I've played a lot of horror games, even though I'm one of the most squeamish people you'll ever meet (I think I have masochistic tendencies). Even though these games absolutely terrify me, I keep going after them. Sometimes, I build up a tolerance. I became immune to Knock Knock's scares after the first night in the house, Silent Hill only makes me cringe and I've never been afraid to play any of the Slender games. Though most games, like Fatal Frame, Amnesia, and Condemned, do consistently frighten me.
Which is why I'm finding it rather odd that I'm absolutely terrified of Daylight. Yes, I know it's an atmospheric horror game, and the whole point is to be scared. But, it's also a kind of horror game I've thought I developed an immunity to. It's a procedurally generated game. The point is always the same, as a player must grab all the relics talking about the history of the institution, go to a sigil room, then go to a door with a rune on it, rinse, and repeat, it's still always different. The building you're trapped in's layout is always different, you don't know what artifacts you'll find and monsters will be in different places.
Despite the variety, it falls into several patterns which should be reassuring. Daylight relies on jump scares. Things will suddenly happen around you, and often they're benign. Lights may go on and off. A chest of drawers might suddenly start opening and closing. Haunting voices echo through the halls. One of the enemies may even make a surprise appearance, but not actively hunt you down. These things should become predictable.
The music's coming to a crescendo. I've collected a handful of papers. Something's bound to show up. Now the phone, which doubles as a map and flashlight, is freaking out. Yup, my buddy's back. Time to get moving to another area.
Except, I'm not reacting like that. My mind keeps telling me to be rational. Daylight is employing the same kind of mechanics as Slender: The Arrival and many other horror games. I shouldn't be afraid. This won't be like Clocktower 3, where the creature hunting me down is far more terrifying and my character's own fear gauge could cause her to betray me. I will always have full control of the heroine. I have seen and experienced all of these things before, and the enemies I'm facing certainly don't look as scary as Outlast.
For some reason, Daylight keeps getting to me. So, I've been thinking and attempting to figure out why. I think I've discovered part of it. Yes, the main part of Daylight isn't that bad. In fact, a lot of the happenings are quite routine for horror games. That isn't what's putting me on edge and making this experience scary for me. It's the chase.
Even though the Clock Tower series was never especially terrifying, I always found them scary and made a point of playing them with friends. I think the reason Daylight is getting to me is because it's carrying over a fear that developed in my head from that other series. The notion of knowing I'm going to be chased by something I can't possibly fight, and will have to do it over and over again, is putting me on edge. As a result, I'm becoming more susceptible to the other, lesser scares in the game because my mind is preoccupied with the notion that my character may be relatively safe now, with her ability to send up a flare if things get particularly close, but soon I won't have that luxury. I'm going to have to get the sigil and make the mad dash to the only safe door again.
Which, I suppose means Daylight succeeds as a horror game. It may not be as gruesome or outright terrifying as some other titles, but can scare some people. Especially since you can't count on there being one right path to safety. It's always a gamble, and I think that's what will lure people in and maybe even keep some coming back.
But not me. Nuh uh. I'm tired of being powerless. I'm going back to Dead Space 3, where I can kick the crap out of any enemy that even thinks about scarying me.