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I am currently designing a spider as a monster for my game. During my research I found that there seems to be a surprisingly large amount of players who suffer from extreme arachnophobia and get panic attacks when they see a spider on their screen, even when in a context of a video game. This makes it impossible for them to enjoy games which feature spiders. There is a whole community of modders who work on mods to remove any spiders from popular games and thus make them playable for these people.

So I wondered if I might alienate a part of my target audience by adding spiders to my game. Are there any reliable numbers about how large the community of arachnophobic gamers really is?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Just add an option to disable spiders? I don't really like this question. I find it hard to believe there's reliable data on this. Further, it would be impossible to say is the gamers that have arachnophobia overlap with the gamers that would purchase your game (since it's even more unlikely that there's data on the numbers of arachnophobic gamers by game genre). \$\endgroup\$
    – House
    Sep 20 '14 at 15:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ How about rewording to "Should I avoid adding spiders to my game to protect arachnophobic players?" That's the core question behind asking for stats, right? (It would also leave room for answers in case detailed statistics don't exist.) \$\endgroup\$
    – Anko
    Sep 20 '14 at 16:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think a question asking for statistics (which are obtainable or at least extrapolat-able from stats on the general population) is more objective than "should I avoid adding spiders," which will only invite argument/opinion/discussion from both sides. \$\endgroup\$
    – user1430
    Sep 20 '14 at 16:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ I doubt exact numbers are known as psychological records are part of medical secret, and you do not meet many people with very serious psychical illnesses on the street to ask them... \$\endgroup\$
    – wondra
    Sep 20 '14 at 16:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ What about changing the question to ask what's impact in potential audience for excluding players with severe arachnophobia? Available statistics for that and it seems to address you root issue which is that you don't want to exclude too many potential players. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 24 '14 at 19:53
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You can't please everyone. Every feature you add to your game will disadvantage or annoy someone. Deciding to put graphics in your game disadvantages 4.2% of the world population and sound 10%.

Arachnophobia prevalence is estimated at 3.5%.

The issue is more complex than number comparison however. While there are international standard diagnosis criteria for medical conditions, they're a bit arbitrary by necessity. Given a criterion of "significant hindrance to daily life", the level of hindrance deemed to be significant is up to an informed medical professional's judgement.

There's also a question of severity. Extreme-degree arachnophobics are likely to suffer more from playing a spider-containing game than a blind player is to be annoyed at playing a graphics-containing game. (Unless of course the spider was insignificant and stylised, but the graphics low-contrast and hard to see, in which case it would be the other way around.)


So, what should you do?

Measuring the depth of suffering your actions bring to others is impossible. While there are various guidelines, the distinctions between good and bad game design are a bit arbitrary by necessity. Given a task of "being good to your players", the correct levels of graphics, sound and spiders are...

Does any of this sound familiar?

...up to an informed game developer's judgement.

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Arachnophobia is very widespread. But, as an arachnophobic(and gamer) myself, I do not get panic attacks. Actually I do not know anybody who gets panic attack for looking at drawn spider, those cases are very rare. If it is so advanced illness, the person would be probably even afraid to turn a computer on - there are pictures of spiders everywhere.

Surprisingly, killing spiders as an arachnophobic can be even more satisfying than killing regular monsters, especially if you can kill them from afar (and if they dont jump onto screen).
I really doubt high number of really serious arachnophobics(heart attacks) play games - spiders are very favorite monsters in games (show me any RPG without spiders!).

For my original link to paper listing exact % numbers see comments(or Anko's new answer).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ An anonymous user has attempted to edit this answer to add their two cents. (Please use comments) They say: "Correction from a severe arachnophobe: Killing spiders is NOT satisfying. I have severe panic attacks that feel similar to heart attack symptoms causing me to discontinue games with spiders. Small exception is a minor scene where I can find someone to play through for me and the spiders are cartoonish. Those only cause anxiety and a couple hours of paranoia. It is sad that they are so prevalent in RPG games - a genre I love. I've shifted to other genres as a result unless a mod exists." \$\endgroup\$
    – DMGregory
    Sep 15 '18 at 12:15

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