Before I begin this video I wanted to quicklymention that my merchandise has been released! Yes I know there’s been a significant lackof advertising in a main channel video owing to some external reasons, but at least I’mback to let you know that you could buy a hoodie and a poster! More information aboutthat as well as some extra details on my whereabouts will be left at the end of the video.
Nowonto your regularly scheduled feature presentation.
Video games are fun.
They offer somethingthat movies and podcasts and books and ebooks and v-books aren’t able to provide, whichis allowing you to immerse yourself in an environment that you have complete controlin.
Most of the time.
It’s becoming a little cliche to constantly bring that point up aboutvideo games every single time I make a video about them, but the point is always the same.
As opposed to movies and books where no matter how many gimmicks they put in to try and immerseyou in the product, there’s still a divide between the real world and the world thatis projected onto your 2 double decker bus height screen, video games have that linkthat flows from the HDMI cable from the screen to your console of choice, then from a porton that console all the way into your controller where you are the master of the universe that’sbeen shoved in front of you.
The entire point of a game obviously is for the person to playit, and the decisions that are made in the process would influence the rest of the game, even if its a simple endless runner or a game of Minesweeper.
Some films are starting touse this concept to influence the way they go about making their products such as Netflix’sBlack Mirror episode… Bandersnatch.
You notice this all over social media, chooseyour own adventure films flooding your feed when they are made once in a blue moon, withthe intention of these films being to give the control of the narrative to the playerand making them choose where to go from their position.
Sometimes this is cool and goodand innovative, but once the novelty wears off it becomes very tedious.
People want tosit back and watch a film, not be alert throughout the whole thing and miss an on screen QTEbecause they left the room to go and check on a Discord ping and now the film characteris dead and the credits are rolling.
Choose your adventure products like Bandersnatchhave a major plot-line about them that is very relevant to this video, and I’ll leaveyou guys to guess what it is! It’s to do with a video game! It all loops back to thefact that the product in question is a game itself.
And what better genre to showcasethis than with the horror genre, and no this isn’t an excuse for me to talk about horrorgames again for 20 minutes, I swear.
When you watch horror films, all you can reallydo is witness the carnage as the main character does an unbelievably stupid decision beforeyour very eyes.
It’s not like they can hear you screeching bloody murder through the screen, they’ve already been preprogrammed by the director to do what they are told to do andwhat they’re told to do is be stupid.
With a horror game on the other hand, you are nowthe brainlet as you make the really stupid decision to look in that really dark corridorwithout a flashlight and walk right into a dimension of nothingness to be greeted with2 white dots and teeth.
Throughout the years, game developers have utilised a new way toinvolve players in their twisted little games, by making game protagonists aware that they’rein a game or making them aware that their actions are not their own.
Or maybe makingthe game itself interact with you.
Not the character you’re playing as, or even thegame window.
This phenomenon is known in simple terms, as Breaking the Fourth Wall.
The 4th Wall is a performance convention inwhich an invisible wall separates the characters in the world from the audience viewing it.
This expression came from the world of theatre- it’s a one sided wall in which the audiencecan see what’s going on within these walls, but the characters on the stage cannot.
Thinkof it as a literal box with the audience on one side.
There are 3 actual real walls onall other sides of the box and there is one invisible wall that the audience can see through, but the actors in the scene cannot.
In most cases the characters stay within theses walls, but there are some cases in which the characters will BREAK THEM.
These characters mostly rebelagainst the oppressing regime of the wall in order to interact with the audience maybeonce or twice or throughout the rest of the production.
From what I’ve said already, you’ve probably noted that this indeed mostly happens in theatre, but I’m going to narrowthe examples all the way down to just video games, and maybe some television programsas well.
Because of the nature of the genre, in videogames, the 4th wall is constantly broken by having the game ask the player for their owninput which could be loads of buttons in a second, or in the case of some games, staringat the screen until a prompt shows up to press a single button.
Penned by Steven Conway in2009, it’s been said that most games don’t “really” break the 4th wall (gasps) insteadof a box that the player isn’t a part of, it’s a circle completely surrounding theplayer.
This circle immerses the player in the world of the game and asks for their inputinto said world as opposed to keeping the player out and completely separated from thein-game environment.
This is the case with most games, but some games take this conceptand run with it very very far away; and in this video, we’ll cover a specific typeof 4th wall breaking that has slowly risen in popularity over the past few years.
Butfirst we most go back to the beginning.
The year is 2002.
The Spider-Man film wasreleased to the public and planted the seeds for the massive tree that is comic book movies, Halo: Combat Evolved was released and planted the seeds for the slightly smaller but stillchugging along tree that is slow paced FPS games and 2 Grand Theft Auto games were released, a notion that is pure fiction nowadays.
A small development studio called Silicon Knightsbanded together and created a psychological horror game that would take the market bystorm in a highly competitive year of franchise starters that also included Kingdom Heartsand Metroid Prime among other games.
Eternal Darkness was released on June 24th 2002 forthe Gamecube and it was published by Nintendo.
Yes, Nintendo published adult oriented videogames, would you believe it?? Eternal Darkness was originally made with the intention ofbeing released on the Nintendo 64 system, but during the development of the game, thedevelopers changed their minds and switched to the Gamecube for the g r a p h i c s.
Asfor the story, the game’s plot was inspired by the works of Alfred Hitchcock, StephenKing, Edgar Allan Poe and H.
Now what do these authors have in common?The obvious answer will be that they’re all dead, but the real answer is that theyall made stories that focused on psychological horror a.
a mindscrewing with text.
In thegame, you play as Alex Roivas, a student at Washington Uni and you are headed to yourfamily estate in the very expensive, nice, pleasant, peaceful area that is Rhode Islandonly to find that your grandfather has been murdered! What makes things even better isthat there’s no sign of any outside interference so an admin must’ve really hated him thatday.
Or he committed several acts of RDM and got punished for it.
Because of the lack ofevidence, the police investigation stops, and in theory, you should probably stop investigatingtoo.
But of course you don’t you are a strong independent university student and this isthe best chance to take a gap year from your studies and escape from that hellhole.
Whileinvestigating you come across a book called the TOME OF ETERNAL DARKNESS.
Basically the Book of Shadows from Corpse Party but on steroids and LSD.
After being in possession of said back, she gains the knowledge of thepeople described in it, a visualisation of what teachers think exam revision is like, if you will.
She also gains magical powers from the book which is cool and whatever, I guess.
It comes at a cost however, and the penalty is that her grip on reality and sanitysuffers as a result, but this won’t stop her.
She’s gonna put an end to the bookonce and for all so no one can ever be hurt by it again.
You can’t burn it though becausemagical reasons or some bull.
Upon release of the game, people were very quick to pointout that the mechanics in said game were very similar to a title released earlier- ResidentEvil.
Egads! Plagiarism has befallen Nintendo! Objection!! While it did feature ResidentEvil like mechanics, the game had its own very unique twist to it that links back tothe magic circle- the game possessed a sanity meter, a mechanic that is used more frequentlynowadays because of games like Amnesia: The Dark Descent.
If your character came acrosssomething freaky or saw a monster or something, the sanity meter provided would shrink a tinybit, and the only way it could be raised is by… performing finishing moves on opponents…trust me this makes more sense when you’re actually playing the game.
Now if you’rereally bad at video games, or you just wanted to get the effects for views on YouTube, youwould start getting hallucinations in game from the sanity meter lowering.
If you letit get to the bottom where you’re almost completely insane, the game starts to notonly mess with your character, but mess with you directly as a punishment for being a badgamer.
As such, the game would of course provideplenty of nightmare fuel for an innocent child who snuck downstairs to play the game at 2AMin the morning on a school night.
Examples of the game’s tomfoolery include: havingyour character walk into a new room and all of a sudden your inventory is cleared.
Andthere’s tons of monsters in the room.
And your Gamecube controller’s unplugged itself.
In other cases, after taking a lot of damage you’d probably want to heal yourself soyou cast a healing spell only to- oh… oh dear.
Some hallucinations actively messedwith your playing experience, with the game sometimes faking a complete shut down, onlyto reopen your game and delete your save file.
Got eem, your files are safe.
The game takesthings one step further, by sometimes playing as normal, then it will cut to Alex readingthe TOME OF ETERNAL DARKNESS- wait what? What the fuck? I spent 60 GBP on this whatchu meanthis is a demo- Got eem! There are many more ways that the game actively chooses to directlyfuck with you by smashing through the 4th wall as a way for you as the player to gitgud.
You’re pretty much no longer safe in the comfort of your own home while you’regaming; what’s to stop the Gamecube from gaining a mind of its own and deleting allof your saves because you’re up way past your bedtime you naughty boy.
Eternal Darknesswas released to acclaim across the entire board.
Everyone loved the game and calledit a massive achievement in game development, with the game being rated as one of the greatestof all time.
Nintendo took this praise all on board and cancelled the sequel.
And thestudio bankrupted.
Despite this, it did show that there was a market for meta-horror andgames that derived their horror from directly messing with the player, and this trend wouldcontinue through the 2000s.
Breaking the 4th wall like Eternal Darknessdid was still a moderately rare art throughout the early 2000s, but some games still wentthrough with it and did it well.
One of the biggest examples of this is in Metal GearSolid and of course it’s Psycho Mantis? Psycho Mantis needs no introduction, but oneof his many abilities is the ability to read minds.
In Metal Gear Solid, he demonstratesthis in a creepy fashion to the player by reaching through the 4th wall and tearingit apart.
In the cutscene he flexes his powers by starting to read your memory card in orderto weird you out into thinking he knows exactly what you’ve been doing on that PlayStationof yours.
Yes, he definitely knows all about your low poly porn you’ve been storing onthat 1MB memory card… As a child, that would understandably freak you the fuck out.
Nowadaysthough, people who know about the mechanics would have a hearty laugh at making PsychoMantis spell out an inappropriate name as he reads your memory card mind and spellsout your renamed bootleg copy of Conker’s Bad Fur Day totally legitimate copy.
MetalGear Solid is a very good example of meta-horror done effectively for one big reason: It’snot developed and marketed as a horror game.
Sure there may be some moments that make yourinsides go for some BROWN ACTION, but it doesn’t set out to cause accidents in people’s nappiesyou crybabies.
The actions of Psycho Mantis would freak the player out and make them startto question the link between reality and fiction and this started a trend of games that aren’teven horror games taking turns to beat the crap out of the 4th wall and freak out theplayer, for example: In the original Animal Crossing game, youare constantly lectured to save your game when you’re finished with your session, like any sane person would do.
Failure to do so would lead to retribution.
If you dothis multiple times, Resetti will get fed up of your shenanigans and reset all yourprogress in the game.
Just kidding! Save your game ya DOLT.
Arkham Asylum, you playas the Man of many Bats as you try to escape the area you’ve been trapped in.
One ofthe rogues that you have to beat up is Scarecrow but before you can do that, you may end upgetting injected with the fear toxin.
The only warning that you get that it’s aboutto happen is a single cough that you probably would pass off as a random character interaction, but when the fear toxin finally hits, it does a variety of things to mess with you, likedisplaying the wrong names for areas you’ve visited for example.
The game might also takethings even further and fully crash your game all the way back to the start, wiping yoursave! Just kidding, your save is intact! You’re just playing as da JOKAH NOW BAYBEE.
On a much lower key than the other games I’vementioned before, Spec Ops: The Line breaks the 4th wall but in a much different way withincontext to the story.
As you continue playing the game, it’s pretty much telling you thatyou shouldn’t have played it in the first place.
Spec Ops: The Line was marketed asa bang bang shooty shooty game where you kill all the evil bad guys and go home to respectyour women afterwards, and the start of the game plays out like this, with the three maincharacters blitzing through Dubai like no one’s business until… you have to deploysome white phosphorous in an area, and you’d probably play through this level thinkingnothing much will come from it aaaand it turns out that the people you brutally massacredwere all innocent.
The game wastes no time in blaming you for your actions.
Not Walker, you.
The loading screens start directly talking to you instead of giving game tips, askingthings like whether you feel like a hero yet, or just outright blaming you for going throughthe game.
Spec Ops also contains a concept that I’ll delve into a little later in thevideo, characters being aware that they’re in a game.
During the helicopter chase sequence, Walker has a sense of realisation that he’s been in this situation before.
And he’sright, you have played this scene before.
The loading screen also sometimes reassuresyou that you’re in a game so there are no full life consequences.
The whole point ofthe game is to make you feel bad that you even considered buying and playing it sinceat any point you could have stopped, but you didn’t, you continued playing.
Probablywhy the game didn’t sell as well if the whole shtick is not to play it.
Throughout the 2000s and early 2010s, meta-horrorwas used sparingly but when it was, it was used effectively.
There was one major limitationto this however.
These major games were released on a console, and lots of them were multiplatformgames.
You could be watching a cutscene and the character in the cutscene turns to thecamera and tells you to turn off your PlayStation… which is odd since you’re playing this ona Nintendo DSi XL.
As the years went by though, more and more games started to use this meta-horrorconcept to further their narrative.
And the growth of the PC gaming industry helped alot, as now instead of breaking someone’s console beyond repair and getting angry messagesfrom Sony and Microsoft, you could break someone’s PC and get away with it scott free with noactual consequences.
Unlike the 2000s, where random acts of meta-horrorwere rare, the 2010s took it and rinsed it through, with 4th wall breaking games designedto screw with you IRL popping up frequently.
Marketplaces such as itchio, GameJolt andSteam are arguably the greatest things to happen to this genre since YouTube, and thesegames started to pop up left right and centre; Meta-horror pretty much became its own genrewith the advent of creepypastas, seeing as the intention of most creepypastas is to directlyfreak you out, and with .
exe games starting to gain momentum, this was a perfect outletfor developers to disguise their trojans as a Tails Doll.
exe executable file: you’dload the game up and then it shuts off all by itself.
And takes your entire PC with it;and your secret PayPal wallet.
Creepypasta games were the easiest way that meta-horrorcould flourish, but I already made a video about them which you can watch at the topright corner of the screen- since there are loads of examples of this and I don’t wantto keep all of you here forever: I’m going to go into detail about games throughout the2010s that used meta to their advantage to further the gameplay and the storyline oftheir respective games, starting with: Imscared: A Pixelated Nightmare is a gamecreated by Ivan Zanotti in October 2012 and it was a very significant horror game uponrelease.
When you start the game, you’re immediately greeted with a warning that tellsyou that the game will try to deceive you as many times as it can, telling you to checkthe folder outside the game files to report any error.
After this ominous screen you’reput into a world that looks like it was made in the 400 ADs with Windows BC PCs.
You couldliterally count the pixels on the screen as you played the game.
Probably why the gameis called a Pixelated Nightmare to begin with… when you start the game you are shrouded indarkness and you explore a dark scary creepy freaky terrifying horrifying bedroom.
Exploringthe surrounding areas of the bedroom even more and you’ll eventually find a room thatlooks and sounds like the insides of an uncooked turkey that’s been frozen for 3 minutestoo long, and you’ll pick up a pulsating heart, which is all well and good until youturn aro- It’s after this point that the actual game would begin: remember how I mentionedpreviously that the game warns you to check the files if a glitch occurs? Well it turnsout that one of the glitches in the game has become sentient and taken a life of its own, and it wants the player to continue playing the game.
Throughout the rest of the game, you are now exploring a dark world with very creepy ambience and that face constantly staringat you as you make your way through the contents of the game.
One of the mechanics of thisgame is that it constantly breaks the 4th wall in the best and worst way possible.
Notonly is the glitch aware that its in a game, but as you continue playing, it makes countlessefforts to freak you out or give you directions outside of the game, such as constantly shuttingdown to open a new tab in your browser linking to a YouTube video by the creator that givesyou guidance on how to deal with the creepy things happening in the game.
The game alsorelies on a lot of jumpscares which is a bit of a shame, seeing as the pixellated aestheticof the game and the meta-horror aspects of it were already creepy enough to start with.
Sometimes it also gets a little bit frustrating when the game either minimizes to a screenthe size of a pea or keeps restarting over and over and over and over and over and overand over AGAIN.
But Imscared provided something new to the indie horror game community: itnot only showed that there was a mass market for pixellated horror games, it arguably starteda trend of games using this gimmick to either scare the player or move the narrative forwardthrough meta-horror or meta-humour.
The original version of this game, released in 2012, wasmuch shorter and only ended an eighth of the way through the full game, which was releasedon January 31st 2016.
During my own playthrough of the game, one thing that I despised aboutthe game more than anything though, was the fact that on the full release of the game, you had to get every single achievement in the game in order to beat it, and yes I knowthere’s only like 11 achievements; it’s incredibly frustrating to have to start overagain to get the achievements that I missed, but apart from that, it was an effective meta-horrorgame that did the job of scaring the player effectively.
Upon release of this game, itwas played by several YouTubers, and fans prayed for more games like Imscared, and the2010s delivered.
In the same vein as Imscared, Undertale usesthis concept, but does this on steroids.
While I won’t go into detail about every littlething it does since I could probably make a full video about it, I’ll just narrowthings down to the genocide route.
By now, everyone knows the genocide route.
You’vecompleted the game multiple times and want a new challenge, so just because you havethe option to, you decide to go on a genocide run.
Literally every major boss battle andantagonist in Undertale uses the 4th wall to cheese you out of a win almost every singletime- fuck and Sans is the absolute worst at this- he realises that it’s not Friskthat’s the problem but it’s you the PLAYER.
As soon as he’s acquired the target he thenproceeds to Fuck.
Up, using meta not as a way to scare you, but to completely breakyour morale: he uses your save files, your menu screen, literally EVERYTHING againstyou in a disgustingly difficult boss fight that would make osu players shed a tear.
Ifyou eventually manage to get past Sans, you then get to the actual scary part of the game:the First Child, who tells you that you’ve pretty much reached the end because you’vemaxed out your potential.
You’re then given a choice to either become partners with herto help destroy the world, or not.
You probably should choose the first option because choosingthe latter option will do this.
That is meta-horror on crack.
Another game that skirts the line betweenmeta and meta-horror is OneShot.
You guys probably waited a long time for me to talkabout this one considering it’s on the thumbnail, huh? Anyways OneShot is a game released byLittle Cat Feet on December 9th 2016, and it follows a little child could Niko, who’splaced in a world without the Sun.
Before you get your party poppers out, it’s notThe Sun, it’s just a normal sun, sorry guys.
Anyway, like Undertale, this game is metaas FUCC.
Even though you’re playing the game from the perspective of Niko in a topdown view, you as the player are a completely separate character in the game.
This gameused RPGMaker to its advantage and contained many puzzles that the player needed to solveusing concepts out of the game’s window, such as looking through the files, changingyour desktop background in some areas and my favourite example, shaking the game windowoffscreen and back to simulate the development of film to watch.
Throughoutthe duration of the game, you guide Niko through the dark world and meet various differententities in the universe while trying to “escape” from an entity called The Entity- Niko andThe Entity both address you directly by name, and the Entity tells you that you only haveOneShot to beat the game.
Now in the original version, they were not joking when they saidyou had OneShot and you needed to make it count, because if you close the window andtry to reopen the game you’re greeted with this.
Because you closed the game Niko couldn’tfind their way around and died as a result.
The game tells you this when you try to closethe window again and you can never play the game again.
Spare a thought for the poor guysthat played through most of the game only for the power in their house to cut or geta blue screen of death.
Not to worry though, because the game gives you another chancein the remake of the game in 2016.
Now I didn’t want to mention this specific 4th wall breakas its spoiler incarnate and I strongly suggest you play the game first, but it’s too coolto not mention in this video so direct spoilers ahead! At the end of the game you are given2 choices- to break the sun you’ve been carrying all game and return Niko home, orplace the sun at the top of the tower, reigniting the world but at the cost of Niko being trappedin this world.
Choosing to break the sun will shroud the world in darkness, but not beforeNiko is finally freed and goes home by walking through your game window and out of the monitorscreen and towards you on the desk- nah I’m just kidding, he just walks right throughthe game window and away, ending the game.
OneShot is an amazing game thatuses metafictional techniques to further its story line with horror and atmosphere at thesame time, and is a near perfect example of games using the 4th wall to its advantageto further the narrative and storyline of the game.
In recent years, games have been using theconcept that the main character is aware that they’re in a game to scare or to directlyinteract with the player, such as Monika from Doki Doki Literature Club: as the presidentof the literature club, she knows what the player is doing and tries to interact withthe player at any given moment in time, also messing with desktop files to further thenarrative.
I made a video detailing all of these events and more and you can also watchthat on the top right corner of the screen! Moving away from the horror aspect of things, The Stanley Parable and The Beginners Guide are both amazing meta games that use the 4thwall effectively to make for a fun and entertaining experience, with The Stanley Parable beingchock full of 4th wall breaking moments and even having an achievement to not open thegame for 5 whole years.
With indie games being released left right and centre on PC, andmore and more of them using the 4th wall to their advantage, meta-horror has gone froma rare occasion in a video game where it’s used as a quick scare to its own genre wheredevelopers are now basing their narrative entirely around the concept of pulling playersinto its magic circle and involving them in their own world.
Who knows, in the futurewe could have meta-horror in VR where the game rings your doorbell and gives you a packagethat you need to pick up and upgrade in the real world before continuing to play the game, moving one step closer to world like in Ready Player One.
Thank you guys for watching this video, andbefore I get to the outro, I guess I have to address the massive elephant in the roomwhich is my upload schedule.
Obviously you guys have noticed I haven’t really uploadedall that regularly on my channel through February, and that was because I’ve been extremelybusy with getting my 2nd channel and my Twitch channel going, both of which are linked inthe description, where you can watch clips from my streams or highlights on T9.
A lotof the games that I play in my videos are normally streamed there so you can watch highlightsimmediately after this video on my second channel! As well as this, you can watch thefull archives of my streams on a third channel, ThafVODS which will also be linked in thedescription.
Unfortunately with the coronavirus taking over the entire world, a lot of theconventions I was planning on going to have been cancelled, but this is all the more reasonfor you guys to join my Discord server for fun and games and sometimes a quick chat withme, as well as frequent updates on my social media.
While you’re at it why not pledgeto my Patreon? You get early and exclusive access to future videos, access to my scriptsas soon as I’ve finished them and extra perks on my Discord server!.