Stephen was showing me some Backrooms videos earlier today, and it was interesting to me how they kind of borrow from both Unity horror games (as, I've argued, the predecessor genre to walking simulators) and found footage horror (with its deliberate blurring of sources, the real vs the fictional, and often multimedia character ie Noroi) as sort of omnivorous, uniquely post-digital approaches. And, additionally, I also saw (on this first of September; the first day of the Traditionally Recognized Halloween Period) a comic artist talking about how one of their characters now shows up as a purchaseable mask on the Spirit Halloween Stores website, without any of the typical liscensing, recognition or even communication you might expect had it been a "deal."

Of course this isn't notable, it's really common in horror media in particular. The discount shops in town always have a rotating cast of offbrand stuffed toys from a recent viral horror game or video or creepypasta meme in their front window, and you can find an even bigger selection on Alibaba (imo someone should rip off character designs from Stephen's games in this manner). It's interesting to me that horror is a place where the veil between the public domain and intellectual property, so to say, thins, and you end up with something that is kind of half-open, and so contributes to really interesting and enthusiastic creative work (yume nikki fangames, SCP wikis, etc), but a field that is also still entangled with the enclosed, ownership-oriented approach of capitalism, so people still end up getting exploited along predictable lines.

I don't know if I fully have a theory of "why horror" to begin with, though. I think attributing it to a presumed lineage with folklore and therefore this sort of innocent, idealized image of vernacular storytelling makes what I call the "chess error" which is a common rhetorical move in game studies: asserting videogames are like chess because it is one of the oldest or most famous things also called a "game," rather than drawing significant practical points of resemblance. An analogy between oral traditions and the hyper-flexible mass manufacturing factories that make bootlegging so speedy and profitable or online platforms that allow for viral broadcasting combined with the ability to ownership- and medium- agnostically mine whatever cultural artefacts and technological resources are at hand is kind of tenuous, or uninteresting.

It's also not exactly the same as a genre understanding of horror, when what comes out at the end is equally likely to be recognizeable as narrative prose or an A24 film deal, as a clipped and recontextualized meme joke or nameless children's toy. Is it more like a sort of target feeling? A set of relationships that is more blurry or dialogical than, for example, the Viewer to Voice of the Franchise relationship in streaming TV? A type of attention that incorporates a meta-awareness of communal "source," digital tools and methods, etc? IDK! It is hard to put my finger on, but it feels notable. I especially find the looser, lay understanding of creative ownership which is much more flexible, both hungry and willing to share, that proliferates there (and is sometimes enclosed or halted by capitalist interests) to be an interesting counter argument to more mainstream formulations of IP and copyright.