With all the craze surrounding the new horror film Skinamarink, it felt appropriate to talk about some horror games that certainly could have influenced this highly discussed movie. Skinamarink, if you aren’t familiar, is a POV horror film about two children who wake in the middle of the night to find their father is missing and all the windows and doors to their home have vanished. Now, to me, this is peak statement horror. You should watch Skinamarink for yourself if you haven’t yet. It is streaming now on Shudder. The themes in this film are absolutely guiding the viewer towards a discussion about child abuse and neglect. Immediately, with the changing of perspectives to the shots of the various room of the house, I’m reminded of the 2016 Indie horror game, Anatomy. Anatomy is a first-person story game, with no combat or puzzles. You simply navigate your character through a dark house, while playing a slew of tape recorders revealing the story of the game.
This game plays well for an Indie game, is available to play only on PC, and is a relatively short play. In truth, it probably has very little replay value, which is interesting, because I feel that Skinamarink doesn’t have a ton of rewatch value. But, I digress. As the tapes get darker and more warped, you realize that the house you are walking through is actually alive. There is something much more sinister going on, and there are a lot of connections to the way this story progresses, to Skinamarink. For starters, this game relies solely on storytelling clues and atmosphere to create a disturbing experience. One, I think, they both accomplish. The further into the game you get, the darker the rooms become. The tapes begin to sound more distorted and the tone shifts greatly. This is the exact technique used in Skinamarink. While Anatomy is a quick play, it is quite an unsettling encounter. I think any piece of media, be it game or film, that can build ‘scares’ strictly by having a story and atmosphere, is worth looking at for yourself. You can purchase Anatomy on Itchio. Anatomy speaks to the general environment, but there was also another horror game that came to mind while I was watching Skinamarink. It was the 2014 horror game, Among the Sleep. This game was released on all platforms. It was created by Krillbite Studio, who has only done a few other smaller Indie games. Don’t let that deter you though. Among the Sleep is a terrifying experience and it is a game with a lot to say.
You play as a toddler who gets out of bed in the middle of the night, which of course, is the very start of the plot for Skinamarink. You play a child who lives with their mother, and it becomes clear the parents are separated based on the interactions between the mom and dad when the father stops by to drop a birthday gift off. The gift? A sweet teddy bear that immediately becomes the child’s best (and likely only) friend. This story is heavy and it hurts in all the right ways, as a horror game with a point to make. The toddler goes through different “worlds” through places like the closets of the home. There is a female figure you must hide from while you solve puzzles to move throughout the game. Any guesses why a female? Or why Skinamarink reminded me of this game? You guessed it. The game deals with the subject of child abuse. I won’t ruin too much about the overall plot, but the gameplay itself was really rewarding. The puzzles aren’t overly complicated and the game isn’t unnecessarily long. It was more what I would categorize as a AAA gaming experiences as far as functionality. I didn’t have any problems with the experience as a player or as someone who was invested in the story. There’s just something really special about horror that takes the time to make a statement. I’m a big supporter of Indie brands across the board. So if you liked Skinamarink, definitely check these games out. Or, if you haven’t, go watch it on Shudder and then play the games. Anatomy and Among the Sleep are really great examples of smaller teams doing incredible things in the horror community.
Angel's quick review of Skinamarink is here
Find Angel and Tom Rimer's discussion of Skinamarink here