Edit: pls don't just downvote, tell me your opinion!
Disclaimer: since knowing that a game has 4th wall breaking can be a huge spoiler per se, all games are marked spoiler, just so you know they are 2017 or older, popular, and basically all indie apart from a very old ps1 game.
Jump scares are an easy way to scare someone. They just work, though they are annoying since how easy is to scare in this way, it often seems cheap.
Likewise, breaking through the 4th wall is starting to be a cheap way to give creepy vibes like "He knows I'm playing the game" or insta-crash and reboot, glitches, and stuff like that. It is also a cheap way to make your plot more interesting and "deep".
Like jump scares, it can be done very well, I for example like a lot Pony Island that is mostly built around this. I also like some reference here and there from some other games, especially when it's just a simple thing like a npc advising you to save or talking to the player like once or twice. These are just little additions.
But now you can find games were the 4th wall is broken just to give a surprise effect. Metal gear solid is a cool example, because it was done 20 years ago, but now it just seems cheap to do the same if your game as nothing to do with 4th wall or just has a weak reference. Metal gear solid, to my knowledge, does not have much to do with 4th wall aside from those gimmicks, so now for me they would be cool but also more of a "jump scare", since it's not very clever now in 2020.
In the indie-indie scene (like free games or itch.io) this can happen more easily (at least this is what I feel), probably because it's a thing that younger devs like, but there are also bigger indies that does this.
Now I will just go with some examples and spoiler about some indie games.
The example that probably will be more unpopular is Undertale. I liked a lot the game, and think that the 4th wall is done well, but it seems like two different games. It is like the dev wondered how the game could be cooler and added the 4th wall. I mean, there are a lot of references to the 4th wall but nothing that is very shocking, but then at the end you have this huge dump of 4th wall that is screaming "I GOT YOU". The problem with this game for me is mostly how it seems like two different games, because apart from that the 4th wall lore is very well managed.
Another example is Fez, that is the game that triggered this post. I've played it more than 5 years ago, so I can't recall all the details, but the game just have a few references to the 4th wall, though you can discover that all the game is like a simulation. As for the previous game, I think that this is an addition to the game, and that the game could really have done it without it, but hey it was cooler and people freak out every time a game reboot itself so why not?
As last SuperHot, the game is awesome gameplay wise and also aesthetically, but man when I first played it and it instantly started talking about how the game knows about me and stuff, I just ignored all the part related to the story and don't regret it. The game is very creepy per se, it seems like they wanted it to be even creepier by making you feel like it was you as a player and not some main character.
So, at the end I just think that they should be considered as a jump scare, just as a quick tool to give a creepy vibes/add lore but also a cheap one now abused to make the game seems cool.
I especially don't like when the game as a story on its own but it's wrapped with a 4th wall lore just because it makes it even more shocking, resulting to me in a "it was all just a dream" feeling, that makes all the journey usually a little pointless.
What do you think about this? I admit that I encounter this very often, so I may just be "saturated" by this trope, while I can understand how someone who doesn't see it often could look at it in a cool way.
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