Four Reasons Why Horror Games are Good for Your Health

Horror games are awesome, here are four reasons why they are good for you too!

What's the best part of horror games? Getting scared. We all know that's why we play horror games, and why we enjoy the dark corners or spooky hallways -- we want to get scared.

Well, research has shown that not only do people like getting scared, but they also enjoy it so much it has a very positive effect on the brain and body. So here are four more reasons why you should be playing horror games -- for your health.

1. Getting scared helps us cope

As stated above, we love getting scared. While watching horror movies, our brain is consistently secreting chemicals that help us enjoy the experience even more. Combining this with watching something that truly scares us our brain is slowly training our psyche to react better, faster and remain cool in traumatic situations -- so we'll handle bad guys like a boss!

If we take this into context with video games we can already see how much more enhanced and realistic the experience is becoming. We are moving, interacting and running from the monster -- and by doing so we strengthen our fear tolerance levels. (Which is why certain games or movies just aren't scary for us anymore.) The higher the tolerance, the easier it is for us to remain cool in tense situations both in-game and IRL. And with VR, that experience will only be enhanced.

Run! Run from the menu screen! For the love of god don't look back!

 2. Stronger Immune system

In a study conducted on 32 people (men and women), it was discovered that horror films will activate white blood cells, and as a result boost the immune system. In horror games we experience much the same thrills -- perhaps even moreso. Our heart rate picks up, our tension level rises, and before we know it, we grab the blankey and turn on the lights, damned happy our mates can't see us right now.

But the stronger the immune system the healthier we'll be, so the more horror games you indulge in the less likely it is you'll get sick. It's like getting your daily dose of Vitamin C - sort of. 

Y'know. For kids!

3. Weight loss!

Enough jump scares can make you lose weight. Another study from the University of Mackenzie shows it can be as effective as a 30 minute walk. You can burn up to 200 calories while watching a horror movie, 100 being the sweet spot. 

Dr Richard Mackenzie, a specialist in cell metabolism and physiology at the University, said:

"As the pulse quickens and blood pumps around the body faster, the body experiences a surge in adrenaline."

This releases a fast-acting adrenaline, which is connected to loss of appetite and faster metabolic rate. Anything with decent fear-inducing jump scares -- like The Shining -- has the potential to help you lose weight.

We all know that feeling. What's behind that door? Don't open that closet! Why are you running in that direction? Those are staples of good horror movies, but in games it's us making those stupid choices, so it goes without saying the terror level will rise quite a bit as will the jump scares.

Doom 3 and Dead Space 2 should have the desired effect if you're interested in trying it.

4. Overcoming our fears

Nothing trumps reality, but fantasy can very well prepare us for it.

Horror games can help us overcome certain fears. Where movies allow us to sit back and enjoy the story and characters, games force us to interact, to shoot the zombie, run from the madman or hide from the monster. It has a terrifying effect on the soul, but on our own psyche it helps us to look at our real fears and not run run from it.

In a study conducted by a Danish researcher dubbed "Your DNA loves horror", the researcher states:

“We use fiction as an ‘emotional simulator’ to broaden our horizons. Horror fiction exercises our reactions to what’s terrible and frightening.”

Which makes sense -- we desensitize ourselves to the effect, and eventually overcome the fear. If you're afraid of spiders try playing casual games with spiders and slowly build to horror games with spiders. This is called 'graduated exposure therapy'. Eventually you will make connections from fantasy to reality and the real life spider won't scare you anymore. This therapy might be combined with VR to help people over come crippling phobias, and horror games are just a fun way to overcome your worst nightmares.

Although freaky little girls with long hair and spooky voices will be any gamer's true nightmare, forever and ever.

One big bag of... NO!
Picking the best games

Ensure you make the best picks if you're interested in having some horror fun. Although Doom 3 and Dead Space 2 might be good for losing weight, the chances that they will give you the full horror experience is slim to none. In a questionnaire from a blog post on Gamasutra, one of the participants made the following statement:

“The games with the lowest scores usually just rely on jump scares to scare you. That's not scaring me; that's startling me. Atmosphere and vulnerability [is what makes a game scary]."

So make sure you look for the cream of the crop. Not all games titled horror will be the best, and not all games lacking the title horror should be discarded, like S.T.A.L.K.E.R

Whatever you choose to play, feel secure in the knowledge that most horror games have some positive effect on you. It's a good excuse to get mum to buy you Visage in any case.

Published Jun. 27th 2016
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