Why do we feel fear? Part one

For my FMP, one of the key elements in the game being effective is by creating an atmosphere and environment in which the player would become sensitive to what happens within the level. This means that we have the ability to create an experience for the player by playing on what makes a persons fear.

Psychologist James Gear developed the “Fear survey schedule 11” to see what scares us the most. Looking into the results of this survey, the top things that scared people the most were;

Illness or injury to love ones (Scored 4.98)

Auto incidents (Scored 4.00)

Dead bodies (Scored 3.68)

Untimely or early death (Scored 3.63)

These scores were based on both male and female results combined giving me the ability to see what scared people the most. With this information, I could apply this to my FMP in order to make players feel uncomfortable. For example, I could have a ride incident visible within the environment as it is something which would make a player feel uncomfortable. I could also have the antagonist as someone who is sick due to something occurring in the park which they would leave messages within the level which become more sinister.

I also found several quotes by Stephen King which I thought helped define how someone can invoke fear and create atmosphere, these were;

“Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.”

“The three types of terror: The Gross-out: the sight of a severed head tumbling down a flight of stairs, it’s when the lights go out and something green and slimy splatters against your arm. The Horror: the unnatural, spiders the size of bears, the dead waking up and walking around, it’s when the lights go out and something with claws grabs you by the arm. And the last and worse one: Terror, when you come home and notice everything you own had been taken away and replaced by an exact substitute. It’s when the lights go out and you feel something behind you, you hear it, you feel its breath against your ear, but when you turn around, there’s nothing there…”

“The thing under my bed waiting to grab my ankle isn’t real. I know that, and I also know that if I’m careful to keep my foot under the covers, it will never be able to grab my ankle.”

I feel that Stephen King really breaks down fear into manageable parts which are easy to understand. I also feel that these are steps in which the player needs to take in order to reach “Terror” so by starting with “Grossed-out” and then taking “Terror”, then and only then we can reach the level of “Fear”. For example, within my FMP I could start with flickering lights (this would be subtle), I would then move onto the use of sounds and messages in which the player would find and finally I would finish with the player facing the antagonist within the environment. This builds the suspense for the player and would have to be correctly applied but I feel like this would work.

After this, I looked into “Vagueness” as the unknown seems to really scare a lot of us and this brought up the topic of masks or people using a correspondence which isn’t face to face and unclear. Vagueness scares us as we are unsure what the vague item/person truly means and we find it difficult to understand so this makes us feel uncomfortable as we are unsure if they are our friend or foe. Claude Levi-strauss idea supports this and he wrote “the facial disguise temporarily eliminates from social intercourse. Covering this part of the face eliminates personal feelings and attitudes.” This is why we fear clowns, strangers, Slenderman etc because we are unable to see their true face and that we have difficulty understanding a face which doesn’t appear human as we are used to reading human expressions.

Uncanny Valley is the phenomenon in which something that is created by a computer (artificial) that appears to look and move almost human. An example would be the use of animatronics or moving “human” robots. These can make individuals feel uncomfortable due to the almost natural human features although it isn’t human causing the player to react negatively. An example of this is at five nights at freddies with the animatronics or John Bergeron’s singing androids. Similar to the idea of vagueness, we find things which fall into uncanny valley just as creepy/scary because we are unsure if these are a threat or if they are something entertaining.

In five nights at freddies, the animatronics are displayed as something for children although these become ‘more’ than animatronics and begin attacking the player using more motion than typical animatronics would, with the intent to harm the character. They use the idea of ‘moving statues’ to approach the player similar to the weeping angles in Doctor Who, this is something that we find scary as we are unsure of their motive for moving towards the player. Vsauce (Youtuber) states “Between the mountains of safety and danger, there is a valley of creepiness, where the limits of our knowledge and trust and security aren’t very clear.” Uncanny Valley can also cause cognitive dissonance which is when the player has mental stress or discomfort due to having two or more contradictory ideas/beliefs. This means when the player can’t decide if someone is a friend or a foe due to conflicted behaviour shown by the subject it can cause the player to stress as humans want consistency otherwise the player would become uncomfortable. To put it into perspective, we as humans are smart but fragile in a world full of inconsistency and vagueness with things not always following a pattern. This makes some situations hard to deal with and because of this our emotional state can become affected.

(Check out Vsauce, as this was the foundation to where I found my sources)


Joyland, USA

Joyland amusement park is located in Wichita, USA. It began its journey as “Mackenzie park playground” but later on was changed to “Joyland amusement park.” The park was founded by Lester Ottaway and was open for around 55 years opening from 1949 to 2004. In regards to size, the park itself is rather small (as shown in the picture) in comparison to other theme parks. The park itself featured around 24 rides some of these were a log jam, roller coaster, the whacky shack, zumur, giant slide and a ferris wheel. The roller coaster which was named both “Nightmare” and “Roller coaster” was one of the last surviving wooden roller coasters plus one of the only roller coasters in north America using vintage rolling stock with lap bars. The Carousel within the park was built in 1949 and contains all of the original horses. Within May 2014 it was restored and donated to the Botanica (Public Gardens) in Wichita.

The park encountered a few issues. One of these was an accident in 2004, the accident happened on the Ferris wheel in which a young girl fell from the ride and was seriously injured. This was one of the reasons why there were many safely concerns and due to this the park faced financial issues. The park closed within 2004 and was open again in 2006 for a single season but since has been closed and left with no up keep of the park. The park has faced a lot of vandalism since its closure with nearly everything within the park being touched by some form of graffiti plus signs have been stolen from within the park. In 2012 the maintenance building within the park managed to catch fire in which people believe was caused due to arson.
Within the park there was an animatronic clown called Louie the clown who plays the organ located within the park. This clown was stolen but returned after being found within a former Joyland employee’s home after a decade. Looking at the clown reminded me of similar animatronics I have seen such as the T-rex in Jurassic park and the characters from five nights at Freddy’s. I find these animatronics to be really ghoulish and that it is something which should look motionless becomes animated. This causes people to become nervous and uncomfortable as its unnatural and something that we associate with horror films. I feel having something such as a doll or statue slightly move within my environment would be a good way of causing the player to feel uncomfortable and keep their interest within the environment.