I watched a video from the Penny Arcade (Extra Credits) site. It was entitled “Where did Survival Horror Go?” and laid out how survival games have slowly died out. His video explains what horror is, but doesn't go into detail about where survival horror actually went. I do tend to agree with him on the explanation of what exactly constitutes as horror though. In a nutshell, a psychological trip that explores the depths of just what goes bump in the night. What’s more terrifying than coming face to face with a muscular guy with a pyramid head and a giant sword? I’m sure this isn't something that has graced the imaginations of many before this game came out, but it’ll certainly get people to think twice before leaving the room after a play through.
The first reason given for why horror games are disappearing is because of technological advances. He gives an example of the first Silent Hill in which the fog was so dense which made it pretty difficult to see what was coming for you in the next stage. This dense fog was due to the graphical limitations of the systems of that time. I don’t exactly subscribe to this point of view. Sure, that was an awesome utilization of video game designers, but that isn't what makes all games great. Just take the mod Cry of Fear (Afraid of Monsters) into account. This was released only last year I believe, the graphics match that of something like System Shock (1990s), but it is still soooo creepy. It is a true horror game. There are no system limitations and even with that, it still succeeds in freaking me out and everyone watching me play the game. Same goes for Amnesia: The Dark Descent. The graphics aren't too bad, released in 2010, and the monsters aren't obscured by fog or anything like that.
The second reason involves mystery. You have to find your way after being set up for events you don’t understand. Everyone knows, the usual “you just woke up… find out what’s going on” set up. Unfailingly though, this has always been the setup. Well, most of the time. This wasn't just a characteristic of old horror games. This is pretty much what’s going on in any horror game now-a-days. Not that that’s a bad thing, really. Now, it is true that after many sequels (once the mystery has been unraveled) that there’s no longer a true “horror” aspect to it. This can be seen from Resident Evil (Extra used this example and it was spot on). Umbrella is the bad guy, obviously, how much longer can they drag this out? (Resident Evil 6 anyone? Oh wait, I meant game trying to be an action movie.)
He is right on a few things though, like franchises and sequels being an issue for the genre. This is true, but that doesn’t mean that good horror games aren't out there. There are many independent games that prove their worth as horror games. It is unfortunate ultimately though that horror does not sell as well as other games like sports, action, etc. Maybe one day this will change, but for now, you just have to dig for the diamonds, even if they’re a little on the rough side.