There is a universal truth in what terrifies us. A great many things may mean a great deal to certain people of course; A fear of water may strike those of a particular persuasion, a fear of clowns for others. In certain cases, one may be so unfortunate to suffer from Anatidaephobia; the irrational fear that somewhere, a duck (or goose) is watching you… but there are still universal truths.
Since the dawn of time, we have feared the dark. Whether it be due to our internal clock, knowing that our bodies are in need of rest during the night – or perhaps a long and sordid history with the many faces of God that mankind has seen in the sun itself; the parallels of light and dark, good and evil have been iterated upon and reiterated for as long as there have been stories.
So, you make a horror game set at night, right? Or at least in the dark?
Hey there, my name is Harlan Guthrie – Narrative Lead here at Freesphere and I’m excited to chat about what we’ve been hard at work on. Our upcoming title, “Revenant” takes a different approach to horror and in the way we’re choosing to tell this story. I wanted to talk a little bit about our motivations for doing things a tad different and what can expect it to look like… or maybe… play like is a better way of putting it.
Daytime horror seems like a bit of an oxymoron and we’d be lying if we didn’t say that films such as Midsommar and The Wicker Man have influenced our decision to attempt to tell our story in a different way. There is a certainty that a safe setting brings, a universal truth (as I mentioned earlier) about what can be trusted. Whether it be burned into our minds generation over generation or something internalized in a far more perennial way, we know that instinctively daylight is safe. It’s warm and inviting and one does not expect to be scared in the safety of the sun.
Our approach when working on this project was to invite terror into the players space and what better way to invite terror, than to a dinner in your own home, where you feel safe and secure, where nothing could possibly go wrong. This idea of horror baked into a setting that feels safe and warm is not only a philosophy we believe intrinsic to our voice, but also representative of the types of tales we aim to tell.
So, what does our brand of horror look like?
Imagine standing in a sunny field. The day is warm and inviting and not an ill thought in your mind. The breeze is cool and refreshing and sound of the woods around you are vibrant and alive. As your eyes drift over the hills that surround you, you notice someone watches you from the tree-line. They are not introduced to you by a swell of strings, nor a heavy impact sound that forces you to fear them. They simple stand, straight-faced and unafraid. Perhaps you wave, perhaps you smile but neither causes them to stir. They do not chase you down, they do not pursue they simply watch you.
Why are they watching you? What could they possibly want?
You wave again, this time angrily, perhaps you yell at them and they are unmoving. What could they possibly want with you and that’s when you really start to question whether they are looking at you at all. Are their eyes drifting to something behind you. There is nothing behind you. You’re sure of it.
So, you attempt to ignore them… only you don’t. You don’t truly ignore this person who is staring at you for no discernable reason. Try as you might, you can feel the creaking at the back of your skull asking the question; why are they looking at you and why won’t they stop.
Perhaps they leave, perhaps you do first and the horror is gone. Until you begin the long trek back to your car. Suddenly ever twig break, every swaying branch in the tree line on either side makes you wonder if they left or if they simply decided to follow. If so, for what purpose? As the questions build and circulate the frustrating question circles over and over in your mind.
Lovecraft wrote; “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”
Many interpret these words with tentacles and otherworldly horrors beyond human comprehension and at times they’re apt but our goal is to highlight the unknown of our world and the smaller scale storylines dealing with the slow revelation of cosmicism. The understanding that our existence is purely a speck of sand against the unrelenting forces that dwell in the stars above.
So why daytime horror? Everything above could happen at night, no?
Ahhh, but daytime offers an intrinsic trust that can be exploited and manipulated. It’s a comfortable song, a familiar friend that allows you to open the door and invite whatever we want into your living room. A man watching you from the tree line in the dark is immediately scary and expected to be… it doesn’t creep up on your slowly, get under your skin and make you ask the question “why” in a way that seems almost as if it COULD be answered. In any case, I’ll be talking more about the horrors of Revenant in the coming months so stay tuned as I highlight other ideas that we’re exploring in this story.
Harlan Guthrie (@malevolentcast)