As reviews for the Xbox Series X arrive, I’m here to talk about one aspect of the console that could impact your desire to buy one, as it has mine. I am a trypophobe, and I cannot own an Xbox Series X because of all its damn holes.
[Since this post discusses a phobia, we won’t include any triggering imagery. Please be respectful and don’t share any similar imagery in the comments.]
Trypophobia (Google at your peril lest you suddenly and violently discover you too are afflicted) is described as the “fear of small holes.” (Shout out to the American Psychiatric Association for at least waiting a few paragraphs before including images that caused me to yeet my laptop; most online explanations of trypophobia unfortunately include pictures.) Trypophobia is not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, so it’s not an officially recognised mental disorder, but it’s estimated that 16% of people suffer from it. I am, unfortunately, one of them.
Any uniform arrangement of small holes or spaces induces revulsion in me, accompanied with a slight “flight” response. Common triggers for me are usually organic but can include man-made things, such as certain manhole covers, those lotus pods that can come with Korean BBQ or dried in potpourri, pinecones, sunflower heads, gauze or bandages, any liquid mixture that bubbles like cooking pancakes or blooming yeast , this map of election results, and the grate at the top of the Xbox Series X.
I knew the Series X was going to be trouble the minute its design was revealed. The holes are just big and prominent enough to trigger a response. The Series S is a bit better, since the holes on its speaker are small enough to be obscured when viewed at a distance. Up close, it’s still slightly unsettling, but the annoyance factor is more negligible. My response to all these holes is not very strong, so I can continue to work at Kotaku without gagging every five minutes as our coverage of the cursed console increases as we get closer to release date. But I don’t think I could keep the new Xboxes in my home without prolonged exposure making me want to throw the console away.
In the realm of video games and phobias, I could do a lot worse than trypophobia (see: spiders). But the insidious thing about trypophobia and video games is that it can manifest suddenly and in weird, innocuous places. My new desktop computer has a vent at the top, and the first couple of days with it, I was ok. But seeing the holes in my periphery every time I sat at my desk was enough to make me cover the grate up with a sheet of paper.
I get skeeved out in games too. Older games sometimes feature certain triggering textures in objects or on walls. For more modern games, a recent example for me is Resident Evil 7: Negative spaces that look like holes can freak me out, and there are a ton of maggots in that game. (Believe it or not, actual maggots don’t bother me; it’s the space between a swarm of them that sets me off. Humans are weird.) D’vorah from Mortal Kombat 11 is also a problem: She’s one of my favourite new characters, but she has a move that unleashes bugs from her chest, and the holes, man… I can’t do it.
My trypophobia manifests unevenly — small holes don’t always send me over the edge. So I’m ok with things like speaker grates or the metal mesh of my Blue Yeti Microphone. In fact most electronics and their penchant for using small holes to vent heat don’t bother me at all — except this mouse (thanks a lot, Fahey) and the Xbox Series X.
I could employ similar strategies for the Series X that I did for my computer. I could try to hide it in my entertainment console. Standing the console vertically would also obscure the vent. If I absolutely had to have a Series X, I could make it work, but why should I suffer having a triggering object in my home when I could just own a hole-free PlayStation 5 instead? Your move, Microsoft.