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Asylum Jam: Craft a Horror Game Without Medical Stereotypes This Halloween

asylum jam

While most likely associates Halloween (October 31, for those unaware) with pumpkins, ghouls, ghosts, and things that go bump in the night, that’s not quite the focus of Asylum Jam. Or rather, the jam isn’t about that kind of horror, as it’ll be putting the spotlight on the mental aspect (hence, asylum) instead, only… “without negative mental health or medical stereotypes”.

Returning for its second consecutive year and running from October 31 to November 2, the Asylum Jam aims to make one thing clear: mentally unstable characters and institutions that aid these poor souls are not needed for a proper good video game scare. Such games are all over the darn place after all, and have been for years – let’s not add to it.

Nightmare House 2

An example of this might be the Half Life 2 mod, Nightmare House 2, which not only takes place in a mental ward as it were, but is also full of mentally unstable humans (I’m sure they were human at some point, anyway). Or how about the antagonists of yesteryear’s Resident Evil games? Albert Wesker and Excella Gionne may seem perfectly normal, but believe me, they’re long gone. Now, one could add ‘zombies’ to the list, as those are often portrayed as ‘victims of a disease’, although that’s probably more than a bit farfetched.

This jam is to show that you can still create a great horror experience without using inaccurate stereotypes of those who suffer from mental illness, or the institutions that support them in diagnosis and recovery.

Man, how did the entertainment industry come to rely so heavily on these, as well as other done-to-death stereotypes? Fearing the unknown, along with that which we simply don’t understand and those who are different, is unfortunately not all that uncommon. It’s also not easily dealt with, and honestly, having video games, movies etc. constantly shoving criminally insane personas at us… isn’t exactly helping.

I’m not thereby saying that horror should be completely void of so-called ‘psychopaths’, whether they be a mere obstacle for the player, or the antagonist/final boss. I’d simply like to see storytellers try something different for once, when telling a terrifying tall tale (interactive or not). Characters with manic depression, overly violent behaviour and anxiety disorders, to name but a few, are by no means mandatory to create goosebumps.

System Shock 2

Why not go for ghastly ghosts, blood-sucking vampires, howling werewolves, or heck, a rogue AI, instead? They may not be the most original suggestions, but the fact that they’re all fictional, means the author/developer/creator has complete control over how to portray them, without risking misinterpretation of the ‘source material’.

So riddle me this, dear reader: will YOU be partaking in this year’s Asylum Jam, on the spookiest night of them all?