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Virtual Reality Arachnophobia Therapy Is A Definite Nope

Virtual reality experience Arachnophobia is an application aimed at helping people overcome “irrational fears” of extremely venomous and aggressive spiders. After playing for five minutes, I’ve decided to hang on to my fear a bit longer.

I am not fond of spiders. As I’ve explained previously, this is partly because spiders are the bite-sized living embodiment of evil. Coupled with my large frame, which increases the amount of spiders that could be hiding on my person at any time (SHC—Spider Hosting Capacity), anything fuzzier than a daddy long-legs pretty much paralyzes me with fear.

Arachnophobia, released on Steam earlier this week by IgnisVR, wants to help me overcome my fear.

It bears noting that just about everyone gradually exposes themselves to spiders at some point in their life. They are everywhere. In your bedroom, under the seat of your toilet, in your air conditioning vents, laundry baskets, under the seat of your car—odds are good that a spider has seen you naked at some point, and they probably were not impressed. They like a good set of pedipalps. You do not have pedipalps.

I hope you do not have pedipalps.

This is all beside the point. Can a virtual reality application help me overcome my fear of spiders? Not like this it can’t.

Arachnophobia basically ties you to a chair and glues your hands to a desk. A comforting sign warns you that you are about to be exposed to some of the most venomous and aggressive creatures on the planet. This is not how you begin date. Well, not the second half.

The sign completely undermines the process. These are not daddy long-legs. They are not the garden spiders that are as big as your hand but everyone tells you are completely harmless. They are not tarantulas, the spider equivalent of a stuffed animal. These are deadly creatures.

If your office is filled with deadly creatures, leave the office. Do not glue your hands to the desk and just sit there.

Arachnophobia has five levels. In level one there are no spiders. I like level one. It’s nice. Level two introduces a single spider in a jar, which is okay until it starts to move. I immediately got the urge to pick up the jar and throw it out of the closed window, only my hands would not move.

Level two adds two more spiders to the jar, which felt like more than enough spiders to overpower a jar. The simulation helpfully provides anti-venom and a first-aid kit. I started looking to them at this point. Since my hands could not move, I was not reassured.

Level three removes the jar and lets two spiders loose on your desk. Two deadly, aggressive spiders, just wandering about your frozen hands. One of them stared at my fingers, actively anticipating their taste.

At this point I panicked, because panicking was the right thing to do. If real life had a “Less spiders” option I would never take my eyes off of it.

I lasted about five seconds in level four.

If you ever find yourself in this situation, take a picture before setting the place on fire and diving through the window. Should you survive the fall, show it to the emergency crews. They’ll give you a medal and let you pet their dalmatian.

I did manage to make it to level five, but only after removing my Vive headset and wearing it on my imaginary second head.

In this situation you are dead. There is no door in the room IgnisVR has created. Spiders cover the desk, the floor and the walls. If you look up, they are crawling along the ceiling. They crouch atop the first-aid kit. One guards the anti-venom, daring you to move your hand, which of course you can’t. I have had nightmares exactly like this.

Now I realize that this isn’t an app designed to breeze through in five or six minutes. The idea is to sit with the spiders at each level and learn their ways. Eventually (and this is pure speculation) they will accept you as one of their own, allowing you to watch their young while they hunt for food.

I do not want to be relaxed around spiders, especially not the sort of spiders presented in this application. These are the sort of spiders that get Australia to ban episodes of animated children’s programming.

You don’t treat pyrophobia but putting someone in the middle of a house fire. You don’t shoot a person suffering from ballistophobia (fear of bullets). I can’t see how strapping me to a chair and sprinkling murderous spiders liberally about my office is going to do anything other than give me nightmares and amuse the viewing public.

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