I was playing Banjo Kazooie for the first time in a while, and reached the level "Rusty Bucket Bay." Rusty Bucket Bay is a shipyard which features a large ship in the dock with various platforms that include two cranes holding either a TNT box or a box lined with steel bars resembling a jail cell, two large smokestacks, several boxes, and several portholes and tunnels which serve as different ways into the ship. The water in which the ship sits in has a slick oily sheen on the top, and will drain your air meter when swimming, regardless if you are over water. Some of the jigsaw pieces you need to obtain in the game take place under this oily mess, one of them directly under the ship behind the propeller blades. I had fallen into this water in a somewhat confined part of the level, and you can only get out by swimming through a large door and to a ladder. Getting to that ladder never fails to give me the worst anxiety imaginable.
For some inexplicable reason, any moment of a video game that takes place in or under water is the absolute most terrifying thing for me to experience. I don't know exactly what started it, but the first time I had noticed this being an issue for me was when I was playing the prototype of Super Mario 64 that was on display at my local Blockbuster when the Nintendo 64 had first launched, and every store had display units featuring the prototype as a demo. I was running around the castle's courtyard, and had managed to get into the water underneath the waterfall to left of the castle. I swam down to the little bit that you get spit out of when leaving the hidden world where you obtain the invisibility cap. Normally, nothing happens in this area, but with this prototype, I had gotten sucked under the actual boundary for the small pit and the only thing I could see was the surrounding skybox outside of the castle grounds. I couldn't get back and all I could do was make Mario attempt to keep swimming. It may have had something to do with the glitch I had encountered, but it was just unsettling for me. That fear of the unexpected, what exactly was going to happen? To this day I still approach the water levels in the game with some sort of resistance. I have to lean back and almost look away, or hurry through the level to find the exact star I'm trying to get.
When I do look back on it, the only time I remember being scared of an underwater level in a video game was the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game for the NES. When I was very young, between three or four years old, the dam level in the game would scare the absolute crap out of me. The dam level had you swimming through a maze like area defusing several bombs. It had several obstacles like electric seaweed and leaves, and spike balls that would rotate in a circular motion. The need to be so accurate when moving through that level, I would always hit the deadly seaweed and get stuck. The indication noise that I have been hit would repeat and eventually I would die. It got to a point that if I wanted to play that game, I would have someone play through the dam level for me. I've gotten over it since, but later games still give me that same fear.
This is the true manifestation of fear.
On my first play-through of Half-Life 2, I had gotten to the part in the beginning of the game where Gordon Freeman steps into the teleporter to make his way to Eli Vance's lab. Throughout the technical difficulty that surrounds that moment, you are thrown into a body of water which for me ended up being menacing enough. As soon as you are fully submerged, a giant, HORRIFYING fish swims at you and snaps at you, and you are right back to the teleporter. That didn't help my in game water phobia one bit.
The Half-Life 2 scare is the only thing that has ever ACTUALLY scared me though. There has been nothing in any game with a water level that has been scary or unnerving. Just being in that water and being surrounded by it puts me into a near cold sweat. I'm not afraid at all of real water even! I love swimming, over and under water, and being right out in the open water. There is only one thing that I can think of that would have started this uneasiness toward water levels, which would be a nightmare I had when I was about ten or eleven years old about me playing through Aquas in Starfox 64. I don't remember exactly what happened in the dream, but it frightened me and woke me up. Come to think of it, that is really when I started to notice the anxiety towards water levels.
Am I the only one that has a stupid fear like this when it comes to video games? Any time I talk about it with friends, they find it funny or strange. If you're reading this and have something similar to share, please do! Let me know I'm not the only one that is this crazy.