Throughout the weekend, Phasmophobia has had an average of over 100,000 viewers on Twitch at any given moment. As I started writing this article, it had 132,000 viewers, enjoying more views than games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Fortnite, and Grand Theft Auto V. By the time I finished, it had 156,000. Looking at the community hub will inform you that it always has anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000 in-game players on average. It already has almost 10,000 reviews on Steam, amounting to an average of “overwhelmingly positive.” It’s one of the most popular games right now — and for plenty of good reasons.
The Early Access version of Phasmophobia was released on Sept. 18, 2020, poised to garner attention right before the spooky October month. But there’s never a guarantee for success with many video games, much less indie games — as the explosive popularity for Among Us, which has blown up two years after its release, shows. Given that Phasmophobia is in Early Access, it’s more than a little janky. Graphically, it doesn’t look great. Seeing the character models bend their whole backs when looking down is hilarious. As of right now, there are seven maps, so it’s not like you’ll see something entirely new forever.
And yet, every game will be different and dynamic — a scary and thrilling ride to play on your own and with friends or even just watch. It’s why it didn’t take long for it to gain massive popularity through Twitch streams, and let’s play sessions from big YouTubers like Ohmwrecker, Jasckepticeye, and more. It’s also why, despite playing only ten hours so far, it’s one of my favorite multiplayer experiences of all time.
This co-op psychological horror game is relatively simple in its premise. Paranormal activity in the universe of Phasmophobia is on the rise. As part of a group consisting of up to four players, you visit locations — houses, and at times buildings like an asylum or high school — to gather evidence. You’ll do this by using ghost equipment that you and your team members purchase, which can range from high tech like head-mounted cameras to salt that you can place on the floor to track a ghost’s footprints. Because you will inevitably alert the ghost residing at any place to your unwelcome presence.
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As a result, shit gets really scary, really fast. You can use a ghost’s name to antagonize it, along with phrases you can ask while trying to communicate with it through your voice box. Sometimes, lights will flicker on and off in response. Drop a book in the room a ghost has made its primary residence, and you can come back to see that it wrote a message on its pages. Use a UV light flashlight to spot fingerprints, cameras to detect glowing ghost orbs, and motion sensors to alert you if there’s someone else in the room. If you’ve made a ghost angry enough, it’ll enter a hunting phase, where it’ll search for victims in the house to torment and kill.
And honestly? It’s really funny, too. It’s hard as hard to not scream when you get spooked than when a friend of yours is repeatedly yelling the ghost’s name to make it angry. My favorite moment has to be when my friends and I wrapped up an investigation. We were going from the basement to the kitchen area, where the front door was nearby. As I emerged from the basement, my friends trailing behind me, I told the ghost, who was named Betty, “fuck you, Betty.” In two seconds, she had locked the front door and turned off all the lights, making us scream until we heard her come up behind us. But she didn’t get me; she instead killed my friend, whose sanity levels were lowest from being in the dark and seeing ghost events the most out of any of us. I would’ve kept yelling if I didn’t start having a hysteric fit of laughter that made it hard to breathe.
Whether you survive your mission depends on how you handle the investigation. Hopefully, you provoke a ghost enough to get enough information on what type of ghost it is for your findings — but not enough that it kills you. (Or that a friend gets you killed. Sorry to my friend.) You’ll get paid with experience and money at the end of a job based on the evidence you find, whether you correctly determine the type of ghost you’re facing, and other objectives. You can then use this money to buy more equipment and expand your ghost-hunting adventures.
A roadmap that developer Kinetic Games recently posted on Trello shows what lies in the game’s future. This includes apartment building, prison, and mansion maps; the ability for ghosts to throw objects at players, interact with objects during their hunting phase, and have voice lines during this period; and quality of life improvements like giving players retain 50% of their items if they die on an amateur contract (you lose all your items if you die) and adding a kick button. There are even currently undecided plans for a potential separate game mode where you can play as the ghost.
While the future for this game, especially since its 1.0 version hasn’t even launched, is exciting, I can’t imagine getting tired of playing this game anytime soon. This was originally supposed to be a simple news post, but I couldn’t help using the opportunity to gush about this game. I’m a huge fan of the co-op horror game genre, and this is the scariest multiplayer experience my friends and I have had. It’s also already one of our favorites. Why let yourself think about the daily terrors of living in this world in 2020 when you could just share your fear of a predatory ghost with your friends in a virtual space? There are few games that you can play this October that are as perfectly terrifying as Phasmophobia.