What It’s Like Playing Horror Games with Paranoia and Hallucinations

The Lowdown

Suffering from paranoia and hallucinations definitely makes life interesting. It is not always enjoyable but on the odd occasion, I see something just so wildly inconceivable I laugh about it. Most days are manageable, only becoming more intense as it gets darker outside. For instance, during the day I may have a “normal” level of paranoia and hallucinations, where I think someone is watching me or a notice a giant white cat outside just standing on two legs. At night they intensify making it harder to feel calm and safe. Nevertheless, I get through the night and come out unscathed the next day.

Normally, I stay clear of anything horror related in favour of something which helps with my mental health such as Animal Crossing, but I enjoy them. Does this mean I can’t play horror games when it’s dark outside? Nope! I can as long as I believe there is no conceivable way for them to happen at all.

Until Dawn Needle Hallucinations
I hate needles – Until Dawn (Screen Grab)

Game Time!

Initially, I found Until Dawn to be rather dull. As I continued to play it, the more I found myself enjoying it. The jump-scares were appropriate and did a very good job at scaring me. But what got under my skin was the psychoanalyzed scenes with Dr Hill, which are used to try to work out what motifs will be used to scare you.

As I continued to play, the less I became affected by my interactions with Dr Hill and the more I became hyper-vigilant of the attacks towards the characters I was playing. At the time my paranoia and hallucinations weren’t nearly as bad as they are currently which I suppose is a good thing but certainly makes playing Until Dawn a bit more stressful.

When I played through it recently, I decided I try to play it at nighttime to see if there were any differences. I didn’t notice anything remotely different but it did change how I felt. I played it in the dark, the only light in my bedroom was coming from the faint glow of the television as I maneuvered my way around the game. The faint call of the owls and frogs coming from outside was the only other sound apart from the game itself.

To Joke or to Suffer Through Death?

At times, I felt whether I should crack a few jokes about what was happening, or whether I should just suck it up and push through the gore of the game. So I went through with the latter. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to complete the game if I just kept cracking jokes because then I wouldn’t actually be paying attention to what was going on. I did find myself on occasion, with this overwhelming sense of dread that there was someone outside my bedroom door just waiting. Would they be there to take me away to some dingy basement where I had to choose between who is cut in half? Or would they just straight-up kill me?

In those moments I found myself frequently pausing the game; muting the television just so I can check to see if I can hear anything out of the ordinary. I never could but I still felt as though there was something there. It made life interesting for quite some time after that. So I did end up turning to the jokes just to calm me down enough to go to sleep.

Paranoia and Hallucinations

“Horror is meant to draw out vulnerabilities.”

Without silly things like this, I probably would have just never touched any horror game again. They would have just sat on my game shelf gathering dust, just staring at me as if to say “wow, you are a chicken.” But I did what I usually do, gave it a dust off, played it for a bit then put it back. I decided that just because the game made certain aspects of gaming and life unpleasant for me, it didn’t need to make me feel that way for longer than I was okay with. I could still actively choose to play it for hours or even half an hour and then once I stopped playing I had things in place to minimise the negative consequences of me playing that game.

When there were particularly graphic parts of the game, I started to question why these were having more of an impact on me than similarly graphic moments in other games. But I soon realised it’s just because of how the game is set up, it’s set up as horror, not as an action game. Horror is meant to draw out vulnerabilities and catch you off guard, and that is most certainly what happened.

Blair Witch

Blair Witch Hallucinations
In-game Screenshot

Blair Witch played heavily on supernatural elements which meant it was less likely my paranoia and hallucinations would suffer. I was still scared senseless during the game but I didn’t have this overwhelming feeling of something waiting for me outside of my room, or inside my room. I wasn’t seeing anything from the game outside of it. This was rather amusing because I do have a deep fascination with supernatural entities, whether it be folklore stories or legends. So when I stumbled upon this game I was pretty damn excited.

I played this game despite not actually having seen the movie or knowing much about it at all apart from the “there was like this one guy that was like..just standing there, you know?” that my friend would tell me about. So I was going into this game rather blind.

Blair Witch Hallucinations
Blair Witch (Screen Grab)

Luckily, there is no way to panic in a game where there is one very good dog. Don’t get me wrong, I did have moments where I was genuinely terrified because I didn’t know what was happening, but that never actually seeped over into my actual life. I didn’t hallucinate anything from the game, well, nothing too different from my usual ones anyway.

For me, there isn’t much to say about my experience with this game. I did occasionally hear some things that sounded like what I would hear when playing the game, just a menacing voice but that was about it. Unfortunately, I didn’t get around to finishing the game. I guess Carver did win because I surrendered and stopped playing.

Alien: Isolation

Alien Hallucinations
Alien: Isolation (Screen Grab)

No. Just nope. Not happening. No thank you. This one was not fun. I did not have a very good time playing Alien Isolation at all. Even though aliens are so unrealistic, I was uncomfortable playing this game and it affected my Hallucinations terribly.

There is something uncanny about opening your curtains in the morning to see one of these creatures staring back at you before vanishing into thin air. Let alone waking up during the night because you can hear them breathing near you. This game had me tense for the short duration that I played it as there was no way I could finish it. The only peace I get is from the image below of the alien being on fire.

Cleanse it with FIRE!

Alien Hallucinations
Alien on Fire – Alien Isolation (Source)

Do I Still Play Horror?

In short, I do still play some horror games. I enjoy playing horror games, but I am just careful which ones I play and for how long. I think the experience will be different for everyone. For some people that have similar problems that I do, they may not have the same experience when playing horror games.

Recently, I had a horror hallucination experience when I went possum hunting. I had just been playing a zombie horror game so when I went outside all I could hear was zombie noises. When I heard a possum call, I screamed because I thought it was actually a zombie. When I quickly realised it obviously wasn’t a zombie I couldn’t help but laugh. Moments like those are the more amusing experiences dealing with paranoia and hallucinations.

Once more, this is not a universal experience, and these are personal to me. Others might have entirely different experiences with horror games.