Jump Scares in Room Escapes

Some of the most thrilling room escapes are horror games. Horror escape rooms are a natural offshoot of an industry built around immersive experiences.

In a scary setting, games can rely on the incredibly powerful emotion of fear to achieve immersion. However, it is easy to execute horror poorly. It takes some art and a little understanding of human psychology to really get it right.

One classic example is the jump scare:

“A tactic used in horror movies to scare people, the jump scare is used by unimaginative filmmakers as a cheap method of frightening the audience; i.e, making them literally “jump” out of their seats. This device is being increasingly employed in modern horror movies, along with gratuitous amounts of gore, because the directors have forgotten how to actually scare people.” –Urban Dictionary

Having played a number of rooms that did jump scares poorly, and one or two that used them appropriately, I’ve been thinking about this for a while… and then this video showed up in my feed and did a far better job that I will ever do covering the subject.

Shawn Fischtein of Escape Games Canada discussed this same subject in a brief portion of one of his larger player psychology talk at the Chicago Room Escape Conference.

Jump scares can be a useful tool when executed well early in the game, and used to enhance feelings of fear. If the jump scare has to stand on its own or it is being used repeatedly, then it’s almost certainly lame.

Don’t end on a jump scare. That’s completely missing the purpose of the jump scare as a narrative tool.

Image from Lord of the Rings of Bilbo Baggins lunging for the ring. He looks like a monster.

(Video found via BoingBoing)

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