Battle of the Genres

Sci-Fi Vs Horror


A lot of games seem to represent themselves in a mediocre way in terms of characterisation. A lot of new games do not have a sufficient back story to support their characters, some represent their characters poorly. But the main thing to look at here is how its done on a whole.


In Sci-Fi, some of the most stereotypical things would be military presence in space, Predominantly men in front roles, Massive alien fronted genocidal campaigns and highly advanced alien races. The list can go on. Also “I didn’t sign up for this” is one of the most common lines in any Sci-Fi game.

In Horror, the most common on would be the racial stereotype that African American people are always the first to die, others would be that the killer is some kind of monster or a psychotic killer that was neglected as a child. Also, the setting would most likely be set at night.

Counter typing:

Countertypes in Sci-Fi aren’t that easy to come by. Some of the most recognisable ones would be; Military soldiers that seem and sound invincible but cower at the most unsuspecting time. Others would be a stereotypical skinny physique and nerdy looks but turns out to be stronger than the enemy. Another would be female scientists that turn out to have amazing military skills.

Countertypes in Horror can be quite common. They can also be classed as stereotypes. For instance, you could get a person who is on your side supposedly, they may look helpless and “normal” as can be but they end up being the killer psycho. Another would be a monster that you suspect as being the killer but they are actually trying to help you and show you who the real threat is.

Emotional Themes

In Sci-Fi, The main themes would be anger fear and perseverance. Anger would match up with the stereotypes as that is what is felt generally from the enemies. They feel an anger and deep hatred of the allied forces. The same can be said similarly for the allied force. Perseverance is one of the biggest parts of any Sci-Fi game, The allied forces would always hold the determination and perseverance to survive against a somewhat unbeatable foe.

In Horror, The themes heavily revolve around fear, Insanity and dark content, Bravery if counted as well. The fear of death and the constant realisation that you are being watched or followed plays a big part in the franchise. Dark content such as gore and demons etc. compliment fear and amplify it. Insanity is also a good character tool to develop plots and backstories for places or characters.

Visual styles

In Sci-Fi, the visuals are very much bright or vivid. On space ships its is very much a metal grey or ice white colours, sometimes it can be black like the star destroyers in starwars. These sort of solid colours can convey a high standing sort of people that occupy the ship, for instance the ship could have an ice white interior to represent the standing of the faction occupying it (white=good, Black=bad etc.) a dirty interior could suggest that the ship belongs to pirates or traders. Visuals have a major role to play in determining the class of characters and the feel of places.

In horror it is very much the opposite, Dark and gloomy colours are used. Vivid and violent colours to express pain or even a false normality to trick a player into thinking everything is ok. Generally the places you visit are often dirty and have some sort of blood stain located in the area. Visual filters also play a large part in horror as flickering effects, blinking and first person add more emersion to the game making it more scary.

Story telling Devices

In Sci-Fi games, the narrative of the story fits in with the emergent narrative, where the story of the game is revealed the further into the game you progress. An example of this is the story of Halo, in each game the story of that particular game is revealed over the course, with parts of the plot and twists being revealed which change your view of the game overall. Parts of the story are revealed as you progress through.

Horror games heavily use emergent narrative in their story, the story is often shrouded in mystery from the beginning, using subtle hints and intricate plot twists to reveal key parts of the story to the player. These games entice the player by keeping the story hidden but filling the game with enough detail to make the players want more. An example of this is the Five Nights at Freddy's series, where the games are presented in a non-chronological order and reveal parts of the story as you progress through and finish each night, as well as find the hidden Easter eggs inside the game.

Part 2: how does Halo do it?

For this section I will be covering:

-Narrative Structure
-Narrative Approach
-Story Points

The game of choice for this section will be Halo 1. I will be using it to help discuss the topics mentioned above.

Narrative Structure

Halo's narrative structure leans towards the use of the Hero's Journey. This is shown throughout a number of points in the story. The call to adventure is when the Master Chief is awoken to deal with the Covenant threat that is attacking the human spaceship. Master Chief faces many challenges when he lands on the halo and is forced to deal with the alien threat on this new, alien world. He has a meeting with a 'mentor' figure, 343 Guilty Spark, who helps him progress through the game and acquire a key item to help destroy The Flood. The game also includes a 'return' scenario where when Master Chief destroys the halo, he manages to escape onto a ship, beginning his journey back to earth.

Narrative Approach

Halo's narrative approach combines aspects of Linear and Linear with Freedom. The game features an overall objective, to destroy The Flood and escape the halo. This objective leads you on a Linear path towards your objective. However, throughout the game you will be able to progress back to certain areas of the game, though very limited in terms of availability. Binary Opposition also exists within the Halo universe and its story, as it's shown that humans and the Covenant cannot co-exist and will try to destroy each other over the course of the story.

Story Points

Halo's story is mostly communicated through cinematic scenes, where they are used to progress certain parts of the story. An example of this is when The Flood, an alien parasite revealed through a dead soldier file playback, describing but what happened to them and why The Flood is a threat. Parts of the story are also revealed through the use of in-game dialogue. Examples of this are when 343 Guilty Spark talks to you about The Index, which contains all knowledge of the halos that exist within the Halo universe, this reveal changes the game for the player, revealing certain plot points that show you could potentially kill all life in the universe except The Flood, adding a sense of surprise as well as an impressive plot twist to the story.