In the immortal words of H.P. Lovecraft, “Fear is the oldest and strongest emotion of mankind,” and it represents our bodies’ natural defense mechanism. It serves as an innate, subconscious warning of imminent danger.
But even though fear plays a vital role in our race’s survival, it is not a pleasant feeling — far from it. So why do so many people actively seek it then? Nowadays, horror books, movies, and video games are all the rage, and millions if not billions of people love them. What is it that makes these pastimes, particularly horror gaming, so popular?
If you’re not a fan of horror, you’re probably having a hard time understanding why folks enjoy playing scary games. Most people’s first guess would likely be some sort of innate masochistic tendency. Although that might be the case for some, there’s much more to enjoying this gaming genre than that.
That’s why we prepared a list of five solid reasons people love playing horror games to help non-horror fans get a better understanding of what motivates us!
5 Reasons People Love Playing Horror Games
We’d be remiss not to say that personal preference plays a massive role in loving the horror genre. But regardless of that, there are a few logical reasons people may find horror games particularly appealing.
1. They Allow Us to Experience a Range of Emotions
Even though fear is primarily a negative emotion, it often goes hand in hand with other, much more pleasant emotions. The reason is simple — with fear, we get to experience both the highs and the lows. Our body reacts negatively to getting frightened, but as soon as that feeling of danger is over, we get a sense of gratification and accomplishment for soldiering through it.
There is research to support this theory. In 2014, a study by Nicole Martins and Teresa Lynch found that gamers who played titles like Silent Hill experienced a sense of joy and excitement immediately after fear. So even though playing horror games causes a negative reaction in our bodies, the aftermath is nearly always positive. When you couple that with the fact that horror games provide a safe way to experience and explore this dark side of emotions, it shouldn’t be surprising why they’re so popular.
2. They Fuel Our Inner Adrenaline Junkies
Although there are many different scary pastimes, they all achieve the same — they allow us to experience the thrill of getting scared out of our wits. When doing so, our adrenaline levels rise, which can be pretty exhilarating and even addictive.
But the reason horror games stand out is because they introduce a whole new dimension to the genre. Unlike movies or books, horror games put you in the center of the action, allowing you to experience terror in an entirely different way.
When you think about it, many people enjoy activities like extreme sports or even gambling for the same reason — chasing that adrenaline rush. However, horror gaming provides a safer and more controlled environment to experience this thrill, making it much more appealing to broader audiences.
3. They Allow Us to Vent Our Anxieties
Another reason people play horror games is that they allow them to wind down and vent. Nowadays, we live busy and stressful lives, and sometimes, all we need is something to take our frustrations on. Horror games are perfect for that!
In their dark worlds, we can forget our everyday troubles and release all the negative energy through fear and determination. Stephen King describes this venting mechanism really well in his famous quote about horror movies:
“For many, horror movies are a safety valve. They are a kind of dreaming awake, and when a movie about ordinary people living ordinary lives skews off into some blood-soaked nightmare, we’re able to let off the pressure that might otherwise build up until it blows sky-high.”
In other words, by actively exploring a fictional horror world, many people can deal with their own demons and worries.
4. They Provide a Means of Escapism
Although this can be said for all video games and not just horror titles, it’s a point worth mentioning. Horror games and their terrifying worlds can serve as a safe haven (as ironic as that may sound) for players from their everyday lives.
Despite the fact many of these games focus on frightening the players, most of them have breathtakingly immersive worlds. From wandering the streets of Victorian London in Vampyr to exploring the vast wastelands in Dying Light, many horror games leave players with nearly infinite freedom.
After all, don’t we all just wish to forget our daily duties and escape to a fictional world after coming home from work? Well, many people do!
5. They Are Fun
This point should be pretty self-explanatory. Fun is subjective, and some people find horror games incredibly entertaining. So who are we to judge others’ tastes?
Did this article make you want to give horror video games a shot? Perhaps you should give some of them a chance. Who knows — you too might fall in love with them!