Control: SCP Foundation, Annihilation, and other weird genre works to know
Control is here, and it's fantastic. Control is the latest game from Remedy Entertainment, developers who previously played with hard-boiled noir detective fiction in Max Payne and did an extended riff on Stephen King with Alan Wake.
Control is a supernatural action game that explores a genre known as "the new weird," a horror-adjacent style which hasn't gotten as much representation in gaming as Lovecraft-style cosmic horror.
If you're playing Control and want to know more about the influences behind its creation, or want to do your new weird homework before you actually pick up the game, here are some of the biggest touchstones you should know.
Note: I'll avoid any significant story spoilers in this article.
The Southern Reach trilogy/Annihilation
Author Jeff VanderMeer is a central figure in the new weird genre, editing several anthologies on the subject and achieving breakout success with The Southern Reach trilogy. The Bureau facing down alien and otherworldly forces, the Hiss chant, the mold infestation, and even the word "Control" itself all have major parallels in The Southern Reach.
The first book of the trilogy, Annihilation, was made into a film in 2018, but Remedy's Anna Megill specifically cited the book, rather than the movie, as an influence on Control when we spoke to her at E3 2018.
SCP Foundation is another officially acknowledged influence on Control, and it's very easy to see why. Playing Control can feel exactly like exploring the Foundation at the heart of that collaboratively written site, as agents work to contain and study "objects of power" and dimensional rifts.
Heavily censored documents, mundane objects made threatening or mysterious, and elaborate containment procedures are major elements in both SCP Foundation entries and Control, and there are quite a few objects and locations you'll run across in the game that seem to be directly referencing famous foundation characters, items, or threats.
Candle Cove (And creepypastas in general)
If you're a horror fan and aren't familiar with Candle Cove, take five minutes to go read it now. It's a creepy little story presented in the "this really happened" style that has become a hallmark of online urban legends and scary stories (popularly known as "creepypastas"). In-fiction, the Bureau of Control acknowledges that many urban legends are based on some chance encounter with a supernatural altered object or threshold to another dimension.
While exploring in Control you'll find videotapes of a disturbing little puppet show called Threshold Kids that seems to be produced by the Bureau itself in order to explain principles of the supernatural world in a child-friendly way...for some reason.
These Threshold Kids tapes include a lot of elements that seem to be riffing on Candle Cove, as well as being downright unsettling all on their own.
The X-Files/Fringe/Warehouse 13
The trope of a secret government agency tasked with monitoring strange and seemingly supernatural events is many decades old, but the three television examples that come closest to evoking the same feeling as Control are The X-Files, Fringe, and Warehouse 13. All these shows feature agents and scientists trying to explain the unexplainable, and dealing with the potentially deadly or world-ending powers of objects or people touched by strange forces.
What specific references or possible influences have you spotted while playing Control? Let us know in the comments below.
For more, read our full review of Control.