You Can Close Your Eyes In This Game. It's Profound.

You know what I hate? Audible character heartbeats in games. I can't deal with that. It's too stressful. I start breathing harder and I start to feel my own blood rushing as I start pondering the possibility that somehow -- despite all logic -- I'm about to suffer a heart attack. I mean, listen to my heart (which is now also audible!) go, feel that chest tighten! Ugh.

Okay. At that point I need to stop and regroup. Breathe, Patricia. You're not going to have a heart attack, idiot. Really. Usually, this retreat takes place outside of the game -- I put my headphones down, close my eyes for a bit. I try to calm down and relax before I tackle the game again.

Usually, I don't think feeling like this is worth it and will just quit a game right then and there. But today I played the demo of Fibrillation, an experimental indie horror game, and things felt different. That's because the game has a mechanic that I'm surprised I haven't seen in a game before, especially a horror game: the ability to close your eyes. Yes, in-game.

Eventually I found myself clicking the "blink" button just so that it seemed like my character was blinking all the time, too

Closing your eyes isn't the most ideal way to deal with a situation, but having it there added to the atmosphere. There was my character, trying to make out pathways in dark hallways and creepy rooms, suddenly there's this random apparition and you know what? Maybe that thing in the corner of my eyes wasn't actually there. Maybe my character needs a short break, or maybe this isn't real and I just need to close my eyes for a bit to realise that. Closing my eyes helped me feel like I was more in-tune with the character.

Eventually I found myself clicking the "blink" button just so that it seemed like my character was blinking all the time, too. There's no way he's breathing as hard as he is without having his eyes go a little erratic, too. But more importantly, having the option meant that I didn't have to pause the game and do it myself: I could close my eyes in-game and just take a breather that way.

The funny thing is, the more I did it, the more it felt like my character's heartbeat calmed down, too -- even though it's entirely possible that the heartbeat audio didn't let up or become softer. What mitigates fear is often psychological like that.

I could see this working in other games, too. A lot of horror games like to use situations where you're managing something -- like opening a lock or foraging your bag for supplies -- while a threat looms. If you had to close your eyes so that your character could calm down before moving forward even though something was about to get you, now that'd be compelling. You'd have to be brave and keep collected even though you can't see what's happening around you: not an easy feat!

I didn't get far enough in Fibrillation to see if it pulled something like that. I got lost in this big warehouse and things got kind of claustrophobic in there. My cowardly, wussy self gave up. Those of you who are the courageous type can find the game here, if not vote for it on Steam Greenlight here.


Comments

    "You know what I hate? Audible character heartbeats in games. I can’t deal with that. It’s too stressful. I start breathing harder and I start to feel my own blood rushing as I start pondering the possibility that somehow — despite all logic — I’m about to suffer a heart attack. I mean, listen to my heart (which is now also audible!) go, feel that chest tighten! Ugh."

    Um.... thats the EXCACT RESON stuff like that is in a game. To make you stress out, and so on.

    Wait.

    'Eventually I found myself clicking the “blink” button just so that it seemed like my character was blinking all the time, too. There’s no way he’s breathing as hard as he is without having his eyes go a little erratic, too. But more importantly, having the option meant that I didn’t have to pause the game and do it myself:.'

    So the game blinks for you too...? Kinda freaked out as to how it accomplishes that.

    I like the thought of that becoming a mechanic within the game - like, sometimes you blink and things go away, and sometimes you blink and THEY'RE CLOSER, because you weren't imagining it. Could be fun, fun here being slang for "put the game away and never look at it again in case the nightmares come back".

    Credit where credit is due: A short horror game called SCP - Containment Breach was released a few months back. It contained the blink mechanic and featured an enemy that capitalised on the tension built by the need to blink, either by player's choice or automatically.
    I don't know how long Fibrillation has been in development for, but there appear to be a few nods like that toward the SCP series e.g. resemblance of the first stairwell at 0:40 to the dimensions of SCP-087.
    Similarity quibbles aside, I'd be even more excited if the dev worked on the voice over.

      Yeah the voice is a little dodgy isn't it...

    The Alone in the Dark remake had this too. No opinion given.

    I do hope that you can completely control when you character blinks in that game, because the random times it was blinking then were just downright annoying - people don't blink when they're turning corners or about to get some sort of new visual information. We just don't. Looks like if it's automated it needs a bit of coding to sort that out, maybe designate specific blink spots, or non-blink spots, in the map.
    Also the blink time is about 3 times too long. Blinking is a pretty interesting mechanic but needs to be kept as realistic and unobtrusive as possible, when it's not being used directly as a game mechanic at least.
    Still, visually it was rather interesting, i hope it does something with all of that creepy atmosphere it's building up.

    I also have no opinion on the game. But voice acting = yuk. Also.. SCP is scary stuff!

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