauty and why I’m still playing these games a two years later.  Still, I didn’t include it primarily because there’s something about getting the opportunity to play as one of the infected that drains the horror from the experience.

So what did I miss?  What would be on your top five list of Action Horror Video Games?

Anime and Action Horror

(cross posted at
A While Back, I got to do a one man presentation at San Diego’s Anime Conji about Anime and Action Horror.

This was my awesome audience for the event (I would like to point out that the collective cool of their poses made the picture come out just a little bit blurry).

This was my audience for my Anime and Action Horror Panel

And here is the Anime/Action Horror PowerPoint Presentation I created for the event.

Anime and Action Horror PowerPoint

After attending many conventions of all sizes and sorts this past year; I have to say that the energy, enthusiasm and spirit of fun at Anime Conji was wonderful and exceptional. The convention is only three years old, and I can’t wait to see how it develops. I think Anime Conji is one convention I’ll be attending for years to come.

Why I Write Action Horror

(Cross Posted from

Occasionally, I’m reluctant to tell people that I write horror. My problem is that -for a lot of people- ‘Horror’ means movies like Hostel or Saw, gleefully gory scholckfests in which the characters exist for no other reason than to murdered (or worse) horribly. The term ‘torture porn’ is wholly appropriate for this sort of work.

Picture above, what I don’t write.
I know good people who like that sort of thing so I won’t speak ill of the (sub)genre. And to be fair; I’ve been known to enjoy stories with violence, gore and despicable acts happening to both the innocent and guilty alike. So why split hairs?
For me, I’m interested in efficacy. I’m interested in characters who fight. Whether they live or die is immaterial; I’m interested in the struggle. And I think this struggle is often in its purest form in Action Horror. 

Pictured above, the kind of book I try to write.

My most important goal in everything I write is to tell a compelling story populated by Characters the reader cares about. If there’s a secondary goal, it’s this: to remind readers that -no matter how f***ed up the situation they are never powerless. Things don’t always work out for my Characters but that’s not the point. The struggle is the point. The pushing past fear is the point.
I use horror tropes and a fixation on fear because I believe that one of the greatest challenges in modern life is mastering our fear.

What is Action Horror?

(Cross Posted at

I write Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror.  But what I find myself writing most is Action Horror and it’s probably the genre closest to my heart.  I love a story where someone shoots a fucking vampire in the face.  Speaking of which…

action horror definition

Some of my favorite examples: Aliens, World War Z, and innumerable chronicles about creature hunters.  Sadly, Van Helsing has to be included in this list… but don’t hold that against the genre.

they can't all be winners

Think every zombie movie ever made.  Think space marines vs xenolife.  Think the Thing’s R.J. MacReady testing the blood of his coworkers.

If I wanted to be literary, I would claim to be carrying on a three thousand year old tradition.  That is to say, I want to retell Beowulf over and over again because goddamn do I love that story.  If I want to be crass I say I like stories where people kill cool looking monsters in endless varieties of awesomely violent ways.  I’m sometimes afraid to admit that I write ‘horror’ because the strongest association in people’s head nowadays is torture porn (a la Saw, Hostel and innumerable others incarnations).

Exact definitions are difficult because you could conceive of all horror stories as ‘action’ (running, screaming for help, or even begging for help are all ‘actions’).  I just look at what I like to write as one part of a continuum.  On one end is torture porn (which focuses on victimization and -well- torture) and on the other end there’s action horror (where the emphasis is on plans, the skills and abilities of human beings faced with an impossible situation).  And it’s the latter that generally interests me.

I adore considering the best laid plans of men battling nightmares.  It doesn’t matter if they’re soldiers, obsessives or ordinary people who ‘peaked behind the veil.’  They might not live through the night, but they’re not going to go down without a fight.

(Comment!  Commenting is awesome.  If you like great stories you can read my fiction CHEMO: Town of Golden by clicking here or listen by clicking here and skipping to the 22 minute mark.)