This suggests that the rush and thrill of a scary moment, be it in person or on a screen, can provoke a surge in emotions that not only terrifies us, but excites us as well.
In a 2014 study by Teresa Lynch and Nicole Martins “Nothing to fear? An Analysis of College Students’ Fear Experiences with Video Games “ They discovered that after playing horror games like amnesia and Silent Hill, oVery half of the subjects in the study were afraid, followed immediately by a feeling of joy and excitement. This suggests that the rush and thrill of a scary moment, be it in person or on a screen, can provoke a surge in emotions that not only terrifies us, but excites us as well. Although we all have our own version of what “scares” us, we all tend to have a similar reaction afterward.
In psychology there is a term called “Excitation Transfer Theory”. Arousal transfer theory is the belief that aggressive reactions to one thing lead to a stimulus for another emotion without our being aware of it. This can happen during a fear of jumping or an exciting construction.
Think about the last time you had a jump scare. It’s likely that right after the scary moment ended, you were either laughing or excited. This is a prime example of stimulus transmission. By amplifying the initial response (and in this case not dying), we subconsciously reward ourselves with a payoff, similar to the effects of enchantment marketing and nostalgia. This feeling can be so strong that we want to do more of what scares us. Be it a haunted labyrinth, a scary movie or, in this case, survival horror games.
There is an escape from horror that speaks to us differently than most games. Facing our fears and overcoming them, even if they are only pixels on a screen, is a common way to experience this stimulus transmission. We get emotionally invested in the games we play, and so in the case of a survival horror title like To survive, Not only do we get the chance to live the story firsthand, but we also get deep into the characters because they interacted with them. Combine that feeling with the instant reward of getting scared and you have a pretty powerful form of escape with horror games.
In short, we play scary games because they are a powerful means of escape. Be it an unconscious thing or just the feeling of excitement we get when we overcome something scary. Horror games are fun. Even if they scare us right now, the feeling afterwards is rewarding enough to keep us coming back year after year.
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