Playing with Fear: The Aesthetics of Horror in Recent Indie Games

Jan-Noel Thon


This article explores the aesthetics of horror that recent indie games offer to their players. Following a general discussion of how the audiovisual, ludic, and narrative aesthetics of indie games relate to the fiction emotions, gameplay emotions, and artifact emotions that these games in general and horror indie games in particular invite their players to experience, the article offers in-depth analyses of Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Neverending Nightmares, Darkwood, and The Forest. These four case studies allow for an extensive reconstruction of the various ways in which indie horror games are designed to evoke uncanny moods and abject horror as well as the subtle interplay between fear as a fiction emotion and fear as a gameplay emotion, the experience of which may also spark positive or negative artifact emotions that in turn may lead to aesthetic judgments of various kinds.


aesthetics, fiction emotion, gameplay emotions, horror, indie games

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