This post is part of the Blogs of the Round Table at Critical Distance, on the topic of "Fear and Loathing in Game Spaces".
Just being in the world and around other people is scary and exhausting for me. I forget sometimes, because to me it's completely normal. I've learnt to distance myself from the stronger emotions, leaving behind a constant, dull anxiety. But still, no-one would mistake it for anything but fear. I'm not shy, but still perpetually skittish and closed off from the people around me.
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Heavy Rain is like a painting best viewed from a distance. I could run with the emotions of the moment, as though it all made perfect sense. Once you analyse the details it's clearly full of holes and falls apart.
I will certainly stand up for Heavy Rain's potential and vision. But there is something more than just that. I'm an easy target emotionally, but it wasn't just sensitive people like me who were affected. I watched friends trying desperately to overcome a stressful situation. They were caught up in the moment just as strongly as I was. There's a power to that, however easy it may be to pick on the game's flaws.
There are many flaws I can't defend, and wouldn't try. But something I believe helped my Heavy Rain experience immensely was not interpreting everything literally. It's (mostly) a real world setting, yes, but I find it's more concerned with painting an emotional picture than a logical one.
I love the Silent Hill series. I particularly enjoy trying to understand how the town interacts with a character's psyche. The logic can change a lot with each new character. For example, a religious symbol may be powerful in one game and completely useless in another. Add the residual impact of past events and emotions, as well as elements attributable to the town itself, and you have a lot of complexity to work with.
Yes, I really am afraid of the ocean. I quite enjoyed writing about that. Thinking about it now, I suppose I'm interested in the relationship between games and fear. Not so much intentionally scary games, but how elements in games relate to facing fears. Is a virtual world an easier place to deal with things? I suppose Endless Ocean 2 is an example where this applies for me, though I wouldn't say it made me any more likely to seek out ocean experiences in the real world.
Over-developed anxiety can have some odd side-effects. Normally, I'm most anxious about social situations and my issues are not too obvious in other contexts. But sometimes I do have anxiety spill over into gaming, in the form of unreasonable fear of character death.
Games are often designed to build tension, and that works incredibly well on me. It's taken me a long time to really feel capable and willing to play some game genres. I remember trying a demo of Unreal briefly in high school, which put me off just with atmosphere and shock tactics before I even reached the first enemy. I thought escaping the crashed prison ship was cool and interesting, I just couldn't quite overcome my own apprehension.