It’s December and we’re on the cusp of 2021. At this point, it’s not controversial to state that 2020 has collectively been the worst for all of us. Like a lot of my friends, I’ve had trouble finding time to disconnect from the chaos of it all and enjoy myself. But then I discovered Phasmophobia.
For the unfamiliar, Phasmophobia is a co-op ghost investigation game where you can buddy up with three others to uncover what type of big spooky is haunting a location. The game also picks up your mic for an added level of overwhelming terror. You have tons of tools at your disposal, all of which can be used to gather evidence and help you deduce what kind of otherworldly being is lurking in your target location. After identifying what’s there, some man over a radio gives you twenty dollars for a picture you took while sacrificing your friend to a demon. It’s neat.
Anyway, as I was skimming Steam one night the game popped up when I filtered for co-op horror games. It had literally only been out an hour or so and had maybe two or three reviews. I read the premise, was immediately intrigued, and bought it for me and three friends as a “2020 sucks, please find time to goof off with me so I don’t lose my mind” gift.
Since it was right at launch, we had no idea what was happening and we totally skipped the tutorial, mostly because I was too afraid to play alone. We made little progress that night, but wandering aimlessly around haunted houses and screaming for ghosts to come out was still oddly entertaining.
A few days later, we were ghost hunting masters. Everyone in my little friend group fell into their own role on the team and Phasmophobia became our nightly ritual. There was no question about it, as soon as everyone was off of work we all quickly hopped into Discord and drove our shabby little van to haunted schools, houses, and asylums.
For myself, I was always the spirit box girl plus whatever other two items my friends didn’t bring into the investigation. They hated it, but there was nothing I loved more than turning the lights off in some haunted bathroom and yelling, “Do you want me to leave?” loudly over and over again until the ghost would eventually respond with “Die.” In a more hilarious outcome, sometimes the ghost misheard my question and responded just by saying “Adult,” because it thought I was asking for its age. Conversations with demons often went like, “Do you want to hurt me?” followed by a succinct, “Adult.”
Everyone would laugh about that too until the lights in the house began flashing and an old man carrying a sickle would stagger down the hallway after us. As a ghost hunting pro tip, run into bedrooms and close the door behind you so your friends get stuck in the hallway. If the ghost kills them first, it’ll leave you alone.
My friends found other niches. Even though I loved talking to ghosts, I was actually a huge baby when any sort of demon, oni, or yurei would decide to show its face. I had a couple of friends who always took in a camera for photographic evidence of the paranormal because they’re incredibly brave souls. The ghost would come out and start hunting, and they would leap into action to find it and snap a photo while I put as many doors as humanly possible between me and whatever was out there.
Speaking of hunting, that’s when most of your best screams and laughs will happen. There comes a certain point in Phasmophobia when the thing lurking in the building has had enough of your shit, so your sanity percentage drops and they come out. This is the only time when you can die in the game and your shot at living is by either cleverly placing a crucifix or managing to hide somewhere the ghost can’t see or hear you. I am terrible at both of these things.
There was one time when I played on professional difficulty with a few friends on the biggest map, Asylum. One of them decided they were tired of our ghosty playing coy, so he shouted over and over for the thing to show itself. Well, it did show itself, but instead of going after him it took off after me and everyone watched as I was chased from one end of the Asylum to the other by some decaying person dragging its leg. That was the longest I’ve ever been hunted and I’m still terrified to enter that damn map. I should’ve jumped into a room and locked them all out.
Since it’s in Steam Early Access, Phasmophobia is kind of clunky. Your character model will do hilarious backbends and sometimes wind up floating in doorframes after being killed by a frightening child, but it’s still incredibly charming. There are so many tiny things that make the experience the perfect ghost hunting adventure from creepy singing in your ears, to ghosts slamming doors in your face and discovering haunted ouija boards.
When I stumbled upon it, I had no idea Phasmophobia would grow into the phenomenon it has become and it’s been amazing to watch its rise. I’m well over level 100 now, and while I don’t play as much before, it’ll definitely be something I return to in the future. Developer Kinetic Games still has updates in the pipeline and as long as Phasmophobia still has new goodies in store, I’m always down to yell at demons in an abandoned laundry room for a few bucks.
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Andrea Shearon is a news editor at TheGamer who loves RPGs and anything horror related. Find her on Twitter via @Maajora.
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