Skip to main content

Mark my words: Blumhouse's Fear the Spotlight, Grave Seasons, & The Simulation will win the gaming wars

Blumhouse brings years of horror experience into the gaming space, but that's not all they've got going for them

Image credit: Blumhouse

Popverse's top stories of the day

Let's start this with a clarification: I'm excited for pretty much any Blumhouse project - I mean, they did The Black Phone, The Invisible Man, Get Out for godsakes - so when I saw them announcing a slate of horror video games, I was already sold. But then I watched the trailer for these games, and a thought occured to me that I'm going to try to get you to agree with: Blumhouse is on its way to dominating the horror video game scene. I'll tell you why in a sec, but first, watch that trailer.

Watch on YouTube

Neat, yeah? And as you watched it, I'm sure you noticed a theme running through several of these titles: all of them, but particularly Fear the Spotlight, Grave Seasons, and The Simulation, have a distinctly retro look; though they're not even out yet, these games look like they could be from the 90s or early 2000s. Now, there are plenty of reasons to give a game a retro aesthetic - it can be funny, charming, and especially, nostalgic. But using a retro aesthetic in a horror game taps into a much darker sensation, and it's this quality that, I believe, is going to give these games a cutting edge.

So to speak.

The Uncanny Valley

Image credit: Blumhouse

Most of you already know what the Uncanny Valley is, so I'll go quickly for the folks who don't - the Uncanny Valley is the idea that non-human figures look creepier the closer they get to looking human. A yellow cartoon dad, for example, does not look creepy, but a nearly photorealistic Tom Hanks conducting a Christmas train into your nightmares does.

There are many theories as to why the Uncanny Valley is so unsettling, from a psychological quirk to the far out (but very unsettling) idea that humans have evolved to be wary of creatures that look like us but are not. I don't have the knowledge to declare which is most likely (though one of those links is admittedly a reddit page), but I will tell you, for our purposes, that no visual medium has a history with the Uncanny Valley like video games.

The Uncanny Valley in video games

Image credit: Blumhouse

The idea of the Uncanny Valley was first proposed in a 1970 paper written by Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori, long before gaming's golden era. But for much of gaming's early history, its characters ended up fitting the bill. Developers lacked both the freedom of non-interactive animation and the exactness of live-action filmmaking, placing their creations in that uncomfortable middle ground from which the Uncanny Valley takes its name.

By returning gamers to that era, Blumhouse is presenting horror in a way that only video games can achieve. Almost like The Blair Witch Project in the film world, they're turning the datedness of a medium into something timelessly creepy, a tactic that's going to put them at the top of of plenty of "must play" lists.

And in case you still don't believe me, let me remind you of how it's worked before.

Slenderman and the Uncanny Valley

Image credit: Parsec Productions

First released in 2012, Slender: The Eight Pages is a triumph of indie gaming. It became an overnight cult sensation, totally engulfing online communities in terror and and giving rise to the most popular character of creepypasta horror. So much of Slender's success comes from its brilliant sound design, but visually, the horror of Slender is in its Uncanny Valley-ness. The graphics are are gorgeoulsy lo-res, and more particularly, the character of Slenderman is the Uncanny Valley personified - nearly human, clearly sentient, but so wrong in just the right way.

Now maybe it's just me, but when I look at this spotlight-headed thing in the Fear the Spotlight trailer, I get the same feeling.

Watch on YouTube

The first wave of Blumhouse Games includes Fear the Spotlight, SLEEP AWAKE, Crisol: Theater of Idols, The Simulation, Grave Seasons, and Code Name: Project C. We don't know the release date for any of these games just yet, but as soon as we do, we'll pass along the info.

In the immortal words of Danny Elfman, "Life's no fun without a good scare." We couldn't agree more, which is why we think you should check out horror aficionado Greg Silber's list of the best horror movies of all time. Or, if you've already seen those classics, check out our list of the most underrated horror movies from the past couple years. And if you've already seen all of those, Let us tell you what to look forward to (or dread) in Popverse's list of upcoming horror movies.

Featured events