Readdressing the Issue: Cosmic Horror

Unfortunately, another short blog this week. Or at least off-the-cuff article. My job continues its attempt to extract all my hopes and dreams, then fill the sucking abyss with the turgid mixture of hate, misery, and self-loathing. Because that is what makes a better employee: depression and resignation to oblivion.

Unmarked spoilers for Persona 5, Night in the Woods, and Kona in this post. I will put up a spoiler tag before discussion, but no other warnings after that.

But enough of that! Today I’m going to give another homework assignment to you dear readers. Last year I published an article in the Science Fiction Research Association (SFRA) Review. The article examined the evolution of the Cosmic Horror literary genre in response to digital and analogue gaming culture. Article is found here: Later that year I presented this topic at the SFRA conference in Liverpool, but was not able to present it at GenCon due to financial issues.

However, being unable to show case this article last year at GenCon has become a blessing in disguise. This year I have 2 panels (and 4 Delta Green games) schedule for presentation at GenCon. One is on Tonal Consistency in tabletop game development, the other is on Cosmic Horror’s evolution.

With a full 2 years between the publication and presentation I have already seen some of the predictions from the article come true. On the more depressing predictions, I suggested that the current rise in the Cosmic Horror genre was due to a resurgence of a social-political climate most similar to that of the World War Inter War era. Now a full two years later indeed the dramatic rise of Nationalist ideology and other such issues has increased. Hopefully, the recent French election and movements online to oppose this thinking will help stop any possible repeat of the events of the Interwar Era.

On a more positive note, games themselves have also started to expand their narratives in the direction I predicted. And now, after a much longer introduction than I anticipate, the meat of this post. Here are a list of games that, while not specifically Cosmic Horror, utilize the dressings of the genre to create narratives that fir in-line with my new genre than the old genre.


Final chances to avoid spoilers. Please leave now if you wish.



Night in the Woods – Developed Alec Holowka and Inifinte Fall. This indy Adventure game tells the story of Margaret “Mae” Borowski as she returns to her hometown of Possum Springs after dropping out of college. The story and characters of the game are uncomfortably realistic to individuals form a small town or community. However, the story starts to shift into cosmic horror as the hate of the town, Mae, and her friends becomes tied to a mysterious Cult and the entity they serve.

Kona – Developed by Parabole (as discussed in a previous article I enjoyed Kona and I plan on revisiting it later when work isn’t trying to eat my soul). Kona is an Adventure of Carl Faubert’s investigation of Atamipek Lake. The opening half of the story is true, blue detective fiction with an amazing blizzard environment to explore. The story quickly falls into the Cosmic Horror genre when Spirits, Ice Wolves, and the Wendigo are addressed. Even the final confrontations are reminiscent of Call of Cthulhu games where you just run from creature and hope you survive either with your sanity or health but never both.

Persona 5 – Developed by Atlus. Anyone who is familiar with the Persona or Shin Megami Tensei (SMT) series understands that to explain the worlds and story of the games would take hours. However, to both avoid that time sink let me summarize, in as brief as possible, the story. Using the power of Carl Jung’s psychological personas the main characters undermine the power of evil leaders. This ultimately leads to battles where mythological figure battle for the desires of individuals and the whole of humanity. The game is very good, but very hard to break down in two sentences, I suggest looking into this game,  the SMT, and Persona series.

*Spoiler Warning Ending*

You can resume reading from here.

*Spoiler Warning Ending*

These three games are but a few of the games I’ve seen over the late few years that I will discuss at GenCon. If you are interested or have more games/narratives you feel fall into this discussion please comment on this post or use my contact info. I’ll look forward to this conversation. And I might even get to see you at GenCon this year.

Now time to go to work. Maybe this article will harden my resolve against the crushing corporate machine for another day.


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