Part of the appeal of horror movies and video games is the detachment one has from all those gruesome scenarios. If things get too scary, simply step away. However, a new video game seeks to sink its veritable meat hooks into gamers by literally plugging them into the game. Their only way to escape is to overcome their fear.
“Nevermind” was created by Erin Reynolds as part of her Master of Fine Arts thesis project within the University of Southern California’s Interactive Media and Games Division. The game uses a Garmin cardio chest strap to monitor a player’s heart rate to gauge the gamer’s “fight or flight” response.
Players assume the role of a “neuroprober” at the Neurostalgia Institute where gamers must recover the horrific, repressed memories of traumatized patients. Players must solve puzzles, find Polaroid photos and face nerve-wracking, terrifying scenarios to rid a patient’s subconscious of each memory. However, if the heart monitor detects the gamer is showing fear, then the game becomes more difficult.
“We wanted players to become aware in a very real way of when their anxiety levels were starting to become elevated and reward them for being able to manage that anxiety on the fly,” Reynolds told Gizmag. “We knew making the environment change so significantly that it would impact what the player was doing would get their attention.”
For example, one section include a “car maze,” where players are bombarded with disorienting imagery as they follow a car horn through a twisting labyrinth of wrecked cars. As the player’s stress levels rise, the imagery becomes more distorted until they can’t see.
“Some players become anxious over the car horn, others over the complexity of the maze, some over the imagery — there are a whole host things in this area that can rile up one’s nerves,” Reynolds said. ”The player needs to have a good grasp on how to calm down by this point in the game as it’s a nearly impossible challenge to escape the maze while scared or stressed.”
Reynolds plans on creating a Kickstarter campaign to launch the game in 2014. She and developers also want to explore the game’s potential use in therapy. Until then, checkout some stock footage of Nevermind in this video.
Credit: Erin Reynolds, Nevermind