Spiders crop up as videogame enemies often, from the Frostbite Spiders roaming around in Skyrim, to the giant Black Tiger boss in Resident Evil. It's difficult to avoid them in games as they make such brilliantly terrifying enemies, with their long hairy legs and unpredictable movements. Andy believes that videogames have a giant insect problem, and this is something that arachnophobes have just had to deal with in the past. Whether that's by wincing through the scary bits, or passing their KBM over to a friend.
You can imagine everyone's surprise when Grounded—Obsidian Entertainment's take on a 'Honey, I Shrunk the Kids'-esque survival game featuring giant bugs—launched in Early Access with an Arachnophobia Safe Mode. Curious players can run into an Orb Weaver or Wolf Spider early on when exploring the huge backyard, and Obsidian has taken extra care to realistically mimic all the creepy gestures that spiders are capable of. Not only does this reinforce the value of a mode that makes these encounters more comfortable for those that are particularly sensitive to spider-related content, it ensures that those who aren't bothered by them can enjoy the full experience.
My irrational fears almost feel as though they've been justified by Grounded's spider behaviours. I'm sure the tiny spider scurrying across my kitchen floor is intentionally heading straight at me to attack, and the one that routinely spins its web outside my front door is plotting against me. In Grounded, spiders are aggressive mobs from the get go, so straying too close to one will have it marching through the grass to launch itself at you. Even if you're not afraid of spiders, Grounded's eight-legged horrors will still give you a hard time. Their one-shot attacks make them menacing in the early game, and you need to take on a variety of other powerful insects to acquire the tools capable of slaying them.
Despite fears that have me checking under my pillows after seeing even the tiniest spider in my house, video game versions never manage to unsettle me in the same way. That said, Grounded gets pretty close, and I'm still grateful for Obsidian's decision to include an Arachnophobia Safe Mode. Located in the accessibility menu, players can adjust spider models and sounds to be less spider-like. There's a slider that allows you to make minor adjustments, like reducing the number of legs they have, but these can be removed entirely to leave a tame, floating ball with eyes. Thankfully this doesn't affect the difficulty at all, so you don't need to compromise your hardcore survival woes as a Borrower-sized human in a hazardous garden just because spiders freak you out.
The Arachnophobia Safe Mode takes some getting used to, but it certainly takes the edge off. Spotting a blob swaying ahead of me felt a bit out of place in the otherwise rich environment, but it strips back all spider-related anxieties with the settings maxed out. It's hard to feel intimidated by a ball of goo, but there are reminders that players should still take it seriously. It growls and charges like a regular spider, and the sound of it brushing through the grass reinforces that it's a big creature intent on knocking you over.
Surprisingly, the most unsettling thing I've experienced so far had nothing to do with spiders. Taking out a ladybug and harvesting its head to craft an upgraded axe takes the cake so far. Rather than put up a fight, the game bugged and the poor creature just stood there defenselessly, making pained sighs as I poked it with my spear. I knew that I was at a disadvantage taking on a larger enemy in the opening hours of the game and this threw me off entirely. Knowing that a spider can one-shot you makes it a lot harder to feel guilty when you finally beat one.
Whether you're taking them on in their regular terrifying form, or need to turn the realism down a few notches, it's worth hopping into Grounded's backyard and exploring it yourself.