The Game that Gave me Literal Nightmares

When it comes to horror games, there's not a lot that scares me. I refused to play them when I was a teenager (because horror movies scared me), but by the time I got into college I decided it was finally time to try them out. While I had played some games with "scary" parts in the past (I'm looking at you Half Life 2), Resident Evil was the first true horror series I jumped into -- and I actually put a lot of research in before I pulled the trigger! I spent countless hours reading wiki pages online, and eventually I decided that the story and gameplay sounded interesting enough to give it a shot! Managed to get a great deal on Resident Evil 0, REmake, and 4 on Amazon, and downloaded RE2 to my PSP. Of course I started with RE2 since I had it instantly (Amazon took 5+ days to ship back then), and I quickly fell in love with the game and series as a whole.

Moving on from RE, I would play many other horror games over the years. I'd return to Half Life, play Dino Crisis, Parasite Eve, Bioshock, Alan Wake, Dead Space, Left 4 Dead, Amnesia, Until Dawn, Alien Isolation, The Evil Within, some Silent Hill, etc. Basically a wide verity of "actual" horror games, horror "themed" games, and games that simply had their scary moments, but are not really horror games. Sure, I had a heck of a lot of fun with them, but none of them actually scared me! At least outside of a few jump scares from time to time. But that's not a bad thing at all -- I didn't jump into these games to actually be scared! I wanted fun games, and that's all that mattered to me. And then something changed... Resident Evil 7 came out.

The thing is -- I don't find RE7 to be scary on it's own. Yes it has some jump scares, and yes there's some disturbing content... But none of that bothered me! It's not much different from what we had before, except now the entire game was locked in first person. So it honestly wasn't that bad! Or rather, it wouldn't have been that bad if it weren't for the fact I played it in VR.

PlayStation VR changed everything for me. It let me experience games in a way I never imagined, and each game I played constantly left me wanting more. Years later VR is what helped me get through lock down in 2020, but even before then I began integrating VR every way I could! Watching 3D videos, watching TV shows on Hulu, etc. I loved, and still love, VR, but I never realized what this would mean for horror. Or rather, what horror in VR would do to me.

When I first jumped into RE7 VR, it was the demo. I didn't play it a lot because it did  creep me out, but I had fun showing it to friends and family. When I got the full game however, I told myself that I'd only play it in VR and get the full experience. Well, I did, and I paid for it! You see, in VR you are actually "there." This isn't on the other side of a screen. You're not sitting on your couch as you look across the room through a window to another world -- instead what you see with your eyes IS that other world. It's not much different than looking around the room you're sitting in now as you read this post. The world is fake obviously, but when you move your head, you're moving your head within this other world. When you turn around, you've physically turned around in the game as well. What your eyes see, and what your brain believes to be true, does become true to you, and it's such a weird experience. Throw that into a horror setting, and it's something completely different.

In VR horror games, you go from being someone playing a game or watching a story unfold, to someone who must "become" the main character of a horror story. There's no "playing it safe." You HAVE to make those dumb decisions often seen in horror movies. You HAVE to go into that dark creepy basement, and you have to confront your fears if you ever want to finish the game. There's no finding a safe place to hide until someone saves you -- you have no choice but to move forward. And during this adventure, you'll notice more than you've ever even realized when simply playing a game on a TV. For example, walking through the house in RE7, you see the maggots crawling along, you notice every fallen or broken joist, you see the trash laying around, and even notice the specks of dust falling before your eyes. Things you don't realize when you're simply watching, but becomes painfully obvious when it's "you" in that character's shoes. Your brain screams at you that you're in danger, and often you find your body reacting before you can even think a situation through! One scene has you crashing a car into a fallen beam to take down the boss, but as the beam comes straight at your head, chances are you'll physically duck down or dodge it before you're hit! Of course you never feel the pain, but your natural instinct to survive kicks in none the less. Again, it's such a crazy feeling, and the effects of this can be felt afterwords. It's a game, yes, but try convincing your brain of this fact.

After getting through RE7 in VR, my nightmare didn't end. In fact, it followed me into my dreams. The layout of that house, the bugs, the dripping water... That "dinner table." Since I had "been there," my brain could recreate it all in perfect detail. It developed dreams that brought me back to that world as if it was something I had truly gone through in my life! The memories of this game crossed the line of fiction, and entered what my sleeping self considered reality, and it took a LONG time before I was able to reverse this. I had countless nightmares about that house, and still to this day "Go Tell Aunt Rhody"triggers something inside me. It's like a repressed memory trying to crawl it's way back, but I know it wasn't real. Never has a game done something like this to me, and I'm honestly not sure if it ever will again. 

Since finishing RE7 and having the nightmares, I've played other VR horror games. Did they scare me? Yes. But did I have lasting effects from them? Shockingly no! I might've had a dream or two about Half Life Alyx, but nothing to the extent of RE7. Maybe it's because RE was my first VR experience, or maybe playing so much VR after has caused me to become desensitized to the whole thing. Either way, RE7 is an experience I'll never be able to forget... And that's one reason I still love it to this day. Does that make me sound crazy?

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