I feel like an impostor when it comes to gaming. I say that survival horror is one of my favorite genres of games. Watching my friend play Resident Evil 4 for the PS2 brought me some of my fondest memories from grade school. When I got older and got an Xbox 360, Condemned: Criminal Origins was such a gritty, yet entertaining game that kept me engaged with its combat and visual motifs. Even today, my fiance and I are working our ways through games like Alien: Isolation and Call of Cthulhu.
When Five Nights at Freddy’s came out in 2014, I was a fan from the get-go. A minimalist survival horror game based in a Chuck E. Cheese knockoff? Sign me up. I watched YouTube stars like PewDiePie and Markiplier play through the indie hit and was thrilled to see a literal one-man show take off like it did. Even though 99% of the game’s visuals are still images, those images still manage to drag me in, even five years later.
Playing the game for myself, however, is a chore. So is playing anything horror, really. I have been treated for anxiety in my undergrad years, and a lasting symptom of this is an aversion to sudden, loud noises. I know this is a common thing, anxiety disorder or no, but I need to explain things a little further. Even the most minute thing can cause me to jump out of my skin if the timing is just right. It’s bad. I’m not “needs a nightlight” levels of anxious, but come on.
And I was sitting there, little 18 year old me, playing a game that pretty much lives and dies by the jumpscare? What was I thinking? There is no way this can end well, is there?
Sure enough, any time I didn’t play the game right, that I didn’t follow the patterns laid out by FNAF experts, I got a jumpscare for my efforts. It was all I could, in those moments, not to throw my laptop across the room with every fiber of NOPE in my body. Somehow, I managed to beat the first game (If you want to get technical, I made it past night 5, after about 30 attempts or so), but I haven’t really returned to the series since.
Even though the series is by no means a triple-A release, these games are about seven dollars a pop, save for the Ultimate Custom Night that graced Steam last year. I have every available FNAF title sitting in my Steam library, collecting hypothetical dust, with maybe a handful of hours of gameplay across a couple of the titles. My wallet is cursing at me, my Steam library is shrugging its shoulders at me, and I swear I heard my collection of PS4 horror titles laughing at me the other morning.
And I call myself a survival horror fan.
Setting my love of FNAF aside, remember how I mentioned Alien: Isolation a little bit ago? I sat down and played the game for about two hours one summer evening, with the
full lights-out, beer in hand, and fiance by my side to come along for ride treatment. Nothing can go wrong, right?
If you’ve read this far, you likely know the answer. I literally gamed myself into a panic attack. Sure, the booze didn’t help, either, but seriously? Why couldn’t I just do like my mother always told me when I started driving and “put my head down and go?” My anxiety got the better of me, and I haven’t gone back to the game since. The only horror title I play on any regular basis is Dead by Daylight, and that is a beast all on its own.
I really want to play more horror games. I have such an appreciation for them, and have for over a decade of my existence. I just have more to work through than maybe some other gamers may have to work through to get the full experience. I have my fair share of New Year’s resolutions that I’m trying to make happen, and I suppose that “don’t be such a wimp and work your way through the horror titles you dropped a couple hundred on” should be added to that list.
Of course, I told myself I was going to quit drinking pop, and I have a Diet Mountain Dew sitting next to me as I write this. We can’t all be winners.