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Psychologists Ask: “Why Do We Play Horror Video Games?”

A user at Slashdot wrote in with a pretty cool article that has been up at GamePro since January:

Jamie Madigan writes in GamePro that psychologists and experts on fear are trying to understand why so many gamers enjoy being terrified by horror-themed video games and movies.

Researchers say some people are sensation-seekers attracted to any emotional high, be it from sky diving, shark-punching or horror films. Other personalities are drawn to situations showing the disruption of social norms in ways that will probably never happen in real life. But a more encompassing explanation of horror’s inherent appeal is how it helps us master our fears.

‘Watching a horror film gives us back some control,’ says Dr. Andrew Weaver. ‘We can experience an adverse event through film, and we know that it will end. We’ll survive it. We’ll go on with our lives.’

Interestingly, horror only seems to work if the player or viewer knows that what they see is fake. In one famous experiment, researchers had subjects watch a movie featuring authentic scenes of live monkeys having their brains scooped out and of children — I kid you not — having their facial skin peeled away in preparation for surgery. ‘The vast majority of the study’s participants refused to finish watching the films despite that more grotesque movies playing at the theater down the street could outdo those scenes,’ writes Madigan. ‘We seem to need to know it’s fake.’

Awesome. Read the entire article, then tell us what you think below.



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