“You’re going to Camp Blood, ain’t ya?”
Would it really be spooky season if I didn’t die a dozen (or more…it’s definitely more) times at the hands of vengeful spirits? I think not. In 2020, I wrote about playing Phasmophobia for the first time and the joy of playing a PC game with friends. This September marks the third spooky season my friends and I have obsessively played the popular ghost hunting game.
When I first started playing this game, I wasn’t sure how long it would hold my attention. Wouldn’t the gameplay get old? Phasmophobia is strengthened by eerie environments, ambient sounds, co-op mayhem, and frequent updates.“Screenshot: Phasmophobia”
Phasmophobia is a joy…and a scare. It’s been an interesting experience for me. I LOVE horror movies and books but generally shy away from playing horror games because I find it difficult to play when I’m scared out of my skin. There’s something about being in control and having to make all the decisions in horror games that leaves me feeling incapable of playing. I freeze. I panic. It gets ugly…
But Phasmophobia. Phasmophobia offers a thrilling yet terrifying experience. The game’s horror comes from its environments, the uncertain timing of ghost events, and the panic that sets in when the doors close and you’re stuck inside with a vengeful ghost on the hunt for more victims.
The hilarity of co-oping the game with friends helps to undercut the terror, and you can certainly fall into a rhythm–a pattern of efficient behavior and steps to identifying the ghost. One player grabs the spirit box, chatting through every room. Another player walks around with a video camera looking for orbs (ghorbs, as we say). Someone else might walk around looking for a haunted object or bone evidence. But despite the well-oiled machine our group can operate as, we also frequently descend into chaos. At times, that chaos is a result of some curveball the game throws; other times, it’s a result of the group’s foolishness. We make silly decisions like bolting back inside the house “one more time” when our sanity is well below a safe threshold.
“What did we think would happen?”
One such time I was playing with my good friend Joey. It was just the two of us playing, and we had warmed up with some of the smaller maps before heading to the prison. Our typical approach with the prison is to work our way systematically through, starting at the front of the building and then splitting to cover A Block and B Block. We were about done with the lobby when I noticed something red beneath my feet. A circle of death. Except, I didn’t know death was a possibility just yet.
I stopped and called Joey. “Holy shit! Come back and see what you just stepped over.” He walked back to the lobby and saw the pentagram on the floor. Excitement rose in our voices.
“What do you think it does?” I asked.
We knew cursed items were a recent addition to the game, but neither one of us had seen this before. We noted the candles and immediately knew what had to be done. Rushing back to the truck, I grabbed a lighter and we ran back to the pentagram. I started lighting candles, pausing at the final one.
I lit the last candle. A ghost, a demented-looking man with a scythe in hand, appeared in the circle. For a moment, the ghost was suspended in the pentagram. Joey moved away from the pentagram almost immediately (wise fellow). The ghost then broke free and started toward me. Out of some strange Phasmo-induced instinct, I cycled to my camera, determined to get at least one good picture of the ghost. As I backed up, camera flashing, the ghost grabbed me (cue “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan). The next moment, I was floating above myself, above my twisted husk of a body.
I was dead and my loyal teammate fled to the safety of the truck. I looked down at my corpse and noted the look on my face. Despite the violent death that body was subjected to, the look was one of peace.
Once Joey was safe in the truck, we both erupted into laughter. “What did we think would happen?” I screamed. The fright of my unfortunate yet predictable death was now behind me.
And that’s Phasmophobia for ya. Horror and humor mesh into the experience on the regular. I wouldn’t enjoy ghost hunting as much solo. So much is added to the game when playing with others. This fall I’m shy of 300 hours played, and now I can’t imagine a fall of gaming without some Phasmophobia with friends.