Things that make you go glerk

Some of us hate spiders; some of us aren’t too keen on crowds. Me, I hate heights. In recent years it’s got bad enough that even heights in games are liable to make me lose my lunch, and while I may write amusingly about it here, it’s actually anything but funny. And the worst thing? Every game and game expansion in the last 3 years features areas that either hang in space or are precipitously perched right next to — or worse, over — horrifying drops into nothingness, with corresponding quests that take you right to the edge of nausea. EQ2 Kingdom of Sky: bunch of floating islands that you have to ride a little cloud to travel between (oh yeah, like I’m going to do that, ever). WoW The Burning Crusade: bunch of floating landmasses with really nasty eroded frittered edges that are just asking you to fling yourself off. Warhammer Online’s Inevitable City: floating in purple nothingness. Spellborn: bunch of floating landmasses. EQ2 The Shadow Odyssey: towns perched on mile-high cliffs, towns perched on mile-high trees.

Game developers hate acrophobics and they’re laughing their asses off as we hug the floor in our computer rooms, heart triphammering, unable to move. Thank god for recall spells. 

Okay, or stuff high up in the air just happens to be fashionable right now. I guess the next trend will be underwater cities or something.

The thing is, I’ve got bad enough about it that when I land on a giant tree with little gaps here and there to show me just how terror-inducingly high I am and how there is actually nothing but empty air beneath my feet (stupid little tree trunky stuff doesn’t count), I’m unable to do anything but run from the computer and try to avoid a full-blown panic attack. Yes, I know it’s all in my head — knowing that rationally doesn’t help a whole lot irrationally. 

Oddly enough, it’s not just any height, it’s unsupported ones. Sitting at the top of a cliff is not too bad, as long as nobody makes me go right to the edge and look down, and provided there’s a horizon. Lack of a horizon is killer. Knowing there’s nothing solid beneath my feet (or my character’s feet) is also a killer, which is why you’re not going to see me in those building-hugging glass elevators anytime soon. Flying on whatever contraption is used to get from A to B in games (griffon, balloon, carpet) is also fine, as long as there’s solid ground somewhere below — the cloud rides in Kingdom of Sky and the griffon rides in Burning Crusade’s Hellfire Peninsula islets are most assuredly NOT fine and I won’t be doing those again.


I was going to take a “not ok” screenie to compare with the balloon shot above (in which I was fine), but I don’t love you enough to put myself through going to KoS and taking a picture of the edge of nothing. Glerk.

So, when I get quests that take me to these places and make me do these things I absolutely CANNOT do without a lot of expensive therapy… I have to rely on the kindness of the spousal unit. And trust me, those quests are everywhere. Like I said, game designers all around the MMO universe are snickering at those of us with a fear of heights. “I know!” one of them must have said, capering with glee (any resemblence to goblins is purely accidental), “We’ll make them jump over the edge of a waterfall into apparent nothingness! If that doesn’t make them hurl chunks, I don’t know what will! Teehee!” In the last couple of weeks I’ve thrown myself off the waterfall not once, but thrice, partly because of the quest and partly because of my own dumbassishness, been fired out of a cannon (which oddly enough wasn’t too bad, provided I didn’t look down, and it was over quickly), and wandered around on a tree talking to frogs. I say “I” but “I” was actually completely remote from the whole process. I tried to watch the waterfall-fall but after a quick glimpse of my gal floating leisurely down through nothing but empty space, with a distant island to provide stomach-churning perspective, I gave up; now I leave the room and let hubby direct my character.

Yesterday’s cannon/balloon/airship/mile-high tree capers had me damn near to the quivering jelly stage. It’s good blog post material, but it truly, truly sucks and I truly, truly hope the heights fad in MMOs passes soon and I can play games and expansions and do quests that do not involve triggering panic attacks. 

14 thoughts on “Things that make you go glerk

  1. Cliff edges in games are simply a way of limiting your movement. In a lot of games it’s an easy way to mark the edge of the (game) world.

    The game with seemingly the biggest cliffs ever must be Halo, and falling off them is very very easy.

    1. I’m lucky that i’m Arachnophobic and spiders in games are never lifelike enough to trigger it.

  2. I don’t think it’s a trend at all, it’s part of the genre. Where else are you going to find this fantastic and mystical places? Certainly not in the real world. 🙂

    I remember delving into Temple of Ro in EQ2, way down into the depths where there are fire giants on these platforms deep in a lava filled cavern with the walkways being glass. 🙂 That was scary.

    I never did jump off to see what happened… hmm… yet another reason to subscribe to EQ2 again. hehe

  3. I think this is “blue car” syndrome, to an extent.

    Since heights bother you, you really notice them and so it feels like they’re everywhere.

    If you had arachnaphobia, you’d think “Why do we ALWAYS have to fight spiders?” Angela actually has arachnaphobia and I sympathetically notice that every game has spiders to fight through almost every level.

    Which doesn’t mean I’m not sympathetic to your plight. And I guess the cloud ride things are a way to evoke “mystical” and wanting to be able to fly is a common fantasy.

    Think if you had speluncaphobia (fear of caves…I’m not sure that’s really what its called)… how many games send you into caves or dungeons?

  4. In The Lord of the Rings Online™, all elven architecture demands cliffs. If there is no risk of falling to your death, the place is not complete. Celondim and Rivendell are both perched atop long falls, and they add a few heights of their own. I assume they look down on Galadriel’s capital city in Lorien, which is built in trees and in most places would cause broken limbs rather than instant death.

  5. Neil can’t even be in the same room as me when I play Prince of Persia on the PS2. All that swinging, wall-walking and leaping over, around and along vertigo-inducing heights makes him physically sick.

    Obviously, doesn’t bother me!

  6. When my brother and I were in LotRO last month, we were killings orcs in some ruins way up high. I jump a crack in a bridge not much bigger than my character and turned just in time to see my brother somehow miss the bunny hop of a jump and go falling down into a next of orcs below us that had respawned – and since in LotRO falling damange = speed debuff, he couldn’t get away. And me? I was laughing so hard I couldn’t get to him fast enough. Ahh, good times.

    Anyway, seriously, do no go jumping off the skyscrapers in City of Villains. I did that once with the camera pointed down and my stomache was up in my throat – and I *love* heights. So that would probably cause you to need therapy. What? I’m just trying to be helpful. (-;

  7. I’m afraid of heights too – I think everyone is too a certain extent. I actually make a point of jumping off of cliffs and what-not, as it leads to that roller-coaster pit-of-your-stomach jumping thing, and maybe it helps to overcome the real life phobia somewhat ^^

  8. Watching movies where there’s anyone hanging onto a ledge for dear life… I might be sitting on the floor, but I’ll be hanging onto the couch! Same thing in games like this, too – more afraid of just looking down than dying.

  9. The best way I’ve found to deal with my own (admittedly mild) acrophobia is to play characters with safe fall abilities. With the fae in EQ2 and the extended gliding power, instead of falling – my characters fly. I deliberately leap off high cliffs just cause the gliding down is so fun.

  10. Oh Ysh! You poor thing!

    I am not overly afraid of heights, but I do get a bit jumpy when the roller coaster is reaching the top and has that little… pause… just before plunging down the other side. I have the milisecond panic attack of “OH JEEEBUS WE’RE NEVER GETTING DOWN FROM HEREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!”

    I get that same feeling from heights in games, and I LOVE it! Skyscraper jumping in City of Heroes (Super Jump is the best power ever!), hanging out on the edges of the KoS islands in EQ2, even old school Velious in EQ! Getting into those situations that I would NEVER NEVER put myself into in real life is a blast.

    But the ultimate has to be Assassin’s Creed. I make it a point to climb to the highest thing in every zone I go into. And they have this AMAZING ability called Eagle’s Leap (or something like that) where you can LEAP off the forty-gazillion story church spire and land in the itty bitty miniscule hay cart down at the bottom. SUCH A RUSH!

    Ok, somewhere this changed from commisserating with you to exalting in heights. I, personally, don’t have any drastic phobias that are exacerbated by MMOs. I totally see your point though. I think it shows the verisimilitude of these worlds that they can induce such reactions on us in the comfort of our own computer room!

  11. Never. Ever. EVER go to the Shadow Shard in City of Heroes then.

    Floating islands in a sea of nothingness with geysers designed to hurl you from one to the other.

    1. GLERK!

      Actually, CoX was the least bad in terms of acrophobia (aside from that place you mention that I never saw), because it was just good old solid ground with good old tall buildings. Flying isn’t a problem for me as long as I’m either a) in control or b) entirely NOT in control (as with griffon rides, etc, where you’re on rails anyway).

      It’s the idea that there’s nothing beneath my feet, or that there’s a drop into nothing just 10′ over there, virtual or otherwise, that really gets me.

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