A couple of days ago, in Fearful Gaming, I did a reprise of scary moments during gameplay. We’ve all had them at one time or another. And yet….

And yet, it seems to me that these moments are, at best, ephemeral. Particularly when we consider them in relation to scary movies. I don’t mean slasher flicks necessarily. Those play more to mess and shock value.

Of course, shock value has its place. Those audiences in an earlier time, watching the unmasking of the phantom of the opera, were plenty shocked. Chaney’s face, for that era, was truly frightening. I’m sure some people had a few nightmares after that one.

But it’s not so much those moments as the buildup. The darkness. The music. The changing camera angles. The small sounds. The person alone. And especially, the unknown. The what’s out there?

When all that is done well, it gives us shivers. Not only in the theater, but afterwards. Sitting at home, with just one light on, you hear a floorboard creak. The window rattles. Something clatters on the roof. And for a moment, one little moment, you feel the clutch of fear.

Of course, the movie has conditioned that, because it played on our primitive fears and there’s some residual effect that lingers on for awhile afterwards.

Yet, that doesn’t happen when playing a scary game, and games are interactive, where watching a movie is passive. Infocom’s The Lurking Horror was a pretty creepy adventure, for instance, but I didn’t have “the creeps” later.

Now that was a text game, but even the graphic adventures didn’t produce any after effects. I may have felt a little nervous while playing, however that ended when the game did, if not before.

Both the games and the movies are not real, and we know it. They use the same ploys and settings to induce feelings of dread and fear. Regardless, the movie has more potency, where the game doesn’t.

Is it because the film has “real” people and “looks real”? Or perhaps it’s being the observer, being passive and unable to do anything but watch, where in the game, we can be active? What do you think?