__I'm currently spending my free time playing Dragon Age: Origins. Yeah, after completing and (for the most part) loving the Mass Effect trilogy, I decided to check out BioWare's other big seller. I'll save my thoughts on the game as a whole for my next "first impressions" post, but for now, I have something to say about one type of enemy you encounter: the spiders.
__Now, most other times I've encountered giant spiders in games, they've freaked me out bigtime! Resident Evil and Skyrim immediately spring to mind. But for some reason, the spiders in Dragon Age: Origins don't bother me at all, and I've been trying to put my finger on why that is.
__First of all, let me point out, I am not afraid of spiders in real life. There's no denying they look unpleasant, and I do throw every spider I see out the nearest window because I don't want them around, but at the same time, I don't live in a country that has venomous ones, so I know any spider I'm likely to encounter is completely harmless. But running into giant spiders in video games is another matter entirely, because I can't think of anything more horrifying than finding yourself small enough to be prey for a spider! (That's probably why Shelob from Return of the King also gave me nightmares: because she was presented as catching and eating her prey just like a real spider would.)
__So, back to my original question: why did they scare me in Resident Evil and Skyrim but not here? Well, in Skyrim's case, the first-person perspective may have been a major part of it. But Resident Evil and Dragon Age are both third-person games, so how did one make giant spiders scary but not the other? I think it's for a few reasons, actually.
__One: Resident Evil put a ton of effort into making the spiders look realistic, right down to their movement. The sound effects of their footfalls in the silence is also enough to make you feel distinctly uncomfortable.
__Two: in Resident Evil, you see the spiders crawling on the ceiling, so you dread having to pass underneath them for fear of them dropping on you. Yeah, for some reason, enemies on the ceiling always get to me! It's the same reason I find the barnacles to be the most nightmarish enemies in Half-Life 2 – except instead of dropping on you, they drag you up to your doom.
__Three: you feel so much more vulnerable in Resident Evil, whereas in Dragon Age their attacks do very little damage because of how many hit points you have. That's hardly surprising, considering they're two completely different types of games: one's a survival horror and the other's an RPG.
__And four: the way Resident Evil is presented makes them feel so much bigger. They're in tight, enclosed environments, while all the locations in Dragon Age, even the indoor ones, look like wide open spaces. That, though, may be the result of another related reason: the characters in Dragon Age look much smaller on the screen, with a lot of space around them, which makes the enemies look smaller too. In other words, the game's presentation makes the enemies seem much less imposing. They look and feel more like chess pieces than living, breathing opponents, but in Resident Evil they actually feel alive and actively hunting you.
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