Parallels: The Science of Jump Scares

It’s a great honor to debut our new show Parallels with the launch of the Fanbyte site. Parallels is here to trace the connections between the world and the virtual worlds we love to explore.  In the premiere episode, we’re looking at jump scares in video games just in time for Halloween.

It’s a full-on, squirming vivisection of the concept: delve into transistor-driven terrors and 8-bit banalities that failed to fright as we autopsy the history of horror games up through and beyond the iconic birth of the survival horror genre. Ok, I’ll cool it with the slasher metaphors.

(Mild obfuscated spoiler: ground zero is when the zombie dog self-defenestrates in the original Resident Evil. Also, a personal anecdote: immediately after encourting said dog, I quit the game, calmy called my best friend, had him come over to my house, where I proceeded to backseat game him up to that point where he promptly, and shrilly I might add, yelped and threw the grey controller into the air like a shot put. If it had been untethered from the PlayStation, I honestly could imagine it leaving our orbit.)

But it’s not just about video games – it’s about the link between games and what inspires them. Film is truth twenty-four frames per second, and interactive entertainment had no problem cribbing from the likes of Hitchcock – but who inspired the master of suspense? Travel back to the late 1800s when even silent films attempted to spook audiences. Later talkies lay onto more latent shocks that dig into the very core of our reptile brains.  

parallels jump scares

We examine the science of scary, with neurons and human nature on hand to help to decode why we freak out at sudden sounds and an eerie shivers of movement. The amygdala, the brain thing not the Bloodborne boss, plays an enormous role in our reactions to jump scares.

Through technology and psychology the jump scare grows from more than a carnival thrill that’s made the careers of YouTubers and Twitch streamers (though they’re in here, too) to a building block that helps encapsulates the rise of games and how they can affect us on such a primal level. Also, it’s fun to just scream sometimes.

Now, we don’t want to give up ghost, so go watch the episode and tell us what you think. The premise of Parallels gives us so much to explore in this world of games and we are always open to feedback, so leave a comment. I personally promise to read them all! Maybe even think of subscribing to our YouTube channel for upcoming episodes and even new shows.

I want to give big props to our video team. Matthew Vince and Ben Wright helped out both in front and behind the camera, while Andrew Whitmore does more before 9am then some island nation armies do all day. Some guy named Nick made some pretty graphics. And without even a tinge of sycophancy, thanks to the big boss KJ Lin for making this all reality and letting us borrow his camera. For real.  

What will soon be an “as always,” thanks to the staff of Fanbyte for feedback, encouragement, and to you for watching.