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Anxiety This forum is for seeking advice on anxiety and stress related issues.

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Underwater gaming 'phobia'? - July 1st 2017, 03:15 PM

This is kind of awkward to talk about.

After some googling I've found I'm not the only one with this issue, but it's really causing me a lot of problems when it comes to doing one of the things I enjoy in life - gaming. Simply put, I have a weird 'phobia' of being underwater in games.

I have no idea what caused it. I don't recall having this issue when I was a child and the earliest time I can remember having this problem was when I was playing The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Part of a quest required the player to swim underwater only to be met with an unusually large Slaughterfish, and to then swim out up to the surface. I remember swimming and then suddenly coming into contact with it, then panicking because I feared I was going to run out of air. It took me a very long time to progress past that part so I could continue with my game because I would be too afraid to kill the creature and perform the huge swim towards the lake's surface.

A few years ago my brother bought me Stranded Deep for Christmas, I really wanted to play it because it seemed fun, but the idea of going under water with barely any visibility, hardly any oxygen supply and terrifying tiger sharks made it impossible for me to enjoy the game beyond staying on land for much of my gameplay.

Recently a friend bought me Subnautica, because honestly I had really wanted to play it so gifted it to me for my birthday. All was going well at first. I felt a bit anxious going underwater and trying to progress but for a while I managed to succeed, mostly because I could see where I was going and see what was around me. As I pushed myself to expand my exploration further I met aggressive fauna, to which at first I panicked so much I would have to pause the game to calm myself down and try to continue. Once I managed to craft a small weapon it wasn't too bad, I faced my fear and successfully managed to kill a couple and continue enjoying my game. I even felt confident enough to explore even further out in the game, however the inevitable happened when I bumped into a Reaper Leviathan, and anyone who has played this game will know they're not exactly small, or friendly. Once I heard the sound of it I panicked and had to pause the game again, I felt so anxious but wanted to try and push myself to outrun it but after unpausing and trying to swim away this was not to be when it caught me and nearly killed me. I immediately had to stop playing and I couldn't play for a while because I felt so shaken up and anxious over the whole thing.

After that point I just became more fearful of the gameplay, I feared that everywhere I turn there'll be one of those horrifying creatures ready to eat me.

After this point I started to think about this problem I have more and more, and try to think of the reason why I get so anxious and afraid. My fight or flight response is always to run away. I can't enjoy the games I want to. I've concluded that my problem is a number of things. How deep does the ocean go? How well would I be able to see? What's lurking within those hard-to-see areas? What if I run out of oxygen? What if I go somewhere I can't get back out of? Not to mention that realistically land has a 180 degree view of sorts, whereas underwater it's practically 360 unless you're on the ocean floor so you have to be even more alert.

Although, again, I've done some googling and I know I'm not alone with this, which does give me some comfort, I want to be able to know how to get past this problem. I have horrible mottephobia but I'm slowly overcoming my fear of moths and have become a lot better with the smaller ones, but this is something that has taken a considerable amount of time and is something I'm exposed to every day. I don't know how I could possibly get of this underwater gaming 'phobia' if it should be called that.

Has anyone had a similar experience? Has anyone managed to get over their fears? I know I could try and tackle my fear head on, but honestly I don't feel I'm strong enough for that. I don't know how to solve it without forcing myself head first and potentially making the problem worse. I don't want this problem to end up becoming a reality where I suddenly have a fear of being underwater in real life. I don't even know what's caused this issue.


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Re: Underwater gaming 'phobia'? - July 1st 2017, 09:39 PM

I am glad you were able to find out on Google that other people share this fear, and I don't think it's too far-fetched whether or not you've had that experience in real life. I remember playing Mario 64 and there's one level (?) where you have to achieve six stars in an underwater world and defeat the bad guy of that world. It was scary! But there's also other parts of the game where you have to be way up in the sky and for me, that is my ultimate fear. I don't know if anyone has airborne gaming fears, but I do. I remember Google Earth had this stimulation thing (sort of like what Microsoft banned after September 11th 2001) and I could never navigate the plane and it always crashed. Every time it headed towards the ground, I would jump, shake, and squeeze my eyes shut.

While I think it's good to try to face your fears head-on, it's important to know where you are limited. Don't force yourself on if you are getting triggered or anxious. I would also suggest reaching out to your family and friends for support. Perhaps have your brother or friend sit with you while you play the underwater games so when you feel yourself getting anxious. they can ground you?
   
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Re: Underwater gaming 'phobia'? - July 2nd 2017, 12:58 PM

Thank you very much for taking the time to respond, I appreciate it.

Your mention of Super Mario 64 reminded me of the time I had played it as a child, I had never had any issues with Jolly Roger Bay or the sunken ship levels back then, though reminding myself of them now, and that giant eel living under the water made me feel anxious. I can only conclude this issue has emerged within around the past 10 years, since the earliest time I began having issues was around that point.

Yesterday I decided to use the game's debug console and turn the underwater fog off, which although removed a lot of the pretty effects of the game, it helped make everything underwater much more clearer, though it then became an issue of the chunks not loading from far away and seeing complete black due to unloaded chunks which only continued to feed my anxiety; so it looks like I can't win either way.

I would ask my family if they could spend time being around me whilst I play the game but they are always so busy. The only friend I talk to is an overseas friend which makes it difficult.


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Re: Underwater gaming 'phobia'? - July 2nd 2017, 02:31 PM

I was wondering whether any of the sound effects or music when you are doing underwater gameplay affect you and your anxiety levels? I know for me, the music can increase the tension so it may be worth muting things or putting on calming music in the background and see if that helps at all.


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Re: Underwater gaming 'phobia'? - July 3rd 2017, 01:15 PM

Certain sounds do, so have tried to play without a headset and just play through sight only which somewhat helped. I didn't think about turning certain sounds off though, something I should have considered from the beginning, thank you.


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