Recapping from my last post, I talked about how games help me handle certain stresses in my life and this post follows on from that topic. This post is all about how dark psychological horror games help me fight depression. Getting posted on Halloween is rather apt, wouldn’t you agree? (It’s like I planned this out or something)
A Disclaimer about Dark Games
I like to point out that games, especially horror games, should not be used as a form of medicating depression. I have a strong understanding of how my mind works and how games like these affect me. If you are suffering from any mental health issues then please seek professional advise. Take this post as an insight into how my mind ticks.
Standard Horror vs. Psychological Horror
When it comes to horror as a genre I am not a big fan. The films and games out there which simply prey on basic human survival instinct by getting you with cheap jump scares simply bore me. Sure, I get caught out by jump scares down to not owning nerves of titanium, but that’s far from the point. A horror story that is enticing or builds into it is what I love most. The horror should be in the story’s writing and not the anticipation of waiting for the monster to leap at you.
The Parallels of Depression and Psychological Horror
One certain similarity of depression and psychological horror is that they both can start off in a positive or neutral place, before the darkness sets in. Sometimes that change into darkness can be slow and subtle or can be abrupt. Then it can seem no matter what you do it only gets darker or it feels you’re not getting anywhere.
Truth to be told, when you get right down to the bones of it, depression is a real-life Psychological Horror through and through.
The Horror Begins
There have been points in my life where the coldness of depression nips away at me and nothing seems to shift it. Getting myself involved with a game can help distract away from it for a little while, even to give me some breathing space for me to build up energy to tackle it on my return. Psychological horror games for me have an ace up its sleeve; the darkness of my depression is mixed with its own fabricated darkness. Suddenly, I’m tackling the darkness of the game while indirectly fighting my own real darkness at the same time, but in a controlled way. Depression isn’t tangible and one of my tips is to make it tangible; which is exactly what happens when I play these games. Solving puzzles and unravelling the mystery all set against dark tones gives it a real-life connection to my depression.
Psychological Horror and Dark Games in a nutshell
These games are built to get into your head. That’s what makes them really effective for me compared to other games. They create a reality and expectation before bending or even breaking it when you’re right in the middle of it. Making progress through these games and learning of its lore and universe intrigues me and makes me keep playing.
Where did this stem from?
Even though I wasn’t checked out for depression until I was well into my teenager years, I can say it’s safe to assume I’ve had depression, or something of a similar nature, since the age of 8. Possibly even earlier than that. With a constant cloud inside my head I had a strange reassurance when I watched shows or played games that had dark themes in it. From the series Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (well even the series that came just before it, Thunderbirds, had dark moments too) to first generation of Pokemon (Lavender Town is absurdly dark for such a game), I’ve always appreciated these dark ideas.
When I got into gaming it was a while before I picked up and played a horror game. This was mainly because I wasn’t sure how my mind would handle a pure dark game. The first Psychological Game I played was Ib. A RPG Maker game about a girl who gets separated from her family in an art gallery. Its puzzles and setting intrigued me so I played a portion of it and got hooked in. Since then I have played through several RPG Maker Games as well as other indie horror games. While I do play them for leisure rather than anytime I’m depressed, when I have a bout they’re there to helped me out.
These games helped, even if it was to distract me for a time. There were other games that did more than just offer a distraction and I could easily write streams of pages about them but I am keeping just to the general facts here.
The Dark Games’ Endings
The beginning of a game (or anything for that matter) is the most important part of its entity. It’s the part that makes or breaks it as if its no good, you’ll stop playing/watching. How it ends is the most memorable because that’s what everything has been building up to.
Most Psychological Horror Games have multiple paths and endings as this is the best way to involve its player. YOU are in control how things play out. Apart from the dead end GAME OVER endings generally you have 4 types of ending The Good Ending, The Bad Ending, The Bittersweet Ending, and the TRUE Ending.
The Good Ending
The good ending happens in most games, especially the linear ones. You’ve done it! You saved the world! All your efforts have made you accomplish the overall goal. Most people love a good ending because they hate a bad one. I like a good ending as it ties everything up in a nice bow. I also like them because it makes the bad endings and bittersweet endings rarer and unexpected.
The Bad Ending
There are 2 types of bad ending. The type where you controlled the outcome; perhaps you wanted to be evil? In that case the ending was obviously going to happen. Although, you got what you wanted; was it really a bad ending? (This thought is too deep, so let’s move on). Then there’s the ending which happened because the game wanted to score a critical hit on your emotions and mind. You went through all that trouble and ended up losing anyway. It’s quite the slap to the face and incredibly brave of the developers to pull such a stunt. As much as I hate the gut wrenching feeling it leaves, I love that something can provoke a powerful emotion.
The Bittersweet Ending
My favourite ending of all; the hybrid of good and bad. There are a lot of games and shows that have a good ending but didn’t end perfectly. You defeated the villain, but how about the innocent lives you couldn’t save along the way? The Bittersweet Ending is a poetic blend of good and bad. It has the most variants too as the degrees of each you get is totally up to the game or the choices you made. The bittersweet ending reminds me most of real life. You could have tried your best but not get the perfect outcome but you still accomplished something.
The True Ending
This is the one that hits most emotionally in my opinion. The True Ending is the canon one and it can be Good, Bad, or Bittersweet. If it’s Bad or Bittersweet it carries the weight of its own negative outcome. It hits more in the player because this is the actual fate of the world you’ve been playing in. The characters who have died, there is no saving them etc. Then there is the weight that you’ve got to the end of the game and if you’ve been enjoying it immensely then too bad there’s no more for you to play.
The Ambiguous Ending
Alright so there is an extra ending but who knows where you would categorise it? This is the one that leaves on a cliff hanger or hints towards more events to come but never to resolve it. This is probably the most thought provoking one, but in essence can link in to any of the other endings.
How does the ending fit in with my depression?
With so many different types of endings with your actions being at the heart of it makes you feel more emotionally connected to the game. Unlike other games with split paths with Psychological Horror games you feel more is at stake. For me it helps the immersion that much more, so helps distract my attention more and whatever ending I get helps me either reflect on myself or fill me with positivity. Or just a sense of accomplishment that I battled my nerves and got to the end of a twisted and dark game! If the ending was extremely effective it can help distract my mind off my own despair. I can spend time trying to unravel what on earth happened in my head even after closing the game.
This Post’s End
If you didn’t know already, I’m extremely passionate about games! I’ll keep coming back to gaming and games as I think of new or additional talking points. I’ve kept talking about specific games out of this post, because I know I could write streams of all the amazing games out there that mean so much to me. Personally speaking, going into depth about certain games is probably a little too much for my blog that’s focusing on, primarily, dyspraxia and mental health. Still, if it’s a topic that you love to read my insight on then let me know.
In any case, thanks for reading! Hope this has been an insightful post on something a little bit different.