With Halloween soon upon us, I figure it would be fitting to discuss some of the things that have terrified me as a gamer. Many such lists exist on the interweb. Some describe various scary monsters in game X, Y, and Z. Others describe jump scares wherein a loud critter jumps out of nowhere to startle you. This one is going to be different, as I have a small computer screen and tend to keep the volume low on my speakers. You’d be amazed how inoffensive a collection of pixels can look in such circumstances. Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t feel cold sweat dripping down my face from time to time.
10. Unexpected Time Limits
After months of hard work, you’re finally about to beat Metroid, the classic NES platformer. After you defeat Mother Brain, a time limit appears, and you have to race to the exit. The fear of what might happen when time runs out suddenly makes you the worst Metroid player ever.: you miss jumps; you fall off platforms… In any game, an unexpected time limit gives players an overwhelming sense of panic.
9. Random Whispers in World of Warcraft
I and thirty-nine of my friends were making our way through the Temple of Ahn’Qiraj, the new forty-man raid in World of Warcraft. As we were killing mobs and venturing deeper into the dungeon, I heard the creepiest whisper. “Your friends,” it told me, “will abandon you!” Right away, I jumped back from my computer and looked around for the crazy stalker hiding in my apartment! The soft-spoken voice scared me more than any sudden bang ever could because it didn’t rely on loudness. Also, it matched the atmosphere one would expect from World of Warcraft, a fantasy-based RPG.
8. Wandering Monsters in EverQuest
In EverQuest, every death carries a heavy penalty: loss of experience. This isn’t an issue if you’re careful to attack only mobs you can handle, but, in a stroke of genius, the developers added powerful mobs that wander the outdoor zones to crush unsuspecting adventurers. Imagine fighting a measly bandit when, all of a sudden, a massive hill giant destroys you with one punch. Many gamers hate these monstrous vagabonds, but I feel the fear of getting squished helps to keep us on our toes and adds a sense of danger to every zone.
7. That Rush Song No One Can Play in Rock Band
You’re on drums, about to play a random set on Rock Band. You select expert difficulty because there are only a few songs you can’t beat on it, and what are the odds that, among the hundreds of tunes available, the computer will pick one of them? The set begins. Its first song, “Tom Sawyer” by Rush, results in a catastrophic failure. For the rest of the evening, you regress to hard or even medium difficulty for fear that your band mates might laugh at your expense again.
It’s raid night. You log on to World of Warcraft and find you’ve been hacked: all your gear is gone, and your bank reserves are empty. How did this happen? Did a fiend figure out your brilliant password, “password”, or did that Jessica Alba picture site install a Trojan Horse on your computer? Does that mean no more gawking at Jessica Alba? The horror!
5. Trains in EverQuest
Your group slowly makes its way into a dungeon, calculating every move, making sure it can handle any attack. All of a sudden, someone yells, “Train! Train! Get out of the way!” The player’s bitten more that he could chew. Now he’s running out with the mobs he attacked in hot pursuit, and they’ve invited all of their friends to help out. If the legion of angry mobs reaches you, you’re dead. It doesn’t matter if your character is the bravest knight in all the land. As soon as you see a train headed your way, you run like hell.
4. Extreme Mode
You bought a game and played it until you became its uncontested master, finishing it on very easy, easy, normal, and hard. Dare you try that option marked, “extreme”? In many games, the hardest difficulty level is meant as a joke from the developers, and no one is supposed to beat it. Consider the Civilization series, in which the computer is allowed to cheat on that setting. Sure, a few gifted players inevitably beat it, post their exploits on YouTube, and become known as demigods, but, for us common mortals, the extreme mode is something to avoid like the plague.
3. Corrupted Save Files
This is it. After eighty-nine hours of gameplay, you’ve finally reached the end boss. You’ve planned your whole Friday evening around this event, buying plenty of sodas and a frozen pizza to celebrate your upcoming achievement. You load your saved game and read the tiny print on the screen: “Error. Cannot read file.” You try again: “Error. Cannot read file.” It’s time to start over. Eighty-nine hours down the drain.
2. One-Way Dungeons in EverQuest
The one-way dungeon is one of the rare things I hate in EverQuest. The concept is simple: soon after you enter the dungeon, you fall into a hole, and end up having to fight your way through a torturous maze filled with increasingly strong monsters to get out. There are many terrifying things about these dungeons. If a train occurs, there’s nowhere to go. If the mobs become too hard to kill, you can’t leave the dungeon either. If you die, your equipment remains in the middle of the dungeon, and you can’t get it back because none of your friends want to help you and risk the same thing happening to them.
1. Grimgor and Kivi from World of Warcraft
Back when battlegrounds were introduced in classic World of Warcraft, player-versus-player combat involved members from separate factions on the same server. As such, you’d end up fighting the same people over and over again. I can’t say I fought Horde warrior Grimgor very often because fighting implies actual combat. Usually, I’d die after two or three swings of his swords, aptly named the Destroyer of Worlds. Even when my friends and I managed to damage him, Kivi, his personal healer, would undo our hard work in a matter of seconds. One would think attacking Kivi a good plan, but he was just too slippery. Grimgor and Kivi were unstoppable. After countless nights of getting obliterated, we gave up on player-versus-player altogether.
Every World of Warcraft player has known a duo like Grimgor and Kivi. If you haven’t, then you were probably the Grimgor or Kivi of your server, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I fear you. I fear you so very much.