Posts Tagged ‘YouTube’

Lately I’ve been pondering something. Well actually, I’ve been pondering a lot of things, including how kissing is treated in different genre fictions and if swallowing the prize in a cereal box makes you a specially marked package (I ponder a lot of things, some of which are strange and some of which may appear in future blog posts), but this one thing in particular I’d like to explore. In a YouTube video I watched recently, the host of the video pointed out that a lot of movies start out with a protagonist walking in on their spouse having an affair, and how that is supposed to start a journey of transformation. This actually caused me to have an epiphany: a lot of fiction–not just movies–revolve around, or start off with characters being in, being caught, or thinking about having an adulterous relationship.

Like, a lot. A whole lot. Like if it’s not a main focus, then there’s a good chance an adulterous relationship will show up in a story at some point or another. I can think of four Stephen King stories that involve affairs as major plot points. One of the most popular TV shows out right now has an affair as a major plot point (*cough* Scandal *cough*). The novel Gone Girl, one of the most compelling mystery/thrillers of the past decade, has an affair as its catalyst. Adultery is freaking everywhere you read/view/listen!

So this got me thinking on three points. First, why do affairs show up so much in fiction? Second, is this a good trope, or a trope that should be done less? Perhaps even phased out? And third, how often do adulterous relationships appear in my own fiction?

Well, that first point is rather obvious (unfortunately). Adulterous relationships show up so much in fiction because they happen so much in real life (unfortunately). Of course, affairs have happened since the beginning of monogamy, but I’m not so sure they were discussed as openly as they are these days. Affairs were considered vulgar things, so the only places they were really talked about were places where it was okay to discuss that sort of thing: bars, raunchy plays (William Shakespeare was actually considered a very dirty and lowbrow for his time), and the occasional dirty poem (yes, those did exist). In polite society, they were only quietly discussed, and that kind of reflected how often adultery was discussed in fiction, and how it was treated when it was brought up.

Scandal, which revolves around an adulterous relationship (still love you, Olivia).

Nowadays though, for whatever reason, we’re a lot more comfortable discussing adultery. In fact, rather than being something discussed in hushed whispers, adultery can be a major and accepted talking point. When a celebrity or a politician, especially one who preaches family values, is caught having an affair, it gets discussed ad nauseum in checkout lines and on national TV. Websites that facilitate adultery are at the center of major scandals, and advice columns around the world regularly feature letters from people who had discovered their lover has a side lover. There are even people who think that having an affair is healthy, natural, or no big deal. It’s a thing, and it’s pervasive (unfortunately).

And as fiction tends to reflect the real world up to a certain extent–last I checked, there aren’t any real exiled queens with dragons calling her “Mother”– it makes sense that adultery would show up in a lot of fiction.

So that answers the first question. What about the second question? Is the adultery trope a good one, or is it overused to the point that we might want to use it less?

Well, that’s a tricky one. Affairs are so common (unfortunately) that it would seem weird to take them out of all fiction. It’s like war or murder; they’ve happened, and they will continue to happen, so you might as well base a story or two around them. Like it or not, adultery is a part of everyday life, so it will show up in fiction.

I think the thing to keep in mind is just to avoid certain clichés with adultery. Any mystery writer will tell you that the lover killing the victim over jealousy or an affair has been done to death (pun intended), so perhaps one should avoid using that cliché, or find a way to use it so that it actually comes as a surprise rather than being expected, like in Gone Girl. Another cliché to avoid is how finding out your lover had an affair is a signal to go on a journey of self-discovery, or to try something new and exciting. Like I said above, the cliché has been done quite a bit, and it really doesn’t make sense. Affairs can change lives, but I don’t think they are one of those events that suddenly change how you look at life or at yourself. A near death experience, or the realization that you become everything you didn’t want to be, maybe. But walking in on your spouse? I think that’s a more likely to cause a shouting match. Maybe an alcohol binge or a murder, but probably not a journey of self-discovery.

And while we’re on the subject, nearly all the affairs in that cliché I mentioned involve the wife or the girlfriend doing the cheating, which is odd because most affairs involve the husband or boyfriend. That’s not some anti-male sexism, that’s just statistics. We could balance it out a little more.

I guess the answer I’ve come to is that if you’re going to have an affair in your story, and it’s going to be a major plot points, make sure it’s not subject to tiresome clichés we’ve seen a thousand times.

And now to my final point how much does adultery show up in my own fiction? And yes, I have to make this a major point of this post. This is my blog about my writing, and all authors who share their work with others are a little narcissistic, including me. Can you blame me?

Surprisingly, not that much. I’ve thought about a number of stories I’ve written since I was ten years old, and of those, adultery shows up in maybe three or four. Only to really come to mind. One was a vampire novel I wrote in high school that was really me exploring my own sexuality before I was aware of it (see this post for more details), and the other was a recent short story. In the latter example, I only spent about a paragraph on the affair. It serves as one of the reasons why another character commits a double murder, but it’s far from the main focus, which is actually the environment of the characters. I actually have plenty of story ideas that involve adultery, but I haven’t gotten around to writing them, and they are a minority among all the other stories I’ve come up with but have been written yet.

Whether we like it or not, adultery will continue to appear in fiction for a long time to come.

I think this might be because adultery is just not an issue I want to focus on. Outside of a few shows I watch, I’m not very interested in adultery. This might be because I’m not interested in romantic relationships in general, or because they’re just other tropes that I would prefer to work with. Not only that, but adultery is rarely that scary. I am all or a writer, I prefer to write about scary things. Monsters, ghosts, the horrors that mankind is capable of, the fear of things that could happen to us if things were just a little different. Unless you’re dating a psychopath or something, adultery is not really that scary. The biggest fear is getting caught, and in most fiction, that is what happens. Not much incentive for a horror writer to focus on adultery. Or at least not this horror writer.

But who knows? Adultery could show up in more stories in the future. My style is still evolving, so anything is possible.

Adultery is sadly very common, which means it will continue to show up in fiction for generations to come. However, the way we use adultery in our fiction can be highly a versatile, and that ensures that it won’t be a trope that will get tired anytime soon. Just avoid the clichés, and if you don’t care to use adultery in your stories, don’t. For every writer who isn’t comfortable running about such a subject, there is always one who is.

What’s your take on adultery in fiction?

Well, I’m writing this at a time I’m normally preparing for bed, but what can I say? When you’re on a roll and nearing the end, you just don’t stop writing.

Now, if you didn’t know, I’m taking a short break from working on Full Circle to work on some short stories. This particular short story, The Red Burst, is one I particularly had fun writing. The story is about a man and his husband who go to visit the former’s sister in a small town, only to find out that something that gives off bursts of red light (hence the title) is driving the residents insane. It’s definitely a dark story, and it’s special too for a number of reasons. One is that this story is very HP Lovecraft-influenced in many ways.

Now, if you’re unfamiliar with HP Lovecraft, he’s a horror author who wrote during the first half of the twentieth century, and has become very influential since (see my posts on my forays into his work, Part 1 and Part 2). A lot of his themes include the idea that humanity are ants in the grand scheme of things, that there’s no real meaning to existence, and that there might be things in the universe that are bigger than us and might see us as a food source or playthings. This is called cosmic horror, and I tired to incorporate those themes into The Red Burst. I got so hooked on the Lovecraft aspect of the story, I actually started reading his work again, and I listened to Lovecraft-themed relaxation videos on YouTube while I wrote the story (yes, those are a thing. Look up Ephemeral Rift on YouTube if you’re interested).

Another thing I liked about this story was that I got to incorporate a gay couple into the story. Even better, a Jewish gay couple! I like having diverse characters in my stories, and I know a lot of LGBT Jewish couples, so it was interesting having that sort of couple in the story, portraying not just their relationship but also their faith and how the events of the story affect that faith. I have a feeling though some of those LGBT couples I know will be coming up to me asking if I based the characters on them. The answer to that, of course, is no, because they haven’t done anything horrible enough to warrant that treatment from me.

And a final thing that I enjoyed with writing the story was that I got to use a drone in it! I don’t know why, but including modern elements in horror stories is just a blast for me. It’s like, “look, there’s a powerful demon from Hell, and now there’s an augmented reality game!” Or, “there’s a ghost after me, but at the same time, superhero franchises!” It’s like they don’t go together, but at the same time you make them go together, and it’s an incredible result. Plus with some, like the drone, you feel like there aren’t that many stories with the same elements in them, so you’re kind of exploring new territory. It’s a real thrill.

So what’s next for this story? Well, I’ll give it some time and return to it at a later date to edit it. It’s around 7,500 words, but I’ve discovered quite a few Lovecraft-themed magazines that are open to longer stories, so I may find this one a home. And if it does get published, I think people will really enjoy it. Especially Lovecraft fans who like a story with his themes but without language that was prevalent in early 19th century.

In the meantime, I’ll return to Full Circle ASAP and get to work on finishing that. I still have quite a ways to go, but after working on some short stories involving werewolves, cars, and insanity-causing red lights, I think some gangster science fiction shouldn’t be too hard. I’ll let you guys know if there’s anything new going on when the time comes.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear! Pleasant nightmares!

Okay, so I was grocery shopping yesterday at Meijer’s (which is a huge superstore, if you live outside the American Midwest and don’t have the chain near you), and they have this huge Halloween section around this time of year. I think, “Hey, why not pick up some stuff to decorate the apartment? After all, Halloween is a year-long thing with me.” So I go shopping, looking at what I want to furnish the apartment with, and I find an animatronic grim reaper near the back. And I decide to have some fun with it. And this was the result.

How did you like that? I thought it was hilarious enough to film, and then to post online. And since YouTube is the platform to post videos on, here you go. One YouTube video, for your enjoyment. And the best part is, the title of the video is just goofy enough that I think people will actually click on it and watch it.

By the way, after I filmed this, I had my younger sister walk in front of the skeleton. It freaked her out enough to make her jump back two feet, which was pretty hilarious. Sadly though, I did not get it on video, but I’m not sure my sister would like me putting her in a YouTube video, so maybe that’s for the best.

I seriously doubt this will go viral, but I hope a lot of people see it and find it hilarious. I also hope that my voice does not sound that reedy outside of recordings, but this isn’t a perfect world, so maybe that’s how my voice actually sounds and I just hear it differently.

Well, that’s all for now. I hope to have some more Halloween-related stuff out this month, including a picture of me in my Halloween costume (believe me, it’s a real freaky one this year. Until next time, my Followers of Fear.

Hey Followers of Fear. I actually have some bad news to dispense today. Yeah, I know, bad news. That’s not something I usually put out on this blog. I prefer to keep things upbeat and kind of funny here, because I’m a naturally upbeat and kind of funny guy. But occasionally I have to dispense with some bad news, and this is one of those times.

The fact of the matter is (this is not the bad news. That comes later), I’m writing slower than I used to. And I mean much slower: I started working on the third draft of Rose back in June. It’s August, and I’m still working through Chapter Five! Usually at this point of a draft I should be finishing up the edits, but I’m still in the early stages!

What’s to cause this slow-down of work? Well, the main reason is that I’m working a full-time job now, and that’s pretty time-consuming in itself. And unlike other jobs I’ve held in the past, there aren’t as many moments where there’s not a lot to do and I can sit back and write. Even Germany had more than a few of those moments. But in my current position, there’s always plenty to do, so I don’t exactly have that many moments to get out the laptop and work on a manuscript.

And when I get home, I don’t exactly have that much time either. I have to eat dinner, take a shower, make my lunch for tomorrow, and go to sleep at an earlier time so that I can get up early and be at work on time. That leaves only a few hours to write in the evening. Sometimes less, if I have errands to run after work.

With that in mind, I’m cutting a few things out of my life to make more time for writing. I’m cutting out the number of shows I watch so that when the fall television season starts, I’m not spending hours and hours streaming what I missed (I don’t have a TV or Cable yet). I’m also cutting back on the amount of time I spend on YouTube, because as fun as those videos can be, some of them can be pretty time-consuming (especially those videos of gamers playing horror games that I like so much). And–and here’s where the bad news really comes in–starting in September, I’m cutting myself back to two blog posts a month.

Now, I’m sure one or two of you are saying, “But Rami, we like seeing at least two blog posts a week from you!” Well, I like blogging around 2-3 times a week as well. But blogging also takes up time. Depending on the post, it can take quite a bit of time to write. Time I could spend getting through whatever story I happen to be writing or editing. I’m taking up time just writing this post! And because of that, I feel that I need to spend less time on this blog and more on the stories that I love writing and I love people reading.

So, unless something special comes up–a new review or interview, an important update on the projects I’m doing, or I’m pissed off at a recent tragedy in the world and need to vent my frustrations–you’ll be seeing much fewer posts here than before. This also means that I’ll stop doing #FirstLineFriday after August 26th. Not permanently, I may do one or two on occasion for an upcoming book or some other special occasion. But I won’t be doing one week after week. It’s just too time-consuming. I may try to come up with some other tag or meme where I do something similar to #FirstLineFriday (I know a lot of you enjoy those posts, and I do too), but at the moment I really can’t afford to keep doing this week in and week out if I want to get more writing and editing done.

On the bright side, I’ll have the opportunity to do more Reflections posts about the writing craft or about my own work. I used to do those quite a lot, and people really enjoyed them. However, I don’t do those much anymore, mostly because they’re the most time-consuming of blog posts. Now though, with hopefully a bit more time, I can write at least one a month and share my thoughts or have interesting discussions on writing and daily life.

I hope no one decides to stop following me because of this (I know some people stop following YouTubers if they don’t constantly put out new videos, so I assume the same can apply for blogs), or that they leave me because #FirstLineFriday was their favorite thing ever. It’s not because of you guys, it’s just hat I need to write, and if I don’t write, nothing gets done, and I get angry at myself. And that’s not something anyone wants.

Have you ever reduced the amount of blogging you do so you could focus on other things? What were the results of that?

I came across this book while looking for something new and scary to read. It looked and sounded good, and it apparently had only just come out in the US, so not many people were talking about it yet. I figured I’d give HEX a try.

And it definitely didn’t prove boring.

So, what’s it about? HEX is about the small town of Black Spring, New York, which is under the curse of an apparently immortal witch named Katherine van Wyler, who wanders around town with her eyes and mouth sewn shut (nightmares right there). Anyone who lives or moves to Black Springs is trapped there by the witch, with attempts to leave longer than a week or two leaving residents feeling depressed and suicidal. With every attempt in history to get rid of Katherine meeting with tragedy, the town has isolated itself from the rest of the world, with the HEX office controlling who moves into town and what Outsiders see when they visit, as well as monitoring the witch’s movements at all times using the latest and greatest in technology. Unbeknownst to HEX and the townsfolk, however, some teens in town are trying to study the witch with the hope of breaking the curse and leaving town. The results of that meddling cause a chain reaction leading to something no one in Black Spring will ever forget.

I thought that HEX had a lot going for it. For one, Heuvelt tells the story beautifully through the POVs of four of the townsfolk: Steve Grant, a doctor and father who tries to live in a rational world despite the fact that there’s a witch in his town; his eldest son Tyler, an idealistic youth and YouTube vlogger who leads his friends to study the witch; Robert Grim, HEX’s irritable leader (whose description in the book makes me think of Mitch Pileggi of X-Files fame); and Griselda Holst, a woman with a past who practically worships Katherine as much as she fears her. They’re all very well-written characters, and you really come to sympathize with each and every one (though occasionally I wondered if Griselda might use some therapy).

Heuvelt also knows how to tell a story, taking it in directions I didn’t think the story would go, and making the surprises genuine, even if some of them, in retrospect, could be seen coming. He also manages to create this atmosphere and dread that sticks with you and makes you want to know more, punctuating it with these moments involving the witch and her magic that really gets you.

I can’t really think of anything bad about this book. Nothing about it particularly struck me as bad or as needing improvement. I could nitpick that it may be a little too perfect, or that it could’ve dealt a bit more with the social media aspect of the story, but like I said, it’d be nitpicking.

The interesting thing about HEX is that the English version is really the second version: Heuvelt is a Dutch author, and HEX was originally published in Dutch with Dutch characters and a Dutch setting back in 2013. But in the acknowledgments section at the end of the book, Heuvelt explains that he was asked to make some changes for the America edition, and he ended up doing a sort of HEX 2.0, as he called it, rewriting the novel in English (apparently he’s fluent), giving it an American setting with American characters, and even a new ending.

So of course, one would wonder after reading the English version what the Dutch version is like. Well, Heuvelt won’t tell. His only advice is to “go bribe a Dutchman” (and oh darn, mine just happened to disappear in a flash of bright light). But even if you never find out what the Dutch version is like, you can be satisfied that the English version is pretty awesome as well.

All in all, I’m giving HEX a 4.3 out of 5. It’s creepy, has a great premise and characters, and is brilliantly written. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to read something new and different and scary and happens to see this on the shelves.

That’s all for now. Remember, today’s the last day to submit questions for a Q&A in honor of my five-year blogging anniversary (details here). You’ve got till midnight, and then I’m working on that post.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear!

I’m taking a break from posting Video Rage updates and #FirstLineFridays (though I hope you’re reading those with the same enthusiasm and interest you read the blog posts of others) to talk about something that’s become a bit of an interest for me. Now, I don’t play video games. I don’t have a console, nor do I have the time, patience, or drive to play them. But I love watching others play them. Specifically, I watch gamers play games and post the footage of the games and of themselves playing the games on YouTube. They’re called Let’s Play videos, and they are one of the most popular genres of video on YouTube.

And I’ve become quite the fan of them. Especially videos of horror games. And I’ve found that horror games, like movies and books, can run the gamut from excellent to “we didn’t put that much effort into this game and we’re merely taking advantage of people who are hoping to find a gem among a pile of crap.” Yet from a writer’s standpoint, I’ve found that even bad or average games can lead to great ideas for stories.

Beyond the basic elements of a scary story–the monster or evil the character/player has to face–the developers often, especially in the good games, put a lot of emphasis on visuals and audio. They’ll work with lighting, placement of objects, and, best of all, the antagonists of the game to create the creepiest effect. They also use sound effects and music as effectively as any composer and sound mixer to heighten tension and signal to players what sort of scene in the story they’ve come across. Add in great story that can be told over longer periods than movies and even some books, well-timed jumpscares, and objectives in the game that usually involve getting near a monster, and you’ve got a recipe not only for a scary game, but a great vehicle that can put the creative player or viewer in the right state of mind to come up with scary story ideas of their own.

And you know what else? Some of those ideas can be pretty spectacular. I know, I know, what constitutes a good idea is often about perception, and the execution of those ideas in turning them into a story is also up to the author’s individual skill, but I just want to say, they are often very good ideas. Not too long ago, I had an idea for a novel that was inspired by a game. And it sounds like a very strange and creepy idea for a story. I think I state all this because despite the fact that the gaming industry has grown over the years, with thousands of professional and indie developers, and millions of players around the world, a lot of people still see gaming as a thing for kids and are surprised that gaming, and people who watch gamers play, is such a serious thing among adults and kids. Heck, even late night host Jimmy Kimmel made incredulous jokes about the phenomenon at one point, though he later came to realize that he may have been a little hasty in judgment and talked to Let’s Play gamers to get their side of it.

Truth be told, video games are a lot like comic books: what was originally seen as something meant for kids yet possibly bad for their minds has become something that adults can appreciate and serve as the basis for several successful movies, TV shows, and so much more. They’re continuously evolving, changing as new fans and creators join the community, inviting discussions and debates, new takes on old characters and stories and encouraging people to exercise their creativity and skills in the name of fun. It’s no surprise that games can also be enjoyed by both playing and watching, and allow creators to come up with their own fun and unique stories.

Though I do agree that certain games are best left out of the hands of children until they reach a certain maturity. Seriously, if you think it’s okay to let your five-year-old play a Grand Theft Auto game, I worry about your parenting skills.

But enough of that tangent. I’ve been talking about how horror games can serve as great creative juice for horror writers (and other creative types). So I’m going to list some of the best horror games I feel can give you inspiration, whether you decide to play them or just watch others do it. Each game has plenty going for it, so you can really learn a lot from it and get plenty of ideas. So without further ado, let’s get started!

Slender: The Eight Pages

I would be remiss if I did not list this one. This game set the standard for what constitutes a successful indie horror game. Based on the Slenderman character I’ve mentioned more than a few times on this blog, the game tasks the player trying to find eight notes scattered around a forest that pertain to the Slender Man, all while trying to avoid the creepster himself. While Slendy was popular on the Internet prior to the game, the game really caused him to explode as a phenomenon, and really hit home to people that indie horror games can be creative and cool, too.

Since Slender came out, the creators have put out a number of sequels, some of which are really great, and he’s appeared in other games as well. However, this is the game that started it all, and you should definitely give it a try, if only to set the bar for what a horror indie game can be.

Five Nights at Freddy’s

If Slender set the standard, then Five Nights at Freddy’s, which I’ve talked about on this blog as well, took the bar and threw it into the upper atmosphere. Created by programmer Scott Cawthon, Five Nights at Freddy’s (often abbreviated as FNAF) follows a security guard tasked with the night shift at a pizzeria with a checkered history while killer animatronics roam the halls trying to get into your office. The game combines simple gameplay, terrifying visuals, and strong jumpscares to create a powerful gaming experience, spawning three sequels, one kid-friendly spin-off, a novel that I’ve read and reviewed, and a movie I’ve made no secret that I’m excited about, as well as thousands of tribute and knock-off games inspired by or trying to capitalize on the popularity of the game.

Another reason this game is so popular is because the game has a huge mythology, but no one’s been able to make sense of it or put the events in order. You go online, you’ll find tons of people putting forth their theories about this haunted pizzeria and why the animatronics are trying to kill you. You should check out the games for that mystery alone, but for all the reasons I’ve listed, you cannot miss this game.

PT

You can’t actually get this game anymore as far as I’m aware, but you can find plenty of people who played it. PT stands for “playable teaser,” and was originally just that: a teaser for an upcoming game you could play. Specifically, PT was teasing a new Silent Hill game which filmmaker Guillermo del Toro was to be part of, until that project fell through. Still, PT was a great game on its own, despite the final two stages of the game considered to be confusing and requiring special knowledge to make it through them. Its eerie story, the strange unreality of the house setting, and other factors led to PT becoming a popular free mini-game.

Speaking of which, a short film based on PT was released online recently by YouTube channel Oddest of the Odd, and it really captures the game’s spirit and eeriness. Check it out here, and have a great time.

Until Dawn

Imagine a game version of Cabin in the Woods that’s trying to be serious horror instead of satirical horror comedy, and you’ll start to approach what Until Dawn is. A year after two sisters disappear at a mountain cabin, their brother and friends head back to the cabin to remember the girls and have fun, only to have or or several somethings stalk them. At times creepy or terrifying, at times silly or fun, Until Dawn features a cast of well-known actors including Brett Dalton, Hayden Panettiere, and the awesomely named Rami Malek.

I can’t reveal much more about this game without giving away a ton of surprises, which are more fun to discover by experiencing the game itself. I will tell you though that the game relies a lot on the “choice” mechanic, which means that you get special choices throughout playing the game, and those choices influence how the game turns out. Info revealed, who lives and who dies, all rely on the player’s choices, and this is reflected in the game’s emphasis on the Butterfly effect. Play it or watch it, you’re likely to get a very interesting film influenced by 80’s slasher films, mystery/thrillers, and some Native American mythology.

However, it’s only available on the PS4, so you’ll have to buy that if you want to get Until Dawn. Sucks, right?

Emily Wants to Play

Holy crap, this is a tough but fun game. A pizza delivery guy is lured into a house and finds that the ghost of an evil little girl and her sentient dolls have trapped him in the house, determined to have him play a game that could cost him his life. Creepy in both tone and characters, this is a game that is as scary as it is challenging. However, if you have the fortitude to play, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth. People with doll phobias should not play this game though. You’ll be unable to sleep afterwards though.

Wick

For some reason, this game isn’t as well known as others, which is sad because it is SO GOOD! Armed with matches and candles only, you have to spend the night in a wood that was once the home of a family whose parents died in a fire and whose children went missing. Along with finding new candles and collecting objects related to the children, you have to avoid the ghosts of the children that haunt the woods. From the dark woods to the freaky nature of the ghosts, Wick is a game that will remind you of campfire stories that kept you up at night as a child.

Boogeyman

Using a similar mechanic to FNAF (and possibly inspired by it), Boogeyman follows a young boy who moves into a house that has a history of children disappearing from it. Learning from the tapes of a previous resident about the creatures that live in the house’s walls, you have to fight through several nights with mainly a flashlight and keep the Boogeyman from coming into your room and tearing you apart. From the distraction-filled room to the design of the Boogeyman himself, this is definitely a game to make you want to check under the bed and in the closet before you go to sleep.

Sophie’s Curse

You get a job to stay by an old man’s side and watch his house through the night while he sleeps. Sounds easy enough…until you find out that the house is haunted and that the only way to keep away the creepy little girl ghost is to make sure a series of devices set up throughout the house are powered and functioning. Such is Sophie’s Curse, which is a really dark game. Literally: there is more shadow than light in this game. And it works, because the sources of light are the same machines that protect your life. And when Sophie’s nearby or she’s trying to mess with the machines in the house, you really get scared. Play the game, and see if you survive. After playing this game, you cannot get inspired by it.

Outlast

I’ve saved the best for last. Outlast was developed by Red Barrels, a company composed of gaming professionals who came together from a variety of companies to make a badass horror game. And boy, did they succeed: from the moment it came out, this game quickly climbed up horror game lists and has continued to terrify us ever since, as has its DLC prequel/side-story Whistleblower and as I’m sure its sequel will do this fall.

The game follows Miles Upshur, an investigative journalist who gets tipped off to some weird things going on at the isolated Mount Massive Asylum in the California mountains. He arrives there armed with only a notebook and a video camera, only to find that the criminally insane inmates–who have been subjected to horrifying experiments–have gotten loose and are causing havoc in the asylum. You have to try and get out while also unraveling the mystery of Mount Massive, and of the experiments that go on there. It’s TERRIFYING! Visuals, audio, storytelling, tension and creep factor, everything is as close to perfect as possible. I’ve tried playing it, and I had to stop because everytime I did, I left shaking and worried about my heart.

So if you want a long and really scary movie experience, I suggest watching a Let’s Play of Outlast.

What do you think of horror games? Do you have a favorite?

Let’s discuss.

Now before I start this review, I need to do a little background: Five Nights at Freddy’s is a video game series created by game designer Scott Cawthon that follows a security guard trying to survive a week at a haunted pizzeria filled with killer animatronics (yes, that’s what it’s about; read here for a fuller explanation on the game and its popularity). The game has proven extremely popular, spawning three sequels, an upcoming RPG game, a movie that I’m excited about, and was a large part of YouTube’s annual Rewind video this year.

The game’s popularity is due in part to simple gameplay paired with a surprisingly challenging game, terrifying visuals and sounds combining to create a tense atmosphere, and a lore that tons of people have been trying to make sense of and put in a timeline since probably the very first game (seriously, search “FNAF theories” on Google. I’ll wait). And these people were excited to hear that Cawthon had teamed up with a writer to produce a novel based on the games, hoping that it would lead to an explanation.

Unfortunately for them, that’s not the case. While the book is kind of canon according to the creator, it’s kind of like an alternate universe’s version of the story of the games, a retelling of the story in the form of the novel with most of the elements of the games.  It doesn’t actually explain the lore of the games.

That being said, I decided to check the book out anyway. I like the series, I wanted to know if this could be a clue to what the movie could be about, and I like a good scary story. With that in mind, I downloaded it onto my Kindle, and read it all in three days.

So with that background out of the way, what did I think of Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Silver Eyes? Well, I thought it was an average horror story at best. Not too say that it was totally bad, it had some things about it that I liked. I just felt that it didn’t have as much effort put into it as could’ve been put in.

So what’s the book about? FNAF: The Silver Eyes follows Charlie, a young woman who’s father was the owner of the original Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria, and who’s returning to her hometown with her childhood friends to confront their pasts with the restaurant. Along the way they find the restaurant, and go in, leading to all sorts of chaos as they awaken the evil sleeping within.

I did like how the author sets up scenes, and the characters other than Charlie have enough personality to them to work for a slasher-style novel. The flashbacks are handled pretty well, and there are ideas here in the story that I liked. The climax is exciting enough, and despite what some theorists and even Cawthon the creator says, I felt like the book answered a lot of questions that I had about the games’ lore and mythology. Those are positive things, in my book (pun totally not intended).

I expected more from a story based around these characters.

However, there was a lot that I didn’t like. For one thing, I don’t get why the teens kept going back to the restaurant. I mean, they went enough that everyone could see it and relive their childhood memories, but why did they go back after that? I didn’t really get it. Not to mention that a lot of elements from the games weren’t present in the book: the animatronics don’t really come to life until much later in the story, which I found weird considering that they’re active from Night 1 in each game, and that the Puppet character from the second game, which a lot of fans of the games love, was noticeably absent from the story. And even if I wasn’t familiar with the games and didn’t have theories about it, the way the story’s told makes certain things obvious (from the moment we meet one character, we just know he’s a bad guy), which took some excitement and scares out of the story. Plus the conclusion felt sort of half-done, like they’d left something out in the final draft. That definitely brought down my enjoyment of the story a little.

There was also some sloppy editing in the story that, as a novelist, I disliked. Indentations at the beginning of paragraphs or even for entire paragraphs vary from paragraph to paragraph, certain scenes or settings aren’t written very well, and at times I found myself aghast at certain things the story left out: for example, at one point a character says he can see the moon, but another character next to him can’t. Why? Is there something in the way? Is it a height issue? It’s never explained. And not too long afterwards, one character hears a music box and tells the others to be quiet. One character says he then hears it too, but we don’t get clued into if the other characters hear it too. Now those are small details, but they are important for good storytelling, and I could not believe those parts weren’t cleaned up during editing.

All in all, I’m giving Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Silver Eyes a 2.6 out of 5. I feel like if maybe Scott Cawthon and Kira Breed-Wrisley, the author he worked with, had maybe spent more time on the story, maybe called in an editor and some beta readers for feedback, the story could’ve been a great horror novel as well as an explanation of the events of the games. As it is, it’s good for demystifying the lore, but if you want more than that you probably won’t get it.

I just hope this isn’t the basis of the movie’s script, because then the movie’s going to suck.