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cmstrott avatar 7:13 AM on 02.11.2013  (server time)
Horror Story: Horror Games as a Training Sim for Pyschosis

Horror games and I have a weird and strained relationship. Action horror games are a little easier, since the bullet firing covering covers most other noises. I have struggled with mental illness for more than half of my life. I have major depressive disorder presenting with psychotic symptoms, which is a fancy way to say Iím unreasonably sad and I hallucinate sometimes. I have both auditory and visual hallucinations, but the auditory ones have been more prevalent. I donít hallucinate often, but it happens more than I would like.

My first hallucination was of a black goblin creature, kind of like Gollum, if his entire body was pitch black and he had no eyes. It was scampering up my walls to my ceiling, where it started talking to me. I do not remember what it said, but I do remember it scared the shit out of me. Since then, the hallucinations have fluctuated, but they always seem to hang around.

Videogames have always been a way to escape for me. Time roleplaying as Cloud is time spent not worrying about my problems. When I am having trouble handling my emotions in real life, itís soothing to be able to easily have total control over a character. Mental issues have greatly impeded my way, and I think videogames have helped me to deal with that.

Horror games where the terrifying moments come from somebody bashing through a wall or window, like Resident Evil 2, donít really scare me at all. They are startling, but that adrenaline rush wears off quickly. Besides, being surprised is far less terrifying then a creature on the ceiling talking at me (I say talking at me as opposed to talking with me because I didn't say much, and I don't think it was interested in listening to what I had to say anyway)

In games like Amnesia: The Dark Descent where the character is descending into madness, it is hard to know what sounds are in the game and what sounds are in my head, and even harder to differentiate between real sounds and hallucinations from the in-game characters perspective. Another good example of my struggles with what is real is F.E.A.R 3. There is a child crying somewhere off-screen at certain points. That child cried the entire game, or I exaggerated the sound with my brain; Iím still not really sure which. These games show me characters who survive terrifying hallucinations, letting me know it can be done.

Horror games where the character hallucinates, or there are chilling off screen sounds, offer a unique opportunity. Hallucinating, whether the sounds are in the game or not, while in a safe environment without any real world consequences gives me a chance to practice being crazy. Confronting the hallucinations helps me to control and cope with them. The more often you hear something that isn't there whispering into your ear, the less scary it gets.

Through years of therapy, medications, and even ECT, the hallucinations have stuck around. Thankfully, my ability to cope with them, due in part to my practice with horror games, has increased tremendously.

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