Nothing Soothes a Sick Body Like Indulging in Horror Games

Horror games just feel better when you don't.

by Danielle Riendeau
Apr 5 2018, 4:05pm

Alien: Isolation image courtesy Sega

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I’ve been sick all week, and had the truly horrifying experience of my first migraine. I’m doing a little better today, but not well enough to carry on with my PAX plans, sadly. In an attempt to make the most of it, though, I’ve been playing games. A lot of games, including ones I’ve been meaning to play for some time, like Paratopic, a wonderful little indie horror game I wrote about a bit earlier.

I’m going to be honest: I love horror games at any time, but I especially love them when I’m feeling out of sorts.

I’m not saying I wouldn’t have gotten very into Paratopic if I was feeling normal, but there’s something extra about being mildly feverish and achey that makes horror all the sweeter. It’s the only genre that I think is always emotionally honest—the world is a terrifying place. Every human existence, no matter how blessed, is marred by pain, suffering, and anxiety. It’s just how our brains work. We worry because that worry used to keep us alive when there was a huge risk of being eaten every time you left your cave, etc.

We’re all, I think, afraid of death. It’s the basis for why we have a psychological need for narratives in the first place—a way of ordering chaos in our little animal brains, and connecting to one another, across generations. If your stories live on, so do you.

Bear with me here.

Whenever I get sick—or depressed—there is a part of me that very much wants anything I deal with that day to acknowledge the unsavory, terrifying side of life. I don’t want to pretend things are ok. I want to play or watch or read about scary things, because there is a weird comfort in engaging safely with that sort of content. It just makes sense of a very base, gut-instinct level.

Some games are terrible to play while sick (and yeah, that probably goes for some horror games as well), and there are certain kinds of sick that just don’t mix with any kind of gameplay. I’ve been blessed with good health throughout my life, so I know my perspective might be skewed—and I don’t want to take that away from anyone. But I can’t play anything with too much fast 3D motion if I’m feeling funky, or I’ll soon be clutching the walls of my apartment, begging to be let off the ride.

Today, I plan to dig way in to Connor Sherlock’s Walking Simulator a Month work, a project where he makes, well, a new walking simulator each month. His style is haunted and fascinating—and especially after Paratopic, I’m very much in a mood to explore weird and impossible places. I’ll probably play some non-horror stuff through the weekend as well, like more A Way Out with my girlfriend. I may even finally get started on Far Cry 5, with my expectations fully tempered.

What about you, dear reader? Is there a genre or style of game you especially enjoy when you’re not feeling well? Sound off on the forums!

Horror Games
Alien Isolation
Connor Sherlock