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Fear comes in as many shapes and sizes as terrifying circus clowns. What scares one person might make another shrug or laugh, and that, in turn, may make that first person violent (but the courts can't prove anything). We're afraid of the unknown, the uncanny, and the uncontrollable, and these anxieties define us as much as anything else.
Video games inspire fear in all of these ways, and to prove it, here are three games that I all but refuse to pick up.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
This one is pretty obvious; everyone talks about how scary it is, and you know they're right because they record themselves screaming at it on the Internet. Like this guy, for example (NSFW):
I've watched this video probably a half dozen times, and I still have no idea what the hell is terrifying him so much. It's hilarious, in a way. We tell ourselves that we'd be just fine if we were playing.
But I know better.
When I was in college, I foolishly bought a copy of developer Tecmo's Japanese horror title Fatal Frame and quickly discovered that I'd made a mistake. I could play the game during the day just fine, but someone had to be in the room with me once the sun went down. Fatal Frame did such a number on my imagination through suggestion and jump scares that at one point, I actually turned my PlayStation 2 off and left my house at 2 a.m. I didn't want to be near that damn thing anymore.
This is why I know that Amnesia would be bad for me. If something I couldn't see scared the guy in that video so badly that he started crying, I probably don't stand a chance. I'm too highly strung to put myself throWHATWASTHAT?!
Oh…excuse me. I just knocked out my coat rack.
Like Amnesia, From Software's Dark Souls is a game with a reputation. Not for being scary, but for being so difficult it makes people want to punch babies. Crazy people like Bitmob editor Rob Savillo see this as a plus, and that's why I call them "crazy."
Bunch of crazies.
I recently wrote about my ongoing experiences with difficult games, including The Binding of Isaac, which I'm using partially as a training program to build up a tolerance. One day, I may purchase and play either Dark Souls or its prequel Demon's Souls, but that might be a little while because I have anger issues that appear to only manifest themselves in the present of rampant game-related bullshit.
The Souls games actually sound fun, but my fear comes from realizing that I will not know when to quit. A while ago, I decided to try for some Achievements in Half Life 2: Episode 2. Achievements like "Little Rocket Man," which requires you to carry a goddamned garden gnome through the entire game (even that part in the cave and you can drop it into a lake or a bottomless pit) and "Neighborhood Watch," which tasks you with protecting every building at the end of the game, even though the Combine throws about 50 Striders at you, and your plan of defense includes highly inaccurate bombs and the world's moodiest car.
Eventually, I did both, but my girlfriend had to go to another area of the apartment because I started using profanity that was so arcane that I unwittingly uttered the name of the wind and created a small tornado in our living room.
I'm pretty sure Dark Souls would do that, too.
"Hey, there's like a whole vast cave down here! Ooooooh, shiiiiii–"
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
The latest in Bethesda's Elder Scrolls series terrifies me in ways that defy describing. I'm not afraid of difficulty or scary monsters, but I know that if I ever start playing it, my life will effectively be over. I am a completionist of the worst kind, to the point that my "good" characters in games like Fable III and Knights of the Old Republic completed "evil" missions simply because those missions existed.
My characters in role-playing games are basically good, but they're also eager to please everyone. "What's that?" they seem to say. "You want me to go murder that harmless 80-year-old guy? I don't know if that's really something I'm into, but let me check the Achievements…okay, where is he?"
As a point of contrast, my girlfriend put over 100 hours into Skyrim, and she turned down all kinds of quests because they just weren't things that appealed to her as a person. Meanwhile, my character would be walking around with a checklist, seeking out bandits and letting them unload on him so he could get his shield stats up.
I don't play Pokémon games for the same reason: I would, indeed, have to catch them all. I went around taking pictures of everything in Wind Waker, and then I delivered them three at a time to the figurine maker, and then I spammed on the Song of Passing to speed up production in order to get all 134 figurines, but I realized that I'd missed one during, like, the second boss fight, so I finished that playthrough and started a new one just to get to that point, but then I still had to keep playing until I could get back to that island and play the Song of Passing a bunch more times because the son of a bitch was closed at night, and then I got the last figurine and my reward for that was just another figurine.
What do you think Skyrim would do to me?