The One Big Problem With the Blair Witch Game
I’m putting on my cynical hat today. It’s a long, pointy, witchy one at that. You’ve probably seen that we’re getting a Blair Witch game. Cool. For all it’s faults, I thought the original Blair Witch Project film was quite good, but I haven’t seen Book of Shadows or the more recent Blair Witch. I thought part of the charm of the original was that it was truly a game changer, and one of the first exponents of the found footage horror film, which are now ten-a-penny. I do wonder if, had it not had this originality, it would be considered as good as it is today. But that’s a blog for another day. So, now that a game is on the horizon, what are the potential issues and possible plus points that it may have?
This is without a doubt the biggest problem that the Blair Witch game will face, and it came from all the way back in 2012 - you know the year where the Mayan’s correctly predicted the end of the world? Any game that adopts the ‘found footage’ looking, jump scare inducing, run-or-die style is naturally pitting itself against one of the biggest horror game success stories: Slender.
If the game boils down to running around in a forest, collecting things whilst avoiding things, then congratulations you’ve essentially just remade one of the most successful indie games of modern times. So, why’s this a problem? Game Freak has essentially ridden this wave with Pokemon by releasing the same game every few years, adding a few more creatures and enough gimmicky features to help it fly off the shelf. The problem is that if you’re planning on charging $30 for a game pre-release, you should be aware of competitors who decided to release a game for free 7 years ago, particularly one which you’re endanger of your game parroting.
The Lore Has It
I’m hopeful that the developers can navigate around this gargantuan freeware hurdle. If they do, the Blair Witch lore may well be the best tool at their disposal. The original film clearly has a large fan base, even if the sequels have - financially at least - paled in comparison. By building on what made the original story interesting, the characters and the vague details we had about the Blair Witch. If they go in hard on the story of the Blair Witch, less on stumbling around in the woods, hiding from an unseen menace, then they can differentiate it from Slender enough to qualify charging for it.
Continue the horror legacy of the first film
The things that made The Blair Witch Project quite good were it’s uniqueness at the time, it’s Dogme 95 style realist acting, and perhaps especially that we see very little horror. I know that the last point may seem quite counter intuitive for a horror, but it’s through suggestion and iconography that the Blair Witch Project was able to be a success. I know in a game, you need to create a more immersive and varied experience, but I don’t want the game to go all-out-horror-around-every-corner. The best horror films, games, books etc know that normality and apparent safety is one of the greatest assets that a horror creator has at their disposal. If this game rolls to heavily down the former, then I think we’re in for a bad time. Instead, I think if they are able to use to slow build of tension throughout the game, the reach a horror crescendo - which could even be a few frames of the Blair Witch, then I think we could capture the essence of the original film, and live it ourselves.
Make the most of the visuals
I’m not too big on visuals myself. I think that it should come after making the game fun, and creating a story, in the pecking order. But in this case, it is something that can truly separate the game from Slender. Being a low-budget indie game, it wasn’t at the top of their priorities to make it look stunning and ultra realistic. Despite my personal opinion, I know that there’s a market out there for good looking games, and from what i’ve seen in the trailers, Blair Witch looks like it’s going to look great. It seems every bit as dark and decaying as the Blair Witch Project looked back in the day, and that can only be a good thing for the developers.
Stay away from the action
I know that this next point puts it more inline with Slender than not, but it’s an important one that needs making. Chucking guns, action, any of that garb into this game would be a huge mistake. I’ve ranted before about the huge problems with action horror games, but to summarise action as a genre suggests that you’ll be equipped for what you’re dealing with, which is camouflaged, aviator wearing half to the push-me-pull you with the bloodied and skeletal horror half. One has to take dominance, and it’s always action, because it’s the action that provides the gameplay to interconnect the story. We may get horror moments, but the gameplay is anything but.
I want this game to fully capture the feeling of hoplessness that the characters in the Blair Witch Project felt. I don’t see evidence to the contrary, but we’re still early days. My fingers are firmly crossed.
Are you looking forward to the Blair Witch game? Do you think it will overcome the Slender hurdle? Let me know on Twitter!