Early in the coronavirus pandemic, during the ambient dread of New york city’s locked-down spring, I understood that I could not put words in a meaningful order. I built virtual spaces instead. That’s how I fell for the cockroaches from one of my favorite scary games.
I’m talking about Amnesia: The Dark Descent, an adventure video gaming masterpiece that turns 10 years old today. Frictional Games’ Amnesia is a Lovecraftian tale that puts gamers at the grace of enemies they can’t combat in a world complete of vibrant, eerie grotesquerie.
Amnesia assisted establish an entire subgenre of super-vulnerable survival horror, and it has a number of deserving followers, including Citizen Evil VII and Frictional’s own Soma While these games are plenty creepy, Amnesia still has an unrivaled and unabashed commitment to scares
Amnesia’s cockroaches are, at first glance, strangely big but relatively typical computer game animals. They scamper endlessly around rooms with aimless determination, ricocheting off walls like slow-moving billiards. If your character walks close to them, though, they hiss at you strongly. In other words, this clammy 19 th century European castle is somehow specifically plagued with a species of giant insect from the tropical jungles of Madagascar.
This fact has been noted with some confusion by Amnesia fans. “Did Alexander just take place to go on a journey to Madagascar, take a look at these and say ‘Aw, hell yes! I completely want a breeding pair of those!'” asked one baffled TVTropes poster Another hypothesized that Daniel, an archaeologist, had actually visited the island and been so terribly distressed by the roaches that he began hallucinating them. (In the context of the story, this is not actually far-fetched, and one hallucination result includes smaller roaches crawling over the cam.)
I just truly saw the hissing earlier this year when I selected up Amnesia once again during the pandemic– partly to play and partially to construct with. The video game has a full-featured yet remarkably beginner-friendly level editor; alongside numerous horror mods, it was used to model the expedition game Gone House
Modding a video game like Amnesia puts its horror elements in an extremely different light. It approves you control over something scary. You can open the game’s maps to choose your worries apart and rebuild them, discovering how to direct monsters or trigger a jump-scare. When you’re playing your own map, the game is no longer your adversary– every involuntary flinch at a remote scream is an indication that you’ve recorded a little of the system’s power.
Amnesia’s beasts are pure body horror: mutilated, mindless humanoids with gaping jaws that hang like stretched-out rubber to their chests. In Amnesia, a giant hissing roach was my go-to trick for making even the most nonsensically unwelcoming architecture feel lived-in.
This affection is, obviously, just a twist on why many people like horror video games in the very first place. They’re little vessels of securely contained worry in a world filled with unpredictable awfulness. And Amnesia particularly lends itself to this kind of convenience. The game is developed around unnerving cosmic horror, but its period setting and Lovecraft-inspired fantasy facility do not struck as near to home as Soma— which grants a scary fate to a modern-day lead character and a hauntingly grim future for everyone. It’s a relief to slip into a world where evil manifests as a creeping shadow of doom or a decadent aristocrat who can ultimately be defeated. Gamers eventually discover that Daniel has actually done awful things, but he invests the video game searching for redemption.
Seriously, though. Why the hissing?
That spring, after Frictional revealed a brand-new Amnesia video game for release in late 2020, I asked the studio’s creative director, Thomas Grip, this question. His response was immediate.
Hissing cockroaches are the worst cockroaches,” he informed me.
That’s not the only factor the roaches exist. Frictional originally prepared for the castle to be filled with spiders. The group could not get them to skitter along the walls, however, so they switched to something that looked much better floorbound. “We didn’t need to animate them at least. There’s always some sort of lazy description for everything we’ve done,” Grip added.
But eventually, Amnesia’s Prussian castle is full of Madagascar hissing cockroaches due to the fact that it’s a basic, stylish method to creep out players just a bit more. That’s the directing values that made Amnesia so good, and I’m still finding pieces of it a years later.