It's 2023. Smartphones Exist. Horror Gaming Still Does, Too.

1685987921391.png

I’ve been writing horror material for RPGs for over ten years. I’ve run horror games for much longer, dating back to the early 90s. In all that time, I keep hearing a strange declaration.

“Oh, I can't run horror games in the modern day. Technology makes them not scary and too easy.”

My knee jerk reaction to this is the same: you’re wrong. But, since two words does not an article make, I decided to dive into how horror stays alive in an era where everyone has the internet in their pocket.

Let’s talk about that wondrous device which you may be reading this very article upon. Does it always work? Do you always get reception? Horror often takes place in remote locations and, as a spoiler to anyone that doesn't go camping, reception sucks in the great outdoors. I literally have to drive for fifteen minutes from our summer cabin to get any reception when we are there.

For that matter, remote places aren’t the only ones that will leave characters wanting for more than one bar. Older buildings are often made with materials that can block reception. And we’re not just talking about ancient crypts here; anything from a big box store to a bank can leave a character without a way to call for help. Stores are loathe to fix this problem because they don’t want shoppers to find an item on their shelf and hop on to Amazon to purchase it for a lower price.

That also assumes the phone doesn’t get dropped in mud or bounces off a rock when it gets dropped. These are finicky devices meant to be used in a quiet room and the great outdoors doesn’t care how delicate they are. Damaging them may sound like a contrivance, and they can be, but they can also be the result of mixed successes or concessions. You might have been able to fend off the Beast of Bray Road, but you probably cracked your screen when it tossed you into the car door.

The next issue folks raise is that smartphones render clues inert. All you have to do is go online, type “how to kill a vampire” into Google and you’re ready to slay. These days, not only are search engine results not as tight, they also pull up a lot more noise to signal. Sorting through the junk takes time and skill. Just like if a character had to travel all the way to a spooky library and back.

What about characters part of some sort of secret monster hunter organization? Surely there’s some kind of app that would filter out bad info? That may very well be, but that allows the GM to focus on other ways to complicate the players lives. If they have the Hlsng app, chances are the immortal vampire knows about it and can take precautions against their weaknesses since they know they are out there. Or what if they coerced whoever updated the database to have false information?

The third issue connected to this is how quickly society would break down once someone posted a video of a real werewolf to the Internet. The veil between our regular society and our secret supernatural world would be torn to shreds forever.

This has always had an easier explanation in that people’s opinions aren’t that easily swayed. There are a lot of ways the public could explain it away: a neat SFX fake or a viral promotion for a horror movie, for example. The internet is rife with videos where someone got turned into a werepenguin. Beyond that, the past few years have sadly shown that people will hold their opinions in the face of actual scientific evidence. There’s barely a need for some sort of immortal conspiracy scrubbing the internet (though that can also happen nowadays). People do a good job of convincing themselves they are right far more than we every thought to admit.

The key here isn’t to render a player tool useless but to create tension when they use it sometimes. Success with complication feels like less of a cheat than just saying no. A complication gives players a chance to overcome a problem. Smartphones are a tool, just like cars, just like guns, just like fire. They can be useful in the hands of a main character but they also aren’t unbreakable.
 
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad

Rob Wieland

Rob Wieland


log in or register to remove this ad

Remove ads

Latest threads

Remove ads

AD6_gamerati_skyscraper

Remove ads

Upcoming Releases

Top