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Gaming With Phobias: How Does It Feel To Be A Gamer With Thalassophobia?

Gaming With Phobias: How Does It Feel To Be A Gamer With Thalassophobia?

Phobias affect nearly everyone, and that's okay! Whether you're afraid of bugs, arachnids, heights, flying, or more obscure things, these phobias can get in the way of your day-to-day life just as much as they might be a once-in-a-blue-moon occurrence. For gamers, however, even some of the strangest phobias can become prevalent without realising it. Today, I am going to talk about my experience of being a gamer that has Thalassophobia.

What is Thalassophobia?

Abzu screenshot

Despite not being recognised by Merriam-Webster (damn you!), Thalassophobia is defined as "An abnormal fear of the sea" by The Free Dictionary and as a "specific phobia or intense fear of deep bodies, deep water, and sudden fear of large bodies" by Biology Online. This isn't exclusively the case, however, as Thalassophobia can also come with a general fear of deep bodies of water, vast bodies of water, fear of being far away from solid ground, and — the one I struggle with the most — aquatic creatures.

Although for me this doesn't happen with some of the cuter and friendlier types of fish (like Nemo and Dory, precisely because I refuse to call them by their scientific names), I suffer from moderate to high anxiety whenever presented with the above. The deeper the fish, the deeper the ocean, and the further away from bodies of water, the more terrified and anxious I feel at any given point.

How does Thalassophobia affect gaming?

Mario 64 screenshot


Although everyone likely struggles with my newly-coined term, Thalassomisia (the suffix -misia meaning hatred), due to some of the most hated water-based levels in gaming (you know I'm talking about you, Tomb Raider II), mine develops a little bit differently. 

It all started as a joke many, many Earth spins ago on Super Mario 64, when I reached the Jolly Roger Bay level and had to face the ginormous eel. Now, normal people experience this level with moderate levels of fear (I'm pretty sure, as I'm not "normal people" in this case), but I was... different. Although I managed to gracefully pass it and not make a fool out of myself to the people around me by grabbing a bag, hyperventilating, and crying hysterically (an exaggeration), I did start to feel nervous, uncomfortable, tightness in my chest, and out of breath.

"What an idiot", I thought to myself as I tried to swim beside the eel and borderline broke my controller from trying to make Mario swim faster, "Who's even scared of polygonal eels, for crying out loud" (turns out, I was). I dismissed this unfortunate happenstance as a fluke and decided to hide that deep within the recesses of my mind to never think about it again... until it happened again. And again... And — you guessed it — again.

Abzu screenshot 2

Thalassophobia in day-to-day life is a generally simple one to handle. Unlike our closely-related cousin (do phobias have cousins?), Aquaphobia, I only have to irrationally freak out and feel the grasp of impending doom whenever I am on, near, or thinking of large bodies of water and/or fish. This means that underwater levels in games, such as the aforementioned Jolly Roger Bay, can be anxiety-inducing at best and bordering impossible at worst.

This also means that some of the more relaxing titles can become bordering horror genres, like the much-beloved Abzu and its terrifying underwater creatures. I tried watching my wife play the game, it's just not my fault that I turned around and never looked again.

Oh, and before you ask — no, I haven't played Subnautica. But maybe one day, in the midst of a self-loathing morn where I wish to strike the truest of fears into my soul. Because I'm not scared of zombies or ghosts, no asylum or haunted mansion can raise my heartbeat.

Subnautica Peeper screenshot

But the Peepers? Nightmare material. Panic attack. Scream, cry, and turn off the computer. That's when you've met true horror.

Although this article was exaggerated in some bits for the sake of enjoyment and comedy, I hope it has given you a bit of insight into gaming as a thalassophobe! If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments below. And before you ask — the anglerfish. Nothing should ever look like that.

Artura Dawn

Artura Dawn

Staff Writer

Writes in her sleep, can you tell?

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JaseTay - 06:00pm, 26th March 2023

I have played some of the most terrifying games ever published, and yet Subnautica, and the brief scenes in Resident Evil games, where your character is squeezing past an obsectale (such as in caves or behind a wall board), those scare me more then anything else. 

Artura Dawn
Artura Dawn - 04:21pm, 29th March 2023 Author

Exactly! It's terrifying. I'm still going to play Subnautica ONE DAY!!! Someday. Maybe. Idk we'll talk about it later.