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Horror video game

Under the supervision of Bernard Perron

Since the majority of video games relies on the notion of survival, horror video games – and more specifically survival horror games – could be seen as the video game genre par excellence. From the gothic novel to the stories of Poe, Lovecraft and King, from Hammer movies to the slasher trend, horror literature and cinema have sparked a lot of interest in the academic world, despite their “popular” aspect. By contrast, horror video games had only succeeded in catching the public’s interest, thanks to landmark series such as Resident Evil and Silent Hill. While game studies have soared since the end of the 1990s, few research projects had focused on a specific genre and few publications had taken horror video games into account. This project has remedied to the situation and provided the opportunity to explore the domain of horror video games through three parallel research avenues: history, transmedia exchanges, and the question of genre.

If the history of horror video games already existed in an implicit manner among the videoludic community, a thorough and thoughtful historical study had still not been made at the beginning of the project. An extensive and reasoned ludography has thus been developed in order to document the phenomenon (this database is available in the Documentation part of the LUDOV website). Corpus analysis led to a better comprehension of the influence of literature and cinema on horror video games. We were able to shed light on the specificity of video game horror strategies and the corresponding emotional implication of the player. Finally, the aesthetic and discursive notion of “genre” has been studied explored through an in-depth inspection of survival horror games.

Grant Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Canada (SHRC): "From fictional fear to videoludic fear: a genre study of horror video games" (2008-2011)


Research Assistants


Academic contributions

- Database: Horror video game bibliography

- Database: Horror video gameludography


PublicationsTop of the page

Books and journals
Silent Hill: le moteur de la terreur

Perron, Bernard. 2018. The World of Scary Video Games: Study in Videoludic Horror. New York : Bloomsbury.

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As for film and literature, the horror genre has been very popular in the video game. The World of Scary Video Games provides a comprehensive overview of the videoludic horror, dealing with the games labelled as “survival horror” as well as the mainstream and independent works associated with the genre. It examines the ways in which video games have elicited horror, terror and fear since Haunted House (1981). Bernard Perron combines an historical account with a theoretical approach in order to offer a broad history of the genre, outline its formal singularities and explore its principal issues. It studies the most important games and game series, from Haunted House (1981) to Alone in the Dark (1992- ), Resident Evil (1996-present), Silent Hill (1999-present), Fatal Frame (2001-present), Dead Space (2008-2013), Amnesia: the Dark Descent (2010), and The Evil Within (2014). Accessibly written, The World of Scary Video Games helps the reader to trace the history of an important genre of the video game.

Silent Hill: le moteur de la terreur

Perron, Bernard. (2016). Silent Hill: le moteur de la terreur. Paris : Questions théoriques.

Z pour Zombies

Perron, Bernard, Samuel Archibald and Antonio Dominguez Leiva (eds.). 2015. Z pour Zombies. Montréal : Presses de l'Université de Montréal.

Poétique du zombie

Perron, Bernard, Samuel Archibald and Antonio Dominguez Leiva (eds.). 2013. Otrante. Poétiques du zombien° 33-34 (winter). Paris : Editions Kimé.

Figures de violence

Perron, Bernard, Richard Bégin and Lucie Roy (eds.). 2012. Figures de violence, Coll. “Esthétiques”. Paris : L’Harmattan.

Silent Hill: the Terror Engine

Perron, Bernard. 2012. Silent Hill: The Terror Engine. Ann Arbor : University of Michigan Press.

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Silent Hill: The Terror Engine, the second of the two inaugural studies in the Landmark Video Games series from series editors Mark J. P. Wolf and Bernard Perron, is both a close analysis of the first three Silent Hill games and a general look at the whole series. Silent Hill, with its first title released in 1999, is one of the most influential of the horror video game series. Perron situates the games within the survival horror genre, both by looking at the history of the genre and by comparing Silent Hill with such important forerunners as Alone in the Dark and Resident Evil. Taking a transmedia approach and underlining the designer's cinematic and literary influences, he uses the narrative structure; the techniques of imagery, sound, and music employed; the game mechanics; and the fiction, artifact, and gameplay emotions elicited by the games to explore the specific fears survival horror games are designed to provoke and how the experience as a whole has made the Silent Hill series one of the major landmarks of video game history.

Loading... Journal of the Canadian Game Studies Association

Perron, Bernard, Dominic Arsenault, Martin Picard, Guillaume Roux-Girard, and Carl Therrien (eds.). 2010. “Thinking After Dark: Welcome to the World of Horror Video Games”. Loading... Journal of the Canadian Game Studies Association, vol. 4, n° 6 Special issue (april). [Online]

Horror Video Games: Essay on the Fusion of Fear and Play

Perron, Bernard (ed.). 2009. Horror Video Games: Essays on the Fusion of Fear and Play. Jefferson : McFarland.

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In this in-depth critical and theoretical analysis of the horror genre in video games, 14 essays explore the cultural underpinnings of horror's allure for gamers and the evolution of "survival" themes. The techniques and story effects of specific games such as Resident Evil, Call of Cthulhu and Silent Hill are examined individually.

Silent Hill Il motore del terrore

Perron, Bernard. 2006. Silent Hill: Il motore del terrore. Milan : Costa Nolan.

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Bernard Perron's investigation of Konami's survival horror series goes beyond the usual compare-and-contrast approaches with other similar texts, e.g. Resident Evil and Alone in the Dark. His transmedia analysis takes the reader for a literary, cinematic, and ludic journey they won't forget.

Book chapters and articles
The Playful Undead and Video Games

Perron, Bernard. Forthcoming in 2019. "The Pace and Reach of Video Game Zombies". In Peter Zackariasson and Stephen Webley (eds.), The Playful Undead and Video Games. London : Routledge.

La mort intranquille: réflexions sur le mort-vivant

Perron, Bernard. Forthcoming in 2019. "L’allure et la portée des zombies vidéoludiques". In Simon Harel, Jérôme-Olivier Allard and Marie-Christine Lambert-Perreault (eds.), La mort intranquille: réflexions sur le mort-vivantQuébec : Presses de l’Université Laval.

Décadrages

Perron, Bernard. 2018. "Les régimes effrayants de la vision vidéoludique". In Selim Krichane (ed.), Décadrages, n° 29 (Automn), p. 8-29. [PDF]

CinémAction

Perron, Bernard. 2018. "Le jeu vidéo d’horreur : Quel cinéma !?". In Marion Poirson (ed.), CinémAction. Jeux vidéo et cinéma : une création, n° 168, p. 64-74.

Horror Literature through History

Perron, Bernard and Jean-Charles Ray. 2017. "Horror Video Games". In Matt Cardin (ed.), Horror Literature through History: An Encyclopedia of the Stories that Speaks to our Deepest Fearsp. 121-125. Santa Barbara : ABC-CLIO.

Cinéma et jeu vidéo

Perron, Bernard. 2016. "Effrayantes aventures dans le champ aveugle du jeu vidéo et du cinéma d’horreur". In Alexis Blanchet (ed.), Cinéma et jeux vidéo, p. 5-16Paris : Questions Théoriques.

Video Games and Gaming Culture

Perron, Bernard. [2005] 2016. "Coming to Play at Frightening Yourself: Welcome to the World of Horror Games". In Mark J. P. Wolf (ed.), Video Games and Gaming Culturevol. 3, p. 181-196. New York : Routledge.

Video Games and Gaming Culture

Perron, Bernard. [2004] 2016. "Sign of a Threat: The Effects of Warning Systems in Survival Horror Games". In Mark J. P. Wolf (dir.), Video Games and Gaming Culturevol. 3, p. 435-454. New York : Routledge.

Genre et jeux vidéo

Perron, Bernard. 2015. “Le survival horror : un genre vidéoludique idéal pour une étude genre”. In Fanny Lignon (ed.), Genre et jeux vidéo, p. 95-117. Toulouse : Presses Universitaires du Mirail.

Encyclopedia of Video Game: The Culture, Technology, and Art of Gaming

Perron, Bernard. 2012. “Survival Horror”. In Mark J.P. Wolf (ed.), Encyclopedia of Video Games: The Culture, Technology, and Art of Gaming, p. 636-639. Westport : Greenwood Press.

Figures de violence

Perron, Bernard, and Guillaume Roux-Girard. 2012. “Entre synchronisation et action : son et violence dans les jeux vidéo d'horreur”. In Bernard PerronRichard Bégin and Lucie Roy (eds.), Figures de violence, p. 81-91. Coll. "Esthétiques", Paris : L’Harmattan.

Figures de violence

Perron, Bernard, Richard Bégin and Lucie Roy. 2012. "Introduction : Figures de violence". In Bernard PerronRichard Bégin and Lucie Roy (eds.), Figures de violence, p. 7-11. Coll. "Esthétiques", Paris : L'Harmattan.

Game Sound Technology and Player Interaction: Concepts and Developments

Roux-Girard, Guillaume. 2011. “Listening to Fear: A Study of Sound in Horror Computer Games”. In Mark Grimshaw (ed.), Game Sound Technology and Player Interaction: Concepts and Developments, p. 192-212. Hershey : IGI Global. [PDF]

Magazine électronique du Centre international d'art contemporain, Le Web hanté

Perron, Bernard. 2010. "Fatal Frame ou la hantise vidéoludique". Magazine électronique du Centre international d’art contemporain, n° 38 (November). [PDF]

Horror Video Games: Essays on the Fusion of Fear and Play

Perron, Bernard. 2009. "Introduction: Gaming After Dark". In Bernard Perron (ed.), Horror Video Games: Essays on the Fusion of Fear and Play, p. 3-13. Jefferson : McFarland.

Horror Video Games: Essays on the Fusion of Fear and Play

Perron, Bernard. 2009. “The Survival Horror: The Extended Body Genre”. In Bernard Perron (ed.), Horror Video Games: Essays on the Fusion of Fear and Play, p. 121-143. Jefferson : McFarland

Horror Video Games: Essays on the Fusion of Fear and Play

Picard, Martin. 2009. “Haunting Backgrounds: Transnationality and Intermediality in Japanese Survival Horror Video Games”. In Bernard Perron (ed.), Horror Video Games: Essays on the Fusion of Fear and Play, p. 95-120. Jefferson : McFarland.

Horror Video Games: Essays on the Fusion of Fear and Play

Roux-Girard, Guillaume. 2009. “Plunged Alone into Darkness: Evolution in the Staging of Fear in the Alone in the Dark Series”. In Bernard Perron (ed.), Horror Video Games: Essays on the Fusion of Fear and Play, p. 145-167. Jefferson : McFarland.

Horror Video Games: Essays on the Fusion of Fear and Play

Therrien, Carl. 2009. “Games of Fear. A Multi-Faceted Historical Account of the Horror Genre in Video Games”. In Bernard Perron (ed.), Horror Video Games: Essays on the Fusion of Fear and Play, p. 26-45. Jefferson : McFarland.

Schermi interattivi. Saggi critici su videogiochi & cinema

Perron, Bernard. 2008. “Dal film al gioco: l’esperienza forzata di paura”. In Matteo Bittanti (ed.), Schermi interattivi. Saggi critici su videogiochi & cinema, p. 233-259. Rome : Meltemi.


Other relevant publicationsTop of the page

World Buildind. Transmedia, Fans, Industries

Perron, Bernard. 2017. "Zombie Escape and Survival Plans: Mapping the Transmedial World of the Dead". In Marta Boni (dir.), World Building. Transmedia, Fans, Industries, p. 215-230. Amsterdam : Amsterdam University Press.

Z pour Zombies

Perron, Bernard, Samuel Archibald and Antonio Dominguez Leiva. 2015. "Introduction". In Bernard Perron, Samuel Archibald and Antonio Dominguez Leiva (eds.), Z pour Zombies p. 9-10. Montréal : Presses de l'Université de Montréal.

Loading... Journal of the Canadian Game Studies Association

Arsenault, Dominic. 2010. "Introduction à la pragmatique des effets génériques : l'horreur dans tous ses états". Loading... Journal of the Canadian Game Studies Association, vol. 4, n° 6. [Online]

Medi@terra 2006

Perron, Bernard. 2006. “The Heuristic Circle of Gameplay: the Case of Survival Horror”. In Dodo Santorineos (ed.), Gaming Realities: the Challenge of Digital Culture, p. 62-71. Proceedings from “Medi@terra 2006” (Athens, October). [PDF]

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Based on a previous analysis of the cognitive interactivity of movie viewing, this paper examines the circularity at the core of the gameplay experience. Taking the survival horror genre, and more particularly the game Cold Fear, as a case study, it describes the activity as a heuristic circle. If playing a videogame is stepping into a magic circle as Huizinga phrased it, it is also engaging in a magic cycle of questions and answers, of analysis and implementation, of input and output.

Ciné-Bulles

Perron, Bernard. 2006. “Quand le brouillard se dissipe : Silent Hill, le film”. Ciné-Bulles, vol. 24, n° 4 (autumn), p. 42-47. [PDF]

Aesthetics of Play

Perron, Bernard. 2005. “Coming to Play at Frightening Yourself : Welcome to the World of Horror Games”. Proceedings from "Aesthetics of Play. A Conference on Computer Game Aesthetics" (Bergen, October 4-15, 2005). [Online] [PDF]

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From Haunted House (Atari, 1981) to Alone in the Dark (I-Motion Inc. & Infogrames/Interplay, 1992), and from Phantasmagoria (Sierra, 1995) to Resident Evil 4 (Capcom, 2005), this paper will study how horror video games scare or rather, how it prompts us the frighten ourselves. Inevitably, it will be impossible to ignore the remediation of the cinematic aesthetic and tricks. While those links are important, it is what the interactivity brings to the genre that will be examined. Because a dark alley, a door slightly opened, a freaky noise in the distance or the actual one-to-one confrontation with a monster are not only fictional horror signs, they are above all cues to act, to gain or lose control. For instance, the flickering lights and thunderclaps of Haunted House or the flashlight device in Silent Hill (Konami, 1990) not only create a spooky atmosphere, it precisely constraints the field of vision of the gamer in order to give him even more a sense of insecurity. The same thing can be said about the framing in Resident Evil. As the startle effect is as effective in games than in movies, it is trigged by the movement of the gamer in the former. The active coping potentials of the gamer is therefore at the core of the horror or terror experience. Not to mention the forewarning system that I have studied before (2004), it is then relevant to examine devices such as the Panic Meter of Clock Tower 3 (Capcom, 2003) that sees the avatar act increasingly erratically as it rises, to the point where she is not responding to commands anymore, or the Sanity Meter of Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem (Silicon Knights/Nintendo, 2002) which, once it falls very low, makes weird things happened to your avatars, game-world, and television set and console.

COSIGN 2004

Perron, Bernard. 2004. “Sign of a Threat : The Effects of Warning Systems in Survival Horror Games”. 4th Conference on Computation Semiotics, p. 132-141. Proceedings from “COSIGN 2004” (Split, September 14-16, 2004). [PDF]

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This paper studies the way survival horror games are designed to frighten and scare the gamer. Comparing video games and movies, the experiential state of the gamer and that of the spectator, as well as the shock of surprise and tension of suspense, it focuses on the effects of forewarning on the emotional responses to survival horror games.


EventsTop of the page

Thinking After Dark: Welcome to the World of Horror Video Games
International conference on the study of horror video games organized by Ludiciné


Selected conference papersTop of the page


Recommended linksTop of the page

Chris' Survival Horror Quest
Database, reviews and discussion forum about horror video games.

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