The measures game developers take to help players with arachnophobia

Written by. Nick Mosier based on the original Japanese article (original article’s publication date: 2022-05-27 16:02 JST)

V Rising is a vampire-themed survival horror game that just entered Early Access on Steam this May and has already reached over one million sales. While in Early Access, the developers have been proactive about receiving feedback from players, with one player suggesting “Anti Phobia Modes” on the game’s Discord server.

The player that made the suggestion brings up that their friend suffers from arachnophobia and was frightened by the boss character Ungora the Spider Queen. Because of this, the player suggested a mode for those who deal with various phobias.

Replies to the post were varied. While some agreed with the idea, others brought up that V Rising has a gothic horror theme, so spiders should be represented as is. Someone also mentioned that if the game supports mods, users can come up with their own solution. The developers have yet to give a response, but the discussion ended up being quite lively.

Arachnophobia is an extreme fear of spiders. People who suffer from arachnophobia tend to feel uneasy when in spaces spiders or spiderwebs may be found, with some even becoming panicked when near them.

You could say that spiders are a popular enemy in video games. However, there are also cases of developers showing concern for players that suffer from arachnophobia.

While not directly related to the topic of arachnophobia, Elden Ring director Hidetaka Miyazaki talked about the game’s Spider Hand (Fingercreeper) enemies in an interview with Xbox Wire. Fingercreepers are spider-like creatures that are made up of human fingers. When Miyazaki was asked, “Is there a way to unsee the Spider Hand enemies? I see them every time I close my eyes…,” he responded with, “What can I say to make up for this… I’m really very sorry…” He then advised, “I think making a conscious effort to unsee them is going to have an adverse effect. If you want to topple your trauma, you have to fix your gaze directly on them, never looking away as you strike them down. Maybe that’ll work…?”

One example of a game that has directly tackled arachnophobia is Grounded. Grounded is a survival game about children that have been shrunk down to the size of insects searching a backyard for a way to return to normal. The game features numerous insects that, while normally tiny, pose a strong threat to the microscopic children. And among the insects in the game, there are of course, spiders.

Within its accessibility features Grounded provides an Arachnophobia Safe Mode. This mode features a 6-step slider with 0 showing spiders as they were originally designed. The first few settings remove more of the spiders’ legs as you move up, with level 3 removing all spider legs. Beyond level 3, fangs are removed, then they are made more spherical, and the strongest setting turns them into two spheres with eyes attached, removing any resemblance of a spider. Despite being a game where confronting insects is unavoidable, Grounded seems to provide genuine assistance for those with arachnophobia.

An action game from 2020 called Kill It With Fire also provides arachnophobia options. The theme of the game is exterminating spiders, and players are tasked with doing so through any means necessary. Whether with a shotgun, shuriken, or a flamethrower, no spider should be left alive.

In October of 2020, an arachnophobia option was added to the game. This setting reduced the realism of the spiders and made them rounder, looking more like stuffed toys. Other settings such as the sound approaching spiders make and the sounds during jump scares can be toggled as well.

2021’s Webbed even has an arachnophobia mode and the main character of that game is a spider. While a loveable pixel art spider, for someone with arachnophobia, it might be a difficult game to play.

In Webbed’s arachnophobia mode, the spider is transformed into a round blob with big round eyes. While it’s hard to tell just what this thing is, the elasticity it shows when moving around is very well made. You can feel the enthusiasm that went into making a game starring a spider that even those with arachnophobia can enjoy.

How far developers should go for those with arachnophobia is a tough problem. From an accessibility perspective, it’s an important undertaking to make games playable for those with phobias. But besides arachnophobia, there’s also the fear of snakes, claustrophobia, aichmophobia (fear of sharp objects), and more. Fairly tackling all these phobias for players sounds like a tough task for developers.

In the end, how developers deal with arachnophobia will likely come down to what the theme of the game is and what they want to deliver to their players.