> Managing Control

As development of this game moves forward, it becmes clearer and clearer that it would fit in nicely with my Cyberpunk/Lovecraft transmedia project.

Control is intrinsic to games as a medium. The feeling of lack of control is key to creating an atmosphere of cosmic horror. The key to creating a Lovecraftian horror within a game is maintaining a careful balance between the two – allow the player to control enough to be engaged with the game (achieved through its puzzle solving elements), and then altering or removing that control through in-game events to have the player feel helpless. And finally, the game can take control of the player’s save files, or close itself entirely.

> Unspoken Rules

Undertale uses the SAVE function as a mechanic that can be used and exploited by both the player and the antagonist.

Digital objects that are created and used for pragmatic reasons, like save files, initialization files, and shortcuts, are seen as existing “outside” the game itself. To the player, they exist only to support their play. However, this is a boundary that can be broken by the game.

I will be taking a page from Undertale’s book. At one point, the antagonist tells you that you can’t win, and the game will close itself. When you reopen the game and reload your save file, but the antagonist interrupts you and “deletes” it, replacing it with their own, which you have no choice but to continue playing. This interruption of play takes control away from the player by breaching a barrier that the player holds sacred.

It’s important to not that this will not produce the same feeling as the vast existential helplessness of Lovecraftian horror. While I could write some dread-inducing prose to attempt to achieve the same standard, it would be far less effective when placed within a game. Instead, this subversion of the player/game dynamic is its own representation of such, performed in a way that is unique to the medium.

With all of this in mind, is it possible to “win” a Lovecraftian game?

Short answer: no.

Long answer: nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

The question that should be addressed is: can a game like this be enjoyable?



  1. Control is such a huge element in games. How much control we have, what we have control over and what we lack in control seriously effects the genre and outcome of any game.
    Specifically in horror games, control and lack of control is essential to determine the experience of the game.
    Lovecraftian horror thrives off its lack of control. The unknowing, the urge to find things out. It feeds the game.
    The game I am proposing for the dossier is horror, and can maybe be put into the genre of lovecraftian however I’m not bold enough to label it. Basically you play as the disturbance in the house, however you don’t know who you are and you need to find that out. You control the distubances in the house, while you walk through the night trying to find clues as to who you are. But what you dont control is how many security cameras there are, which doors and windows get locked, and your own identity. Its a crazy feeling, controlling someone.. yet not even knowing who youre controlling. You have all the control, and yet.. you have none.
    I adore these kinds of games. Great blog post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gotta love Lovecraft, have you checked out the much unappreciated 2005 game ‘Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth’ which incorporates very interesting control mechanics to make the player witness to the protagonists loss of sanity (akin to Eternal Darkness, another great example of control manipulation), which submerses the player into the ominousness of Lovecraftian horror.

    The encapsulation of the unique ominousness of lovecraft-esque horror is something that when pulled off correctly is incredibly gripping, and deeply submerses the audience, regardless of the medium it is explored through. Always good to see posts on lovecraft as well as Zero Punctuation references.

    Liked by 1 person

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