„Sie trieben einen kleinen Finsternis-Handel.“ (Fallstudie 14: Darkest Dungeon.)

von Arno Görgen und Eugen Pfister

Düstere Sphärenklänge, dazu eine tiefe Männerstimme aus dem Off: „Ruin has come to our family“. Der Einstieg in Darkest Dungeon (Red Hook Studios 2016) spielt geschickt die Klaviatur der klassischen Gothic-Literatur: „I lived all my years in that ancient rumor shadowed manor, fattened by decadence and luxury, and yet I began to tire of… conventional extravagance.“ Bebildert mit düsteren Standbildern in Comic-Ästhetik wird uns eine Geschichte von Dekadenz und Wahnsinn erzählt, von Verfall und Zerstörung, ehe das Spiel uns nach einer wilden Kutschenfahrt durch einen unheimlichen Wald mitten in unseren ersten rundenbasierten Kampf mit Banditen wirft. Zwar insinuiert das Spiel eine Erzählung von Wahnsinn und Dekadenz, aber es ist ja immer noch ein Spiel. Für innere Monologe ist auch in diesem Spiel nur wenig Zeit, wenn es gilt, seine fragilen Held*innengruppen auszurüsten um das verfallene Anwesen zu erkunden und den Fluch der auf der dem Dorfe liegt zu lösen. Hier hat der Wahnsinn im wahrsten Sinne des Wortes Methode, er wird nämlich zur Spielmechanik.

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Political Communication in Digital Horror Games

by Eugen Pfister

This text originally appeared here in German.

London 1918: the Spanish flu claims thousands of victims, hitting the poorest of the city hardest. Whole neighbourhoods stand empty; communist trade unionists and street gangs fight bloody street battles. While the upper class of the West End considers building a wall around their district, Romanian immigrants in Whitechapel desperately fight for survival at the very bottom of the steep social hierarchy. Women are increasingly taking over the work of men, hundreds and thousands of whom are dying in a senseless war, whilst not gaining the same political rights and economic opportunities as them as them. „Vampyr“ (Dontnod: F 2018 / PS4 and others).

Change of scene: In 1960 deep beneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. Frightened, we run through the (retro-)futuristic ruins of the former megalopolis “Rapture” and become witness to the catastrophic dissolution of a utopian city-state-project, as only Ayn Rand could have dreamed of. „No Gods or Kings. Only Man“ can be read on a banner at the city gates, a city whose goal is to avoid limiting the creative expression of its inhabitants,  politically, socially or culturally, and which is now being brutally destroyed in the struggle of all against all. „BioShock“ (2K Boston: US 2007 / XBOX360 and others).

Another change of scene: a luxurious cabin in the Rocky Mountains, 2015: Eight prototypical (not to say stereotypical) American teenagers have come together for a weekend to commemorate two friends who vanished the previous year, when they successively fall victim to a mythical monster. The land on which the manor now stands was taken one hundred years before from an indigenous tribe. A mine was built on the site and, after a mining accident in the 1950s, the buried miners fall victim to an ‚Indian curse‘. When the miners are admitted to the nearby hospital, however, inquisitive scientists appear less interested in treating them as are in observing them. „Until Dawn“ (Supermassive Games: UK 2015/PS4).

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