Making a really good horror game is tough. If done right, it can be an experience that sticks with you for months, if not years to come. How do you go about crafting an experience like that? Bloober Team's Rafal Basaj, who worked on Layers of Fear: Legacy and Observer, explains the importance of aiming for more than just fear.
When people think about horror, the first thing that pops up into their heads is probably fear, but the genre is so much bigger then that. You have tension, uneasiness, terror, supernatural elements, gore, etc. – these all line up as potential tools for a designer’s box. Not all of them need to make the player feel an immediate surge of fear when presented – some of them build the lore and the environment, like the addition of apparitions or setting the game at a cemetery. Others are meant to make you feel unsafe without any particular threat in sight, those include ambiance, mood, or in the case of our games, an unpredictable environment that may change at any time.
The more the elements like the ones above mentioned that are present in a game, the more likely it will be perceived as a full-blown horror. But other games can also have elements of the genre. Think about titles like Dead Space, or The Last of Us: are they horror games, or (action) adventure games with horror elements? For a lot of people this is purely subjective. Horror has a bigger hold of pop-culture than we immediately give it credit for, including its place in games.