Today’s post diverts a little (well a lot) from the festive updates that I’ve been writing this month, but for good reason. As was the case with my discussion of the Crash Bandicoot Remastered trailer that I uploaded the other day, I’m responding to something that’s very recently caught my attention and that I want to talk about whilst it’s on my mind.
A few days ago I watched a playthrough of ‘Hello Neighbor’ on one of the YouTube channels that I often frequent. The game hasn’t actually been released yet (it’s due Summer 2017), but alpha versions of it are available online, and that’s what I saw being played. For people that don’t know, ‘Hello Neighbor’ involves the player breaking into their neighbour’s house in order to discover the secrets in their basement. The selling point for the game is its use of advanced AI that learns from your actions in order to outsmart you and gradually increase the difficulty as you play. It is the latest in a long line of indie horror games, a genre that has grown in popularity since the Five Nights at Freddy’s series began back in 2014.
Ask anyone that I know and they’ll tell you that I’m not a big fan of horror. In fact there’s video proof of me playing Outlast on YouTube and not lasting more than 15 minutes, which says a lot given it was only the beginning of the game. As much as I hate playing it, though, I have a really deep fascination with the stories that are tied to the genre. I can’t watch a horror film through fear of having nightmares, but I’ll spend an hour reading about their plots and whether they’re based on true events. In my mind I always think of it like a car crash – it’s disturbing, but you can’t help but look.
Why am I talking about this?
After I viewed one playthrough of ‘Hello Neighbor’ I found myself watching several more YouTubers have a go at it until the point that I knew every secret there was to know about the current version of the game. I was completely sucked into the somewhat basic premise because I, like so many others out there already, was desperate to know what was in that basement. The alpha 2 release hints at a very dark and twisted storyline in its climax that I’m desperate to know the truth about.
The reason that I wanted to bring this up is because ‘Hello Neighbor’ has done exactly what ‘Five Nights of Freddy’ has been doing to me for the last 2 years. Prior to writing this I was watching some of the old GT Live livestreams of ‘FNaF World’, a roleplaying game that takes the Indie Horror series in a surprising new direction, and the new custom nights for ‘FNaF: Sister Location’. Both of these games added new levels to the already extensive lore of the series, and the latter of which provided vital information that could potentially lead to understanding the main story in the near future. As an amateur theorist, being able to discover the answers that have been out of reach for so long is unbelievably exciting.
What’s the big deal about the lore of horror series though?
Like I said earlier, the genre as a whole is like witnessing a car crash. The actions and events of horror films, games, etc. are more disturbing than you would find anywhere else, and having studied psychology in the past I find it incredibly interesting to think about why people do the things they do. The murder of the children in the FNaF series is horrible to think about, but it’s hard to overlook how intriguing it is to know why the ‘purple guy’ did what he did. Likewise, the dark and eerie basement in ‘Hello Neighbor’ is deeply unsettling, but the desire to know what the man has been doing down there, as well as why, is too strong to hide away.
Indie series like FNaF rely on their lore to create the cult fanbase that keeps the franchise alive. Mainstream games like Outlast are still interesting, and their stories highly disturbing, but there is definitely much more of a focus on the brutal action happening in the actual gameplay than on the mystery behind it all. A comparison between the animation of ‘Hello Neighbor’ and ‘Outlast’ is pointless because the contrast between them is as big as it gets, but the former proves that horror does not just come from the ‘realness’ quality that makes the player feel that they themselves are in danger.
To date I have never played any of the indie horror games that I spend hours watching and reading up on, and I doubt that I ever will. Being able to see the action without having to be in control of it lets me distance myself from the fear and focus on the mystery and intrigue that is being delivered in the plot. I hope that when ‘Hello Neighbor’ is released next Summer that the game will be a thousand times better than it already is, and proves that the current alpha version is just the first step into a frightening and shocking storyline. The support that I’ve seen so far on YouTube has been immense and will most likely propel the game to the heights of FNaF.
I don’t know if anyone reading this feels the same as me and understands that same strange connection to a genre that you don’t really like. It would be good to hear from you if you do. Many of my friends are big horror fans, but it’s never the same talking about it with someone who is genuinely passionate about all aspects of the genre, and not just the stories involved with it. This post has been quite brief on the subject but I wanted to bring it up whilst the alpha tests of ‘Hello Neighbor’ are still relatively new. I’ll no doubt talk more about this in the new year when the full game is finally released.
*header image taken by gianluca at https://www.flickr.com/photos/u_ju