Shivers down your spine (a QotM answer)

October’s Question of the Month is brought to you by Ian from A Geeky Gal: long-time blogger, video game player, anime watcher and all round lovely lady. To find out more about him and his site, as well as how you can get involved, take a look at this post.

It’s often the strangest things that scare you, and what frightens one person won’t affect another in the slightest. This has been proven by October’s QotM thanks to some curious responses: rather than give typical blood-splattered horror answers, many people have mentioned releases outside this expected genre when talking about the video games which have made the hairs stand up on the back of their necks.

I understand where they’re coming from. I’ve been creeped out when entering dark rooms in the Greenbriars’ house in Gone Home; on edge while dealing with Sirrus and Achenar in Myst despite them being safely trapped away in Linking Books; and shocked by the unexpected foes found in the mines of The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. In-your-face frights are scary and will certainly have you screaming, but it’s often those more subtle things which will stay in your mind afterwards and haunt your dreams…

After convincing my parents I had far too much coursework to go to a family party, I’d been left home alone one evening in the mid-90s. But rather than getting out the books, I invited a small group of friends over to keep me company and we ended up playing a video game after they saw the stack of boxes piled up next to the CRT monitor. I’d visited the gaming stall at our local market just a few days before to pick up something to see me through the summer holidays, so now was a good time to start it.

We huddled around the screen to see where this adventure would take us, the sun slowly setting through the window turning the room gradually darker. Shivers‘ story started when our teenaged character was dared by their friends to spend the night in the grounds of Professor Windlenot’s Museum of the Strange and Unusual. The fact that the place was considered to be haunted ever since its creator’s mysterious disappearance 15 years earlier wasn’t a deterrent, and after solving a few puzzles we found ourselves standing inside the grand building.

Unfortunately for us however, we weren’t alone. In 1980 two ‘nerds’ had broken into the museum themselves and accidentally released ten Ixupi from a set of ancient ceramic vessels from the Moche Valley. These evil spirits were lurking within chemical elements such as sand, metal, wood and electricity, and were intent of sucking the Ka (life-force) out of anyone they came into contact with. You can probably now figure out what happened to the Professor and the nerds…

As we solved puzzles to get further into the building, everyone in my own group was trying to keep their cool. We had to hunt down each vessel and its corresponding cover then use them to trap the correct Ixupi before sunrise, without them lashing out and stealing away our limited amount of Ka. We all let out a scream the first time we encountered one of the spirits at the underground river and it attacked us – before trying to cover it off and laugh it off because the game was ‘stupid’. You know how it is with teenagers.

Shivers, video game, ghost, spirit, water, Ixupi, river, boat

The first thing I did after my friends left for the night was go around the house with the family dog in tow and turn on the light in every single room. The skin prickled on the back of my neck each time I heard an unexpected sound and my overactive imagination was certain there was somebody there with me. I sat in the living room freaking out and was kind of grateful when my parents and younger brother arrived home, even if my dad did tell me off about the lights and for wasting electricity.

When I watch videos of Shivers now, I find it laughable I could find something as silly-looking so scary back then. But the story played on my mind and I found excuses to not be left alone for a long time after that summer evening. Even now as an adult I have a recurring dream every once in a while, where I’m searching for something unknown through a large building full of hundreds of rooms while something is stalking me… could it be the Ixupi?

Just one question: who on earth thought it would be a good idea to imprison evil life-sucking spirits inside some incredibly-delicate and extremely-breakable vases?

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