Meet the crowdsourced teen game developer IRL Horror Stories

About six years ago, Jake Karns had a really scary experience.

He was 12 at the time and he and his sister Kate had recently returned to live with their mother and grandmother in Victorville, Calif., After years of living with their father. It was a safe neighborhood, a gated community where very little seemed to be happening.

Returning to live with her mother meant that the food budget was increased. One day, they went to the store and bought about a month’s worth of food, mostly after school snacks and sugary treats. But as the days go by, Jake noticed that things were mysteriously missing. The chocolate bars are gone. The ice cream jars were gone, as was the chocolate syrup. Sometimes whole cases of water were there in the evening, left in the morning.

Always Fears to understand – Home aloneRayll

It was odd, of course, but young Jake blamed Grandma, a “notorious” midnight snack.

The strange thing was that even when Grandma went to visit her family in Texas, the food kept disappearing. Jake told his mother, who checked the house for any sign of intruders. There were no red flags. But Kate was suspicious too. She would hear noises coming from the kitchen late at night.

Jake’s mother decided to install a security system. “From there, we saw it,” Jake says.

The camera showed a stranger, no older than 60, descending the ladder. He was heading for the kitchen, eating all the food he could before rushing to his attic den. “After reviewing the footage, we moved around and called the police,” Jake explains. “But, not knowing how he got up there, or even thinking about what he might have done to us while we were sleeping?” Scary thoughts.

The man has been arrested, but Jake does not know what happened to him. These days, Jake checks his house for intruders every few months. “I’m definitely more scared of attics and what might be up there,” he says.

This is one of 132 real-life horror stories that landed in 19-year-old game designer Mukul Negi’s inbox after soliciting real-life horror stories to inspire future chapters of his. popular first person horror game. Fears to be probed.

Negi lives in New Delhi, India, in what he describes as a fairly bourgeois family. At the age of 10, Negi would sit and watch his uncle play Grand Theft Auto Vice City For hours. At 12, a kid from his neighborhood told him Stripe, a child-centered programming software for creating animations and games.

After spending hours mastering Stripe, Negi started making mobile apps for his friends and making mini-games to impress his high school crush. It has won awards and won Student Game of the Year award at Game Developers Conference India 2017 for its mobile puzzle game. Loopable.

In July, under the pseudonym Rayll, Negi releases the free game Fears to understand – Home alone, the first in a four-part series. For the first chapter, he turned to the stories found on the Mr. Nightmare YouTube channel, which posts real-life horror stories and filmed unexplained mysteries, to create F2Fthe story of.

Although completely independent, the story of the game is not much different from that of Jake. You play as a child on his own in the family home one evening. But there is something wrong. The graphics are grainy – the game has a 1980s VHS tape aesthetic – and your surroundings are dark at times, almost too dark. Sullen music follows you throughout the house. Strange noises echoed from somewhere in the house. The glasses are shattering. Numbers appear in dark corners. There are serious jumping fears.

Negi didn’t expect anyone to be interested in the game. “I was about to put my career as a game developer aside after directing episode one,” says Negi. But since its release in July, F2F has been downloaded to Steam over 140,000 times and has a rating of 88% (“very positive”). Generally speaking, indie games are considered successful if they reach 20,000 downloads.

Negi isn’t sure exactly why the game struck a chord, but he has a theory. “It certainly had something to do with the relativity factor,” he says. “Home invasion is such a common fear that can happen to anyone in real life.” Whatever the reason, Negi’s creation scares gamers and YouTubers alike.

Future episodes will all have unique narratives and draw inspiration from similar everyday fears. The second part, named Fears to Understand – Norwood Hitchhike and slated for release on Dec. 10, focuses on a 19-year-old woman named Holly Gardner and the unusual events that led to an unplanned stay at a roadside motel.

Negi has yet to decide what the other two stories will be about. This is where the fans – and their personal stories of terror – come in.

Truth versus fiction

Negi asked fans of the game, who congregate on Reddit forums and Discord groups, to send their stories through an email address he posted on the title screen of F2Ffirst chapter of. Responses came from all over the world, including the UK, Australia and Brazil.

In addition to the story of Jake’s attic, Negi received the story of a knife-wielding maniac stalking children in a pool late at night and a terrifying tale of demons gathering in the writer’s garage for set their house on fire – with the owners still inside. (Negi, for his part, says he’s not always sure which submissions are true and which are concocted.)

A story was sent by Aydan Williams, an 18 year old American boy. He remembers finding a wooden hut in a square of tall reeds. Poking his head inside, he discovered a nest that housed bones. There was part of what he thought was a rodent skull, plus a spine, a scapula, and lots and lots of ribs. Some of the bones had been cleaned, but there wasn’t a drop of blood anywhere.

While most of the bones appeared to be of animal origin, Williams could not identify all of them. “I do not think they were human bones, ”he said, a little uncertain.

Negi says the knowledge he gained about the psyche of ordinary people inspired the storyline for episode two and the way the game is played. “The stories I received had a major impact on the storytelling of [future] games, ”he said. “These people actually went through life threatening situations and suffered trauma. When you read hundreds of such stories, you get a clearer idea of ​​what it must be like to be in their situation. “

I ask Negi if reading these stories upset his head or at least gave him a darker view of the world. “I’ve heard worse on the Internet before,” he says bluntly. “Hearing such things hardly surprises me anymore. But – and don’t take it the wrong way – it was interesting to hear such incidents firsthand. “

What prompts players to share their scariest and most traumatic moments with a stranger? Some just want to share a crazy story. For others, it’s cathartic.

Take Amber, an American who asked that Grab not use his last name. At the age of 16, Amber was working a night shift at McDonald’s when a hooded man entered. It was not unusual for this sort of thing to happen, she said. But he waited outside, then chased Amber home. “Rethinking that story is difficult, but telling it might help,” says Amber. “Even if it’s just a little.”

F2F did not do you to feel as if you were in a fictional world. It really is triggers your greatest fears.

Amber says most of the people she shared her story with didn’t believe her, dismissing her experience as if it was a product of her imagination. “Sometimes I wish it was just a story I made up,” Amber says.

Amber is a huge horror fan, she says, and was drawn to the game not because it relies on “ghosts and ghouls,” but on everyday anxieties. “F2F didn’t make you feel like you were in a fictional world, ”she says. “It really triggers your biggest fears. “

It is a common thread that Negi discovered through the F2F fan community: this real life is often scarier than Hollywood screenwriters imagine.

“I noticed a trend in these stories,” he says. “People in these situations say things are always ordinary, until they are not. I repeatedly hear people say “I swept it away” or “I didn’t think much about it at the time.” We assume all is well – until a strange realization hits.

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