There are cases when iconic buildings are somewhat created by accident. One of them is the winding tower of the former Shime coal mine near the city of Fukuoka in Japan. Having been abandoned a long time ago, it has been built during the second world war, and features a rather peculiar design, as an article on the WebUrbanist notes:
The 47.65 meter (156.3 ft) tall tower is of an odd design, having offices and control rooms located above the actual, long gone winding mechanism – huge reels of cable which raised loads of coal from the mine and lowered empty containers and workers back into the depths of the mine up to 430 meters (1,411 ft) below.
Towering over the city of Shime, it does rather seem like a paleo-futuristic fortress. No wonder, as WebUrbanist explains, it got discovered as the ultimate anti-zombie fortress:
For decades the Shime winding tower quietly mouldered away in obscurity until suddenly – Teh Intarnets! It seems some imaginative wag with a liking for zombie flicks stumbled upon (possibly via StumbleUpon) an image of the tower, and immediately deduced it would make the Best. Anti-Zombie Fortress. EVAR.
And so it began: one thread at Reddit begat another, and yet another, and soon Photoshop contests ensued along with much hilarity. The Anti-Zombie Fortess Meme soon took on a life of its own, and it takes no braiiiins to figure the Shime winding tower is destined to be cast as a prime location for some upcoming zombie flick.
Of course, as a game designer, this design offers other possibilities and ideas.
Keith Stuart on The Guardian misses real, scary horror in games – even though this medium should be ideally suited for it.
Horror should be a key facet in the video game armoury – the unique element of interaction is seemingly purpose-built to drag us into nightmarish experiences. But, mostly, horror games are merely blood-soaked adventures or shooters, which borrow the clothes of successful horror movies without ever occupying the body of terror within.
The problem, according to him? Convincing horror is done by auteurs – a vision of a single person, perfectly honed to tap into people's fears.
In video game development, it is very rare for this sort of singular creative input to make it through the rigorously structured and often painstakingly democratic production process. Within the average 150-person dev team there will be various strata of producers, creative directors, designers and marketers each jostling to impose their own conceptual foibles, while ironing out idiosyncratic design quirks. [...]
Within these production constraints it's hardly surprising that horror games are mostly about cheap shocks and even cheaper gore: these are the systematic elements of horror most easily producible in a largely egalitarian, highly technical team environment. The ingredients required to make a gamer jump are fairly easily reproducible – you just need sudden unexpected movement and a loud noise.
Of course, that is selling the horror genre terribly short.
This is the article that got me into wanting to play Silent Hill 2:
In the ongoing evolution of computer games towards a mature art form, we see many blips on the radar that fade away after some time. But there is one game that never goes away. Silent Hill 2. There’s something about that game that is so intensely inspiring, beautiful and moving that it continues to give hope to everyone on this path.
By creating some of the most important artistic aspects of both Silent Hill 1 and 2, Takayoshi Sato has been one of very few people within the games industry that have been of major importance to our own activity at Tale of Tales. His work demonstrated that there was room in the games industry for subtle art work and complex stories, something which is easy to forget in the ongoing onslaught of infantile entertainment that the industry continues to excrete. Mr. Sato approaches the medium as an art form. A medium that allows us to talk about human stories in a sophisticated and beautiful way. And he does this with impressive commercial success to boot.
A big part of Lovecraftian-style horror involves the fact that humans perceive the world in a certain way, with certain assumptions based on what we can empirically observe and judge. However, this brand of fear postulates there are immortal beings in existence that contradict these assumptions on such a fundamental level that they cause our perceived reality to break down, and drive humans crazy upon seeing how insignificant we are in the universe. Glitches in games can be seen like this, where something goes wrong with how our universe is supposed to function, and we can temporarily glimpse the unfathomable void beyond the programming.
This is not only relevant since I have an interest in creating deeply disturbing horror games and because I just love self-referentiality in practically every medium; it also provides some more food for thought about an experiment I might be producing for Fantoche: A game that purposefully undermines the implicit trust we give the game as a system.
Apparently, this has been done before:
Remember Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem? Some of the best scares from that title came from breaking the fourth wall. The controller would mysteriously disconnect as your defenseless in-game avatar was slaughtered by a group of enemies, your head would blow up when trying to cast a spell, and sometimes the Blue Screen of Death would appear (despite the fact that you were playing on a GameCube).