SCORN: The Gross and Fascinating Art Style Behind the Game

10. General game analysis

Scorn is a horror game that combines concepts only seen in Sci-Fi or fictional movies. Visceral, bizarre, weird, psychedelic; these are the words that pop up first while playing this game. Serbian developer Ebb Software did a magnificent job interpreting horror in Scorn. Such interpretation comes from the idea of living in a humanly decaying world filled with technology as a form of evolution but it's actually what is making humankind go to waste. Scorn designs mixes the unknown with the familiar, this is why we get to see a gothic biomechanical world. The concept artist Filip Acovic wanted to confuse the player with a game that cannot be clearly explained. Designs that are odd but somehow similar to our world. . There is no story behind Scorn, no dialogues, and no explanation of what is going on. In  words of Acovic, "it's not just the player who is going to experience this; it's us also, and we made it. That's particularly hard for some people to accept. They tend to require some explanation: How was this done, who did it, and for what purpose?". Any interpretation that you get will be correct as this game is a piece of art and should be treated as such. 

Scorn has different locations:

  • The Assembly
  • The Wall
  • The Field
  • The Crater
  • Polis
  • The Blasted Labyrinth
  • The Tower

And it has different inhabitants:

  • Moldmen
  • Crater Creatures
  • Homunculi
  • Cyborgs
  • Shells

These are the ones mentioned in the Scorn artbook. Some creatures appear in the game but are unique like the parasite or the protagonist.


9. Scorn as an experience

Scorn is an extrapolation of our world. Some concepts widely seen in the scenarios of the game are those of conception, birth, evolution, technology, sexuality, decay, and empathy. All these things are part of our ordinary days. The game transforms them into biomechanical environments and creatures that are gross but fascinating. While playing you're reborn into a violent world that you don't understand. You come across scenarios that are dangerous and seem strange to the protagonists and to some creatures. As a player, you'll experience the awkward feeling of putting your limbs in weird spots in order to activate mechanisms. It can be uncomfortable and seems painful to the protagonist. The ugliest feeling I got was born out of empathy, you see these vulnerable creatures suffering for your own benefit. Any moral choice you could make will not change a thing so you have to go through it anyways. The designers wanted to cause this emotion because they gave them an innocent look. They're called the "Moldmen", they're literally newborns whose mission is to be of use to the player and nothing else. With a little empathy, you'll feel guilty and even sad for making them go through so much pain only to open a door. This is what Scorn is about, experiencing emotions and deep thought on how this world functions in comparison to our own. To put it in simple words, Scorn is an experience of existence itself. There is no story and no purpose at all. The mechanics are very simple which is funny because the design of everything in the game is extremely detailed. 


8. The influences of Zdzislaw Beksinski

In the words of Filip Acovic; "the key visual representation of decay in Scorn is informed by Beksinski". He was a Polish painter and sculptor who represented a dystopic surrealistic world in his work. The atmospheres, colors, and organic humanoid shapes as well as some of the buildings in the game are close to Beksinski's paintings. His whole universe was an inspiration for the game's art design. What's cool about it is that you don't get to notice this in an obvious way. The similarities are subtle and this was purposely done since the artist intended to differentiate the game's art as a combination of influences and his own imagination. The result was a unique universe that cannot be confused with any other. In "The Field" is where you get a more Beksinski feeling because of the colors used and the lifeless atmosphere. The Field seems like a desert cemetery, just like in some Beksinski paintings.


7. The biomechanical construct

Every design in the game is made of organic matter; the walls, interfaces, guns, etc. Everything is made of recycled matter, explaining why there are dead bodies here and there. In Scorn, death is not faced as in our world. The decay process of the bodies is not like ours. Inside Scorn everything is useful after dying because "decay" is actually a transformation of matter. The most explicit example is found in The Blasted Labyrinth where the Homunculi's bodies reside. It doesn't even look as if it was a Homunculi but that is how the process of body decay works in Scorn. They became part of the landscape looking as if their bodies were a building instead of dead Homunculi.


6. The strangely beautiful design of each scenario

One of the most important characteristics of organic fusion with technology is the difficulty of separating them both. You never really know where organic matter ends and where the machinery begins. It's interesting because there are no explicit allusions to specific organs. You do get a hint of what could it be. You get to see visceral scenarios everywhere, anatomy is very noticeable as a source of inspiration but is not obvious. This is why it looks like an alien world but is actually not. 


5. Other influences

Most people will only believe that the game is influenced by H.R. Giger but there are actually many other artists, authors, film directors, writers, and philosophers that played a role in Scorn's ideas. Among them are: David Cronenberg, Dario Argento, Franz Kafka, Jorge Luis Borges, J.G. Ballard Thomas Ligotti, Albert Camus, Martin Heidegger, Ernest Becker, and Sigmund Freud. These influences explain some of what's hiding in Scorn's universe and why it feels more like a philosophical journey than like the usual horror game where you get jump scares and gore as the main focus. 


4. The influence of H.P. Lovecraft

Filip Acovic also took some Lovecraftian concepts on the unknown and indescribable. The Shells were taken from the idea of transferring from a physical body to these entities called shells. He says: “I experimented with radically different forms, thinking about all the strange and interesting ways I can alter the way the player moves and experiences the world using a new body, which doesn’t even have to be humanoid at all.” The Shells ended up being creatures that grow  wings and tentacles. They used the idea of the origins of the Lovecraft creatures, primordial, formless entities. Something that cannot be described and doesn't have a shape that our brains can decipher as  something in  our world.  


3. Guns and interfaces

Guns are made as a phallic design activated only through the parasite. The parasite possesses the mechanism to activate the weapons in the game, without it the protagonist would be defenseless and vulnerable to all dangers he encounters. The concept of organic weapons has already been implemented in games like Half-Life or Prey. But in Scorn, the biggest inspiration was taken from the Sci-Fi film "eXistenZ" by David Cronenberg. 

Interfaces like switches, buttons, controllers, door locking mechanisms, health, and ammunition replenishment systems are mostly operated with the insertion of the player's extremities, notice how the idea of penetration is present in these mechanisms. The purpose of this was to make the player feel vulnerable and give a feeling of uncertainty. The player will wonder "is this thing going to hurt me? should I do this?", none of these mechanisms look safe at all. They're all made of organs; pulmonary systems as fuse bioxes, door locks as hearts, and power buttons as sphincters.


2.  The Creatures

Inside Scorns' universe, there are different creatures among the civilization. As you move forward in the game you understand that this world's civilization had some fascination over things like conception, sexuality, and evolution. Some of these creatures are a representation of them.

Some creatures have a humanoid shape like the Moldmen, while others are far away from it and look like an animal mutation like the Crater Creatures. Then there's the Cyborgs, these things caught my attention immediately. They're unique looking, all cyborgs have a different and unique design. Very different from the usual concept of what a cyborgs look  like. The concept artist wanted to adapt the Cyborgs to the organic shape of Scorn and not make them out of metallic material. The cyborgs are made out of recycled cadavers by the Homunculi. Recycling is also an important matter inside Scorn. This is why you get to see many corpses around. They aren’t buried, they are used to build or create stuff.

The creatures are mostly inspired by H.R. Giger, Bekzinzki, and Lovecraft. But displayed in a unique, combined way.


1. A tribute to H.R. Giger

Now everything I've mentioned so far isn't as strong as the influence that H.R. Giger had. It's the first thing that comes to the player's mind if they saw anything related to Giger's artwork. The most obvious influence perhaps. The team studied Giger's work under the question "are we being overwhelmed by technology and losing ourselves and our own essence?" 

The whole art design, the idea of mixing technology with organic matter, the sexuality, phallic references, the alien-like world, most of that comes from the film "Space Jockey", which explains why you can't really tell what is going on while you're playing.

The coloring of the buildings and how they're shaped is clearly a visual taken from Giger's art. The mirroring effect is also widely seen in Giger's work. Some aesthetics in the game make you feel like you're inside one of his paintings. I loved that strange feeling of not really understanding but being delighted with the experience. 

In the end, that's what the game is about.

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Running from the barbarian lands of Latin America, this little bright elf creature brings all of her knowledge collected on her journal. A wise creature ready to face any adversities in this world.
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