Among the finalists for this year’s Independent Game Festival Seumas McNally Grand Prize is Amnesia: The Dark Descent, a horror game by Frictional Games, the creators of the much loved and feared, Penumbra. Players control Daniel, an amnesia stricken Londoner who awakens in the mysterious and foreboding Brennenburg Castle. The environment has all the trappings required of an unsettling gothic castle—creaky wooden doors, archaic torches, ornate and grotesque statues, and generally dubious safety standards. While the castle’s atmosphere evokes deeply uncomfortable feelings, Amnesia effectively engenders terror by demanding that players create their own topographies of fear.
Throughout Amnesia, hideous creatures lurk the halls of castle Brennenburg, threatening players who explore the haunting corridors too liberally. Players cannot fight these monsters. Instead, players must behave like frightened children and simply run and hide. But there is a catch. In addition to a health status, players struggle with their own sanity. Primarily, sanity depletes while standing in darkness. As the players’ sanity drains, their environment becomes distorted, blurring and hazing the already ominous passages. Sanity can only be regained by standing near a light source.