In Defense of Jump Scares
Jump Scares are a staple of any horror-related video game. The sudden, unexpected appearance of something can send even the most hardened horror fans into a sudden lapse of terror and involuntary movement. At the same time, developers consider these to be cheap ways to get a reaction out of their players. In the next portion of words, I’d like to try and justify why jump scares are a totally legitimate way to scare people. Firstly, I’d like to say that I’m talking about real jump scares. Not the cheap b*ll$h1t where it happens out of nowhere, I’m looking at you Dead Space.
Jump scares that have build-up, things like music featuring strings that sound like someone is scraping at the strings with their old, rotting fingernails, sound effects such as creaky floorboards, a door slowly opening as the to-be victim slowly approaches the source of pure terror…
Something pops out with an explosion of noise, screaming and screechy music. That’s a jump scare, son! Sometimes a jump scare can work in complete silence because that lack of noise causes you to focus harder, then BAM AGAIN! That sudden noise explosion from dead silence can cause an even harder jump scare.
To me at least, Five Nights at Freddy’s is a game that does this pretty damn well. Many have accused the game of being nothing more than cheap jump scares, but I highly disagree with that opinion. I personally believe Five Nights at Freddy’s exemplifies how to use jump scares effectively. For full disclosure sake, I’ve never actually played these games, but I’ve watched enough videos to feel like I can at least somewhat talk about them in this way.
Five Nights at Freddy’s is a game pretty much based entirely around jump scares, it’s about trying to stop creepy Chuck-E-Cheese rejected animatronics from stuffing you into an empty animatronic suit. You watch the empty rooms of the family pizzeria during the night time and before long the animatronics start to wander around the rooms. That’s when the sense of horror and tension kicks in, they’re coming. You know they’re coming, you know that loud screaming jump scare is coming. You fully expect to fall off your chair at some point. You can try to stop it happening, but the odds are not in your favor. The point is, that you know it’s coming. You expect the jump scare to happen.
That’s what makes a great jump scare, when you know it’s coming. When everything indicates it’s going to happen. Slender nails this too, when you first spot good old slendy you’ll feel your heart start beating harder. Maybe you’ll scream a little bit too. Then as you progress further, the Slenderman starts appear more often, eventually he’ll pretty much always be there. Every time you accidentally catch a glimpse of him your screen goes fuzzy, there’s a musical sting and everything just gets even worse.
The reason this game works so effectively is because, like FNAF, there’s a build up. You know the Slenderman is coming, the first time you see him you know he’s there. Watching you, and that he’s not going away anytime soon. He’s going to keep following you, and every so often you’ll see him. Before you know it, he’s right next to you, the screen goes completely static and all you see is the Slenderman’s face flashing in front of your eyes before a game over screen, just like in FNAF the last thing you see is an animatronic screaming in your face.
That’s a real jumpscare, one that’s been built up to. You knew it was coming, but you failed to stop it and as a result. You jumped out of your skin, maybe left a mess in your pants. That’s a god damn jumpscare.