Escape room designers take a lot of factors into account when creating a scary escape game. This includes the three basic types of fear: primal, irrational, and rational. Knowing the differences between these main types of fear is what makes or breaks a scary escape room. The best designers know how to creatively exploit different types of fear to thrill and immerse you. So to help you understand some of the science behind scary escape games, we’ve broken down the three basic types of fear for you.
Rational fears occur where there is a real, imminent threat. If someone is brandishing a knife at you, the fear of being stabbed is a rational fear. Fear of death is rational. On a less extreme note, losing a child in a very crowded venue is a rational fear. You will not find an escape game that uses rational fear to scare you, because that would mean you are in genuine danger.
Primal fear is defined as an innate fear that is programmed into our brains. These are fears like arachnophobia (fear of spiders) or ophidiophobia (fear of snakes). They are natural fears because of human evolution. A human that was afraid of snakes was less likely to be bitten by one than the human who wasn’t, therefore humans with a healthy fear had a higher survival rate. Rooms that use air pressure to create the sensation of something crawling down your back are relying on your primal fears to generate a reaction. Escape games, and even horror movies, that manipulate your primal fears are almost guaranteed to get a response because our brains are so hard coded to react to them.
Irrational fears are the ones that don’t make logical sense and can vary greatly from person to person. One half of your brain is scared, and the other half doesn’t understand why. These are fears like coulrophobia (fear of clowns) and phasmophobia (fear of ghosts). Escape Games Canada loves missions that work with your irrational fears to entice a thrill out of you, like The Haunting of Noriko. The Haunting of Noriko mission is a two-storey haunted house escape that plays off the fear of ghosts. You must help bring peace to the vengeful soul of Noriko before she murders you. Of the three basic types of fear, irrational fears are the easiest, and most fun, to exploit.
Now that you know all about the three basic types of fear, you might be able to recognize them when you play your next scary escape game. Knowing the basic types of fear can be fun and fascinating. We know this information probably won’t help in the moment when you’re afraid. Still, you might consider why you were afraid when the lights went out, or whether or not you have any irrational fears that affect you. Let’s face it, knowledge is power, therefore knowledge of your fears should help you overcome them!
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