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Hannah and Alanna talk phobias. Babies, bed bugs, and the gut-twisting horror of clowns. Can you design a game around a topic you can barely engage with? We give it a whirl!

Intro Segment & Media Check-in

Alanna: Buffy episode – Nightmares (Season 1, Episode 10). Things get weird at Sunnydale High when nightmares start to become reality.


Hannah: Buffy episode – Bargaining, Part 2 (Season 6, Episode 2). Her friends try to resurrect Buffy after her death. When they believe the resurrection spell has failed, Buffy is forced to claw her way out of her own grave.


Hannah: Heffalumps and Woozles from Winnie the Pooh. Perfect representation of being chased by your own phobias.

Defining The Phobia Game (5:12)

Where do we draw the line between a fear and a phobia? A fear that butts up against a social norm? The word irrational keeps coming up in our conversation, even though we don’t like that label. Who has say over what’s a rational vs. irrational fear?

  • Hannah defines it as “an experience at the crossroads of a fear and an anxiety.”
  • Alanna calls on the Merriam-Webster Definition: “An extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something.”

The Players (11:00)

Everyone’s a player here to some extent. Some people are playing on casual mode, some people playing on hardcore mode.

  • You can be playing on easy mode in one category and iron man mode in another.
  • We talk about our own hardcore mode phobias. Conversations about bed bugs, non-arachnid creepy crawlies, pregnancy, and clown phobias.

The lucky thing for me is that one does not encounter too many clowns in the wild. – Alanna

Parts of the Game We’re Most Interested (25:00)

Alanna finds the gap in understanding fascinating. When something that impacts your life begins impacting others as well. What happens when you can’t attend a friend’s performance because of your fear of clowns?

  • A game that tests the limits of other people’s empathy.
  • Phobia blackjack. The risk of overplaying your hand. What’s the card that will push you over?
  • Phobia Jenga. Increase the intensity bit by bit until the tower comes crashing down.


The closest we get here is a deck-building or card passing game with different win conditions: I don’t want to be caught with the bed bug card, you don’t want to be caught with the clown card. But when the clown card is in my hand it has no special meaning to me.

Trying to explain pregnancy phobia in a game. Elements of parasitism, reverse Operation game (putting things into a body instead of taking them out), having to deal with cards you didn’t ask for.

The clown game would be like…someone’s just smiling the whole time but they keep handing you cards that say, ‘I’m actually going to kill you.’ – Alanna

Finally, the razor thin line between a phobia and a fetish.