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Bogeyman

by Elizabeth Smyth profile

Horror, Fantasy
2018

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Number of Reviews: 4
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Changed my view of a genre, January 15, 2019
OH, MY WORD. I'm tense by the third screen or so of this game. I'm still a little tense, having played through it twice now. I'm so glad I played this game in the morning. I think it would have given me nightmares if I had experienced it right before going to bed.

Bogeyman is a choice-based horror game. Horror is one of my least-favorite genres. When horror doesn't work, it usually just feels dumb to me. If it does, then why am I reading fiction or watching a movie, just to be scared? Real life is scary enough as it is (just glance at a random day's headlines); why should I seek it out? But I'm playing through the games in this Comp and trying to give feedback, so I played Bogeyman anyway.

Maybe because I don't seek out horror in fiction much I'm more sensitive to it. Whatever the reason, I am still tense, even though I'm now three paragraphs into this review. Okay, deep breaths. I'll try to be objective from here on.

The blurb and cover hint well at the menace to come, especially the tagline: "You can go home when you learn to be good." Then you start the game, and you're faced with basic white text on a black background. This, the simple font, and the spare writing together just ooze menace. Something about the choices being in all caps enhances it, too.

I don't know that I want to say much about the content, other than that it is terrifying. For some reason (Spoiler - click to show)the prayer at the table, "We are truly grateful for what we have," was one of the worst moments. I suppose it's that effect of "Not only can I make you physically experience these horrifying events, I'm going to twist your soul so much that you'll be thankful for the horror." Then combine that with the fact that it's being done to children, in a perversion of a simple act of gratitude that many of us daily choose to make... Shudder.

The absolutely worst thing I've done in IF - ever, in any game - in terms of how it made me feel, was (Spoiler - click to show)eating Grace. Eating Grace! After saying grace! It would be kind of funny if it weren't so awful.

Despite my dislike of horror as a genre, I don't think I regret playing this game. Even while I'm feeling what I'm feeling, I'm thinking, "Wow. What an amazing piece of art, to be able to produce this reaction from me."

My conclusion: Bogeyman is an excellent horror game. Play it, and experience it for yourself. Just not right before bedtime.
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I wrote the above review on the authors' forum during IFComp 2018 right after playing Bogeyman. It led to a discussion among several of us about the themes in Bogeyman, as well as horror in general. I had always thought that the primary (sole?) purpose of horror is to frighten or disgust people, and those are not experiences that I've ever been interested in seeking out. However, the authors' conversation convinced me that horror can be used effectively in the service of worthwhile artistic goals.

For example, Chandler Groover argued that Bogeyman does an excellent job of making the player feel what it's like to live with an abuser. It's not a pleasant experience, but it's true, in the sense that there are people who do live under an abuser's power. It's important that we know this - and that there is art out there like Bogeyman that can dramatize it for us.

So, I no longer stand by my dismissive comments about works of horror in the second paragraph of my original review. Horror is still not going to be my go-to genre, but I have a much deeper appreciation for it than I did before I played Bogeyman.

That makes Bogeyman one of only a handful of works I've experienced that have been integral in changing my view of an entire genre.

Comments on this review

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Danielle, January 16, 2019 - Reply
I really enjoyed your review! As a horror fan (and also a PG-13 horror writer who is strongly religious and also quite optimistic), it's cool to see someone change their mind about the genre. Like you, I don't like gory gross-out repellant-for-its-own-sake type horror... But luckily there's a lot of variety in horror. Not all of it is nihilistic and horrible and about splattery kills; it ranges all over the map from psycholgically suspenseful to cheap jump scares. And frequently horror can teach us lessons about resilience and resourcefulness.
Anyway, sorry for rambling or lecturing! tl;dr I enjoyed reading your review! :3
Spike, January 18, 2019 - Reply
Thanks for your response! The variety to horror that you mention is one of the other things I realized from the conversation on the authors' forum. There's so much more to it than jump-scares and gore, from novels like Frankenstein to movies like Psycho to games like Anchorhead. I always knew this on some level, but somehow it took playing Bogeyman and the resulting conversation to make me consciously aware of it.
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