A panel at GDC had developers questioning how far is “too far” when it comes to jump scares and other elements in horror VR games. The Paranormal Activity VR experience drew large crowds at the convention yesterday and scared the pants off anyone who was brave enough to play it. But can developers create horror games for VR with the same content as they can for consoles and PC?

The consensus: VR can turn a player’s experience from something frighteningly fun into something outright terrifying. Scott Stephan, design lead at WEVR, stated “We actually have a rule that no creature should be larger than the size of a small dog.” Anything larger invokes survival instincts, says Stephan. He also found that those who played earlier versions of TheBlu, an immersive ocean experience, expressed high levels of discomfort; TheBlu is as far away on the opposite end of the spectrum as you can get from Paranormal Activity.

Alex Schwartz, CEO of Job Simulator developer Owlchemy Labs, commented that he is pushing back against throwing players into the most intense experience possible. With VR making gaming and interactive entertainment more accessible and more real than it has ever been, VR developers should use restraint and caution when creating games with scary subject matter.

This panel adds to the ongoing discussion of horror VR games. GamesIndustry.biz viewed a similar panel in which Cloudhead Games’ Denny Unger expressed concern that someone with a heart condition could literally be scared to death. Whether or not this is possible, some games already do come with warnings aimed toward those with specific health conditions. Both the Xbox and Nintendo websites have photosensitive seizure warnings, urging players to use caution when playing their games, or refrain from doing so if need be.

Do you feel developers should be cautious when creating content for their horror VR games? Do you think that people can be physically or psychologically affected? Sound-off in the comments section below.

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Joanna Nelius
Joanna is drawn to sci-fi and post-apocalyptic worlds, and games with a generous amount of gore. When she's not gaming, she's convincing her friends it's a good idea to go into abandoned buildings.

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