Alone in the dark

For those of you outside the United Kingdom, our clocks went back during the weekend; as this coincided with the Halloween weekend (I know it’s happening on Monday, but anyway), I decided this weekend to stay in and play scary video games the entire time, with the curtains closed (which I wouldn’t have done if the weather had been sunny).

No, I didn’t replay Amnesia: The Dark Descent, which I did during similar weekends in 2010 and 2011, but I did play its spiritual sequel, Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs — a game I originally got in 2013 and first replayed during my period of intense unemployment-related anxiety in December 2014.  Well, it’s good that I’ve put that time of my life behind me at long last, and can enjoy things again… it’s not as scary as the original, but I can only replay that so many times (and have the music and sound effects on my phone) before I wear it out!

I also replayed another game I obtained in late 2013, Outlast (as well as the Whistleblower DLC), which I would definitely say is a worthy second to the original Amnesia in terms of “scariest video game evar”, partly because, as in the Amnesia games, you can’t fight and just have to run like hell and hide in the darkness whenever danger threatens.  This sets all these games apart from, say, Doom (which I also completed at the weekend, after more than 20 hours’ play) or the Dead Space series, or even difficult games like The Evil Within, Alan Wake or Call of Cthulhu, as you can’t fight back, and any enemy deaths occur in cutscenes!

However, there’s one thing in each game that really freaks me out.  Not the hideous role-reversal of pigs and men in one game, or the eloquent (and visibly naked) machete-wielding twins in the other.  No, in Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, it’s the classical-style piece “Mors Praematura“, a deliberate work of discordance that I once tried using as my morning alarm sound, only to switch back to music from the original Amnesia because that was actually less scary.

outlast_frogIn the case of Outlast, it’s a section in one of the kaleidoscopic films being used to hypnotise people: not the flames, teeth, wings or other organic imagery, but the most normal, clearest thing of all, a man in a weird costume (possibly a frog) in a black-and-white film on stage!  The still image I’ve posted doesn’t do it justice… where does that clip come from, and is it going to kill me or send me mad?

(It’ll probably turn out to be something more mundane than I imagine — like the clip that plays with a horrible screech near the end of Ghostwatch, when they discover the ghost is literally in the machine, turned out to be one of the girls banging on pipes earlier in the show!)

As I said, I had my curtains closed throughout, and that’s why I always wait until this time of year for this kind of thing: darkness is scary, and I like to immerse myself in the game world for the best experience — and it’s easier to see things lit by my electric lantern in one game, or battery-powered night vision in the other.  However, locking myself away in my room in this way also made it rather difficult to interact with other people out in the real world, including “best mate” (who had been in Wales all week), and suggests I can still suffer from social anxiety, albeit in this case… self-inflicted?

Admittedly when “best mate” bugged me, I wasn’t in the middle of a game (I was either watching Torchwood or dozing in bed), and he had a friend visiting anyway; however, I declined to go to Comic Con with them, memories being fresh of that Saturday in 2013 at the Excel Centre, when I got so sick of being crowded, in the “queue for the queue”, that I gave up and went home (itself an ordeal thanks to public transport) rather than attend the actual event!  I felt surprisingly withdrawn on Saturday, and while I was better on Sunday, walking to and from Tesco turned out to be more of an unpleasant experience than usual — somehow the public still pee me off something rotten, and occasionally scare me (except those decent enough to have dogs), and interacting with humans sometimes seems like a bizarre dream.

Don’t worry, I won’t build a gigantic machine to slaughter the human race to save it from its own folly; maybe it’s just that I deal with people so much in my job at the moment, I prefer my own company at the weekends.  But I should be better now: since the clocks went back, it’s going to be lighter in the mornings for a while, and so I won’t have so much trouble getting up and end up being such a sourpuss!

And the darker, colder evenings will give me more of an excuse to come straight home after work, instead of obliging myself to socialise…

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