It's my pleasure. Please, do call me Roderick.
Maybe I was mistaken to use the word "horror." I can certainly understand how "dread" might result from rules that enforce realism. I've played computer games of such stunning depth and deadliness that dread was a reasonable response, like Ragnarok, the rogue-like that was discussed in an earlier article.
But it seems like dread can be an emotional response. I mean, watching a Hitchcock film, it doesn't take months of studying before you can be well and truly on edge. Or a good novel, for that matter, can give you the squicks as you read it the first time. Before Ragnarok really crushed me with it's, I had to try; I had to play a dozen characters and figure out plans for dealing with the various creatures in the starting forest. Only when I had gotten far enough to notice I had gotten nowhere was I. Emotionally, the time before then was null.
But games don't have to be that way. For example, Under a Serpent Sun is a post-apocalyptic setting/system hack for the originally tolkein-esque fantasy game Burning Wheel. Burning Wheel is not the least complex of systems I've used, but it certainly can be learned in less than a month. In any case, Under a Serpent Sun is soul-crushingly bleak. Not "the last water chip is broken bleak." More like, "the longer you go without killing yourself in the face of this monstrosity the human race has become, the more you win, but you know you can only go so long." And the difference isn't just one of scale, note, but of focus. The authors specifically point out, that what's important in the game is "the struggle of the characters, not what the ruined cities
look like or even the effects of radiation, dehydration or degradation." The mechanics of the game itself provide focus on the emotional fallout, not the physical or cultural kind. That is, rather than have rules for digging wells, they have rules for psychosis and death-addiction. (again: bleeeeak!
If you're interested in taking a look, you can download it here: http://www.burningwheel.org/wiki/images/2/2f/Under_a_Serpent_Sun.pdf
The Burning Wheel main rules are not included, but without launching into the executive summary: It's not that complicated. Also, Serpent Sun itself is fairly unrealistic. And yet, neither of them seem glamorous by any stretch of the imagination.
Sorry to bombard you with questions. It's a simultaneously fascinating and confusing situation for me.