Video games have been an important part of pop culture for man years now, having come a long way from my first experiences with Atari in the 1970s. The genres of the fantastic has been an important part of game play, and with this post I'll highlight a couple of my favorite games from the 1990s.
The first game I remember fondly is Zombies Ate My Neighbors which came out in 1993 for the Sega Genesis as developed by LucasArts. This game incorporated elements from horror and science fiction films from the 1950s through the 1980s, and included various monsters such as werewolves, zombies, aliens, and as the title indicates, a major focus on zombies. The player had to work their way through various levels, avoiding or killing monsters, while trying to save at least one neighbor per level in order to advance to the next level. As an interesting piece of trivia, this game was controversial overseas due to the blood depicted in game play (extremely mild by comparison to today's horror and war games), as well as the title, going by the name Zombies outside of American culture due to concerns about creatures consuming one's neighbors. This game was a lot of fun for a fan of the films which provided the inspiration for the creatures that chased you across the screen.
Another favorite game came for me as I upgraded and moved beyond my Sega Genesis to the first Playstation. This game was darker than the previous game discussed above. It was Nightmare Creatures which came out in 1997. I enjoyed this game quite a bit because it drew upon Gothic horror elements, taking place in a dark and foggy London and incorporating a number of monstrous creatures. Still in my collection of video games, the back of the game case describes the storyline:
In 1834 on London's on London's blackest eve, a secret cult known as The Brotherhood of Hecate, rediscovered the key to man's unholiest fears. It was through this arcane act of terror that the evil leader of the Brotherhood, Adam Crowley, swore to overtake the world...Ever since this fateful night, not a London street, alley or town square has escaped the whispered screams of "Nightmare Creatures!"
One of the more interesting aspects of this game for me as an academic working in part in the area of new religious movements, and with some experience in Pagan studies, is the villain in the game, the character of Adam Crowley. For those with some familiarity with Western esotericism and the magickal family of religions, this is an adaptation of Aleister Crowley, the infamous esotericist and practitioner of sex magick, who proclaimed himself the "Great Beast 666." Nightmare Creatures draws on the infamy of Crowley's name for those who are aware of him and make the connection, and then creates a fictional villain who uses his magical abilities in the service of his cult and their desires for world domination. I must admit I was only able to defeat the final "boss" in the game, Crowley himself who takes one of his magical alchemy potions to transform himself into an uber-monster, as a result of the use of cheat codes. But heck, the monster had to be defeated, right?
Resident Evil was the next horror game I gravitated to, but with the various video game sequels, not to mention the various films that have come out based on the game, I don't need to tell readers about a phenomenon they are already very familiar with. Horror had a significant expression in video games in the 1990s, far beyond the zombie subgenre so prevalent in today's gaming.