The Horrors of the Metaverse!

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Morbid curiosity got the better of you? Hey, that’s OK, I get it. Who doesn’t love a good scary movie or a spine-tingling survival horror game? Maybe it isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but many horror fans are constantly looking to up the stakes (not the wooden kind) in terms of their experiences. It goes without saying that the ultimate answer to their trips into the terrifying lies directly within the confines of The Metaverse itself!

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Growing up, I got into the world of Sci-Fi and Horror pretty early on in life. Often on a Friday after school, I’d head down to my local video store, grab a VHS copy of some scary-looking movie like Alien and head back to my grandparents house where I’d spend a good two or so hours freaking myself out with poorly-lit corridors, gory special effects and, of course, some good old jump scares!

Naturally as I got older, books and movies were a staple, but ultimately it was games like Resident Evil, Silent Hill and even the original Thief that truly scared the pants off of me. In all honesty, when I started playing Thief, I thought I was just going to end up stealing shit from some tight-wearing nobles. Boy was I wrong. Haunted mines, bizarre humanoid abominations and even an entire haunted city lay at the heart of Thief’s narrative, and needless to say, the whole experience is embedded in the recesses of my mind to this very day…

Maybe ‘The Dark Project’ should have given me a clue? Credit: WikipediaMaybe ‘The Dark Project’ should have given me a clue? Credit: Wikipedia

A Little Too Close For Comfort

Probably the game I found most disturbing, purely because of its relatively simple (yet ingenious) mechanics, was Silent Hill 4: The Room. I got the game as a birthday present from my first girlfriend at the age of 16. Now at first I didn’t think too much of it, having played scary games like Thief years before, but this game was truly next-level stuff.

Cleverly, unlike previous versions of Silent Hill (which are obviously amazing games to be sure), much of the game takes place from a first-person perspective. In fact, when you start off, you’re actually stuck inside your apartment, somehow locked in from the inside. Oh man, chills already!

Naturally you do your best to find some kind of key or way out, but the only conceivable exit is via a hole opening up in your goddamn bathroom mirror (totally normal, no need to panic here). And, like any normal person, you crawl on through it, only to find yourself in the “nightmare world” which then shifts your perspective to third person and thus into the classic Silent Hill format.

The sense of isolation in Silent Hill 4: The Room is palpable. Credit: YouTubeThe sense of isolation in Silent Hill 4: The Room is palpable. Credit: YouTube

Needless to say, I would describe Silent Hill 4 as a veritable assault on the mind and senses. Insane level designs, bizarre encounters, creepy characters and some mind-bending animation make this one of the weirdest and most memorable entries in the franchise ever. If you get a chance, and if you still have a PS2, I seriously recommend checking it out. Otherwise, check out this full playthrough on YouTube:

Deeper Down the Rabbit Hole

Truth be told, for many horror aficionados, experiences like the ones I had just won’t really do enough, and with the development of VR and AR technology, some plucky developers have opted to create more immersive experiences that place the player directly in the heart of the action.

There’s actually a bunch of titles on offer when it comes to VR games in the horror genre, but one that caught my eye was Phasmophobia. Now you can choose to play this game in a “Non-VR” environment, but for those who really want to experience the scariest playthrough possible, VR is the go-to choice.

What makes Phasmophobia different is that it’s actually a co-op game, allowing up to 4 players to play the game together. The premise is that paranormal activity at a house is on the rise, so you and your team of investigators need to use all the equipment at your disposal to gather evidence and figure out exactly what’s going on.

Phasmophobia also differs from other horror games in that scares are randomized, meaning that you’ll never have the exact same experience twice. In other words, you can never really anticipate anything or know exactly what’s going to happen, so you’ll be on edge pretty much the entire time. And if you’re brave enough to play the game in VR, you’re more or less completely immersed in the environment as you explore pitch black rooms with nothing but a torch and listen to the electronic buzzing and beeping of your EMF Reader.

One of Phasmophobia’s dimly-lit environments. Credit: Kinetic GamesOne of Phasmophobia’s dimly-lit environments. Credit: Kinetic Games

Phasmophobia is still in early access on Steam, but so far the reviews are almost unanimously positive. And despite the fact that the game isn’t even complete yet, it’s already managed to garner a substantial Twitter following of some 183K followers. Nice going horror fans!

Follow Phasmophobia on their Official Twitter and be sure to check out Kinetic Games’ website for more info

The Final Evolution of Horror: The Metaverse

With developers exploring the wealth of potential in VR and AR, and major game franchises like Resident Evil entering the world of VR, it goes without saying that The Metaverse is the Final Destination (see what I did there?) of horror (and everything else for that matter).

And of course there are crypto projects working to build their own “Horror Metaverse,” with The Asylum claiming to be “The Horror Metaverse of Solana .” However, at this point, The Asylum is little more than a playable demo (which I couldn’t safely access?) and a Twitter page with a modest number of followers. That’s not to say it can’t or won’t become a fully-fledged project, but I don’t think you should expect anything really groundbreaking, at least not for the time being. Anyway, if the project piques your interest, be sure to check it out on Twitter .

But the real potential of The Metaverse to provide players with truly immersive, chilling experiences is indeed massive. One could even argue that some experiences may just be “too real” for the human mind to handle. I mean, a lot of existing horror is already light trauma (or even deep for that matter), so in an environment in which you literally cannot distinguish between reality itself and a virtual reality, the results could be nothing short of disastrous.

To this end, it’s probably important for Metaverse players to be able to remember that they are in fact in a virtual world and not a real one. It’s also important that developers and creators of experiences don’t make things too visceral so that people don’t literally die of heart attacks in The Metaverse. It may sound far-fetched, but this could well be a possibility.

But knowing how people already are, and the inherent nature of horror culture itself, there are always going to be those parties that really push the limits of what is acceptable or possible. And there will always be those curious individuals who just can’t help but try these experiences out. It’s just inevitable.

In truth, as with the internet, you can only provide so many protections to people, but there will always be those parties who search for material that will give them a bigger and longer-lasting dopamine rush. So we can definitely recommend behaviors and create guidelines, and we may find that the majority of people happily (or even grudgingly) abide by them. But to believe everyone will do this is just naive.

Grim New Horizons

The more I think about it, the more I realize just how much there is to the notion of horror and the way The Metaverse will have an indelible effect on how it evolves from something psychological to something far more immersive and physiological. There’s just so much to unearth and talk about here that I’ll have to do a follow-up article (or possibly even articles).

As a horror and gaming fan, I’m absolutely fascinated by the prospect of what’s to come and have no doubt that what’s on the horizon is nothing short of wondrously terrifying! The Metaverse will be the definitive experience for anyone looking to test their mettle and willpower. There’s just not doubt about it.

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When not playing drums in his death metal band, Brynn can be found reading up on all the latest developments in the world of Web3, watching horror movies or playing online games with his friends.

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