Both games, in their own way, ask players to suspend their disbelief enough to believe they’re controlling the outcome of cinema-inspired horror scenes, whether it’s by pressing a single button in The Quarry or by engaging in direct time-based combat as one of them Evil Deadsurvivors or demons. Both, in their own way, use different understandings of game design to capture the experience of watching a horror film.
Games in previous decades have tried to achieve this goal in different ways. Survival horror releases like those that made it famous Resident Evil and Silent Hill In the 90’s it used a deliberately awkward control scheme (aka tank controls) and a scarcity of ammo and healing items to model the fear of being overpowered and overpowered by monsters. This, combined with the drugged feeling of maneuvering the character into position to escape or fight the enemy, worked to replicate the nightmarish helplessness of a horror film. Amnesia: Dark Descent took another approach in modeling powerlessness, forcing the player to explore terrifying locations and hide from danger without access to any weapons.
In short, designers have always been interested in finding ways to make the vicarious thrill of watching a horror movie more intimate—to make players feel like they’re not just watching, but participating in the experience.
Both of the aforementioned design ethics maintain popularity, but join them The Quarry and the more passive genre it belongs to like games like Evil Deadthe latest in the “asymmetrical multiplayer” horror subgenre that also includes Dead by Daylight and Friday the 13th adaptation. The common thread that connects these horror releases is their use of role-playing as a means of immersing the audience in various aspects of the horror movie experience.
Something interesting happens during gameplay The Quarry, for example: the player doesn’t make decisions as if he were the character involved, but acts from the perspective of the director – or perhaps more accurately, from the perspective of a plot-influencing viewer whose screaming at the TV not to go off alone to investigate a strange noise can actually turn the tide events. Understanding genre tropes informs those decisions. When a cast member is attacked by a bizarre monster and develops a strange infection from a leg wound, another character’s suggestion to amputate the limb moments after spotting black fluid along the edges of the wound seems more reasonable than it should. The player knows that something bad is inevitable because of the story they are witnessing, but knowing the logic of horror movies, which dictates how a mysterious injury inflicted by a monster causes its sufferer to turn into a monster, they might try to save the injured player by assessing the situation on a genre basis. The Quarry encourages its audience to act as a horror movie viewer instead of a horror movie character.
U Evil Dead: The Game, players take on screen roles more directly. As demons they are forced to think like a supernatural predator, doing everything possible to kill other players. As survivors, they are forced to prioritize saving the lives of their companions. The abstractness of the genre has been removed to favor the fight-or-flight behavior that slasher films try to capture in the first place. One layer of signifiers has been removed, leaving something closer to the actual emotions a slasher wants its viewer – or in this case, player – to feel.
The Evil Dead movies, and horror movies in general, consist of more than just the aesthetics of tension, fear, and violence. The Quarry and Evil Dead: The Game they both get it in their own way, modeling the vicarious pity and guilt that comes from watching the events unfold in slasher movies. Their design approaches may take different forms, but they work toward a similar goal: to take the movie’s monsters and those they terrify a few steps away from the screen so that their fates, to whatever degree, can be placed in our hands.