We don't need any more Lovecraftian video games for a while

It's 2019, and H.P. Lovecraft has won. Cosmic horror, alien gods, and mind-breaking revelations of forbidden knowledge are no longer obscure tropes of weird fiction: they have come to dominate how horror is presented in video games.

But horror is much bigger than Lovecraft. And games would be better off exploring new frontiers, rather than returning to the Cthulhu well again and again.

Besides - if you are a true Lovecraft fan, you know that bad stuff hangs out in wells.

Lovecraft Saturation

There was a time when Lovecraft's works weren't well known, but over the past two decades stories like The Call of Cthulhu and The Shadow over Innsmouth have become as popular and as frequently referenced as just about anything in the horror genre not written by Stephen King or Edgar Allen Poe.

Helped along by big-name Lovecraft fans like Guillermo del Toro and Stephen King himself, then filtered through the modern pop culture hyperspeed reference machine, we now see elements of Lovecraft's cosmic horror showing up in massively popular media like Stranger Things and Rick and Morty. Heck, there's even a direct Lovecraft story adaptation coming out starring Nicolas Cage.

And video games have embraced Lovecraft more enthusiastically than any other form of media outside of literature. Going as far back as Alone in the Dark, X-COM: Terror from the Deep, and the original Quake, Lovecraftian tropes like malevolent dreaming gods, sinister cults, and giant tentacle monsters have had a major presence in games. And the popular concept of a "sanity meter" in horror games, popularized by Eternal Darkness, can be traced back to the Call of Cthulhu tabletop roleplaying game which, as you might guess, is pretty darn Lovecraftian.

We've gotten two of our most explicitly Lovecraft-inspired games ever just in the last year, with The Sinking City and 2018's Call of Cthulhu. Beyond those, we've seen Lovecraftian influences and homages in games and franchises like Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Call of Cthulhu: The Dark Corners of the Earth, Sundered, Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened, Darkest Dungeon, Bloodborne, Sunless Sea, Cultist Simulator, Alan Wake, Dead Space, Dishonored, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., The Secret World, Evolve, World of Warcraft, and the upcoming Moons of Madness, to name just a few of the more prominent examples.

As Matthew Gault pointed out in his article from last year about the need to move past H.P. Lovecraft's works: you can find multiple full pages of games on Steam when searching for terms like "Cthulhu" or "Lovecraft," a popularity helped along by the fact that the bulk of Lovecraft's works are in the public domain. Using these Steam charts as a metric, Cthulhu is even more popular in games than the similarly public domain Dracula.

In fact, here's a challenge for you: can you think of any other specific named monster (like Cthulhu) or horror figure (like Lovecraft) that has more of a presence in gaming?

Beyond Lovecraftian Horror

I understand Lovecraft's appeal. I've read dozens of his stories and listened to hundreds of episodes of the excellent H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast. I've seen adaptations of his works performed live, and I've been to NecronomiCon. This isn't about Lovecraftian horror not being interesting and effective, and this isn't even about Lovecraft's personal racism (which only The Sinking City has really grappled with in any interesting way).

This is about all the flavors of horror that gaming has barely explored at the same time it's been squeezing every last drop of ichor from H.P.'s bones. We've had enough octopus gods and creepy fish people for a while - let's use 2019's Control as a jumping off point for more exploration of the new weird. Let's move beyond the sanity meter and explore real psychological horror with more games like Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice. And if you're looking for scares that would feel fresh and relevant and acutely horrific in 2019, how about games based in ecological horror?

Finally, if what appeals to you about Lovecraft is the whole "uncaring cosmos" angle, then the works of Thomas Ligotti will be right up your alley, and they're ready to inspire games about how we are all just puppets made of flesh cursed with the burden of consciousness - and then maybe there's like a cooking mini-game or something in there too, just to mix it up.

What I'm trying to say is: We're good on Lovecraft games for a while. We don't need any more. Let's take the next decade off and try some new stuff.

Oh, and while we're at it: no more zombie games after Dying Light 2. We're set on those for a decade too.

This article was written as a respectful rebuttal to "We Need More Lovecraftian Influences in Games."