DREAMS AS A PLOT DEVICE IN HORROR GAMES

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CashmereCat
Self-proclaimed Puzzle Snob
11638
Firstly, I was recently thinking that the "dream land" as a device to drive the plot is often used in horror games. Is it because dream worlds are easier to create horror with? Just put a bunch of trippy maps in there and some monsters that you need to dodge and you'll have yourself a horror game? I'm looking more at the surreal exploration genre than anything. It seems that it has the theme of: person goes to sleep, has weird af dreams, wakes up, lives life (this part usually isn't important), goes back to sleep again and experiences weird stuff that's a metaphor for their inner self.

Secondly, how effective do you think this is? I know of a bunch of games that have used it and some of them are really really good games. Of course Yume Nikki always props up in a conversation like this.

I guess I want to know what you guys think.

Edit: The other thing I wanna know is - does the concept of a really abstract story work for you? Usually these "dream worlds" are not always literally a dream, but some world that's really foreign to our own, containing mostly beings that want to kill you upon touch. Either that or you're kind of wandering around this disembodied artsy world wondering why you got there, and not really getting any satisfying kinds of answers.
I guess creating a ''dreamland'' will allow you to put all kind of monsters, things that defies logic(blood there and here, floating object, etc.)with no worries. See? people will NOT going to argue things like ''why there is a blood there? why the monsters are there?'' cause the answer is simple : It's a ''dreamland'', many weird thing can happen here.

Usually, the MC will aware she/he in different world & hence, no ones going to argue why the MC wasn't scared or surprised with all kind of terror around her/him.

In my newest game, I made MC explores in a normal a.k.a real world/place and have these horror elements around the places, someone come and said ''Is she blind? Can't she see the horror around her why why she still exploring?'', Emphasis how ''wrong'' to place these horror elements in reality. I guess if it a dreamland, then this will never happened.

I never tries the idea of MC dreaming and teleported to ''dreamland'', probably it is an overused idea/concept in many horror games & didn't feel like to apply it.



It can certainly be effective if used correctly, but sometimes I feel this trope is used as a crutch for people who can't be bothered to write. Yume Nikki has some interesting stuff happening in it, but it also has its share of long stretches of aimless wandering with very little happening.

It'd be interesting to see a game about dreams that included dialogue or text. Our dreams, however disjointed they may be, aren't 100% comprised of silent wandering, right? I've met some odd characters and had bizarre conversations in my dreams. I think there's a lot of untapped potential for surreal or disquieting "narrative" at play. Like a cut-up Burroughs novel, or the film Waking Life.

I haven't played Broken Bottles yet, but it appears to be a step in that direction.
unity
You're magical to me.
12540
author=nurvuss
It can certainly be effective if used correctly, but sometimes I feel this trope is used as a crutch for people who can't be bothered to write. Yume Nikki has some interesting stuff happening in it, but it also has its share of long stretches of aimless wandering with very little happening.


True. As groundbreaking and unique as Yume Nikki was, it certainly isn't perfect, and when others use its central idea as a starting point for their own game, it can feel a little lackluster if they don't bring something else to the table.

That said, I don't think the "dream land" device is inherently flawed, nor do I think it's been explored fully. I'd like to see more games that plop you into a bizarre dream-like world that doesn't make much sense, but as you explore, you get real plot that explains some of the reasons for the madness. I think that the real potential of this sort of game as a storytelling medium is very much still waiting to be fully explored.

author=CashmereCat
The other thing I wanna know is - does the concept of a really abstract story work for you? Usually these "dream worlds" are not always literally a dream, but some world that's really foreign to our own, containing mostly beings that want to kill you upon touch. Either that or you're kind of wandering around this disembodied artsy world wondering why you got there, and not really getting any satisfying kinds of answers.


I like the really abstract. Once in a while, I enjoy a game that's just off-the-wall surreal. But I'd prefer if those games had substance. If the landscapes are beautiful and fun to explore, that alone will satisfy most people. But I think you could take it further with some neat gameplay elements to give the players the feeling that they're interacting or changing the surreal world. That way, they feel like there's a reason that they're in this strange place.
Marrend
Guardian of the Description Thread
21781
I tried making a game where the character doesn't wake up. She has the same experience/dream again, and again. Well, I'd like to think that I at least suggest such a thing.

I wouldn't call that a "horror" game, though, so...
It's interesting when the dream world and the real world connects.
Fatal Frame 3 did this to a minor extent and it was awesome. btw this is a good game if you wanna talk about dreamlands in horror games
I agree, in my opinion FF3 had the most intriguing set-up. I'd like to see more games that use the concept of the conscious world and dreams bleeding into each other.
As I personally prefer horror games to be closely bound to reality (the "This could happen to me any time" increases immersion for me), I usually dislike a dream like approach. However some games that felt real and in the end the conclusion was that you are actually crazy all those monsters you killed where actually people (oh noes), then it can have quite some impact too.

Just dreamlike... is kinda bad, because it makes me stop being scared. But I guess it works if somehow things in your dreams alter reality.

However if there is no "good reason" at the end of the game why everything happened, then I feel fooled.
As a person that have used dreams in multiple games, one of them being a Yume Nikki-ish game, this topic interests me. To be honest, one of the main reasons I use it is just like CashmereCat said: It makes it easy to create a world where anything can happen, without having to worry about being realistic. I love making trippy shit, and dreams just allows me to do it without having to think up elaborate reasons (I'm lazy like that).

That doesn't really mean you can do anything at all, though. It still has to be somewhat believable or the player won't be scared. I guess if you're going for super trippy that doesn't apply, but I have yet to see something really trippy that is also scary in a game. It's probably possible, maybe something like the character getting drugged and you're having hallucinations and can't tell what's real and what's not. This is alot easier to do in movies, though, since you can't really control what happens in a movie, while in a game you're supposed to be able to control stuff.

I know I made a couple of games where there are monsters roaming around that kill you on touch, but recently I've tried to stray away from doing this, as I believe a lot of people are getting kinda tired of it (me included). If I do it, though, I try to make it more like a puzzle, and not just you running in a straight line from a monster. That way it won't feel as "cheap", I believe.
Like all frequently used devices, my policy is--don't touch it unless you can do something unique with it.

Kind of like what one of my English teachers back in high school said about using cliches. It's only cliche if you can't provide a new twist or interpretation on it.

That said, dreamworlds are fun to play in.
One of the main reasons it's so often used is definitely because it's easy to do, especially the somewhat popular Yume Nikki-type of games.
I know alot of people that made their first game like that, and then went on to other stuff. It doesn't take much to make a YN game, you don't have to worry about any kind of balance or difficulty, since there are no battles or anything like that. One thing that it kinda requires, though, is some pixeling ability, since it's almost required that you can make a somewhat unique looking dreamworld.
It's basically good for people that aren't interested in texty stuff (balance, scripts, story etc) and like to focus on the artsy stuff.
Just because it's a dream world doesn't mean it doesn't have battles.

CashmereCat also mentioned world that are not based on reality while not being dreams. I think a good example here would be Baten Kaitos. That game has probably the most amazing and beautiful unique locations of all RPGs so far.
SnowOwl isn't saying they don't have battle because they're dream games, it was said about yume nikki fangames.
They don't have battles.
Mostly.
Dream worlds are okay, the more creepy and dark the better.

However, short sequence dreams actually work better for the horror genre. Especially, vague, fragmented, and creepy dreams. Dreams should be fragmented, because it doesn't seem that creepy until... you see enough of them that the puzzle pieces add up. (Hack Sign is a good example of this. You see snippets of Tsukasa's past, but theyre kept in short yet horrifying images so you have to piece together what happened)
The “surreal exploration” game has the answer for the commonly occurring dreamland right in the title – surrealism. I would say it has to do with a fascination with the unconscious. The dream world is a place where symbols don’t have to be tied to what we might expect from reality. Thinking in the abstract allows for communication that isn’t bound by logical rules. As dreams/dreamlike worlds are a popular way to “take a peek” at the unconscious, especially if you’re into Freud, Jung, and/or psychodynamics, it’s no surprise they’re a super common vehicle for the plot of “surreal exploration” games. (And I really oughta note that dreams being a way to communicate the unconscious or "what lies beyond the surface" goes waaaaaay back before like, surrealism or Freud or anything.)

I’m a sucker for abstract stories, in theory. Surrealism was an art movement that really fascinates me, so things that take inspiration from it (whether consciously or not) tend to catch my eye. Part of what interests me so much is that it’s an exercise in self-reflection. When you get into abstract media, a lot of what you get from it depends on what you put into it.



This bit of Ad Reinhardt's "How to Look at Modern Art" is probably my favorite way to sum that up. That being said, very often when I come across things that go for that “abstract, surreal” feel, oftentimes I run into things that come across as very… Ah-haha, I don’t know how to phrase it, but “trying too hard”. Where the end goal feels like it’s invoking the feeling of something “weird” or “trippy” without any meat to the message. Sure, abstract ideas require a lot more thought on the part of the viewer to define and interpret them, but sometimes it feels like the creator isn’t actually using this aesthetic to say anything. I’m not interested in the abstract for the sake of the abstract, but rather how it comments on reality.

Really, I think a lot of the draw to these types of games also comes from something as simple as wanting to know what “really” happened, or what it all means. An abstract aesthetic resists easy definition, so sometimes “figuring it out” can be a very compelling challenge.
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