Defining Horror, with Jasper Byrne

Defining Horror’ is our new series that explores the creative minds behind the horror games that we love. Each entry in the series will share new aspects of the creative process, shining light on a developer’s idea of what makes a quality horror experience, what elements are integral to a horror game, as well as what goes into effectively making an impact on the player. ‘Defining Horror’ is a series that aims to give gamers insight into what the horror genre means to those who have developed or are developing horror games.

Below you will find Jasper Byrne’s definition of horror.

Name: Jasper Byrne
Company: Superflat Games
Title: Game Designer
Past Projects: Soundless Mountain 2, Lone Survivor
Current Project: New Game +

Believe it or not I’ve actually spent a very long time thinking about this question. And really I only have one very short answer… if you can even call it that?

I think that to try and define it would take away all its power… I can only really say what I’m personally interested in!

My own game I dubbed a “psychological survival adventure”, and that probably shows in its focus. Gameplay-wise, I found the survival aspect more interesting than the horror one.

That’s not to say I’m not fascinated by great psychological horror, it’s as much influenced by david lynch as it is any game!

As for my own taste in horror… film, books, the odd successful game.. I’m interested in horror that comes from within, not from from external or supernatural forces. It’s not to say I can’t enjoy Resident Evil or Siren, but that’s in more of a ‘ghost train’ type way, really more like any ultimately meaningless but enjoyable pop experience. Perhaps Siren actually does have a subtext, anyway?

Anyway, by far the most important aspect of a truly horrifying work, in my opinion, is that the the theme says something about the human condition, and is reinforced and not contradicted by the writing and gameplay. I think this is true of any game which attempts to tell a story, though, so I’m not really saying anything especially special pertaining to horror.

Maybe I’m really just saying that, as long as the game is well designed, I like to look for good writing?

- Jasper Byrne

  • drachehexe

    A rather…lackluster approach to answering the question. However, much can be said by not wanting to set specific limitations or exaggerations on what horror is or should be.

  • Ahmad Al-Hamily

    I kinda got the creeps when I saw this movie called Prisoners the other day. Not a horror film by any means but like Jasper said. The human mental condition could cause a sense of terror in a person without intentionally aiming for that.

    Guess that’s my opinion on this piece. Really interesting :)