Here are a few of my favorite things: Nintendo, Penny Arcade, The Legend of Zelda, Mario, Pokemon, Harvest Moon, Fallout, Dungeons and Dragons, books, dice, Professor Layton, Shadow of the Colossus, Minecraft, and so much more. I'm going to talk a lot about video games, I sincerely hope you don't mind.

Newest paper sculpt project!

Sonic Screwdriver trio for my friend's birthday.

An interview with Adam Harum of Transolar Galactica.

They achieved their Kickstarter goal, and now the world gets more of their award winning sci-fi comedy!

Doctor Who themed lip balm!

Brought to you from Earthtastic! and A Bit of Geek.

Minecraft paper sculpt!

My submission to the Mojang community art contest. Watch the video!

A TARDIS desk lamp!

Instructions and babbling on how to make a TARDIS lamp from foam core!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Sculpt Video - The House from My Neighbor Totoro

I am proud to present the House from My Neighbor Totoro! This was a commission from my friend to his lovely wife. She, too, is enchanted by the amazing home in this Studio Ghibli classic :)


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

When the Creator of a Beloved Game Sees Your Fan Art

Life is funny. If you had told 8 year old me that someday she would get to have a personal email exchange with one of the co-creators of Toejam & Earl and ask him questions about the game, she would have been excited at the idea, and hopeful probably, but wouldn’t have thought it was possible.

Well 8 year old me, it happened, it was awesome, he’s super nice, he likes your art, AND you got one of your burning life-long questions answered: Are they saying, “Whoa, shit!” when they’re about to fall off the cliff?!

Sadly, no.

But onward to the story!

Some photos from a recent play through of Toejam & Earl for the Sega. 
Some photos from a recent play through of Toejam & Earl for the Sega.

In January of this year (fabulous 2014) I completed a Toejam & Earl paper art piece. I was proud of it and thrilled to have made it. Toejam & Earl is a childhood and life-long favorite game of mine and my sister’s. If two video games defined my early years, they would be Mario 3 and Toejam & Earl. There were other games of course but those two were played the most, and they continue to be played by my sister and me even to this day. The first time we beat Toejam & Earl I was about 18 years old; we had been whole hog dedicated to that title for a solid 10 years!

The week before Thanksgiving I had a day like any other day. That is until I received an email alerting me to the presence of a new comment on my Toejam & Earl paper art photos. I checked it out and discovered that someone claiming to be one of the co-creators of Toejam & Earl had found my art and really liked it, and posted it on their official Facebook page. He invited me to check out the page and to e-mail him if I liked.

Now, I like to think I’m optimistic but I also don’t like to be fooled, and the internet is chock full of liars. So, I proceeded with caution. First I looked for the Facebook page, which I found, and sure enough there was my art! I scrolled for a bit and discovered that it was totally legit, and then I may have cried a little? But then I got it together and sent him (Greg Johnson) an email expressing my thanks for the comment and his compliment, as well as my unending love of the game series.

What followed was a very pleasant e-mail exchange where I was able to tell him everything I loved about Toejam & Earl and I got to ask any questions that had been on my mind for the last 20 years. He told me about the most recent game he’s made, Doki Doki Universe, and even gave me a download code so I could play it on my PS3. On top of that he offered to send me some signed Toejam & Earl art as a token of appreciation. Talk about a crazy nice guy!

(Note: I plan on writing a little about my experience with Doki Doki Universe once I've had a chance to dive into it!)

He had such wonderful and encouraging things to say about my paper art, and it was a wacky ass dream come true to get to talk to one of the people responsible for SO much happiness and gaming in my life.

A nice shout out to my sister from an email exchange from Greg.
A nice shout out to my sister from an email exchange from Greg.

Greg is currently working toward a new Toejam & Earl title and personally I could not be more excited. His Facebook page is promoting interest in the quirky series and he’s also hosting a lot of game-based quizzes with signed art up for prizes! He wants to hear from people on what they love and hate (who could hate any of it?) about the games, and what they hope to see in a new release. Any Toejam & Earl fans owe it to themselves to get in on the fun and have their voices heard!

So that’s my story. It was an honor to hear from him and a total thrill to have my art seen by one of THE creators of the game. He was also so kind and genuine, which is a rarity in my experience. I’m thankful that the internet exists and allowed this crazy thing to happen!


Friday, November 28, 2014

People Portraits - My Sister's Family

This is the last practice commission that I did and it was for my sister. She requested a portrait of her and her entire family (pets included!).


Friday, November 21, 2014

TMNT Pizza Time Paper Sculpt!

This was commissioned by a friend for her husband for their anniversary!


Monday, November 10, 2014

Final Fantasy 8 Diary - Entry 24






Sunday, November 2, 2014

My Top 10 Horror Films

I know, I know. Halloween was LAST week. But A) My articles come out on the first of the month and B) Who cares? Scary movies are great all year round. So let's dig into this.

I love horror movies. Ever since I watched my first horror film as a kid(It was “Child's Play” and to make matters worse, I had one of those buddy dolls in my closet at the time), I've been enthralled with them. There's something so thrilling about watching a film that inspires true terror in you that it causes you to think about it in the darkness of your bed. As a filmmaker, it's a difficult feat to accomplish and one that depends on the individual viewer. But if it is achieved, it stays with that person and lingers in their psyche. And I love it.

I've watched my fair share of horror films, some good, some terrible. I wouldn't call myself a horror film connoisseur, but I do pride myself on having seen some truly horrifying films.

So here at A Bit of Geek, I'd like to present to you my own personal list of the top scary films.

*I preface the list with the claim that this list is subjective to my personal opinion. If you do not find these films scary, that's fine. But I do and I think they merit praise.

So without further delay, I present


10. The Blair Witch Project (1999)


You'd be hard pressed to find anyone who hasn't heard of this movie. It was a big hit in its time and is arguably the predecessor of the “Found Footage” horror genre of movies.

And while I will openly admit the movie doesn't have a satisfying payoff, the build up is still terrifying to watch. From the fearful frustration of the filmmakers as they wander through the woods to the subtle torture by the Blair Witch, it's a fright to watch unfold. You can almost feel the fear of these filmmakers. Definitely worth a viewing(even if you can cut out the last 10 minutes of the film)

The Scariest Scene of the Movie:

At this point in the film, the filmmakers have been lost for some time and been harassed by the Blair Witch each night. So they decided to make their tent and try to sleep out the night, hoping for peace....

9. Dead Silence (2007)


There are some things that are inherently scary to us as human beings: clowns, spiders, the dark, Beliebers and, of course, puppets. It's hard to say why we have such a fear of puppets. Maybe it's their lifeless eyes or the fact that they can't tell a lie, but something about them unnerves us.

Which is exactly the kind of fear that Dead Silence drives into us as viewers. It starts as a simple ghost story: a barren old woman crafted puppets in lieu of children but when some children went missing, the townsfolk blamed her and killed her. Now her spirit lingers as vengeful ghost story the people tell their children. It's a simple concept that I feel the film pulls off wonderfully, if only because of the grim creep factor of the woman and her puppets. Don't watch this one in the dark.

The Scariest Scene of the Movie:

During a recounting of the legend of the woman, one of the townsfolk recalls an incident when he was a boy. His father was the mortician and had worked on the woman's body. But when the boy went to see the body at night, he accidentally knocks the coffin over....

8. Evil Dead (2013)


Now don't get me wrong: I'm not saying this remake was better than the original series. As a huge fan of the originals, I can say they are a marvel to watch and a testament to the horror genre. But it's not the scariest of the series. The remake is.

Sure, the first Evil Dead was purely a horror film. But while it was great, the effects had a tendency to break the immersion of the film. Milk-blood and claymation just doesn't quite make the cut.

But the remake upped the production value and brought the feel of the first film to a better quality.

The grisly scenes of gore looked authentic but never over-saturated the horror of the film. It was, in my opinion, perfectly balanced between the two. One of the best remakes I've ever seen and I'm glad they did the original series justice.

The Scariest Scene in the Movie:

By this point, the evil book(Necronomicon in the originals, “Naturon Demonto” in this one) has been read and the evil is creeping into the cabin-dwellers. After being barfed on by a possessed friend, one of the girls goes to clean herself up in the bathroom. But there's more than cleanliness waiting for her there....

7. Event Horizon (1997)


I really love this movie, not only for its dark and gruesome horror, but also for its premise. The story goes that in the distant future, an experimental spaceship(named “Event Horizon”) designed to warp space vanished on its test flight. Now, seven years later, it reappears with only the haunting message of a distress signal. So a research team is sent to investigate, slowly learning that the Event Horizon did indeed warp space....with a small detour into Hell. Now the ship has a dark will of its own as the crew try to escape the horrors of Hell in space. Brilliant concept, in my opinion.

The Scariest Scene of the Movie:

When the Event Horizon sent its distress signal, a lot of the video was garbled and not a lot could be made out. But when the research team finally unscrambles the video, they suddenly wish that they had left it garbled.....(Warning: the video is not for the squeamish)

(Side note: Laurence Fishburne's line at the end? Perfect response.)

6. Jeepers Creepers (2001)


I'll admit, this movie is a bit of a nostalgia pick. When I first watched this movie, I was a teenager and my friends and I gathered around to watch it in the dark. But even today, this movie still holds some terror for me. It tells the story of two siblings, Darry and Trish, as they make their way cross-country to their mom's house for break. But on the way, they catch the notice of a grim figure who they quickly learn is anything but human. It stalks them as they unravel its dark handiwork from sewing people onto walls to cutting out whole parts of body parts. And it never stops. Not until it has one of them...

The Scariest Scene of the Movie:

The scariest part to me comes near the beginning of the movie. On the road, Darry and Trish had nearly got ran over by a large truck with the vanity plate “BEATINGU”(Which you learn later on stands for something else..). They siblings continue on the road until they see a house on the left. And BEATINGU....

5. The Conjuring (2013)


When I first went into The Conjuring, I'll admit I was a little skeptical. It was made by the James Wan, the director of the Insidious movies and like Insidious, even starred Patrick Wilson as the lead. And while the Insidious movies were fine in their own right, I went into The Conjuring thinking it was just going to be an Insidious-clone. But I was wrong. It actually had a compelling story about two paranormal investigators as they looking into a family's haunting. It quickly begins to escalate and soon, all hell breaks loose(so to speak). It exceeded my expectations and left me feeling satisfied as a horror lover.

The Scariest Scene of the Movie:

Funnily enough, the scariest scene of the movie for me didn't have actually have anything to do with the main story. It was the opening sequence, where the investigators are looking into a demon-possessed doll named Annabelle. And yes, it was just a setup for the spinoff movie, but the scene was actually a great little horror story within a bigger horror story. It started off the movie on a good note and kept that level of quality all throughout the film.

4. Slither (2006)


I was hesitant to add this film to the list because a lot of times, it's almost a comedic film. But it left me with a such a sense of disturbance and terror at the mere premise of it that it merited a rank on my list.

It's a classic alien-in-the-hometown story: an alien crashes near a home town, terrorizes it and then the heroes of the film have to figure out a way to kill the creature. Simple stuff, right?

Wrong. Slither takes that premise and runs wild with it, making the alien create such nauseating horrors that they will haunt your mind even after you're done filming. Things like worms infesting your brain, mutations that force you to eat until you explode or giving your body to become part of a hive-mind of human body mass. It disturbed me, but not in a gruesome way, which is how it should be. Would definitely recommend this movie(And it's got Nathan Fillion in it!)

The Scariest Scene of the Movie:

The scariest part for me was what the alien does to some of the townsfolk: implanting a special slug that forces them to eat and eat. One of main characters, who had survived until the end of the film, meets this fate and begins to eat people against his will. Eventually, he is mercy killed but the thought of this fate haunts me even today.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find a clip of this, so instead, here's a clip of a bloated-infected woman bursting at the seams!

3. Paranormal Activity (2007)


I really liked this film. I know a lot of you have probably already seen it and have your own opinions on the movie, but I for one really liked it(the first one, at least). For those not aware, the story follows a young couple as they video tape their experience of being haunted from what they at first assume to be a ghost(but later learn it is a demon...muhahaha!). What I really enjoyed about this film was the natural progression of the terror and how the escalation felt natural. In the beginning, there's not much. A few doors that open on their own or sounds coming from other areas of the house. But then it intensifies, eventually leaving the young couple crippled in terror. And while the ending had as much satisfaction as any other Found Footage movie, I felt like as a stand alone movie, Paranormal Activity was excellent. One of my favorites.

Scariest Scene in the Movie:

It's near the end of the film, when the demon has become overly aggressive in its hauntings. The demon enters the bedroom and, seeing Katie's overhanging foot, decides to have a little fun. I remember being the film, watching this scene, and knowing that that's when the shit really hit the fan. Best scene, in my opinion.

2. The Fly (1986)


This movie is one of my all-time favorite horror films. It took an old film's concept(scientist accidentally crosses himself with a fly) and brought it to a gruesome and repulsive level. With better production value and a more modern take, this version brings real terror as you watch the gradual change from man to fly-man hybrid. Not to mention Jeff Goldblum's performance was beyond superb. And the effects? Breathtaking. I myself am more of a practical effects kind of guy and this movie nails it on the head. Watching Goldblum's devolution into the fly-man is grisly and fascinating at the same time. Definitely worth watching if you love horror films.

The Scariest Scene of the Movie:

I know I am doing the movie a discredit by showing you this, but really the best(and scariest) part of the film is the ending, when you finally see the full transformation of the Brindle-Fly. Not only this, but his twisted plan is appaling and terrifying to consider and poor Geena Davis is helpless to fight it. Really fantastic. But if you want to watch the movie, skip this scene for right now because the build up makes this scene all the more powerful.

1. The Thing (1982)


To those whom know me, this comes as no surprise that my all-time favorite horror film is John Carpenter's “The Thing.” The movie is such a brilliant film in so many ways that I can only scratch the surface in this review. To those not familiar, the movie focuses on an American research station in Antarctica as they come under attack by a shape shifting alien. It's a being that can perfectly replicate an organism as the researchers soon learn when some of their own are replicated. From then, the movie is all about the paranoia of the researchers as they abandon their trust of one another and try to survive the deceptions of the Thing. Not only is this compelling storytelling at first impression, but the effects are fantastic, even for an 80's film. When the Thing is caught on occasion, it transforms into a form to fight off its attackers, assuming whatever shape it deems necessary. And it's disturbing.

I've seen this film nearly a hundred times and it still enthralls me. If you can only see one film from this list, make it John Carpenter's “The Thing.”

Scariest Scene from the Movie:

One of the best scenes in the film comes after the Thing has already imitated some of the researchers. While in a squabble amongst themselves, one of the researchers has a heart attack. So they pull him into one of the rooms and the doctor attempts to restart his heart with a defibrillator....

So that's my list, ABOGers! I hope you enjoyed it and make a point to go out and give these films a try.

If you have thoughts on the movies listed or want to add some favorites of your own, leave a comment below or say so on our Facebook page.

Until next time,


Friday, October 31, 2014

Firefly Serenity Paper Art Video

The fourth practice commission that I made! The background was supplied by my friend Chavid (the piece was also for him).


Monday, October 27, 2014

Final Fantasy 8 Diary - Entry 23







Friday, October 24, 2014

2D Paper Art - The Legend of Zelda Dungeons

Here's a little something I made for Zach for the Zelda subreddit gift exchange a few months ago. It was fun! And challenging. And you know. Maybe it wasn't that fun. There are so many geometric shapes, you know? But I think it's pretty cool, and I think the recipient really enjoyed it.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Final Fantasy 8 Diary - Entry 22







Monday, October 6, 2014

Superheroines in Film: The Case for Wonder Woman and Black Widow

For all the progress comics have made since their inception, there's still many areas where they fall short. Despite its advancement in addressing social issues and its providing of racially diverse heroes, comics are still generally a male-dominated genre.

Sure, publishers are accepting more and more that they have female readers and they're steering away from the misogynistic storytelling of their early comics.


But as I said, for all their progress on the matter of fairness amongst the sexes, there's still a lot more that can be made. The focus of their comics, for the most part, still focus on the male heroes.

For every Ms. Marvel story Marvel puts out, there's six different stories on Spider-man they have on the shelf.

Not only this, but the number of notable female leads publishers choose to focus on is minute at best.

Quick: name me one female super hero!

Did your mind instantly go to Wonder Woman? That's fine, she's a great example of a strong female superheroine.

Batgirl, maybe? Another prime example of a positive superheroine role model.

Now name me 5 other superheroines.

Then 5 more.

If you're struggling to come up with names on the list, then I've made my point.

You could probably come up with a minimum of 10 male heroes to fill the list: Superman, Batman, Spider-man, Ironman, Thor, Captain America, Hulk, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Flash.

There, 10 male superheroes. And I didn't even have to break into the second-tier heroes.

I'm talking, of course, about the Whizzer. 
I'm talking, of course, about the Whizzer.

Don't get the wrong impression. I'm not saying there are no female superheroine stories. To say that would be a discredit to the hard working artists and writers who work diligently put their efforts into great, existing titles.

What I'm trying to get across is that even for all that is being done, there could be more.

More focus could be shifted, more creations of superheroines that would inspire.

A prime opportunity of this is in the film industry.

Right now, superhero films are booming. They're thriving more than they ever have in history and the film industry is finally giving us writers and filmmakers worthy of creating fantastic superhero stories.

No longer do we have the “Daredevil”s, but instead are given “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

And yet, despite this, not one good film with a female lead.

Now, you might be saying to yourself, “Tom, there have already been superheroine movies from both DC and Marvel.”

Too true, Hypothetical-Naysayer-I-Just-Made-Up.

DC have had two female-lead films, “Supergirl”(1984) and “Catwoman”(2004).

Marvel, “Elektra”(2004).

And every one of them has been universally hated.

Based on reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, each movie were considered dismal failures that soured the superhero film genre. Supergirl receives an 8%; Catwoman, a 9%; and Elektra bringing up the highest of the three with a 10% approval rating.

One might wonder as to why these films did so poorly. Sure, the finger can be pointed to a lot of things:

Cheesy effects, bad writing, poorly chosen actresses(*Achem*Halle Berry*Achem).

But if you want my honest opinion, I think a major contribution is the times these movies were released in.

When “Supergirl” was released, there had already been three Superman movies, each met with critical success. But superhero movies were still largely a niche genre that only catered to the most prominent of heroes. And they wouldn't receive the kick in the pants from Tim Burton's “Batman: The Movie” until five years later, in 1989.

And then we have “Elektra” and “Catwoman.” Both were released in 2004, just at the dawn of the upswing of superhero movies. I've talked before about how I consider 2000's “X-men” and 2002's “Spider-Man” to be the catalysts of the superhero film fascination, and this remains true.

However, this meant during their wake in the early 2000s, there were a lot of awkward superhero movies. This meant movies that, although having a decent budget and interest, were clunky and/or just bad. Poor director choices, bad actor performances and awkward scripts that tried to maintain the dynamic between comic lore and general fan attraction were all contributing factors.

The film industry was taking their baby steps into the superhero genre, and they were ugly steps.

Two of such ugly steps were “Elektra” and “Catwoman,” who although they featured female protagonists, were still poorly done.

Coincidentally enough, the superhero genre would receive yet another kick in the pants from Batman the following year with “Batman Begins.” Its critical success prompted Marvel to retaliate with its Cinematic Universe, starting with “Iron Man” in 2008.

To me, this is where superhero films really came to head, utilizing proper effects, amazing actors and well constructed writing that brought special attention to character development. The recent surge in ticket sales in superhero movies is a testament to this, which is why I consider this the best time for superhero movies.


And it's also why I consider it time for a good superheroine movie.

This means a battle between Marvel and DC's two prominent female characters: Black Widow and Wonder Woman, respectively.

Before the Marvel Cinematic Universe, not many people knew or cared about Black Widow. She was an alternate character who'd they would bring in if they needed an espionage storyline or some thrilling tale of deceit. But after Scarlett Johansson took up the role in “Iron Man 2” and then her follow-up performance in “The Avengers,” suddenly Black Widow was a somebody. She was standing toe-to-toe with Iron man, Captain America and Thor as an equal and valued member of the team. Not only this, but her portrayal in film was one of genuine character strength. She was a strong woman capable of exceeding expectations and who had complex, compelling emotions and thoughts. I applaud ScoJo's performance for giving us a female character whom fans can look up to as a positive role model (albeit the whole “Being-a-deadly-assassin” part)

I'm really curious how this comes up in the kids' show... 
I'm really curious how this comes up in the kids' show...

Inversely, DC's trying to match Marvel's success with “The Avengers” by bringing in a setup for the Justice League in “Batman Superman: Dawn of Justice.” This of course means Batman and Superman, but it also means the other members like Aquaman and, above all else, WONDER WOMAN.

H'ooohhhhhh man!

Wonder Woman, finally getting a role in a major film?! We've been waiting for this for forever!

We've had umpteenth Batman movies and so many Superman movies, but never a film featuring the mighty Amazonian princess. And it's about time because, let's face it, Wonder Woman is badass. She rips cars apart, flies, and punches out bad guys just as easily as Superman. She also makes it her business distributing justice to Nazis wholesale.

It really should be on every superhero resume. 
It really should be on every superhero resume.

However, our victory is shortened by the fact that, despite being considered a member of equal importance to Batman and Superman in the League, her first film appearance is as a support character where the primary focus are the boys in black and blue.

But I'll reserve further criticism until the film is released.

What I will say is that both of these women represent a strong opportunity to bring a superheroine in a featured film, each for their own reasons.

Black Widow has already been established in film and has been shown as a strong woman capable of getting shit done. To me, she's every bit as capable as Captain America, so why not give her her own movie? Take her out as a supporting character and bring her into the spotlight. We've already seen that Johansson can portray her with the dynamic of being badass, emotionally complex, and morally righteous at her core. Seeing more of that would be fantastic. Plus, she's already been integrated as an equally important Avenger, so why not take the chance?

As for Wonder Woman, the waters are still untested. Because the movie she's featured in has yet to release, there's no telling how she'll come across. They could have her only as a supporting character who takes up arms with the boys or she'll be as much of a contender as the title characters.

It's still unknown.

But what is certain is that she's DC's best chance for a superheroine title character on the silver screen. Out of all DC's characters, Wonder Woman is the most deserving for her own movie. And the recent surge in superhero popularity shows that audiences want to see well done, compelling superhero stories. Why can't it be Wonder Woman?

It all depends on how she's portrayed in Dawn of Justice and how the audience receives her in her film debut.

But let's face it: Wonder Woman's been due for her own movie for a loooooooong time.

Now, both Marvel and DC have movies deadlocked well into 2018. This might be discouraging if not for earlier this year, when due to the positive response from leaked footage, the Deadpool movie was finally green lit and added to Marvel's movie roster.

So I say it's entirely possible to add a Black Widow or Wonder Woman movie into this lineup, or any other superheroines they choose to try out.

The future remains to be seen for superheroines in film, but it's progress I hope to see come to fruition in the next few years.

We can do it!


Header Image Source, Source

Friday, September 26, 2014

Midna - Twilight Princess Paper Art Video

A paper piece made for the lovely Rachel for her birthday! Enjoy watching Midna fromThe Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess come to life!


Monday, September 22, 2014

Final Fantasy 8 Diary - Entry 21






Monday, September 8, 2014

Final Fantasy 8 Diary - Entry 20





Monday, September 1, 2014

The Perfect Horror Game

I've always been a fan of horror. I enjoy scary movies, frightening books and just about every other form of medium that horror slithers itself into. There's just something so enthralling about that fear, dread and nausea that specifically comes from horror. Video games, too, are just as captivating. So it makes perfect sense why horror and video games have blended so well together over the years. Sometimes for good, sometimes for bad.

I myself recently picked up a horror game I've long been meaning to play: Dead Space. For those unfamiliar, either because you don't play many games or you're like our wonderful Miranda who cringes at the thought of horror, Dead Space is a game that takes place on a space station that's gone quiet. You play as a character sent to investigate its mysterious silence when you run into Necromorphs, horrible abominations that infect human hosts and mutant them into grisly abominations.

But enough about Rosie O'Donnell...

And while I can certainly gave it a good try, I can't say I was a fan of Dead Space.

Now before you start flooding the comment boxes with Dead Space defense, know that I can see that the game has merit. Visually, the game looks good and the atmosphere is definitely on par, but somehow the game just didn't click with me. It had a lot of good things a horror game should have, but it just wasn't quite there.

This failure to click got me thinking: what do I consider the qualities of a good horror video game?

So, for your consideration, I present my personal take on what makes the perfect horror game.

1. Type of Horror

The first thing to consider when building a horror game is decided what type of horror it's going to be. This doesn't mean picking whether it's a horrible monster that you dread, a horrible monster that disgusts you or a horrible monster that eats you.

Last one, I promise. 
Last one, I promise.

What this means is the type of scare you're going to bring to the player. Basically, I can say there are three types of horror:

1 Jump Scares, where the horror pops out at you when you least suspect it.

2 Visual Scares, where the horror is presented to you in the open for you to see at length.

3 Combination Scares, which take elements from both the Visual and Jump Scares.

Jump Scares are a great way to cause a player to initially feel unsettled, not knowing when a scare is going to leap out at them. This is a good way to get the player's heart pumping and is primarily the horror that Dead Space employs. And a lot of games use it themselves, including this clip from Bioshock Infinite:

But while it has its uses, Jump Scares have their limit. Relying on them too much causes the player to begin to expect them and, even worse, suck the horror from a game. This is mostly because Jump Scares are just surprises meant to break the sense of safety. But this isn't true horror, it's just a normal human reaction when we're forced to react to something quickly.

Visual Scares try to take this onto a deeper level, appealing to your psychological fears. A good example of this type of horror is the F.E.A.R. series, where they put all the horror on display and just let you take it all in. They let it creep into your mind and scare you on a deeper level, where you're dreading what you'll find around the next corner.

This is a good type of horror to put into a game, but even it isn't perfect. The perfect horror game, in my opinion, is one that finds the balance between the two, the Combination Scares, as I like to call them.

These type of horror games are ones that blend the psychological impact of Visual Scares with the jarring disturbances of Jump Scares. They're the games that present you with a horrific visual and sound but throw a few Jump Scares every now and then to keep you off balance. Not so much that it becomes predictable but enough to keep the player from knowing what's going to happen next. This is the balance, where the player is so filled with dread from the game that it feels like genuine fear.

2. Atmosphere

Now it probably goes without saying, but without a good atmosphere, you can't have a good horror game. You can't exactly build a horror game using the Hello Kitty universe(or rather, you can, but it'd be hard to do). So you're going to have to create a game where the atmosphere reflects the horror that you're trying to instill in the player.

Now I can't get that pitch out of my head. Somebody, get on it! 
Now I can't get that pitch out of my head. Somebody, get on it!

This is often done by creating a setting that strikes at our most basest fears as human beings, such as the dark, confinement, the decay of death, or even our fear of predators. That's why you'll find a lot of horror games that share similar patterns to one another: small corridors shrouded in darkness, gore that signifies mortal frailty and enemies that are inhuman, beyond our rationality to fight.

A man we can fight, a monster is different.

For an example of how atmosphere can affect a game, I'll turn to Half-Life 2 as an example. A great game in itself, it's a first-person shooter where you fight mostly armed soldiers and aliens. But there is a great part of the game where the genre deviates into horror and you can see the visual change in style and presentation.

Here's how the atmosphere of the game usually is:


And here's when they shift to Ravenholm, the horror portion:


Notice the change? The change from bright, open areas to darker, more crowded alleys? This wasn't done on accident. The designers changed this intentionally to give Ravenholm a greater sense of uneasiness and dread. And it works, too. Ravenholm is one of the more terrifying parts of the game.

Good atmosphere can make a great horror game.

3. Immersion

If you're a gamer, than I can bet you've already experienced immersion in a game. That feeling when you're so engrossed in the game that you feel yourself disconnect from reality and connect to the events that are happening in the game. It happens a lot in most games but in horror games, it's essential.

Immersion is how you really scare a player because if they are enthralled into what's happening, then they momentarily feel it happening to them, as if they were the character experiencing the horrors.

This can be achieved through a number of ways.

Often, horror games will be in the first-person perspective instead of third-person. Of course, there are third-person horror games but I find the best ones are usually in first-person. The focus of first-person not only lets the player look through the eyes of the protagonist to simulate it in themselves, but it also gives them a bigger visual to view said horrors. The more you can see, the more fear can be pumped in.

Another good trick of immersion is in the audio of a game. Creepy sounds, random shrieks and primal drumbeats are great ways to get the players deeper into the game by not only appealing to their visual sense but their auditory as well. Playing a silent horror game is much less involving than playing the same game with appropriate horror sounds.

However, immersion is a fickle bitch. It's hard to achieve and even harder to maintain. It can be broken at the top of a hat, either through glitchy game mechanics or even poor design. And once you break a player's immersion into the horror game, you snap them back to reality where they're safe in their homes. Nonetheless, immersion is important to strive for and should always be a necessity of a great horror game.

4. Player Power

This last point is one that I believe has one of the strongest influence in horror video games: how powerful the player is.

Like we've talked about before, horror games are about simulating the fears of the player through the game. Fear that comes from a weak state, a state of helplessness against that which threatens us.

And the best possible way to destroy that fear is to give you a giant gun with unlimited ammo so that you may blast said fear away.

See, a lot of games have the problem of associating first-person with first-person shooters and think that the only way of making a horror game is to also give you a gun to fight the terror. But what some designers fail to realize is that the terror they want to induce in their players would be best by taking away their means to fight, to be completely helpless against the horrors they face. Having them hide and run away might not seem enthralling, but the reason their running away is because they're helpless and scared.

Take DOOM 3 for example. A good horror game, in my opinion, but which gives you plenty of weapons to shoot the horrors you face:


On the inverse of this spectrum, I'll give you Amensia: The Dark Descent, which basically only gives you a lantern:


Which would you suppose, if you were in the place of the protagonist of either game, would you choose to be in? The one where you have a gun or the one where you have a lantern?

Of course you'd choose the gun because it's a means to fight, a means to survive.

And that's exactly what you want in a horror game: to make the player feel vulnerable against the horrors.

Playing Dead Space, this was something I found to be a problem with because they tried to find the middle ground. They gave you a lot of guns that did very little against the enemies. And while this may seem like a way of creating helplessness, it's a cheap out. To the player, they've got all this fire power but none of it works. It's basically pointless and that's what breaks them out of the game.

The key is pick one of the extremes, either very powered or very underpowered, preferably the later.

So there you have it! All the proper elements I believe make a great horror game. It's not necessarily a how-to, but it is something to think about when you're playing your next horror game.

And heck, if you decide to design your own, all the better! Because now you'll know how to truly strike fear into the hearts of your players.


Header Images Sources: Source, Source

Twitter Facebook Stumbleupon Favorites More