It’s no secret that video games are beautiful, featuring some of the most breathtaking visuals we’ve ever seen. Video games can also contain some of the most terrifying, disturbing content that feels even more difficult to deal with because of the interactivity of the medium. It’s normal for gamers to be afraid of an in-game monster or creature and for me, the most frightening is the Basilisk from Dark Souls.
Let’s set the stage: I’m a reasonable guy. I try not to let emotions get the best of me and interfere with any decisions I make. This is tough because humans are emotional creatures, but I still try. This goes for most things. Except, I do have a severe phobia of toads, or Bufonophobia, as it’s referred to.
With most phobias, the cause usually is a combination of a traumatic event(s) and genetics. The notion of a phobia has always fascinated me because the very definition of it is that it’s irrational. Being a rational guy (mostly), wrapping my head around how I could be this afraid of something is not easy.
There’s a lot that goes into this, but let’s just say that not only are toads, themselves, terrifying to me, but they are a physical representation of other traumatic events that happened to me at that time in my life. Because this is an irrational fear, unlike being afraid of heights or chainsaws, my reactions to them can be anywhere from hysteria, tears, to even reverting to a child-like state. Luckily, toads are generally easy to avoid in everyday life, at least where I live, so I never sought treatment or counseling. I’ve simply avoided them and it’s worked out.
When trying to describe why I find them so disgusting it comes down to two things: their HUGE eyes and the fact that their skin is so rough, muscular-looking, and beefy; I don’t know which one I hate more. I also don’t like that they’re hard to see sometimes, because it makes it easier for them to sneak up on me. Just Googling an image of them to put their description to words was tough.
Now that the stage is set, we can fast forward to my first time playing Dark Souls. I bet you were confused as to why I was going on and on about toads on a video game website. It’s relevant; I promise.
Dark Souls is a game that beats you down and puts you in a vulnerable state, especially on your first playthrough. There is a lingering sense of anxiety and fear of the unknown that persists, even after playing it for hundreds of hours. During my first playthrough, I made the mistake of going down into one of the most notoriously (optional, I might add) terrifying areas of Dark Souls, The Depths. After giving that all-too-thorough explanation of my fear of toads, some of you may be cringing at the thought of me venturing down into this area.
The Depths is a dark swamp, riddled with giant rats. Just being there is unpleasant, even without disgusting enemies attacking. There is a particular part, towards the end of the area, where the game subtly foreshadows events that are about to unfold. All around you are petrified statues who were once people. As these stone corpses appear more frequently, the sinister croak of a creature gets louder and louder.
And then it happened: I fell down a hole by mistake and was surrounded by a group of disgusting monsters. The first things I remember seeing were those eyes. By this point, I was on the verge of soiling myself, but after seeing those, huge, bulbous eyes, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I didn’t get a good look at the creatures, because all I could pay attention to were those eyes. My initial reaction was to run, but the depths are dark and since I had fallen down a hole, I was disorientated.
Panicking, I scrambled around, looking for an exit, but ran into a dead end. The optimistic side of me was hoping that I’d turn around and notice that the creatures had lost interest and walked away. But, of course, that was not the case. When I turned around, one of them was standing on its hind legs, throat enlarged triple its size, shooting a grey mist at me. While it wasn’t what I was expecting, the thought of getting poisoned without having any anti-poison items was almost too much to bear, especially this far in the area.
What happened next was even more unexpected. I began to turn to stone! The mist wasn’t poison, it was a curse! Once I was fully petrified, the infamous “You Died” screen appeared and I felt defeated. As my rock hard body sat there, I could see the creatures jumping and croaking all around me almost taunting me for what they had just done. Upon respawning, I noticed that half my health was already gone. That’s the effect of being cursed: your maximum health is halved until the curse is lifted. Ugh.
After further evaluation of what just happened, I realized that those creatures were my biggest fear: giant, car-sized, elongated toads. Even worse is that they have razor-sharp teeth, can puff up like a balloon and cast curses and turn me to stone. They have rough, warty skin, just like toads. What an awful, dreadful creature.
It took me an embarrassingly long amount of time to work up the courage to get back in there to try again, but I eventually did. It was no easy task, though. One quirky feature of Dark Souls is the ragdoll physics that come into play once an enemy is killed. If you run over a dead body, it will flail about and get all tangled up as you run by. After killing a couple of those toad-like creatures, known as Basilisks, I made the mistake of stepping on a dead one and its carcass flipped up on top of me. It scared me so badly I literally turned the game off right then; over a dead toad.
What’s fascinating is that I later learned that those things I was referring to as eyes were not their actual eyes at all, but decoys that act as a way to scare their victims (good freaking job) before striking. Their real eyes are above the mouth, making the creature seem even more frightening. Four eyes? No thank you.
Luckily, The Depths is an optional area, so on every subsequent playthrough, I remember to skip it entirely. Even to this day, those things are the most horrible monsters I have encountered in any game I’ve ever played. Way worse than any zombie, the mad scientist from Outlast, or Nemesis from Resident Evil. Basilisks take the cake as my biggest fear in gaming and should be avoided at all costs.
What are some video game creatures you’re afraid of? Let us know and stay savvy to keep those monsters away!