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World of Warcraft

Is WoW a paradise for phobias? This is how you master your fear!

Table of Contents1

. Resist your own fear effects1.1. Arachnophobia: Who the hell invented spiders?1.2 Ophidiophobia: Why does it have to be snakes?1.3 Acrophobia: Stay on the ground1.4 Megalohydrothalassophobia: No heart for Cthulhu1.5 Koinoniphobia: MMO2 my ass. Master your fear - while gaming!

The blood elf backs away from the room, stumbling backwards. "No." The word plops to the dusty floor of Naxxramas, dry, with a flicker of panic underneath. He turns and runs down the corridor, plate armor clattering. "Nnnnnno." His eyes are the size of his palm. Behind him, a troll woman steps out of the hall and leans against the doorframe, sighing softly. The blood elf paladin's raucous flight quiets as he runs, accompanied by a distant "Neinneinneinneinnein," down the entire corridor of the Plague Quarter. The door closes behind the troll shaman and she sets off in pursuit of her friend with an affectionate shake of her head.
NOPE, THANKS A LOT! The spiders in WoW are particularly bad among the games arachnoids due to their size and realistic movement. Source: buffed

"Don't take it so hard Spitzohr, the first attempt was already quite good!" The blood elf paladin sways back and forth cross-legged as he strokes his resting stone. He gives the troll woman behind his god shield a dirty look and shakes himself. "That's easy for you to say. I will not - and by that I mean NOT - set foot in the Arachnid Quarter." Sheer horror is drawn on the paladin's face. "I can't understand how you can remain so calm about this. The dungeon master is no problem, and old gods I destroy with a snap of my fingers by now, but spiders ... Spiders are just wrong!" Small clouds of dust are kicked up as the shaman sits down next to her friend and taps an index finger against the magical shield in encouragement. "I know what a shopping queen you are, you old transmogrator. And if you want the desecrated handguards for your armor set, you'll have to defeat Maexxna willy-nilly; I can't do it for you." The blood elf nods frantically, causing his fine white-blond hair to slide down his face. The rest stone goes back into the backpack and the god shield dissolves with a soft plop. "You're right. I can do this. My fashion sense is greater than my arachnophobia! My cause is just and my style is impeccable!" The paladin proudly lifts his chin and marches down the corridor toward the Arachnid Quarter. "My gloves will match my pants and nothing will stop me!" Silently, the troll shaman begins to count the seconds.

"How could the Titans create something with so many legs? Six legs okay, but eight is just absurd!" With a patient smile, the troll woman strokes the paladin's head and nods. "Completely absurd." It took just two dozen heartbeats for the blood elf to retreat, this time on a completely panicked divine steed that, after being summoned, found itself all at once surrounded by spiders and with a hyperventilating rider on its back. The shaman was almost sure that the look in the horse's eyes was similar to the one in the paladin's eyes. She sighed. Everyone had his or her own baggage to carry, and her friend's was just that, his enormous arachnophobia. At her feet, the elf picked himself up again, arranged his slipped armor pieces and marched towards the arachnid quarter with a determined look on his face. She is proud of him, for he is brave. Absolutely unreasonable and an incorrigible fashion victim. But brave. "HORSE! SAVE ME!" The voice echoes down the hall. Beside her, the warhorse rolls her eyes and follows her friend's summoning with the golden glint of light magic. The shaman unpacks her Hearthstone deck and sits down on the tiles. In the background, a wildly galloping paladin covered in spider webs bursts out of the arachnid portal and rides his enervated steed in her direction. The shaman bites into a sandwich and nods. "This may take a while."

Resist Your Own Fear Effects

Welcome to World of Warcraft (Buy Now €14.99 ), we hope you packed your heart pills. As you can already guess, in this article we're going to dedicate ourselves to the fears and phobias that we're bound to encounter in an MMORPG that's more than 16 years old. This is quite natural, since fantasy thrives on its dark places, threatening situations and repulsive monsters. In doing so, WoW, like other games, movies, and books, likes to make use of the enormous toy box of phobias that we carry around with us every day - it's well known that video games tend to pick up their players' phobias one by one and shove them in their faces like a creepy bouquet of flowers. As a fantasy role-playing game, WoW naturally relies on creepy and horrible designs - but what's really scary are sometimes very simple things from our everyday lives. Source: buffed

For phobics, WoW is a cross between a ghost train and a therapy center: there's probably no other game where you'll find as many specific fear triggers as in World of Warcraft. So follow us on a little tour of the most common WoW phobias, and join us for a look at the insights of the University of Quebec - which found that video games can help us face and even beat our phobias in a safe setting.

Arachnophobia: Who the hell invented spiders?

J.R.R. Tolkien was bitten by a tarantula as a child. He subsequently swore as an adult that he had not, in fact, developed arachnophobia. His experience with a giant, biting spider had nothing to do with the man-eating spiders in The Hobbit, had no bearing on the even larger and hungrier spider in The Lord of the Rings, and most definitely nothing to do with the titanic, unholy spider from the void beyond creation that plunged the world into darkness and made The Lord of the Rings Satan shriek like a little baby in The Silmarillion. Instead, he asserted that he gave the ultimate evil the form of spiders because his son was afraid of spiders. Very few people believed him as a result. Fear of spiders, or arachnophobia, is the most widespread phobia in the world. On average, one in three women and one in four men suffer from a varying degree of fear of spiders. Naturally, this also caught the attention of resourceful video game developers, because spiders are among the most common enemies found in games. In WoW in particular, it's hard to pinpoint specific battles or areas that phobics should avoid, because spiders really are everywhere. In general, if there are undead around, the eight-legged crawlers are probably not far away.

Including arachnids of all kinds as default enemies has such a long gaming history that players can now count on every major PC game getting its own "spider mod" sooner or later: The community simply removes or replaces spiders with things that don't trigger their fear. Examples include the spiders in Skyrim, which modders replaced with upright-walking bears, or the headcrabs in the VR game Half Life: Alyx, which were simply removed entirely via mod. Other games have recognized the sign of the times and give their users a way to "disarm" spiders from the start: The game Grounded is about children who have been shrunk and have to survive in their own backyard. Arachnophobes have a "phobia slider" at their disposal here, with which they can adjust the realism of the spiders - everything from a gigantic killer spider to two floating orbs with googly eyes is possible. Satisfactory replaces all spiders with cute cat pictures with its built-in phobia mode. More of the same!

Ophidiophobia: Why does it have to be snakes?

Just like Indiana Jones, a massive portion of the world's population is afraid of snakes; this variety of fear takes a very close second place. Along with arachnophobia, ophidiophobia is so widespread that video games virtually throw snakes at us. WoW is no exception: almost all of Draenor is off-limits to ophidiophobes, for example, as the snakes seem to be fed a mixture of steroids and growth hormones. Trolls and their culture are also a hot spot for phobics, due to their penchant for feathered snakes (why do they have to fly, too?!) and snake gods. Lastly, we recommend staying away from Vol'dun especially for phobics whose fear is focused on the mouth and head part of the snake. Just trust us. Avoid the entire area.

No thanks: ophidiophobia is the fear of snakes, and right behind arachnophobia, it's one of the most common animal-based phobias. Source: buffed

Acrophobia: Stay on the ground

Acrophobia is a fear of heights and can be managed quite well in WoW: Unlike quest creatures, you can simply stay away from high places. And before you ask, yes - even virtually the queasy feeling spreads in the stomach area, if you stand as an acrophobic in front of a WoW abyss and look down. Dalaran (and especially the sewer exit) are extremely unpleasant, while the Storm Peaks, Howling Fjord and Storm Home are hard to bear as leveling areas. As is High Rock, by the way ... and Tiragarde and Val'sharah. You know what, just stay away from the entire north of the map. Vortex Peak? We highly recommend playing a different dungeon. WoW generally has a tendency to equate power with greatness. We hope you didn't choose Bastion as your Pact HQ in the Shadowlands, because otherwise we have bad news for you. Torghast? Don't even think about it. Oh, and did we mention that there's a quest in Maldraxxus that requires you to jump off a high tower into the void? NOPE! WoW is a terror buffet for players with a fear of heights. The better your visibility, the worse the effect. Dalaran is a particularly bad place! Source: buffed

Megalohydrothalassophobia: No heart for Cthulhu

We've ticked off the three most common phobias, but WoW has even more in store: The so-called thalassophobia describes the fear of large and deep bodies of water such as oceans and lakes. Guessed right: Everything about Vashj'ir is absolutely terrifying, from the intro quest to the actual zone. Swimming alone on the ocean with gigantic amounts of water underneath you is an absolute nightmare, as is walking on the ocean floor, looking up and seeing only...water. The phobia is so widespread that in titles like Sea of Thieves, for example, there's a "float mode" that automatically lets you float on the surface of the water. Other games like Subnautica: Below Zero are practically based on evoking this fear. Nespirah's picture from the trading card game triggers megalohydrothalassophobes hard: the seahorse is as big as a brewery horse. Source: Blizzard

The psychopathic brother of thalassophobia is megalohydrothalassophobia. This megalomaniacal word refers to the fear of giant creatures in the water. In the real world, this can be a large catfish or a shark, but it can also be peaceful creatures like whales or turtles - the phobia takes no prisoners. In Vashj'ir, you'll find absolute super-triggers like the whale shark and the creatures L'ghorek and Nespirah, which are so big they count as their own zone! If you want to get a teensy glimpse of what megalohydrothalassophobia feels like, even as a non-phobic, seek out "Heyman's Lair" in Vol'dun at Coordians 40/2. Be brave, this thing is way out in the ocean and underwater. When you get there, you'll automatically get water breathing. Now blast into the "Horn of the Abyss" not far from the tavern and look down. There you'll discover the "Twitching Leviathan", a giant octopus writhing in the water below you. Swim towards it. Seriously, swim towards it! It won't hurt you, but the sinking feeling in your stomach will give you a faint taste of what thalassophobes have to endure in water zones.

Koinoniphobia: MMO

my ass

You know that uncomfortable feeling you get when you're standing shoulder to shoulder in a crowded, small room? Coinoniphobia is the term used to describe the fear of crowded rooms - and it's not about the room itself. Instead, it's the combination of "small space" and "lots of people" that's important here. And yes, the whole thing works even if it's just about the images or the simulation of full rooms. Oribos isn't a problem even at the thickest rush hour, as the city is filled with almost nothing but huge open spaces. Attention to detail is the death knell for this phobia, as narrow, winding alleyways or even places like Stormwind's crowded bank square trigger it very strongly. There's no reason to be afraid, of course, because originally the phobia was almost certainly traced back to man's natural instinct to flee - and it kicks into tenth gear for some of us when our escape routes are blocked. Can we run through our teammates in WoW? Yep. Does that interest the phobic? Nope. The very idea is enough to conjure up the feeling of dread. Already heavy on the border: busy, narrow streets and squares reliably trigger Koinoniphobia - like the Bank Square and the Auction House of Stormwind Source: buffed

Master your fear - while gambling!

Okay, we've established that WoW is a veritable phobia buffet, but we have good news: Video games are actively helping you fight your phobias through something called confrontation therapy! Warning, before we get nasty letters from professionals: In confrontation therapy, you face your phobias - but used incorrectly, such confrontation will worsen the situation rather than improve it. If in doubt, ask your psychotherapist, psychologist or psychiatrist. Everything clear? Then let's go!

In 2003, an experiment was organized at the University of Quebec: 26 subjects were divided into two groups, each of which tackled a different type of confrontation therapy. 13 subjects were confronted with their fears using early VR technology. The other half were handed a controller and played titles like Resident Evil or Half-Life in a controlled environment for weeks. The results were impressive, as at the end of the trial period, both test groups were about equal in terms of how much they improved. But how can this be?

The clear answer to this question is provided by the Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies, in whose VR lab confrontation therapies have also been taking place since 2020. There, under the supervision of neuropsychologists, soldiers with post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) confront their fears with the help of the VR program BRAVEMIND. The institute's cure rate is overwhelming because it utilizes the same principles as video games. The patient is confronted with the triggering stimulus in a controlled environment.
For our heroes in games, the danger may be real, but we as players can safely face real fears in virtual worlds. Source: buffed

To break it down extremely (EXTREMELY): The thinking part of your brain knows that everything is okay in a video game. The feeling part (the limbic system), however, throws on the panic and simulates a life-threatening situation for you. The great thing about games, though, is that if you gamble regularly, you'll keep exposing yourself to your fear ... and nothing bad will happen! Even if you are attacked by a spider, you can fight back or easily remove yourself from the situation with the press of a button. Over time, the frontal lobe of the brain takes more control in the stressful situation and your amygdala, which is responsible for fear among other things, becomes less and less activated. The quiet voice in the back of your head and the calm environment of your living room or study create the necessary "sweet spot" in the middle of the fear scale that activates phobia but doesn't turn you into a quivering wreck.

So we see that while video games may not save lives, they can definitely improve them for phobics. Of course, you'll only be able to overcome your fears by tackling them with the help of professionals and later confronting them in real-life situations... but to take the first steps and give your battered limbic system a little break, video games are very good indeed. So the next time you find yourself facing a giant spider, falling into an abyss, or being attacked by a sea monster, remember: you are literally stronger than your fears. And WoW will help you overcome them all just a little bit.


Bonus: Accessibility in games is important

We keep hearing the argument "Why are spiders cut in games? Fear is part of it, don't get in line or play a different game!" To be clear, a phobia is not a "queue" or a "weakness". We've already mentioned it in the text, but we'll say it again here because it's important: Your brain chemistry tricks you into believing a life-threatening situation when you have a real phobia. Phobics can't "pull themselves together" any more than depression sufferers can "hold their heads up". Your biochemistry does not allow the whole thing. You are being forced into it. The fear is real.
The game Grounded has an arachnophobia slider - at maximum level the spiders are two floating balls with googly eyes. Source: buffed The second stage of this argument is often "Then why aren't all the other phobias being served"? Good question - why not actually? The explanation is twofold: First, arachnophobia is the most widespread phobia in the world. Almost a third of all women and a quarter of all men suffer from arachnophobia of varying degrees. So it is obvious to use this phobia, because spiders are one of the most used enemy types in games. On the other hand, this kind of phobia can be easily circumvented with a few simple steps: The spiders can simply be hidden. Geometric fears like acrophobia (fear of heights) are more difficult - games like The Last Of Us 2 simulate fear of heights very well, but how do you want to "censor" them without darkening the screen every time the player looks down?

The last thing that often comes up is the killer argument "if games can treat phobias, there shouldn't be censorship here." This is nonsense, because phobias firstly exist in different forms and secondly, you shouldn't force a player to do something they don't want to do. This isn't about the "no easy mode for Dark Souls" argument, it's about access to a game that would otherwise be denied to you due to your own biochemical limitations. The more players can gamble unhindered, the better - and if there is an arachnophobia slider, they can even treat themselves in stages if they wish. We, for one, are in favor of more sliders and barrier-free gaming!

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