For a long time, frightening people has been the main goal for many entertainment mediums. Horror movies, suspenseful shows, and even books have capitalized on terrifying all of us. Video games, however, are not as frequently thought of as being played primarily because they’re scary.

Conducted by Indiana University Ph.D. student Teresa Lynch, with Assistant Professor Nicole Martins, a new study shows that not only do we get just as emotionally invested in video games as we do other entertainment, but the fear we experience while playing registers as enjoyable, and a main factor for playing the game.

Published in the Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, the study surveyed 269 college students about their experiences playing popular games. The most popular games cited as causing fear were “Resident Evil,” “Dead Space,” “Amnesia: Dark Descent,” and the “Silent Hill” series.

This research is the first to identify which features unique to video games were causing people fear. Aspects of games like spontaneity and interacting with other players introduce different dimensions of fear, and are impossible to experience with, say, a scary movie.

"Interactivity emerged as the most spontaneously reported cause of fear," Lynch and Martins wrote in the study. "Multiple participants spontaneously reported feeling helpless, hunted, and overwhelmed as causing fear. These interactive elements transformed the experience into one where control — or loss of control — seemed involved in the fear experience."

Other reported causes of fear included darkness, disfigured humans and zombies, which appeared frequently in games such as “Resident Evil” and the alternative zombie game mode of “Call of Duty.” Survival horror was the most frequently reported genre causing fear, but shooter games comprised more than a third of reported frightening games. First-person games were also reported as more frightening than third-person.

"It was interesting to see how the fright reactions that people had, how the emotional experiences that they were having, differed from those reported with non-interactive media," Lynch said in a press release. "There a lot more of these anxious feelings ... and an enjoyment of that fear."

44.1 percent of the students Lynch surveyed said they enjoyed feeling scared. Though some questions about sharing experiences were optional, most respondents were willing to share and many provided more than one example. This caused researchers to believe that part of the enjoyment came from sharing the experience with others.

"That answers one part of the question of why do people continue to expose themselves to these aversive stimuli, why do they continue to expose themselves to these things that they know are going to cause an unpleasant emotional experience. It's because to some degree, in some way, they're getting pleasure out of it," Lynch said in a press release.

Source: Lynch T and Martins N. The fear you experience playing video games is real, and you enjoy it, IU study finds. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media. 2015.