segunda-feira, 7 de novembro de 2016

INSIDE: an obscure ludic experience in a dark landscape

Limbo, created by the independent studio Playdead, was my favorite game in the year of 2010. I think I might have played the full game around seven or eight times. It’s a simple puzzle-platform 2D game, but the narrative and dark ambience won my attention in an epic level. Six years later, Playdead launched another big hit: INSIDE.

Put the mechanics and gameplay from Limbo in a blender. Add some dystopian elements from George Orwell’s “1984” novel and mix in a pinch of technological horror. There you have it: INSIDE. The gaming plot is about a nameless red-shirted boy that must survive in a hostile futuristic ambient, trying to avoid well-equipped guards, killer dogs and natural disasters. As the story goes, you will discover parts of a huge conspiracy that aims to create an abominable creature. To go further in the narrative, the player must solve puzzles using things that are scattered on the scene; sometimes, they seem pretty obvious and sometimes not too much. I want to highlight the “mind control” puzzles where you put a device on the boy’s head to gather zombie-type characters from the scenario to help you (a very similar mechanics from the game Swapper).

Check the gaming atmosphere and gameplay in the video below:

The soundtrack is another incredible feature from the game. During all the experience, you can hear a very disturbing soundscape. INSIDE’s soundtrack is very similar to Zoät·Aon’s album “Star Autopsy” and Robert Rich and Lustmord’s “Synergistic Perceptions”.

is not a horror game, but it can create a unique atmosphere of fear and despair with the strategic use of its dark scenario, obscure music, horrible deaths and dangers in the journey. Saint (2014, p.3) argues that the mixture of fear and the sense of impotency (two basic features of this game) can create an aura of horror and a deep dive in the game’s reality. But, in this context, it’s important to remember that the “term horror is extremely broad and covers an expansive range of themes, experiences and reactions” (MARSHALL, 2014, p.60). INSIDE offers a different specter of horror/fear/terror. It’s subtler and demands the use of the players’ imagination to complete some points from the narrative.

In other words, INSIDE’s context works with the immersion in the dark reality of the game and the empathy we can feel for the fragile character fighting the dangers.

When we feel with other individuals or characters we not only use our imagination in order to undertake a shift in our cognitive perspective and imaginatively to experience the world from their point of view but we also use our imagination to adopt the assumed emotional state of the target individual. That means, when moviegoers or readers* feel empathy with a character, they perceive the events in the story from the spatio-temporal position of that character and at the same time experience emotions that match those of the target character in terms of quality, albeit maybe not in terms of quantity” (TRIEBEL, 2014, p.5).

INSIDE is a masterpiece to discuss questions about game design and narrative. It’s an awesome example of how the classic platform format still can be creative, immersive and full of meaning. In this ambient full of “ludic fear” there’s a crucial question: why do some players search for fear and other bad feelings in games? To solve this puzzle, we quote Suits (2005, p.55) who says, “Playing a game is the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles”.

*We can include gamers in this context


MARSHAL, James L.. The potential and limits of a visual arts practice. IN: SMITH, Shilinka; HILL, Shona. Transforming fear, horror and terror: multidisciplinary reflections. Oxford: Inter-disciplinary press, 2014.

SAINT, Michelle. Horror in art, horror in life: its nature and its value. IN: SMITH, Shilinka; HILL, Shona. Transforming fear, horror and terror: multidisciplinary reflections. Oxford: Inter-disciplinary press, 2014.

SUITS, Bernard. The grasshopper: games, life and utopia. Toronto: Broadview Encore Editions, 2005.

TRIEBEL, Doreen. Manipulating empathic responses in horror fiction. IN: KATTELMAN, Beth; HODALSKA, Magdalena. Frightful Witnessing: the rhetoric and (re)presentation of fear, horror and terror. Oxford: Inter-Disciplinary Press, 2014.