Something that Bogost wrote in the chapter Empathy made me think of a game that I know very well, but had never thought about in this context before: “Conversely, stealth is a weakness in Darfur is Dying. The player’s characters hides because he or she must do so to survive… the player does not sneak, he or she cowers”. These games cause empathy in the players because we become that weakened person, and must fictionally live through the events people actually live through. He also wrote that games which focus on a weak character or one that cannot fight back is not very prevalent in games. In fact, I was wondering if I could even name one game that was like this idea. And then it hit me: Haunting Ground.
Haunting Ground is a game where you are a young woman named Fiona Belli who wakes up in a locked cage, with only a sheet to cover you. Your only ally throughout the game is dog named Hewie, who you save from being devoured by a hulking monster of a person called Debilitas. You don’t know where you are or why you are there, and the only things you can remember are that your parents have died in a car crash, and a darkened face flashed before your eyes right before you lost consciousness.
In the game, you can’t fight back. Fiona is not strong enough to fight against Debilitas, who is more than twice her size and mentally unstable. Hewie is the only form of defense you have, and he can’t keep Debilitas busy for very long. The only way to get your pursurer off your trail is to hide. In the game, much like Darfur is Dying, the longer you hide in one place, the more likely you will get found. And it’s not easy to shake your pursuer either. He may be stupid, but Debilitas has super sensitive hearing. It seems at every turn you are at a disadvantage.
I had never thought about this before, but this game characterizes a fear that many young women have, the fear of strange places and men, the fear of being too weak to fight against forces stronger than you, the fear that even hiding will not be good enough. As a young woman myself, I do feel my heart quicken when I walk down a deserted street and someone suddenly appears behind me. Why is it that in society an entire half of the population must be afraid to walk around by themselves? Haunting Ground picks up on this fear, showing exactly what it’s like to be helpless in a strange environment. Although, Fiona does have one thing going for her. She at least has the chance to solve puzzles to help her get farther into the castle she wakes up in, and in turn discover new places to hide.
I’m glad this game exists, even if it is really frustrating to play. As Bogost said, not enough of these types of games are made, and even my example is not a true one as he spoke of it. But with more games in the market, the ideas they bring up and the complex thoughts they introduce will inspire entire generations of gamers.
via Bogost 1.