Irrational Fears and 64-Bit Digital Monsters

The definition of a phobia is that it is a persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation. People with phobias are usually debilitated by them in some way, such as a claustrophobic person being unable to enter an elevator without having a panic attack, or an agoraphobic person not being able to hold a job because they can’t handle going out into the busy world. But I’m not necessarily talking about those kinds of fears that affect your life in a profound and sometimes painful way; I’m talking about the ones that make you feel like you (or the person admitting their fear to you) might just be a little bit crazy.

You want examples? Oh, I’ve got examples. To protect the embarrassed, I won’t say who these fears belong to, but believe me when I say that I know…

– a woman who is freaked the hell out by cotton balls. She can’t even stand to look at them.

– a woman who can’t stand the trays that fast food places use to help you carry your cups. She says that the feel of them wigs her out.

– a guy who genuinely believes (and is terrified) that Muslims are going to take over the world. Seriously.

– a guy who can’t be anywhere near a cat, even if it’s just wandering by a few yards away.

– a woman who has acts as though it’s the end of the world if anyone gets dirt in her pristine house. (No, she’s not a germaphobe, she just can’t stand even the look of a little bit of dirt.)

– a kid who bursts into tears if another kid drops a baby doll on the floor (i.e. “hurts” it).

But of course, a post like this wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t share my own, personal form of crazy. Myself, I’ve always been a little freaked out by open water, because the idea of just floating there with miles of nothing above me and miles of nothing below me gives me weird little wiggins. That in itself isn’t particularly odd – lots of people don’t like open water – but what makes it weird is when that irrational fear crosses over into the digital world. Yeah, you heard me right.

The best example I can think of is an old Nintendo64 game called Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire. One stage of the game featured a boss battle with the dianoga, which is a large, tentacled creature with an enormous mouth full of sharp teeth, and one big eye on the end of a long stalk that would poke up out of the water. The way the stage was designed, you were in a circular room, the bottom of which was completely covered with the creature’s body. The room was then filled with water, except for the very top. You could rise up out of the water with your jetpack, but there was a low ceiling so you couldn’t really get away from the creature, and after a few moments your jet pack would run out of juice and you’d fall back into the water. So, basically, you had dark, murky water all around you, and an enormous monster that could surround you with all it’s flailing limbs. You pretty much had to be in the water to fight the beast, but I could never do it. The second I dipped down in to the water I would have this weird panic attack and I wouldn’t be able to actually look at the screen without feeling like I was going to start hyperventilating. The only way I could ever beat this stage was to fly up to the ceiling with my jet pack, close my eyes, and spin around in circles while firing every weapon I had. Eventually I would be lucky enough to hit the creature’s eye enough times to kill it.

Yeah...this, uh...this was a lot scarier back when this was an example of the height of graphics technology.
Yeah…this, uh…this was a lot scarier back when this was an example of the height of graphics technology.

How ridiculously embarrassing is that? These days I’m not nearly so bad as I once was, but I have to admit that dark water stages in video games still make my heart flutter a little too fast for my own liking. Go ahead. Make fun. I can take it.

The point is… Uh, well, honestly I’m not really sure what my point is. I just find it interesting (and yeah, maybe a little bit hysterical) that people get so worked up over the silliest of things. So share with me, please. What irrational, embarrassing fears do you (or someone you know) have?

4 thoughts on “Irrational Fears and 64-Bit Digital Monsters

  1. While a newer game, I get an interesting reaction from Minecraft. Particularly the heights. In the game, I can’t seem to resist the urge to build big, and that often means high. However, when I’m high up, looking down gives me the same, and sometimes stronger fear of heights than I normally experience. When I fall from a tall height, I actually get the same reaction I would in real life when you anticipate real, high levels of damage. It’s kind of crazy that a game, particularly one like minecraft with it’s blocky environment, would instill that feeling. But that’s what happens when you get so immersed in a game. The graphics no longer seem to matter. Just look at slender. The graphics are honestly pretty terrible, but the immersion and atmosphere are what suck people in and scare them silly.

    • I suspect that it’s a trick of the brain…even with not-so-great graphics you get immersed in such a way that your brain starts to think that you really are looking down from some scary-high heights (or swimming around in monster-infested water or whatever) and it starts releasing the hormones associated with fear and stress.

      Come to think of it, that would probably be a kickass psychology thesis idea. You’re welcome, psychology students!

  2. I can’t think of any real fears I have of this nature…. I do suffer panic attacks when my phone’s default ringer goes off, but I know the cause of that… Hm.

    • I…really want to know the story behind that one.

      My fears have abated as time passed, but they’ve been replaced by stressors, like watching my daughter do something that might get her hurt, but that is normal for kids to do and thus I’d look like a nut for making her stop. 😛

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