Sharks, Shipwrecks, And Tight Spaces: Far Cry 3 Triggers Our Worst Phobias

I noticed something curious while playing Far Cry 3, something I hadn't really thought about before. Sometimes, my map would denote a treasure located inside a small, dark cave. I'd go into the cave, and I'd immediately start breathing harder and feeling panicky — enough that I didn't even care what the treasure was anymore. I just needed to get out.

Even though I vaguely knew where the exit was, it became much harder to actually navigate my way there. It took me like 5 seconds to get into the cave, but it took me like a while minute to get out. It was really strange, though I've noticed similar things happening before — sometimes in real life, in which case I'd need to strip a bit and go outside to get fresh air.

But mostly I experience this anxiety while navigating dungeons that feature narrow hallways and low ceilings, with it specifically triggering if I am having a hard time finding my way through said dungeon. I normally have to shut the game off at this point because I can't handle it, or at the very least take a break. But it wasn't until very recently, with that Far Cry 3 thing, when it dawned on me: might I be a tad claustrophobic?

Similarly dealing with phobias in Far Cry 3, an article by Henry McMunn at Pixels or Death talks about McMunn's relationship with acrophobia (the fear of heights), as well as thalassophobia, (the fear of the sea). Particularly, he tells us about his bouts with thalassophobia — because fear of heights is something he has overcome while playing games.

He clarifies that his fear of the sea "doesn't mean if I'm on a beach I'm constantly screaming at the mere sight of waves lapping up onto the shore," but if he were hypothetically swimming about 30 feet off the coast, he'd be "virtually paralysed."

Interestingly, the phobia can be triggered via fear of some sea creature. Describing the experience, he says that:

"When underwater, Jason's vision is restricted in just the same way our eyes are when submerged; close up objects are clear enough, but things get more blurry and distorted from just a few metres. Looking down towards the seabed, it also gets darker and cloudier to the point where it's impossible to see more than a few metres below. My nightmare come to life. Oh, and did I mention the sharks? These aren't the realistic, cautious, ‘more scared of you than you are of them' kind — these things want to eat you, the irrationality of the danger tapping into my equally irrational fear."

Actually, Henry isn't the only one dealing with this issue while playing Far Cry 3. Kotaku's Kirk Hamilton and Luke Plunkett recently discussed just how evocative the game is when it comes to phobias, particularly ones dealing with the sea. Here's a partial chat transcript:

Kirk H.

haha yeah I got really good at killing sharks

Luke P.

the most terrifying thing

ive ever done in a video game

Kirk H.

so basically

swimming down into the deep, with wreckage looming around me in the dark water and sharks

is one of my top phobias

and this game forced me to face it

Luke P.



i feel sick just talking about it

Kirk H.

I haven't actually gotten up the balls to get some of the relics

Same, Kirkbro. Same. Damn cave treasure. Luke has also talked about his fear of what is lurking in the water here at Kotaku before.

And now you, dear reader: have you ever had to confront a phobia while playing a game? How'd it go? Was it easier or harder than real life?

Thalassophobia and Far Cry 3 [Pixels or Death]


    I gotta say, I'm not afraid of tight spaces.

    ...if you know what i mean.

    yea the sharks have stopped me getting some relics in the water too. I pretty much hate any underwater sequences in any games.

    Here's an interesting point... I'm not afraid of water or swimming. But I can get violently claustrophobic if trapped in a small space. I think games with underwater moments may trigger that claustrophobia anxiety.

    Yup sharks got me bad. Was having minor panic attacks. Never has a game caused this. Kinda crazy right? >.>

    For me it was the bloody Crocodiles, id jump into the water happily and content only to cover my seat in shit as i find im suddenly in an all out war and fight for my life with a 6 foot lizard!

      Yep, I was showing a mate FC3 and this happened for the first time.

      I didn't see it, I directed Jason into the water... And the exact moment his feet went in we both saw it, lost our shit but it was too late.

    I've gotten in the habit of doing a quick 360 look around whenever I'm at sea in FC3. Drives me nuts.

      i do that every 20 seconds when im swimming, although im not scared of the water of sharks. im actually scared of manta rays :P

    I have done both caving and diving and had huge shit yourself moments in both. I must say that I was more nervous of the sharks in Far Cry 3 than I was in real life when I saw my first (just of Shelly beach near Manly for anyone in Sydney thinking about a swim this summer)

    The caves in Far Cry 3 though are not even close to what it actually feels like in real life. There is nothing I have experienced, particularly not in a video game, that compares to being 50m underground and finding yourself stuck in a hole needing your mates to pull you out by your feet because for some reason your shoulders fit on the way in but not out. You know your going to be fine and you will get out but you still have that irrational fear the moment you realise "I'm Stuck".

    Any time I come near a cave I get flashbacks to Stalker: SoC. That game did atmosphere so well it really gave me the creeps when I had to go underground. In FC3 it could be a 3m deep cave and I'd always hesitate before going in.
    Originally an issue with the sea after friends talked up the FC3 sharks, but then I ran one over with a boat and couldn't stop laughing. Made them much less frightening, though I still enter the water cautiously.

    The sharks were hilarious if you accidentally hit them with jet skis. But I do remember one relic which I needed to swim through them to get under the wreckage.

    But this game made me fear two more things - crocs (especially one which I think is scripted) and komodo dragons. So many frights were had from when I was leisurely strolling through the jungle - as you do - and suddenly there is this growling massive lizard chomping into my ankles. GET IT OFF GET IT OFFFF.

      That scripted moment was ruined for me.
      There was a snake I could hear but not see so I used a hunting syringe, the one that shows all animals. Needless to say I saw what was coming and somehow feel like I lost out hearing everyone's reactions

    Fallout 3 made me really scared of Death Claws.

    For some annoying reason I get "videogame vertigo", to the extent that although I completed pretty much everything else in Far Cry 3, I neglected to "unlock" the last four or five radio towers on the second island.

    I remember when the first xbox came out and I got Azurik: Rise of Perathia with it. I remember being scared shitless of swimming in that game, it was creepy as all hell. I don't think you could ever actually be hurt or anything though. Bad memories!

    I find kind of the opposite happens when i play games like farcry 3 i end up loving doing all the things i fear IRL. I am terrified of heights or jumping from high places but give me a game like Farcry 3 and i find every high ledge i can jump off into the water below or when paragliding i love dropping off high up over water and just watching myself fall into the dark water as i struggle to gain control after landing and then swimming back before the sharks get me.

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