While traditional horror video games seek to provide an exciting thrill, Nevermind is a biofeedback-enhanced horror game that has greater ambitions. It requires you to manage your anxiety in alarming scenarios – the more stressed you feel, the harder the game becomes.
The aim, says Erin Reynolds, its creator, is for players to learn how to not let their fears get the best of them in nerve-wracking situations and hopefully carry over their gameplay-acquired skills into the real world.
A Garmin cardio chest strap akin to the ones gym-goers use to monitor their workout acts as a sensor, relaying the player’s heart rate information to the game through an ANT+ USB stick.
The game calculates the player’s Heart Rate Variability (HRV), measuring the change in the duration between their heartbeats to figure out when their “fight or flight” response has kicked in and adjusts the gameplay accordingly. While Nevermind can’t zero in on specific stressful emotions like frustration or upset, it’s able to detect the intensity of the player’s feelings and gauge how deeply they feel stress at any point during the game.
Instead of having fanged horrors and hordes of zombies jump out from around corners, which might need a learning curve, the game is more subtle in inducing fear and is designed to appeal to non-gamers too. It creates a warped chaotic atmosphere where the creepiness factor is slowly dialed up, with huge screaming heads, blood-spattered doors and thrashing body bags.
Assuming the role of a newly hired Neruroprober at the Neurostalgia Institute, players boldly dive into the troubled minds of traumatized patients who are repressing their most horrific memories. To root out the cause of their suffering, players will need to solve puzzles and be willing to face a host of unimaginable terrors before the patient’s subconscious is ready to release its painful memories.
“This psychological phenomenon is based on how some people cope with severe psychological trauma in real life,” Reynolds tells Gizmag. “These are individuals who experienced an event so terrible at some point in their lives that their conscious minds locked all memories of that event away completely. Although the patients can’t recall exactly what, if anything, happened to them, the repressed memories end up festering within their subconscious and create immense challenges in their attempts to live a normal life.”
The sensor detects how scared or stressed the player gets as they move through the patient’s subconscious, recovering ten Polaroid photographs that each represent a distressful memory. Once all the photographs have been collected, they’ll have to differentiate the false memories from the five true ones and reconstruct the traumatizing memory.
If they start to feel more fear, which the game sets out to trigger, the gameplay becomes perceptibly difficult. While some situations impact players more than others, they are all designed to push the player’s buttons.
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