EllieFeral, on 19 October 2016 - 02:21 AM, said:
Halloween's coming up, so our question for the October newsletter can be only this:
What's the scariest moment you've ever experienced in a video game?
Playing Bungie's Pathways into Darkness back in 1994, way down in the depths of the pyramid. I was hunting for ammo or potions or something, don't remember exactly what I was doing. But it was on a level I was reasonably sure I'd cleared out but I still had that creeping dread that Pathways instilled so well. It was a level with those super-annoying Wraiths, so I was wearing the infrared goggles (they are visible only on the infrared spectrum; if you aren't wearing IR goggles you will hear them and you will get hit by them but you won't see them).
I was walking down a hallway, feeling safer than usual since a hallway means they can only come at you from two directions. That zone where you haven't encountered anything bad for a while, so when you do it makes it worse than if you were expecting something. Then all of a sudden I hit an invisible wall. What?
All of a sudden my screen turns blue, my headphones erupt with a super-loud Phantasm shriek, and my health goes down. If it was possible to jump out of my skin, I would have. I jolted like I was electrocuted, I think my heart rate must have shot into the 170s, every hair on my body stood up, eyes watered like they do in a case of blind terror. I spun around to find the Phantasm behind me... except there wasn't one.
Now, for context, the Phantasm was one of the most dangerous enemies in the game. It was a black spectral form with glowing red eyes, and no physical weapon could harm it. You could not kill it without a blue crystal, a strange object found in the pyramid that could freeze enemies solid. The problem was there were only a few in the entire game, and each only had a few charges before it would shatter and be gone forever. You had to pick your fights with Phantasms, or run. If one cornered you and you had no blue crystal, you were done. The problem was I could not see it and yet one was within arm's length of me!
Back to the Phantasm that wasn't there: screen turns blue, headphones erupt with a Phantasm shriek again, this time sounding like it was behind me. I spun again, backing off, firing at the air. So scared and startled my hands were shaking on the keyboard and I was hitting the wrong keys. This was the worst way to encounter a Phantasm. Fortunately I realized maybe I should take off the infrared goggles, so I hit my inventory real quick while backpedaling and unequipped them. Suddenly there it was, a Phantasm only a couple yards away in the hall coming right at me. Thankfully I had a blue crystal on me, and was able to kill it before it very nearly finished me off. One more attack and I'd have died right there.
That was how I learned that Phantasms were invisible in infrared and could only be seen in visible light. Which doubled my terror the further I descended; I thought I could use the IR goggles all the time to avoid invisible foes. Now I had to play a dangerous game of choosing between not being able to see the less threatening but more numerous Wraiths, and not being able to see the far more dangerous Phantasms.
That scared me so badly that the quickest way to creep me out in any videogame or movie going forward was to raise the spectre of an enemy that is invisible, because it made all those old fear feelings from that lone Phantasm attack come back. When I played Silent Hill 2 years later, the most terrified I got in that game was in one part where you can hear an invisible monster running on the ceiling of a large room you must pass through to progress. It never attacks you, but just the creeping dread of a repeat of the Phantasm attack managed to be scarier than anything else.