Absolute vs. Relative Evil

I think there’s been a bifurcation in the survival horror genre.  You have action horror games: most Resident Evils, later Silent Hills, Doom 3, Left4Deads, F.E.A.R., Alan Wake. The emphasis here is on survival, through dwindling ammo supplies, hesitation between firing a bullet or whacking a guy with your flashlight, disturbing a Witch or trying to sidestep a Tank as he charges at you. The horror of resource management. Surprise horror. Alternatively you have games that emphasize horror: Alone in the Dark (I like to completely ignore the recent one), early Resident Evil, Silent Hills 1-4, Siren, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Clock Towers, Penumbra.  These tend to eschew violence, or at least depreciates it economic significance.  You can whack the guy with that pipe, and that will buy you a few seconds.  You can kill a guy with a shotgun, but why bother? Another one will be right behind him soon enough. Hermaphroditically, Fatal Frame stands somewhere in between the two.

Whether talking about the bifurcation of survival horror into its “survival” and “action” subsets, Kefka vs.Sephiroth, Joker vs. well… anybody.  The argument that these are comparable… well… Evil and horror and whatnot are there? I guess for me one of the single issues is the idea of a single overwhelming evil.  Evil to me is institutional, pervasive, petty, bureaucratic… it’s rooted firmly in good people looking the other way, compromising themselves again and again, pushing down others to push themselves up.  That’s the sort of human evil that at least makes sense to me.

Lovecraftian horror, which most see as some sort of precursor to the survival horror genre is based on a blend of humanity’s need to understand, coupled with their insignificance. A subtle point frequently missed by literary types about butterflies and hurricanes, is that most systems, especially ones established over eons, are inherently stable. e.g. there aren’t millions of bugs ripping off typhoons right and left. But people are familiar with the law of unintended consequences, and also know that social systems are far less robust (and also overestimate their own significance).

Probably the best horror movie I’ve seen in a while was the movie Cube. Prime numbers aside, the movie presented a rational monolith to human evil. Too frequently insane is portrayed as evil, amorality is evil, sociopathy is evil. These things are what they are, that’s why these words exist. Evil is the stuff of quantum granules, cascading, avalanching to tangibility. Context determines ethics. It’s the argument of two dimensionality. I guess it’s nice to feel the lynchpin can be defined as one person, one day. But they don’t make games about social workers or city ordinances or the  daily brand of justice.

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