by Dave Argento ’21 A&E Staff
While most ghost-hunting television shows will make audiences more likely to laugh than shiver, the immersive elements of the newly trending game, Phasmophobia, takes players further than any psychological horror video game has before. Four ambitious ghost hunters team up to investigate and report on the paranormal activities that have been on the rise in settings such as a school, several street houses, farmhouses, and a massive insane asylum.
The group of players must use their limited ghost-hunting equipment to find as much evidence as possible to locate and report the ghost they are dealing with, but only if they are not caught in the process. What separates Phasmophobia from other horror titles is not the graphics or the complexity, but rather the innovative use of audio and video functions that only gaming currently allows.
Players must all connect through the in-game audio features to communicate with one another, making proximity to your friends vital to not be snuck up on by a murderous specter during the game. The game makes use of word recognition to tailor the experience to the players. Each ghost has a name that causes an in-game reaction when spoken allowed. Say the ghost’s name one too many times and your buddies might not hear your voice again.
What takes Phasmophobia to the next level is the virtual reality capabilities that can make an unexpecting player lose some sleep at night. This combination of realistic visuals, looking around the room physically, and the whispers that ghosts will slip through your headphones makes the hunt more realistic than expected. You will find yourself conversing with an in-game ghost that responds in chilling ways.
Rich Stanton, a games journalist, writes, “Phasmophobia’s genius is that this is a game of restraint and subtlety.” As you get more comfortable with the minimalist designs of items, which you can only carry three at a time, and character movements, the ghosts you will encounter become increasingly aggressive and playful. They will cut you off from your team, breath into your ear, and send silhouettes past you for brief seconds, leaving you not as confident as you entered. Each round, your team will earn a certain amount of in-game money for your job performance in identifying the ghosts, losing money for each crew member that did not make it back.
Phasmophobia has skyrocketed in popularity since its release on Sept. 18 due to the many Twitch.tv streamers and YouTubers that have been enjoying it. According to TwitchTracker.com, Phasmophobia was the fifth most-streamed game in the first week of October 2020. Its long-term success will depend on whether the game developers will be able to tighten up gameplay optimization and add new content to keep players wanting more.
At the reasonable price point of $13.99 on the Steam Community Market, Phasmophobia is the perfect way for you and your friends to test your fear factors this Halloween. Shut the lights off, crank up your headphones, and good luck finding out just how afraid of ghosts you are.