Virtual Fears

Deep Blue

Fun fact: I fear the deep ocean. Anything beyond the shores or shallow waters. If my feet can’t touch the ground or I can’t see far into the deep dark blue… I panic. This is real life, of course, but it’s funny how this also translates to games. Not even my arachnophobia can stop me from killing virtual spiders, but the moment a game involves deep dark water it becomes a bit uncomfortable.

Of course I know it’s a game… not real… but I can’t help but feel a bit scared. That uneasy feeling in your gut that you just can’t control. I was reminded of this during the new GTAV trailer, which showed a Killer Whale, a previously non-existing animal in the game.

Killer Whale

You see, GTAV has sharks. But they weren’t all around. Apparently there’s a specific way to find them. It’s so… not expected that it’s its own trophy/achievement. I had to fight back this fear for this one, recurring to watching TV and checking my phone while getting it.

But what really got me were the underwater missions. Eventually you got a small yellow submarine (it had to be yellow!) and some missions tasked you with submerging deep into the ocean looking for something or avoiding being tracked or something. These were terrifying. It was the “this is a game” instinct that let me complete them.

gtav sub

It’s ironic that one of my favorite areas in World of Warcraft is Vashj’ir – the underwater area off the coast of the Eastern Kingdoms. It’s so colorful and full of life (and giant… things with eyes). Of course, the moment I reach the edges of the map and peek into the vast emptiness of the virtual ocean, I felt a sense of dread and immediately swam back to safety. It doesn’t help that you could often see Whale Sharks in this desolated darkness.

whale shark

I would often go to Vashj’ir, turn off all audio except ambient sounds, and just AFK there (facing a wall, of course) while doing something else. The music was nice as well. Of course, not all underwater levels are like this! Bioshock’s Rapture still had you within the safety confines of the city itself. Super Mario 64’s water levels were too colorful and had too much draw distance to be scary. Ocarina of Time’s Water Temple isn’t scary at all (it’s frustrating, though).

Back to the topic at hand, I believe this fear stems from the fact that there’s something unknown beyond the darkness. Think about it: the amount of square meters of unknown space waiting for us below the waves – so much we haven’t explored yet. While writing this blog I started to wonder if one of the scary aspects of P.T. (the Silent Hill playable teaser) was the fact that a lot of the time you couldn’t see past a few meters in front of you.


Wonder if there are other fears out there that translate well into games… do share your ideas on the comments or on Twitter 🙂


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