It’s that time of year again, when pranksters and mischief makers start rubbing their hands in glee, smirking about the fun they can have as the Halloween season rears its ugly head once more. Is it just me, or is Halloween becoming increasingly more like Christmas… Starting ever earlier and going on, it seems, forever?
This year, the fun and games appear to have begun already, If the current furore over ‘killer clowns’ is any indicator.
It’s a bizarre phenomenon that nobody really saw coming, let alone why it started; and now that it’s here, nobody really seems to want it to stay! Personally, I think it’ll eventually reveal itself to be some sort of rampantly successful viral marketing campaign, gone native. Whatever the explanation, one thing is clear, killer clowns are generally considered to be a practical joke that is both unfunny, and takes things just a little too far for comfort. That’s probably true – having someone jump out of the darkness, wearing a mask, and wielding something that looks like a weapon is, at best, unnerving and could be potentially dangerous or even a criminal act. I’ve not been on the receiving end myself – and, to tell the truth, if anyone was to looms out of the dark at me, then they’re extremely likely to get what’s coming to them – I’m scary like that! Even so, it’s not something I think I’d be laughing about.
Perversely, fear can be a funny thing. Most of us enjoy being scared – that’s a biochemically engineered response… A flood of adrenalin, followed by a rush of endorphins when it’s all over, create a heady cocktail of fun-filled stimulants. Many of us seek out opportunities to experience that moment, indeed some crave danger: It’s what drives some to jump out of aeroplanes, chase tornadoes, and cross the road when the green man is flashing!
It’s a rich area of sensory stimulation that SL users are more than happy to tap in to – every October, along with the rash of pumpkins that proliferate throughout the virtual world, you’ll find a good selection of sims designed to generate the fear factor. Whatever your personal needs, you’ll find something to satisfy, whether it’s ghosts, haunted houses, zombie apocalypses or freakish medical role play. In fact, you needn’t wait for Halloween – many of these themes can be found in SL all year long.
Can SL really be frightening though? I’d say that’s questionable, but much will depend on your own perspective. I know people who are scared of all sorts of things, from spiders to dwarves and get equally creeped out inworld by their nemesis as they would with the real thing. Your depth of immersion will affect your response too – even the most banal of video games, say ‘Tetris’, for example, can cause the heart to race once we’re sufficiently caught up in what we’re doing, so SL should have no problems. And then there’s that built-in primal side to us… If we want to be scared, we will be, in the same way that we can scare ourselves in our own beds at night, simply by thinking scary thoughts and convincing ourselves there’s more to them than just our imagination.
So yes, I think SL has a lot of potential for frightening us; it’s fertile ground for the fevered imagination, and it’s safe… Far safer than jumping out on someone in a dark alleyway, wielding a plastic machete and sporting a clown mask!
And where are the clowns?
There ought to be clowns…
Well, maybe next year.
The Tiger Lillies – Send In The Clowns