I was introduced this year to a board game called Arkham Horror. It's a board game based off the H.P. Lovecraft universe. Characters in the game have both health and sanity. Health loss makes sense. People get hurt when they go on adventures. What about the sanity loss?
In the H.P. Lovecraft world, there are monsters that are so horrific or so alien, that looking at them assaults the very person's sanity, slowly driving them insane. Also, horrific events occur that challenge the character's sanity.
The sanity loss mechanic is definitely an interesting one. It's also used in video games like Amnesia, Penunmbra, and Call of Cthulu. When the characters in those games are exposed to various horrific things, then they will lose sanity. There are various effects of the sanity loss including blurred vision, seeing things that aren't there, hearing things that aren't there, etc. Basically, they go crazy.
Personally, I think the whole thing is fun, entertaining, and at times, horrific. I think it adds a nice touch to games. The ability for a game creator to invoke fear in a person is an art. I'm not talking about being startled. I'm talking about fear like paranoia and panic. The kind of fear that leaves me feeling unsettled, even after it's intensity has gone down.
It reminds me of the last time I played Resident Evil 5 with a friend. On a related note, I never play Resident Evil 5 by myself because the game is creepy. As we moved through an underground facility, we kept getting glimpses of an odd creature. It usually was just moving out of view, climbing on the walls and ceilings. We found documents describing something called a 'Licker'. A creature with an abnormally long tongue that was blind. It stalked its prey relying on its other overdeveloped senses.
We continued on through the facility. I was already feeling the affects of adrenaline, because I remembered fighting these creatures on a previous play-through of the game. After passing through a section with cages full of live animals, I saw a section with some glass. There were two Lickers inside. They immediately broke the glass, and one of them started slowly advancing on me. Nervous, but sure I could sneak around the creature. I slowly backed away, thinking I could loop around and completely avoid fighting the creature.
I forgot something as I finished the loop. The other creature. Out of nowhere, the creature leaped at me. I screamed, and directed my character to run to the exit. Unfortunately, the exit was a door that required a few seconds to crank open. Me and my friend were trapped.
The fight was a blur. I vaguely remember firing off the most powerful weapons I had, running around, yelling and laughing hysterically. When it was over, I was at the door, opening it as fast as I could, laughing my head off like a mad man.
The question is, had I lost sanity? Sanity is the ability to think and act rationally. Because my fear had overpowered me, I had, in a sense, gone temporarily insane. Once the fear started to dissipate, I still felt unsettled and jumpy. In fact, when I left my friends house, I looked up and checked to make sure there were no monsters about to jump me from above.
While playing a Dungeons and Dragons game, one of my characters fell into a cage of sorts. While he was trying to get back up, he heard the approach of something. It sounded like footsteps, and jangling keys. I was feeling scared. The creature did show up, and look at me. The way the DM did it, only served to heighten my fear.
One night I was coming home and walking up the stairs to my condo when I heard a strange noise. It sounded like chains jingling. The sound reminded some part of me of the sound of those keys jangling. I felt a sense of panic as I hastily searched for my key, unlocked the door, and darted inside. I half expected something to start pounding on the door after I locked it behind me.
Today at work, I had another experience where it felt like I loss some of my sanity. A man came over to visit with one of my co-workers, who wasn't at her desk. One of the guys next to me started to talk to man, who is apparently studying to become a paramedic. The things the guy was talking about left me feeling unsettled and scared.
When I got up to use the restroom, I noticed that things seemed...odd. The light seemed to bright. Things seemed to intense. I felt a vague sense of paranoia. My mind kept projecting half-ghostly images onto blank surfaces. The man next to me at the urinal scared me, although he did nothing. When I realized what was going on, I said that I had suffered some 'sanity loss'.
On a related note, last night I had to drive home really late. When I get really tired, and drive, my eyes will start playing tricks on me. Sometimes, they blur and refuse to focus for a few moments. Other times, it looks like something is there, in the corner of my eye. When I go to look at it, it's gone. Honestly, it probably is exhaustion. Needless to say, the experience is unsettling.
I've had many experiences in my life that have left me feeling horrified. There's been experiences where I've been paralyzed by fear before, and I lose the ability to think rationally. Sometimes I wonder if I've lost something permanently in those experiences. Sometimes I wonder if I've gone a little more crazy in the head each time one of those happens.
Perhaps a visit with the therapist is in order, at least, if the voices start talking to me.