In the future, horror games will know when you’re scared. And then they’ll get scarier. Proof: the currently-in-development horror-adventure game Nevermind, which just launched a Kickstarter campaign last week. The game pairs classic first-person exploration with biofeedback data from a heart rate monitor in order to tell when you’re scared and turn up the horror.
"In Nevermind, you get scared, you get stressed, and the world will punish you for giving in to those feelings," says creative director Erin Reynolds, "But it rewards you for calming down by becoming easier."
While biofeedback seems like a perfect fit for the horror genre, Reynolds believes that the technology is key to moving the video game medium forward as a whole, allowing for an entirely new level of immersion.
"I think it really speaks to the potential of games being able to know more about you than you know about yourself, and having this intimate response to your internal reactions," Reynolds says.
That internal response surprised her during playtesting, as it illuminated "just how personal one’s sense of horror is. It made for some design challenges, because it means you need to have something for everything so that everyone's buttons get pushed."
But those challenges also served as the ultimate affirmation for Reynolds: She was scaring people.
That's a good indication that Nevermind may be a successful game and not just a neat tech demo. Reynolds has ambitious goals for the game and hopes that it will move the medium forward as a proof of concept in both biofeedback integration and as an example of a positive game that reinforces stress management skills that have real-world applications.
Because achieving those goals with a video game is all for naught if the game is not fun, states game developer Lat Ware in a feature on Gamasutra:
"The best practice in making biofeedback games is also the best practice for game development in general: Make it fun," he adds. "Fun is the only thing that matters in a game. Fun is what makes people love your game. Fun is what makes people come back to play again. Fun is what makes people buy your next game without asking questions."
"That's why I'm really excited about Nevermind," says Reynolds. "It creates this experience that is fun but can also empower the player."