Halloween Special: Scary Serious Games! 

It’s Halloween and we’ve been thinking about ghouls and ghosts and the whole horror gaming genre and how that has been leveraged in the Serious Games world.

Here are a few Serious Games that sprung to mind:


Image from www.nevermindgame.com with thanks 

Image from www.nevermindgame.com with thanks 

This game which is being developed by Flying Molusk uses BioFeedback technology to detect your heart rate, so that the game dynamically responds to your fear or anxiety:

“Nevermind is a biofeedback-enhanced adventure horror game that takes you into the dark and twisted world of the subconscious.

As you explore surreal labyrinths and solve the puzzles of the mind, a biofeedback sensor will monitor how scared or stressed you become moment-to-moment. If you let your fears get the best of you, the game will become harder. If you’re able to calm yourself in the face of terror, the game will be more forgiving.

Nevermind strives to create a haunting gameplay experience that also teaches you how to be more aware of your internal responses to stressful situations. If you can learn to control your anxiety within the disturbing realm of Nevermind, just imagine what you can do when it comes to those inevitable stressful moments in the real world…” www.nevermindgame.com

See the website for a video and more information

Typing of the Dead

Image from www.thisisozone.com

Image from www.thisisozone.com

In a nutshell, rather than shooting zombies in this game, players must type out words or phrases to kill them. The words or phrases which appear in a box increase in complexity as the game progresses.  Despite being a learning game, this game received huge praise for its humour and originality from mainstream critics. Here’s a video of the original, although further versions have been released since.

Zombies, Run!

This falls into the camp of health games. It is a mobile game that works with GPS.  From their website www.zombiesrungame.com  “Zombies, Run! works anywhere and at any speed. We immerse you in an action-packed game and story mixed with your own music, whether you're jogging in a park, running along a trail, walking to work, or even running on treadmills.

And if you want a serious workout, turn on thrilling zombie chases that force you to speed up to escape the hordes!”

Here’s the trailer for Zombies, Run! 3: 


Its known that using emotion of all kinds (even fear) can enhance the learning experience, helping to make the learning more ‘sticky’ and create those memory hooks, not to mention making the game more exciting and engaging. At Totem Learning we’ve taken inspiration from the horror game genre – for example by using certain mechanics to create a sense of claustrophobia in our game about the danger of enclosed spaces on board cargo ships (with GUI inspired by The Walking Dead!), and using paranoia and fear in a concept that we worked up for a multiplayer game that tests strengths in a variety of 21st Century skills: the Phoenix Project (for the trailer video click here)

The 'Gateway' hospital in Phoenix Project

The 'Gateway' hospital in Phoenix Project

A final point that I can’t omit on the subject of scary serious games is the Uncanny Valley. Animated avatars abound for role plays and interactions in the world of serious games – but have you ever seen games in which the characters (unintentionally) look terrifying? The uncanny valley hypothesis explains this:- as a simulated human (e.g. robot or 3D computer animation)  becomes more realistic the response is that of revulsion as we notice the differences. The below chart illustrates the point and a great video by Extra Credits on what this means for games can be found here

Repliee Q2 an Actroid developed by Osaka University and unveiled in 2003

Repliee Q2 an Actroid developed by Osaka University and unveiled in 2003

If you know of other scary serious games, we'd love to hear about them @teamtotem