Should Games Like Lethal Company Pander to Phobias, and Where Should the Line Be Drawn?

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You may have been made aware of the recent debacle with the Lethal Company devs responding to one player’s request to “turn off the spiders.” This sparked a whole debate as to whether, in a horror game, the things that are found horrific should be able to be removed.

There are arguments for both sides, of course. In an age where accessibility is everything, it is important to cater to individual needs. However, in the same breath, if you don’t enjoy the core mechanic of the game, maybe find something else.

Harmless horror

Image: Zeekerss

A requirement of horror games is to horrify. Otherwise, they simply wouldn’t be horror games. When the request came through to switch off the spiders in Lethal Company, a number of players became rather incensed. The devs replied in their Discord that they would certainly think about it, and this only fanned the flames.

Lethal Company wouldn’t be the first game to do it by any means. Both Hogwarts Legacy and Star Wars Jedi: Survivor have an Arachnophobia mode made especially to keep the game spider-free. This is more understandable in games like these, as their core mechanic isn’t fear — the spiders just happen to be a part of the environment.

The horror genre is supposed to play to fear and make the player feel uncomfortable. Obviously, horror isn’t for everyone, but that’s why it’s labeled as such. To start removing the very things the devs worked so hard to optimize toward horror is to remove the true essence of what the game is. If horror is too horrific, then it’s doing its job properly. If the rollercoaster is too scary, then maybe you should stick to the teacups rather than asking the ride to slow down.

Keep bending, and it’ll break

Crewmate Staring Down A Hallway In Lethal Company
Image: Zeekerss

The question arises when a game like Lethal Company decides to remove one of its monsters due to players’ fears as to where the line should be drawn. As martyrSaint points out in a Steam discussion, “What of the people who are afraid of the dark? Do they not too also deserve special treatment? Or perhaps those with fears of clowns?” With a game focused on triggering people’s fears and phobias, what is the point at which they will decide a fear is not worth pandering to?

When the devs decide to start adding accessibility options for phobias in a horror game, there could easily be a snowball effect. Today, it’s going to be the spiders — the next, they’ll have to add a lights-on mode where there are no longer dark areas on the map. How do they decide which fears are worth adjusting the game for and which are simply not worth the time? If too much is pandered to, the game will no longer be true horror and may as well just be scrapped from the horror genre entirely.

The problem with the addition of phobia settings in a horror game is simply where the line gets drawn. Of course, making people feel comfortable playing a game is key. But when does it stop helping people play and start actually becoming detrimental to the development team? Adding all the settings and adjusting the environments takes a lot of time. Trying to please everyone would soon become overwhelming.

Maybe Lethal Company isn’t the one

Alien In Lethal Company
Image: Zeekerss

As someone with a crippling fear of being bored to death, I purposefully avoid playing football games. There are millions of other games and genres I can get involved in that have nothing to do with sports. Avoiding them isn’t a hard task. I am not going to start petitioning for football games to be removed or the genre to change in any way.

This, in a way, can be applied to the idea of having an arachnophobia mode in Lethal Company. If you have a phobia of something that is a core part of the game, perhaps the game isn’t for you. There are plenty more games out there that don’t feature spiders as a central part of the gameplay.

Before playing a horror game, it may be best to check reviews. These will often point out trigger warnings. Rather than playing a game that has a common phobia and requesting it be changed, it may be better to try something else. It isn’t like there isn’t enough out there.

Creating an inclusive game for all

Of course, inclusivity is key in most things these days. Creating a world in which everyone can feel included and comfortable is incredibly important. It also helps with sales. A small company like Zeekerss needs to draw as big a crowd as possible in order to keep making the fantastic games they do.

Making people feel welcomed and catered to is not just a great way to broaden the audience but also garner a loyal fanbase. People love being heard, and a dev team that works hand in hand with their fanbase will have a die-hard market forever. However, this kind of adjustment is evidently quite polarizing.

Should games like Lethal Company pander to phobias, and where should the line be drawn?
Image: Zeekerss

By adding an option to turn off the horror in a horror game, Zeekerss has damaged its own integrity in the eyes of some people. The dev team set out to create a game that emphasized horror. By removing it, they are backtracking on something they spent time and effort creating.

Accessibility is nothing new

Accessibility in games has been around for almost as long as games have. Inverting mouse movements, adding colorblind modes, and lowering frame rates are all designed to make people feel more comfortable, no matter their needs. Even Call of Duty games have a trigger warning in them if they feature a particularly horrific scene.

As a poster pointed out in the heated Steam discussion, the setting is, in fact, a setting and will be able to be toggled. It has little to no impact on anyone who doesn’t care for the spiders. If you have no fear, then let the spiders roam free in Lethal Company. Nobody is forcing anyone to lose out on the experience. It’s not like the addition of colorblind mode is forced on us all, or we are all made to play games at 30fps because little Timmy has a disgustingly low frame rate monitor.

Should Games Like Lethal Company Pander To Phobias, And Where Should The Line Be Drawn
YouTube/Brutal Eddie

So, should the spiders stay in Lethal Company?

If you ask me, a game like Lethal Company shouldn’t start trying to remove horror content from a horror game. It goes against the very core mechanic and could quite easily snowball. It isn’t a dig at anyone with particular phobias or even because I think inclusivity isn’t important. It’s that I think once you start pandering, where do you decide to stop?

Of course, in other titles, such as Hogwarts Legacy, the spiders are incredibly lifelike and not exactly a central part of the game. It isn’t a horror, and it isn’t advertised as such. However, Lethal Company is a horror game, and players should expect to be triggered by the content. That’s kind of what it’s all about.

I wouldn’t order mint choc-chip knowing I hate the choc chips and expect the server to pick them out for me. I would just order mint.

For all things Lethal Company, take a look at PC Invasion.

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