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Gamers Enjoy Feeling the Rush of Fear

Horror games provide a rush and an opportunity to share our survival stories.

It’s fun to be scared. It’s why we love watching horror movies. In this medium, we get a voyeuristic perspective of how events unfold — not gamers, though. Playing through horror games, such as Outlast and Amnesia, users have to move forward, figure out the puzzles, and fight through the fear in order to progress the story.

A new study from the Indiana University’s Media School wanted to explore this fear gamers experience and whether or not it’s greater than the kind moviegoers are familiar to feeling.

The researchers started by surveying 269 college students online about games, such as Resident Evil, Call of Duty, and Amnesia: The Dark Descent.

Ph.D. student Teresa Lynch reported that gamers do, indeed, feel quite a bit more.

“It was interesting to see how the fright reactions that people had, how the emotional experiences that they were having, differed from those reported with non-interactive media. There a lot more of these anxious feelings … and an enjoyment of that fear.”

What’s more, of those surveyed, 44 percent said they enjoyed being scared, which answers the question of why people keep coming back to the genre. It was that they “enjoyed the feeling of surviving the experience,” and without the consequences of being in any real danger.

Gamers get the benefits of having a war story to tell to friends without the scars. Indeed, researchers noticed that gamers loved talking about their survival experiences and weren’t afraid to admit how scared they were at the time. Men and women reported equal experiences of fear when playing horror games. They write that these results may suggest “that fearful or brave behavior during a fear-evoking experience may be a societal phenomenon. Perhaps females do not experience fear with more frequency, but feel required to admit so under pressure.”

As for which medium elicits a higher fear response, games win out.

The researchers write:

“Interactivity emerged as the most spontaneously reported cause of fear. Multiple participants spontaneously reported feeling helpless, hunted, and overwhelmed as causing fear. These interactive elements transformed the experience into one where control — or loss of control — seemed involved in the fear experience.”

Jane McGonigal has been a huge champion of answering the question of why games matter. This study happened to show us how games help break down gender roles and bring us together to share our “war stories” from the virtual battlefields.

Read more at EurekAlert!

Photo Credit: David McNew / Stringer


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