Nightmares stemming from OCD

Have any scary nightmares? Share them with us!
Arkham
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Nightmares stemming from OCD

Post by Arkham » Thu Oct 10, 2013 5:04 pm

Matt, thanks again for doing this project. I have OCD, and one of my obsessions goes back to when I was very young and saw an Amazing Stories episode "Mirror, Mirror" (thank you internet for telling me what it was, even though it is over 25 years old!). Whenever the man looked into a mirror he would see a phantom that would appear to be trying to kill him in the reflection (but no one else could see it). For years, I would duck under any mirror I came across in order to avoid them, because some how I thought if I wasn't able to see my reflection, I was safe. Since the game is based on mental illness and horror, I would love to see a scene where the protagonist has to go through a hallway full of mirrors and must duck under them. When the player passes the mirror, something can happen in the reflection. The player can appear to wither away in the reflection or a phantom can creep towards the player (again, only visible in the reflection) and take out the player. If the player fails to duck after a few seconds (and instead gets caught up in the awesome animation) they will fall into a new nightmare. Anyone care to add their OCD-induced nightmares?

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matt
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Re: Nightmares stemming from OCD

Post by matt » Thu Oct 10, 2013 11:12 pm

That is a really good idea. Unfortunately, mirrors are notoriously hard to do from a technical standpoint - especially in 2D, so I'm not sure we can implement it... :-/ I will definitely give some more thought to how we could do mirrors with our tech.

Anyway, thank you so much for sharing your fears with me!
-Matt Gilgenbach
Lead Frightener at Infinitap Games

macaca
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Re: Nightmares stemming from OCD

Post by macaca » Wed Oct 30, 2013 6:01 pm

I really love Arkham's mirror ideas if they fit with your story and you can figure out how to technically pull it off in the game. I was creeped out just by reading them. If you can't do mirrors for technical reasons, maybe you might be able to achieve a similar effect by using shadow outlines, where either something horrific happens to your shadow (like a decapitation), or you could see the shadow of a monster creeping behind you when nothing is really there, or even a combination of those two (the shadow monster kills your shadow-self, leaving you to wonder if a real monster will kill your real self in a similar fashion). I'm also reminded of the scene in F.W. Murnau's silent film Nosferatu (1922) where Count Orloc's shadow kills a victim by compressing her heart. I think shadows can genuinely terrifying because they can move and transform quickly and in bizarre ways, and being 2-d are able to squeeze through any crevice and cannot be touched, manipulated, or easily controlled. And as Sigmund Freud's student Carl Jung would point out, shadows are also scary because they reflect a dark version of ourselves that we often try to hide from.

Arkham's idea also reminds me Oscar Wilde's frightening morality tale, "The Picture of Dorian Gray". I won't spoil this story for people who haven't read it (the plot is well-summarized on Wikipedia), but the story uses a painted portrait in a similar way to Arkham's mirror. The portrait supernaturally changes to reflect (and also foreshadow) less apparent changes happening in the real world. Perhaps you could have a portrait of the character in the game, which seems normal at first but over time changes to foreshadow something gruesome that may happen to him, or which reflects the character's internal guilt or fear, conveyed by some terrifying frozen facial expression that happens to suddenly be there when you look back at the portrait.

Given the topic of this thread, I'll also share something OCD-related that frightened me a lot as a child. Like Arkham's fear of the mirror phantom (which caused him to duck under mirrors) this is not really a nightmare, but rather is also related to a habit I developed to prevent some unspeakable horror. In my case, it had to do with a story my father told me when I was little. What he told me was that when he himself was a child, he used to fear that there was a monster living in every toilet which would awaken only after dark. After my father flushed the toilet, he would need to get into his bed before the toilet's siphon action finished (the "gurgle" that happens about 10 seconds after flushing) or else the monster would catch him. Apparently the act of flushing released the monster along with the water which was rushing into the basin, and the monster had that 10 second window in which to capture any children not in bed and take them back with him into the whirling void at the bottom of the basin (I assumed that the monster's travel was tied to the flow of water into and out of the toilet).

My father told me this story (minus the mechanical details on how the monster got around, which I added soon afterward to allay my reasonable skepticism... after all, I knew it was important to remain logical about all this) not to be cruel but because he was trying to show he related to my own fears. (I had just shared with him my own fear that the dark outlines of clothes draped around my room transformed into monsters when the lights were out.) Unfortunately, rather than giving me security, I simply added my father's unique childhood fear to my own set of more typical childhood fears like the one about the clothing-monster (by the way, the clothing-monster was depicted really well in Pixar's Monsters, Inc.- man, I sure wish that movie had been released when I was a kid). Anyway, in my version of the toilet monster, it was not necessary to actually get into the bed to stop the monster from reaching me after flushing- I merely had to touch the bed post. Somehow doing so would create a protective barrier around me, which I must say is pretty silly on reflection (getting under the covers like my father did would probably have been much safer). But regardless, for years every toilet flush became a predatory countdown, a terrifying rush to touch my bedpost before the toilet stopped. I never had the courage to look back, making my pursuer seem all the more real. To this day, I sometimes get a chill after flushing the toilet at night, though I've (mostly) overcome the habit of touching my bedpost. I admit that I am still tempted, just to be on the safe side.

I actually find it to be quite interesting the way in which these habitual OCD patterns, which are often based upon unseen fears, intensify over time rather than become extinguished. This completely goes against standard learning theory predicts, which is that a failure to be punished (or rewarded) will decrease the rate of a response to a stimulus. If a mirror phantom never attacked Arkham, and if a toilet flush monster never captured me, then why did we get more and more frightened every year, and perform our OCD habits with greater and greater zeal? The answer may lie in a principle from the 1950s called "two-factor theory," conceived by a psychologist named Orval Hobart Mowrer. Unfortunately this theory has been largely forgotten by modern researchers in the field of psychology, and it is difficult nowadays to find a paper that even addresses this behavioral enigma. However, I think what happened to Arkham and myself may be at the root of fear-related problems which plague many people, not only those clinically diagnosed with OCD. According to this theory, Arkham and I were in fact being rewarded for our behaviors: after all, every time we performed them we managed to overcome our respective nemeses, who in turn became increasingly real to us with every phyrric victory. I think this explains why my two cats remain terrified of strangers and hide under the bed every time someone comes over. In their minds, every time they do this, they have evaded an unspeakable (um, unpurrable) disaster only by the skin of their teeth, verifying their fears and making them even more likely to act like this the next time.

macaca
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Re: Nightmares stemming from OCD

Post by macaca » Thu Oct 31, 2013 8:36 am

It occurred to me this morning that since your game is 2-d and it is hard to implement convincing mirrors in the background, you might consider trying to use shiny reflective floors instead. Obviously the character's reflection will be upside down if you do this, but you could probably still achieve the same sort of creepy effects Arkham suggested with wall mirrors. Also, it is less visually confusing for the player to tell which of the two sprites the player is controlling is the "real" one, if the one depicting the character's reflection is inverted.

Another variation on the same vein would be to have the player walk along the edge of a shiny lake in the foreground that reflects the player. The advantage of the lake is that it would fit pretty well with a spooky woods level if you put something like that in the game (forests at night are always a frightening motif, as they trigger primordial fears of predation). Also, I think that murky bodies of water can be very scary in and of themselves, given that they can hide creatures that can pull us into an alien underwater world where we cannot breathe, and of course we all start out life in a secure, liquid oxygen environment which we are violently torn from at birth.

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matt
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Re: Nightmares stemming from OCD

Post by matt » Thu Oct 31, 2013 6:05 pm

Wow! That's intense. It's funny how rituals develop. I often try to explain with OCD that there is no rational explanation for why the compulsion is necessary. It's the ritual itself that provides the relief. It doesn't matter if it's the bedpost or under the bed.

I'm not sure if we'll be able to work water reflections into the game, but it is a good idea and would be easier than mirrors.
-Matt Gilgenbach
Lead Frightener at Infinitap Games

ranger_lennier
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Re: Nightmares stemming from OCD

Post by ranger_lennier » Fri Nov 01, 2013 6:43 pm

What's really scary is if the 10-second toilet flushing window left no time for hand-washing. :)
Last edited by ranger_lennier on Sat Nov 02, 2013 12:42 am, edited 1 time in total.

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matt
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Re: Nightmares stemming from OCD

Post by matt » Fri Nov 01, 2013 11:33 pm

My dermatologist told me I should stop washing my hands every time after I go to the bathroom.... That... sounds... awful. I'd rather have eczema issues.
-Matt Gilgenbach
Lead Frightener at Infinitap Games

ranger_lennier
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Re: Nightmares stemming from OCD

Post by ranger_lennier » Sat Nov 02, 2013 12:41 am

A few years ago, the place I was working at switched from some kind of liquid soap to one of those foaming soaps you see a lot these days. And at about the same time, I started getting lots of rashes on the back of my hands, which my doctor eventually attributed to the changed soap. I imagine I looked a little odd bringing my own all-natural liquid soap with me to the restroom at work, but it did stop the rashes.

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matt
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Re: Nightmares stemming from OCD

Post by matt » Sun Nov 03, 2013 11:31 pm

I've seen weirder things at the office than people bringing their own soap. :) Game companies can be crazy!
-Matt Gilgenbach
Lead Frightener at Infinitap Games

macaca
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Re: Nightmares stemming from OCD

Post by macaca » Mon Nov 04, 2013 7:06 pm

Great point ranger_lennier! I guess I forgot to mention how I dealt with the hygienic repercussions of the toilet monster. So I sometimes washed my hands before flushing, then I went to the bathroom and flushed before running to the bed. But usually I would instead wash after the bed-post ritual. I suppose that would make my bed-post kinda gross (or my toilet bowl's handle especially clean), but come on, my life was on the line here! I think it was admirable on my part that I even thought about washing my hands in the midst of these nightly near-death experiences...

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