In the midst of the COVID-19 era, many of us have found ourselves isolated and yearning for the happier days of seeing family and friends in person. While times are difficult indeed, the digital age has kept us going, with online games being a particular medium through which we stay connected with one another. I found myself delightfully astonished that the horror survival game Phasmophobia ended up being a hilarious bonding experience with my own group of friends and a silver lining in this pandemic.
It’s baffling to think that a horror game would be an uplifting experience during a time in which most of us are isolated. Phasmophobia, developed by Kinetic Games, has become widely popular this season as it provides a thrilling multiplayer experience that connects individuals differently than say Among Us or Fall Guys.
The goal of Phasmophobia is to infiltrate a haunted building and discover what type of ghost it harbors by using special tools and finding evidence. Players must correctly identify the type of ghost inhabiting the dwelling before their sanity, the game’s health mechanic, drops to zero. There are currently 12 different types of ghosts that exist in the game, each harboring unique attributes and requiring certain types of evidence for identification. For example, the “Phantom” ghost type can be determined by evidence of freezing temperatures, but not by fingerprints. This requires players to use different types of tools for their search. After finding three different types of evidence, players can conclude the type of ghost rampant in the places they inspect.
So let me start this off by saying I immediately got scared IN THE LOBBY, where the game hadn’t even started yet. The first-person perspective of the game offers an eerie gameplay experience coupled with the slow walking and running speeds of your player character, so you know escaping won’t be that easy. There’s also something about the game’s slightly dated-looking graphics that seem to make it even scarier in appearance. For example, the player characters usually have a deadpan expression, making it really freaky when you shine your flashlight on their faces in the dark.
Throughout our Phasmophobia playthrough, I can safely say that most of our heart rates probably went through the roof. I went through the progression of turning my lights on during the game to then turning on PBS Kids’ Arthur in the back to have some lighthearted noise. We stuck to each other like gum as we searched through the haunted buildings for evidence of the ghost, however we didn’t waste any time booking it the moment the lights started flickering (indication that the ghost is hunting for the kill) or once the ghost actually appeared before us. The situation of it all is even more comical considering that because we were new to the game, we had little idea of what we were doing. There was one point where my team and I encountered the ghost clear as day, but in my hysteria, I completely forgot to snap a picture of it and instead very brazenly ran away. Subsequently in another playthrough, going back to how I turned on Arthur in the background, I realized that the game automatically picks up the players’ sound and that it possibly contributed to us being continuously hunted by the ghost. So technically, we almost died because of Arthur. To summarize, it was a chaotic and amusing experience.
Phasmophobia, to put it simply, is a scary game. The ghosts are visually very frightening and design-wise, look incredibly malevolent. The microphone mechanic in which they can hear you is absolutely terrifying and there were moments when my team and I desperately, yet laughably tried to stay quiet while hiding from one on the hunt. All of these things, however, become slightly alleviated and even invigorating when playing with a group. It’s comparable to the adrenaline-inducing experience of riding a roller coaster. We’ve all seen the Ghostbusters and Scooby Doo tropes of a group of friends infiltrating a scary base for an investigation. There’s something about sticking together in this atmosphere that actually creates camaraderie. For one, we all know we’re scared to the T so we share that apprehension. Then there’s the teamwork aspect of it. When my teammates and I played through Phasmophobia, we made sure we all selected different tools to try and hammer out as much evidence in our first trek of the haunted building as possible, all the while making sure to stick together (mostly). This seems like basic protocol, but it’s gratifying in that we’re all holding each other up somehow; if one method fails, someone has your back, and in the midst of fear, it’s encouraging. It really serves to bring you closer to the people you’re playing with.
Phasmophobia is truly a game where you can look back and laugh about the antics you and your team got into. The main takeaway from my experience is that even though you’re scared, you have people to be scared with and laugh about it with. It’s especially harmonizing in that while there are hurdles we need to get over, we’re all trying to work through them together. A sentiment like this is incredibly important during a time like the COVID-19 pandemic. In a time where many of us do feel alone, a game like Phasmophobia, while certainly not easy on the heart rate, highlights the enjoyment and thrill of teamwork, and being together with others.