I noticed something curious while playing Far Cry 3, something I hadn't really thought about before. Sometimes, my map would denote a treasure located inside a small, dark cave. I'd go into the cave, and I'd immediately start breathing harder and feeling panicky—enough that I didn't even care what the treasure was anymore. I just needed to get out.
Even though I vaguely knew where the exit was, it became much harder to actually navigate my way there. It took me like 5 seconds to get into the cave, but it took me like a while minute to get out. It was really strange, though I've noticed similar things happening before—sometimes in real life, in which case I'd need to strip a bit and go outside to get fresh air.
But mostly I experience this anxiety while navigating dungeons that feature narrow hallways and low ceilings, with it specifically triggering if I am having a hard time finding my way through said dungeon. I normally have to shut the game off at this point because I can't handle it, or at the very least take a break. But it wasn't until very recently, with that Far Cry 3 thing, when it dawned on me: might I be a tad claustrophobic?
Similarly dealing with phobias in Far Cry 3, an article by Henry McMunn at Pixels or Death talks about McMunn's relationship with acrophobia (the fear of heights), as well as thalassophobia, (the fear of the sea). Particularly, he tells us about his bouts with thalassophobia—because fear of heights is something he has overcome while playing games.
He clarifies that his fear of the sea "doesn't mean if I'm on a beach I'm constantly screaming at the mere sight of waves lapping up onto the shore," but if he were hypothetically swimming about thirty feet off the coast, he'd be "virtually paralyzed."
Interestingly, the phobia can be triggered via fear of some sea creature. Describing the experience, he says that:
"When underwater, Jason's vision is restricted in just the same way our eyes are when submerged; close up objects are clear enough, but things get more blurry and distorted from just a few metres. Looking down towards the seabed, it also gets darker and cloudier to the point where it's impossible to see more than a few metres below. My nightmare come to life. Oh, and did I mention the sharks? These aren't the realistic, cautious, ‘more scared of you than you are of them' kind—these things want to eat you, the irrationality of the danger tapping into my equally irrational fear."
Actually, Henry isn't the only one dealing with this issue while playing Far Cry 3. Kotaku's Kirk Hamilton and Luke Plunkett recently discussed just how evocative the game is when it comes to phobias, particularly ones dealing with the sea. Here's a partial chat transcript:
haha yeah I got really good at killing sharks
the most terrifying thing
ive ever done in a video game
swimming down into the deep, with wreckage looming around me in the dark water and sharks
is one of my top phobias
and this game forced me to face it
i feel sick just talking about it
I haven't actually gotten up the balls to get some of the relics
Same, Kirkbro. Same. Damn cave treasure. Luke has also talked about his fear of what is lurking in the water here at Kotaku before.
And now you, dear reader: have you ever had to confront a phobia while playing a game? How'd it go? Was it easier or harder than real life?