Great moments in PC gaming: When you escape a monster and can finally breathe again

(Image credit: The Chinese Room)

Great moments in PC gaming are bite-sized celebrations of some of our favorite gaming memories.

People have asked me why I always seek out the most harrowing horror games, from Amnesia to Alien: Isolation. Why do I always insist on playing them in a dark room, at night, alone, with around-ear headphones? Do I hate myself? Do I just like pain? Am I some kind of psycho? I’ll answer "No comment" to all of the above. But one reason is that little rush you get when you’re finally safe.

If I remember right from high school biology, there’s some sort of chemical explanation for this. Endorphins or norepinephrine or something. (I got a C in that class.) When some crazy skinned mutant is chasing you through the halls of a spooky mansion or a possessed, mallet-wielding patient seems to have you cornered in the sub-basement of an asylum, your systems go into fight or flight mode. The music dials up the tension. You can practically feel the creature’s breath on your neck as its gurgling growls fill your ears. If anyone burst into my room during one of these sequences, I would probably hurl a lamp at them on pure autopilot.

And then, assuming you don't die, you eventually make it to a safe refuge. A big, sturdy door. A vehicle. A hiding place. Somewhere that thing can't get you. The music either stops, or if the developers were really nice, dissolves into something downright soothing. You're okay now. Your primal instincts go back into hibernation until they're needed again. A wave of relief washes over you that feels better than stepping under a cool shower on a scorching hot day. You're alive. You made it.

That’s the sensation I chase when I brave the darkness and the beasts within over and over. It's like Gandalf appearing on the hillside at dawn in The Two Towers. Suddenly, a perilous situation has become survivable. Suddenly, everything is going to be OK.

At least until I go back out there like a total idiot and do this all again.