Hello. I’m Daryl Baxter, and I’ve had a fear of spiders in video games since I was six years old.
There’s many out there who have a phobia, whether it’s snakes, cockroaches, or even a type of sponge if you look hard enough on YouTube. Fear and phobias can be found in many forms. For me, it’s in the medium of video-games, and the animation of arachnids, where it spurs paranoia, discomfort, and panic in any game I play that they feature in.
Since I was asked to write this, I’ve been trying to think of the point in time of where it all began.
I then realized it wasn’t exactly a spider that started it. It was a Facehugger in Alien Trilogy for the PlayStation. We were lucky back then, where small CRT TV Screens were the norm for most of us. We only had to experience that Facehugger crawling up, and covering the screen in fuzzy-vision. Still, the stuff of nightmares seeing this.
This was only the first level. But for a game whose atmosphere is dark, dim, and quiet, seeing something small crawl across in the distance, disappearing from view, then suddenly seeing it cover your whole field of vision, it was a nasty surprise for my six-year-old self. If that wasn’t bad enough, there was also a level towards the end where it was the Queen’s lair, and many, many eggs, ready to hatch.
After that, there are two other games that sealed it.
Tomb Raider II was a great game in 1997 and still is. But there’s a section towards the end of the game, at the Temple of Xian level, where you would face a cave. This cave would feature huge white spiders, alongside some crawling out of cocoons, and as an added treat, the section would be pitch black. Alongside composer Nathan McCree’s sudden stabs of music, just to add to the terror, you’d only see these creepy-crawlies as the lights of 1996 shaders would flicker and flash as you’d fire the twin pistols, or as you lit up a flare. Delightful. I had other people complete that section for me so I could finish the game.
This fear then blossomed with Resident Evil, the second entry particularly.
I would look for the cursed word of ‘spider’ in magazine guides before I’d play the game itself. Then once I’d spotted it, I’d try to forget what I’d previously read so I wouldn’t spoil myself with what else was to come in the game.
I’d then try to prepare myself as I was close to the fabled sewers section. As soon as I reached them with Leon, I closed my eyes and just, ran. I could hear the thudding steps of those eight legs throughout, and randomly holding down the R1 + Square to fire off the shotgun.
It really didn’t help that if one was killed, smaller spiders would then appear, with the sound ongoing. What also was a treat were the fabled camera angles of what was a staple of the first generation of the games. They were always at a fixed angle, so if one crawled into a particular place, you’d have a full view of one covering the screen, harking back to the nightmares of Alien Trilogy.
This would repeat in my favorite of the Resident Evil games, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, where you would come across giant spiders in a clock tower during the second half of the game. Even though I’d later replay this on a PSP, a much smaller screen, I’d still be incredibly uncomfortable at the site (and sound) of those jittering legs.
The Resident Evil series is a great time, and the games fulfill their job of being ‘Survival Horror’. It’s not necessarily the jump-scares that people are scared by, it can be just the look of the enemies themselves and how they move, and that’s how it’s been for me for the last twenty years with its depiction of arachnids.
But there have been other times where eight-legged freaks creeped me out. Even on a 2D side-scroller such as Spider-Man on the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, there was a hidden side-boss of a spider-slayer; a robotic large spider which you’d have to destroy with blue and yellow bombs. You may be thinking that as this was a cartoony, 2D Platformer, surely it wouldn’t be that much of an issue, but unfortunately, it was!
Again, it harkens back to the movements. This made it so creepy to me, I made sure not to approach the floor where it presided as much as possible after that.
It sounds somewhat tragic reading it back, and perhaps it appears so to you as well reader, but I think it’s unique. Unique in the fact that a medium such as video-games can bring this feeling to me, and how the efforts to mimic a real-life arachnid, more by its animations than its look, is telling, even for the original PlayStation generation.
With the remake of Resident Evil 2, all I’m currently thinking about is how those sewer-dwelling spiders will look on a 4K television, while forgetting all the other incredible moments such as the start of the game, the police station, and fighting Birkin.