Not being someone who likes the feeling of being scared, I don’t play many horror games. Alan Wake and BioShock are about as creepy as it gets for me. That’s why I had very little interest in playing Resident Evil 7 biohazard — at least until I heard how amazing it is. I’m not a big Resident Evil fan — zombies and plagues aren’t my thing — but my boyfriend is, so when he decided to play biohazard in VR, it was the perfect opportunity for me to indulge my interest in the game without actually having to play it myself.
I’ve just been watching him play. It’s still scary.
It’s weird, the secondhand experience of watching someone else play. It has the potential to be frustrating, as I might want to do something in the game based on what I’m seeing onscreen, but I don’t have the controller in my hands. However, with Resident Evil 7, creeping through corridors at a slow pace seems to be the way to go, and while it’s cool to see the dark shadows and hear the creaking floorboards, I don’t necessarily want to be more invested than that. I’m happy to let someone else do the work.
Of course, I am totally free to help my partner find clues and navigate the house. It’s not always a big discussion, especially since, during some play sessions, I’m half doing something else like checking my phone or editing a scene in the novel I’m working on — so maybe I’m not paying enough attention to know which door he’s talking about that “we” just saw five minutes ago. But still, it’s fun to be able to help sometimes. Being consulted on little decisions — “Should I save the game before I go over there?” “What should I keep in my inventory?” — makes me feel like I’m at least a partial player.
But that sense of being in the game only goes so far, which is just how I like it with a game this scary. When someone jumps out at my partner and me — I’ll just say “us” since we’re both seeing everything onscreen — we both jump. But I don’t have the responsibility of having to react fast while my heart is still pounding. He’s the one who has to scramble away or shoot an in-game weapon, not me. That’s kind of nice.
It’s like I experience the game, but I’m able to set my own threshold for how much I want to be invested. My heartrate still skyrockets during a jump scare, but I’m not physically jerking my head back like my partner with his VR headset on. I don’t feel the same sense of urgency as I would if I had a virtual shotgun in my hand that I had to use against an enemy who appeared right in front of me.
Instead, I see that it’s just on a TV screen in my comfortable, cozy little living room. The lights are on outside that VR headset. I don’t have to react in any way, other than to remember to breathe after a scare. When someone is after “us”, I don’t feel like they’re after me. I don’t have to do anything. I’m just watching. And if it gets to be too much for me, I’ll just check my phone for a little bit.