Nick J Jones's picture
Nick J Jones from New Zealand is reading The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath February 20, 2017 - 1:25am

Hey guys, I'm a Narrative Designer in New Zealand, and we are about to start work on a new VR horror game based in a real-life location - the most haunted spot in Auckland, NZ. This spot is Kingseat Hospital, a former mental asylum. Now, it is home to a murder-house styled attraction called Spookers. What I'm wondering is, I know lots of families were effected negatively by the way patients were treated during its operations, and although we want to tell a fucking awesome horror story, we also want to treat the history of the place with respect. Does anyone have any advice on writing an asylum horror story with respect to the real life victims of such a place?


Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal February 20, 2017 - 11:13am

Question: how many of the victims' direct families are still alive?

Personally, I think if you want to respect the real victims, you need to have threads of honesty in there. If you can interview people who maybe knew the victims, I would think all the better (if they're willing).

And, if it matters, maybe get the permission of said direct family members to use actual names, that kind of thing.

If you, for instance, showed a ghost of someone in a cell, and mentioned their actual name, and simply portrayed the apparition or whatever suffering the way he/she actually did in the past, that seems like a way to honor their memory to me. By acknowledging what happened, in the light of honesty and compassion for what they went through, you do them right.

Then around the next corner a demon tries to kill you.

Alternatively, if you just wanted a horror story and didn't include the real stories of people at all, I think you're in the clear.

I'm claiming expertise on the subject, but that makes sense to me.

helpfulsnowman's picture
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helpfulsnowman from Colorado is reading But What If We're Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman February 20, 2017 - 2:31pm

I had a close, very close member of my family who was incarcerated in a "behavioral health" facility, which is the modern version of a mental institution. I'll share my opinion. And it's just that, an opinion coming from someone who is in the potentially-offended group. I can't speak for the world or for the people who may be offended by the setting. Full disclosure, I'm not easily offended, and this general idea doesn't throw me into a fit or anything. This is also a U.S.-centric opinion. I can't say what exactly was going on in other countries.

It's my opinion that these places are scary. Not just for "normal" people, but for the patients as well, much the way prisons can be scary for inmates AND outsiders AND staff. Think about it. Many perfectly healthy people are overcome with a sense of dread when they enter a doctor's office. Being on jury duty was an anxiety-building experience for me, and I wasn't even in any trouble. I know a ton of people who are terrified of the dentist, and the dentist has every good intention. What I'm getting at here is that it's a potentially scary setting regardless of your relationship to it.

There's also, historically, a HUGE range of people admitted to these types of facilities. Some would probably be able to live relatively normal lives today as we've gained a much better understanding. Some had disabilities, and the facilities were used as dumping grounds. The point being, I think I'd balk at the idea of a bunch of crazed, murderous inmates, or maybe at the idea that most of the residents were homicidal. If there was some messed up shit going on, ghosts and whatnot, I think most of the  residents would be equally terrified, perhaps moreso as they are oftentimes of vulnerable populations and/or hadn't been treated properly in the facility.

If the question is about respect, I think...I think I'd feel like the respect would come in with the treatment of the residents. Are they seen as people? In the course of the game, is trying to keep them from harm, trying to assist them in some way part of the goal? Are they simply corpses and the first to die? Are they the source of the terror? Is part of the issue with a horror scenario in a facility "Hey, there are a bunch of people who are not safe in there. We can't just leave them in there, locked up"?

Make us care about the residents as people.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal February 20, 2017 - 10:46pm

Make us care about the residents as people.

Yes! Even if they're not there anymore.