I’ve got an over-active imagination, and always have done. As a very young child I suffered from night terrors - episodes where I’d have waking nightmares about monsters in the dark, where I'd speak in tongues and my body would go rigid.
I imagine it was a ton of fun for my parents… and only got worse when my neighbours let me watch a movie way beyond my years - I was 6-ish, the film in question a schlocky 18-rated horror called Witch Board - and I had nightmares for weeks. The film, despite apparently being unremarkable, still holds a power over me, causing chills to run down my spine when I think about it, and the next experience to have that effect was Jaws, aged 11 or so. To this day I’m not 100% comfortable in the water if I can’t see my feet or the sea-floor, and again I had a nightmare-ridden few days.
Next up was Jurassic Park on its cinematic release. I was enjoying it until the T-Rex bit that dude’s head off (I mean really, if there’s one place a man ought to be safe, it’s in the gents!), and then the combo of seeing a bit of Taggart I shouldn’t have, and the first time I witnessed the unexpectedly dark ending to Black Adder - both had me in tears. No doubt exam stress had an effect but seriously, I was a very unhappy (14 year old) bunny.
Then one day I saw Channel 4 were doing a season of horror movies, and of particular interest Night of The Living Dead and Evil Dead 2. I recorded them and left them on the VHS tape for what seems like weeks.
Then one sunny Saturday when my parents were out I got bored, drew the curtains, made myself a choco-death-wich (recipe here) and sat down with Evil Dead 2. I’d heard about its reputation and watched fully expecting I'd have to hit pause a few times… but never had to.
In my head the horror was going to be worse but - no doubt helped by the sun peeking around the curtains and the humour in the movie - I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I jumped, I peeked through my fingers, but most of all I had a tremendous hour-and-a-bit watching Ash’s slapstick fights with the Deadites.
Next I just had to see Night of the Living Dead. Something about it called to me and suffice to say ever since I’ve had a soft spot for both zombies in general and the movies of George A Romero specifically.
And from that day on, I became a self-confessed fully-fledged (or should that be self-flagellating) horror fan. I still get scared, occasionally lose a bit of sleep and sometimes have nightmares… but I enjoy every minute of it. I love scary movies, frightening TV and terrifying games....
...but the scariest thing to do with games isn't playing Silent Hill 2 (though that will alwys leave a mark) - it's pitching them.
Be that to big multinational publishers with tons of money, no class and the keys to the castle, or small companies with passion and drive and exciting prospects, or to potential collaborators without whose talents a project would be still-born… or to the players themselves, the people that really matter.
Every aspect of pitching a game is a deeply personal thing. It requires you to expose an aspect of yourself to all kinds of pressures, judgement, and forces outside of your control.
When I first started pitching games I was terrified. I lost sleep, got stressed, it affected my eating and my emotions generally ran high. But after repeated forced exposures, and then multiple self-inflicted instances, I have grown not only to enjoy it but relish it too. I’ve met interesting people, furthered my career, impressed potential investors, made a good name for myself and every day I ever pitched anything to anyone was a day that ended with me being proud of my accomplishments.
Challenging myself is what drives me in all aspects of my life, but horror movies were what taught me how - and pitching games taught me why.
So what am I saying? I’m saying you need to meet your fears head on, challenge them, own them, then master them. Because when you do, you won’t be able to predict all the amazing and positive ways it’ll affect your life.