We recorded a podcast on I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, it will go up soon and in the meantime I decide to look into it with what it does with horror. I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream isn’t horrifying in the traditional sense of the genre, but then we tend to use horror, terror, frightening and scary as interchangeable when really they are subtly distinct emotions.
The game really isn’t scary. You wont be screaming or whimpering or see YouTube videos of people making fools of themselves. Instead it asks you to think and the horror slowly weasels its way into your mind. I was suitably impressed by the dense symbolism, but it wasn’t until Nimdok’s chapter did I feel a chill go up and down my spine. Holocaust imagery, real, abstract or somewhere in between isn’t to be done lightly, but Ellison manged to make it work and really bring that feeling of horror to the forefront.
Ellen’s chapter contained a similar real world horror that brings the feeling to the forefront through implication. I left her out because it flowed better to focus on a single example and stay centered on Nimdok. The threat of Ellen’s torture from AM to be dominated by her rapist for all eternity is brilliantly horrifying and earns the game a trigger warning, but doesn’t have the same thread of implication towards humanity. In fact, in context it makes the whole chapter seem out of place. It may need inspection on its own terms.
I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream manages to hold up very well for a mid-90s adventure game and recently has come to both GoG and Steam. It’s one of the few old games I’ve been really hoping would come. If you have the stomach for it, go play it and then read my post.