Happy Spooktober! If you’re anything like me, this is your favorite month. I love getting spooked, watching scary movies, playing games like Five Nights at Freddy’s in the dark. I’m not alone. Who doesn’t like a good scare?
For years, people have enjoyed watching others in terrifying situations on the screen. This doesn’t make us perverse. We experience the fear through the character in the movie or show, and we know it’s not real. But we love it! We seek these thrills constantly, especially around this time of year.
In Five Nights, you work the overnight shift, where your responsibility is to check on the animatronics (and to stay alive). You can’t move from your spot behind a desk, but you can shut the doors one at a time or flash your lights. It limits your control, and gives you limited resources to survive. You can’t move your character, but it keeps you occupied by giving you jobs you have to do over and over.
Part of the reason the game is so popular is the “jumpscare.” If you haven’t played it, you might have watched others play online. They are usually screaming their heads off! Yet they keep playing the game. Why do we love being frightened so much??
Your Brain on Fear
Scientists write about this every Halloween. When we get scared, we experience a specific chemical reaction. The limbic system (part of the brain that regulates emotions) is activated. It sends a signal to the sympathetic nervous system, which sends us into “fight or flight” mode.
In “fight or flight”, we experience an adrenaline (epinephrine) rush. This makes the body do a number of things: heart rate increases, more blood flows to the muscles (which can cause shakiness), the pupils dilate, the digestive system shuts down, and we start breathing faster, among other things.
Because we are safe and we’re not actually in the face of a real threat, once the scary situation has passed, the parasympathetic nervous system helps us calm down and regulate ourselves again. This calming down period can cause a feeling of “accomplishment,” because we have experienced the chemical reaction to the fear and have overcome it.
So, what is your favorite way of getting spooked?