Samantha Zak

Design Technologist
Samantha Zak is a game developer and graphic artist who specializes in simulative experiences that are meant to evoke emotion through weaving narratives into her works. Storytelling is at the core of her works and she utilizes baseline human instinct to evoke feelings of immersion, emotional vulnerability and introspection in her audience.
Thesis Faculty
Gloria DuanAyodamola Tanimowo OkunseindeErnesto KlarMelanie CreanSamuel Leigh

Beast Files

Beast Files

The Beast Files is an interactive horror game experience in which players undergo a perilous journey in the depths of an unraveling cave system that is slowly swallowing you whole. The sentience of the structure is quickly evident in the labyrinth of corridors and structures found deep beneath the surface.

Players view their gameplay from behind the nostalgic lens of a VHS tape which embellishes a sense of retrospection that lulls us into a sense of both nostalgia and dread upon the realization that we are looking into our own past.


A persisting theme throughout my studies has always focused primarily on ambiance, environmental design and instilling psychologically stimulating experiences for end users. For my thesis, I’ve created a horror video game that encompasses these vitally important aspects into one experience that players can anticipate to feel thrilled, terrified but thoroughly engaged. My game aims to tackle the notion that our senses can pick up on nuanced details in our surroundings resulting in enhanced feelings of doubt, dread and that prickly feeling of being watched.

Through my examination of fight or flight instincts in games, I aim to instill these feelings by utilizing sound design, composition, environmental lighting, texturization, rendering and a harmonious visual aesthetic that reinforces both intrigue as well as disgust. In many ways, a videogame can best achieve this experience as involvement creates a sense of responsibility within the player making navigating a space efficiently and swiftly essential to feeling involved and perpetuating momentum to delve deeper into the dark. Games are unique and let us enact sensations onto others very directly which is why it is the most powerful tool we can utilize to foster a sense of connection and relatability to audiences. This was my design and intention as a developer but also to test the bandwidth of the human perception.

Pop up show play-testers

There is a level of detachment that occurs in horror as individuals know to anticipate uncomfortable or shocking moments. A disconnect from the characters or the scenario that occurs as they slowly become unstable or unreliable, results in a comfort space that audiences enter and can easily become disinterested in the media.

In order to evade this conundrum, my goal was to create a game that does not rely on cheap tactics but to utilize subtle sounds or shadows in the dark to imitate the age old sensation of fear of the unknown. Fear is most ancient feeling humans have and plying into it by making an uncertainty about the storylines or purpose of the game itself was key in building anticipation. I also wanted to create a physical space for the pop-up show that also resembled a fully immersive experience by being surrounding players with elements of the game in-person as they sit in the dark with headphones on.

By utilizing level design that forces players to squeeze into dark places in-game, this enhances the in-person physical feelings of distress by perpetuating a consistent theme throughout. The players become entangled deeper into the experience with nowhere to go but forwards.

Media Inspiration

I was very inspired by many artists over the years but here are a few artworks that propelled me into creating Beast Files.

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, Nope by Jordan Peele, The Blood of a Poet by Jean Coctou, The Rolling Giant by Kane Pixels and Junji Ito’s Uzumaki, Spiral and The Enigma of Amigara Fault.

Play the Game!

You may play the game on my website at along with any of my other projects!

If you are interested in my other work feel free to check out my portfolio!