Anxiety-Inducing Video Games: Fun, Frightening, or Both?

During this month’s annual Steam super sale, I, letting my curiosity get the best of me, purchased "Five Nights at Freddy’s." I first tried to play it at night, thinking that that would make the experience better, but I panicked and quit after the first level. The next day, I realized that the game creates so much anxiety for me that I can’t even play it during the day with my TV on and my dog sitting comfortably at my side.

Long story short, it would be interesting to explore anxiety-inducing video games (particularly those of the survival horror genre) and why/how they are enjoyable to play. I can’t even begin to imagine how some people play "Outlast" wearing noise-cancelling headphones with all of the lights out in the middle of the night. What makes these games enjoyable? Is the anxiety that they create a fun sensation for some? Maybe they’re not enjoyable at all, but there’s something else to them that keeps people playing.

  • It honestly depends on the person. That's why romantic comedies and horrors can both exist; some people like one or the other, some both. Some embrace the adrenaline and the fear and others hate it. Neither are wrong, and neither are right. It's simply based in preference and how a person is wired. – G Anderson Lake 9 years ago
  • Absolutely! I would just love to know what the appeal is for those who do enjoy playing them. What makes the game worth playing? Is there some kind of science behind why this anxiety is enjoyable for some? – Nicole Williams 9 years ago
  • I haven't played this game but I think it could probably contribute to the anxiety inducing games you've listed, it's called "Depression Quest." It probably isn't scary but it is literally about living with depression and managing your anxieties? – Slaidey 9 years ago
  • I think it’s the adrenaline rush. For games with pop-ups, your senses are heightened because you don’t know what’s going to come out. Also, the player is in control of their actions, which makes it even more nerve wracking (but fun for some people!) I feel like the experience is different when played with friends, so maybe there can be a small section in the article explaining the difference between solo and multiplayer. (Ex: Don’t starve is a multiplayer horror game.) – YsabelGo 9 years ago
  • Ysabel summed it up quite nicely. The adrenaline rush is certainly a big reason. There's also a feeling of triumph when you progress through a spooky area of a game. Playing survival horror type games like Outlast, Resident Evil, Silent Hill, etc, there can be a sensation of victory and relief when you finally conquered and/or escaped a difficult and frightening enemy. Those moments of relief when you finally feel safe can be priceless to a player's overall enjoyment of the game. To put it quite literally, you feel like you have "survived" the horror you experienced, and it's quite a rewarding sentiment. – BradShankar 9 years ago

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