From time to time, a new game comes on the scene that deviates so much from the norm that it reinvents the rules, and Scorn seems to be one of those games. Despite the long time spent developing and funding Kickstarter, Scorn was seen again at the Xbox and Bethesda Games Showcase this year, and an official release date was set for it.
Released just in time for Halloween, Scorn promised its fans and patrons a creepy and painful odyssey through a biomechanical hellish landscape centered on horror. Unlike other similar horror games, it’s not just an alien world and its symbiotic creatures that unsettle players, but the typical experience of bodily horror that Scorn delivers, where the true horror is the perversion and depravity of the human form until it becomes so unrecognizable that it’s more inhuman than anything.or else.
Body Horror in Games
The horror of the body has its earliest roots in Gothic literature due to the aberration, mutilation or corruption of the human body. To this end, it has always been one of the least visible horror subgenres due to the graphic nature of the image, which made it difficult to sell and “show” to the audience. But this did not stop the morbid fascination of the audience with this film, and thanks to such films as “Something” and “The Fly” by David Cronenberg, who popularized it at the Hollywood level, many horror films about the body are flourishing today. Since movies and games are closely related to each other when it comes to defining their genres, body horror has penetrated the gaming scene.
Fortunately, when it comes to body horror, games have a much more relaxed and welcoming attitude, as some of the largest and most iconic game franchises from Silent Hill to Resident Evil include body horror. Although the extent to which games use body horror varies, it is an unavoidable fact that most, if not all horror games, include it in one way or another. However, traditionally body horror refers not so much to the main character as to the antagonists of the games. So while scenes like the infamous “eye poking” scene in Dead Space 2 are truly horrific for the player himself—even if everything goes right— this is just one of the few fleeting examples among all the other horror games.
Speaking of Resident Evil, in his latest games, such as Resident Evil 7: Biohazard and Resident Evil Village, body horror is treated more subtly. The main character, Ethan, is subjected to all kinds of injuries during his walks along the bays of the southern United States to the villages of Eastern Europe. The main one is that Ethan’s hands are constantly bitten in half or simply chopped off, but as the players learned from Capcom, there is a good reason for this. The developer confirmed that since Ethan himself is not always visible to the player, but his hands are visible, they will be what the players will see most “hurt”, and why during treatment he douses his hands with first aid drugs. In order to convey the pain and trauma, the game has programmed moments when Ethan’s arm is amputated due to the shock factor, which ultimately is also taken into account in the overall story.
The horror of the body in contempt
Although his body horror is not so pronounced, Resident Evil Village and the reasons for Ethan’s amputation of his arm are what may help to understand why Scorn is doing its best in the body horror genre and how it is going to surpass its competitors. For Resident Evil Village, body horror was a small part of a larger whole, and not the main goal of the game. Contempt, on the other hand, doubles its grotesqueness and presents a truer, more complete experience of bodily horror. The world, its inhabitants and the players themselves are all just emerging from a feverish dream of G. R. Gigera, and Scorn shamelessly revels in this fact.
While alien worlds and terrifying non-human beings are commonplace in games, bodily horror becomes infinitely more terrifying and pronounced when it is imposed on the player, which absolutely makes Contempt. Its initial premise is that as the protagonist, the player wakes up in this strange techno-organic world and can only explore its labyrinthine biomes to uncover the secrets and stories hiding deep below. The means of navigation are borrowed from Metroidvanias, when interaction with the world beings-come-machines opens new paths or opens doors, all this is done with the help of bodily implants and biomechanical tools that function as an extension of the player’s body.
Comparing the trailer fragments with each other, it becomes clear that these implants and tools will be obtained along the way, which means that at some point the player will have to voluntarily subject himself to mutilation and augmentation, fulfilling the ideal of this bodily horror. Although Scorn uses a first—person view, like Resident Evil Village, the horror feels more pronounced, because although Ethan still looks like a human, it’s clear that the Scorn player is something completely different.