Survival Horror vs Action Horror Games

A good illustration of what games constitute Survival Horror vs what constitutes Action Horror.  I enjoy both (sub)genres but I think it’s interesting that more often than not Survival Horror transforms into Action Horror; not only as a series but even within an individual game.

One thought on “Survival Horror vs Action Horror Games”

  1. I have a theory on why there’s a shift toward action-horror.

    Horror, at its very core, is the fear of something unknown or incomprehensible that’s trying to hurt you. Survival Horror utilizes this fact very well, as you don’t know what’s going on, what’s ahead, and especially, when and where are the next enemies going to murder you. Every step could be your last.

    However, as you progress through the game, you start to familiarize yourself with the game world. The enemies are no longer that unknown or incomprehensible to you, and slowly, the fear diminishes. That’s why almost all horror is not that scary the 2nd time you watch/play/read, because you know what’s going to happen, what the enemy is, and how to deal with them. The horrors are overexposed, and overexposure builds immunity.

    This is the biggest problem with the Survival Horror genre as a whole. After you immunized yourself to horror, the only thing you’re stuck with is clunky controls, weird camera angles, and annoying game mechanics that used to produce fear but now produce frustration instead.

    Action Horror, on the other hand, can be scary (the “Horror” part) or fun (the “Action” part). The thing with action is that it never gets old. Shooting things, stabbing things, and blowing things up has always been fun and will always be fun, so even after you’re no longer fazed by the horror aspects, you can still enjoy yourself with the visceral combat.

    That’s why a game series, if it goes on long enough, starts shifting toward action, and why even individual games shift towards action in the end. The incomprehensibility of your enemy is diminished, and therefore, the horror elements are deemphasized. It even happens in movies. Compare Alien (a straight up horror movie) to Aliens (an action horror movie). The shift occurred because the Xenomorph is now a known character, and is no longer shocking or scary, hence why the next movie shifted more towards action. Horror elements are still there, but not as emphasized.

    Because of this, it seems like Survival Horror is on the wane as more and more developers start changing their Survival Horror franchises into Action Horror. If survival horror wants to make a comeback, developers need to start creating new IPs. The old IPs, especially the really successful ones, are now pop culture icons, meaning that new players will be familiar with the plot and characters from the beginning, and the scariness of the game is significantly diminished. New IPs will once again recapture the same sense of unknowness and incomprehensibility that the old survival horror had when they were first released.

    Me personally, though, I generally preferred Action Horror. Like I said, horror elements are not very scary after you familiarize yourself with them. Action Horror, on the other hand, can still be very fun even after you are desensitized to the scary parts. You only focus on the action more than the horror, now. So even after, say, the demons in Doom 3 are no longer scary to me and I know where all of them are, the feeling of pushing a shotgun in an imp’s face and blowing it back to hell is still a fun experience.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *