Fear as a concept is a funny thing, it’s a natural reaction to a perceived threat, some people seek the thrill that comes with fear and others avoid any situation that could cause it. Game developers often use fear as a plot device or a game mechanic, but unfortunately for years spiders and other arachnids have been used in gaming instead of taking the time to design a scary antagonist.
Let me begin by saying spiders are weird, no-one debates that, they have 8 legs a million eyes and zero fear, but the problem is that arachnophobia isn’t fear, fear is the reaction to danger but to fear a spider even a small one is irrational, there is no danger (most of the time anyway) but for an arachnophobe in their minds the fear and danger is all too real, adrenaline will be pumped through their bodies, causing their minds to race and their heart rate to quicken, in reaction to what their subconscious mind has perceived a real and active threat to life!
So for game developers to use spiders in so many games to cause fear is a cheap and easy way to scare the player, it’s easy to just copy and paste the design of a literal tarantula to cause fear, what is harder is to actually create a monster that is completely unique and still able to scare the player, the souls-borne games have such good designs for monsters from eldritch horrors, to terrifying deformed animal shapes, each one is unique but each is still scary and doesn’t rely on phobias to get a response from their players.
There are so many games that use spiders as a game play mechanic to scare players, but I have only seen one game (Grounded) that actually has an accessibility option to change the way that the spiders look to make the game actually playable for arachnophobes, in my opinion if game developers want to keep putting spiders into games to get a cheap scare, then they also need to put some sort of mechanic to tune them out or change their look for all the arachnophobes playing them.
Just from a quick google search there are 420 million arachnophobes in the world and to cut all those people off from playing a game because of being too lazy to design something else or to put in an option to make it playable, is unacceptable, and from a business perspective really silly, as they are then reducing the amount of players that will play their game.
Maybe in future games developers should have some group or organization to come to when deciding if their characters are using phobias to get their scares, that way they don’t cut so many of their customers from buying their game, and the customers won’t feel the need to avoid certain games.
To sign off, the next time you think it’s funny to show someone you know who has arachnophobia a picture of a spider or even worse throw one at them, think to yourself ‘how would I feel if someone put me in a pool with a shark?’ scared? that is how a person who has arachnophobia feels about that small spider being shoved in their face, so don’t do it!