I wonder what you would think if you could see what a phenomenon your work has become. You’re the first person America thinks of when they hear about cosmic horror. Cthulhu, of course, is the big winner. I spelled his name wrong on this document and spellcheck had a correction. You could say he has a cult following.
But you’re also revered for the way you portrayed despair and insanity, two of the most devastating effects of a life gone wrong. Everyone remembers the loneliness in your life, and how you remodeled it into visions of impossible lands containing beauty and horror. You wrote of places with eerily familiar habitats and dimensions that did not make sense. Most of all, you saw the consequences that came of human entrance to these worlds. You went forth and created things we were never meant to see or know.
Cosmic horror is known for its crushing reality of pointlessness. Your art impressed upon us the horror that we are alone on this blue Earth floating in space; that all our achievements are nihil in what you call “the cosmos-at-large”. You imagined creatures so gargantuan and incomprehensible that the very sight of them drives their witnesses to madness. We all realize what little dust we are when these monsters rear their abominable heads. These are our gods, our real gods, and to them we are nothing. This is telltale to your work, Lovecraft, and so many people have loved and emulated it since you’ve been gone.
I must be honest though, Lovecraft: I never liked your work. I love what you wrote about, but I didn’t warm to your style. To me, your work was verbose, absurdly hyperbolic, and repetitive. Indeed, with some notable triumphs (The Call of Cthulhu, At the Mountains of Madness) I feel like you were writing the same story over and over with a few differences in each. And I must acknowledge your racism, which may be a topic for another day. You’re a renowned writer, H.P. Lovecraft, but you’re not the best.
Not to say you thought you were. You didn’t think much of your work and said yourself that you probably wouldn’t gain real fame. You had a hard life. From what I understand, both your parents were committed to mental institutions, and you suffered from sickliness, self-isolation, and depression. That is very, very sad, and the terrible things of which you wrote are your testimony. If only you had lived longer. Maybe then you would have been able to steer your cosmic horror in other directions.
This is the opinion of a detractor, H.P. Lovecraft, and I do hope you don’t take it to heart. What I want to do is thank you for inspiring what’s among the greatest horror games of this decade. In the far-flung days of 2010, Frictional Games created a visual masterpiece in which you play a man being hunted in a forgotten castle deep in the woods. It is unlike any other survival horror of its time, and it was made in no small part to you, Lovecraft. The character you play is Daniel, and his story is called Amnesia: The Dark Descent.
Daniel wakes up one night in the Castle of Brennenburg. It’s 1839, and he only remembers two things. First, his name. Second, that he must kill a man named Alexander. Outside it’s rainy and gloomy. The front door is locked. So Daniel follows a trail of rose petals through the castle as he looks for Alexander.
The game is plagued with anxiety and paranoia. Not only is Daniel all alone on his way down the castle, but also he’s being haunted—by memories as well as present things. A strange, pulsating substance appears everywhere he goes. Cockroaches and rodents skitter along the floors, sometimes crawling onto his face. Are they illusions or not? Either way, they’re not the worst thing. For in Brennenburg hideous monsters groan as they shamble down the castle floors, seeking Daniel in his weakened state. Even when they’re not around, his conscience is, and as he travels he continually hears the echoes of tortures past. Is it not Lovecraftian enough yet? Yes, H.P., your themes are known as Lovecraftian. And the most inspired of all may be the Orbs. Daniel was drawn to Brennenburg Castle after finding an Orb, a blue, eerie artifact that almost seems to whisper under its impossibly smooth stone. Touching the Orb whisks Daniel into “alien memories of spiralling towers, endless deserts, and impossible geometry”. I will not say what happens before or after, but Daniel’s quest to free himself from the Orb drives him to obsessions all too reminiscent of your treasured stories.
Amnesia is still very much its own game, but it would not be what it is without your cosmic reference. It is beautifully made with realistic graphics, excellent timing, and dreadful ambience to keep you edge. Consider this a bonus: most virtual games give you weapons so you can fight your enemies. In Amnesia, there are none. You only get tools with which to complete your tasks, a lantern with limited fuel, and tinderboxes to light your way. The latter two are important, as you must keep your sanity intact throughout the game. Staying in the light maintains your sanity, but it is also a risk, because as you stay in the light, so do the monsters see you. Run! It’s all you can do. Run and hide. It’s quite fitting for the inescapable realities within your work, is it not?
So, thank you, Lovecraft, for your contribution to this game. Its fame has passed, but many remember their days playing it with fond and unsettled shudders. You may have felt despondent and alone at your home in Rhode Island, but you turned your pain into art, and it inspired and inspired and still inspires. And within this timeline, you brought us the gift of a wonderful game about darkness and cosmic miasma inside one little blue orb.