In the midst of a global pandemic, virtual escapism has never felt so urgent. Our bodies are restricted to social bubbles, our eyes witness the same handful of surroundings and our minds are desperate for change. Video games are a guardian angel for many (myself included) during this global pandemic, offering sights and sounds that are now physically out of reach. Why on earth, then, would I choose to spend my time playing horror games? Surely all one needs for their daily injection of fear is a split-second glimpse at the headlines, but lockdown hasn\u2019t sanitised these games of their scares; it\u2019s elevated them. All video games fundamentally grant their players navigation of virtual spaces. The familiarity of basic level design often leads players into taking basic elements for granted: floors, walls, worlds. As quarantine protocols continuously rewrite our understanding of real-world space, horror games similarly possess the eerie ability to rewrite their own digital worlds. Silent Hill\u00a0and claustrophobia practically go hand-in-hand. Ever since the fog-swept town\u2019s introduction in 1999, Konami\u2019s horror franchise has focused on intertwining space and narrative through symbolism and masterful design.\u00a0Silent Hill 4: The Room\u00a0may be the series\u2019 crown jewel in this regard, despite its various debatable shortcomings in other departments. From the moment\u00a0Silent Hill 4 begins, something is off. The player is not in Silent Hill; they are in Henry Townshend\u2019s apartment in the distant South Ashfield. The player cannot see Henry; the introduction is radically presented in first-person (long before\u00a0P.T.). The player is not alone; something is in this room with you. Whilst it makes for a bland subtitle, it\u2019s hard to overstate the importance of The Room to\u00a0Silent Hill 4s execution. The narrative conceit itself is uncomfortably similar to real-world events with Henry inexplicably trapped in his apartment under literal lock-and-key. During his confinement, Henry embraces his inner L.B. Jefferies and witnesses the ongoing narrative as a passive observer. Residents enact their daily routines, ambulance sirens wail from the adjacent streets and only his next-door neighbour Eileen seems concerned about Henry\u2019s absence. These narrative events are exclusively presented through restrictive means: windows, radios and even secret peepholes in the walls. Silent Hill 4\u00a0is constantly communicating information claustrophobically. Lockdown transforms our safe spaces into repetitive and actively irritating environments. My bedroom is cosy and familiar, but it\u2019s simultaneously an active reminder of my own physical limitations. It\u2019s not just my safe space, but my\u00a0only\u00a0space. Few games tap into this incredibly specific sensation like\u00a0Silent Hill 4. Henry\u2019s apartment initially serves as a traditional hub world containing the sole save point, a storage chest and even heals you over time. Yet, as Henry continues his visits to alternate realities through the irrefutably demonic portal that manifests in his bathroom, his room, in turn, becomes infected. Around the halfway mark, The Room abruptly shifts from the game\u2019s only safe space to its most threatening. Film grain and aggressive vignettes invade the first-person camera, unsettling noises disturb the ambience and Henry now takes damage if he lingers for too long. It\u2019s a frustrating but effective representation of how perceptions of familiar spaces can be sharply altered by circumstances beyond our control. Henry might not be facing a literal pandemic, but it\u2019s hard to ignore the presence of ghosts breaking through his once-solid walls. This is taken one step further in Akuma Kira\u2019s bone-shivering\u00a0Lost in Vivo, a lo-fi indie horror title wearing its\u00a0Silent Hill\u00a0influences on its sleeve. After losing their dog in the sewers, the protagonist abandons the outside world for an underground hell, one that grows only more surreal and suffocating over time. The tight sewer tunnels of its first act only scratch the surface of\u00a0Lost in Vivo\u2019s claustrophobic nightmares. Alongside the prerequisite abundance of narrow corridors and unnatural geography,\u00a0Lost in Vivo\u00a0has high ambitions in expressing an internalised confinement. In the vein of\u00a0Silent Hill 2\u2019s made-for-measure monsters,\u00a0Lost in Vivo\u00a0weaponises its spaces against the protagonist\u2019s strongest anxiety: their own body. In one striking sequence, the player swallows an apple only to be met by prison bars. The only way to pass through is to vomit up the apple. What lies in the room beyond? The apple restored on the pedestal. The solution? Those prison bars were never real, but false projections designed to taunt and intimidate. Symbolism in level design isn\u2019t anything new, but this example nonetheless stands as an innovative example of externalising internal conflicts. Even if the body can\u2019t be left, self-perception can be actively changed. Physical prison bars can become invisible. The protagonist\u2019s body operates as the inverse of Henry\u2019s apartment; the experience of horror is a healing one. If scepticism regarding the solidity of Lost in Vivo\u2019s environments begins to settle in, that\u2019s perfectly natural. Kira\u2019s enemy behaviours are among the most unique I\u2019ve experienced in a horror title for one simple reason \u2013 they don\u2019t obey the laws of space. Sprites clipping through walls would usually be perceived as a glitch, but they\u2019re a bonafide feature here. Plenty of Lost in Vivo\u2019s antagonists disappear and reappear at will, some merging into the ground or unexpectedly crawling up ladders in pursuit. One lethal monster is immobile but can freely teleport, even inside crates or doorways forcing players to be unusually perceptive. As the player acknowledges entities acting outside the parameters of their first-person camera, even the computer monitor begins to feel claustrophobic. Sound \u2013 not sight \u2013 is the critical tool in the player\u2019s arsenal. A novel implementation of positional audio acts as a makeshift antidote to the visual claustrophobia, giving players the resources to detect unseen enemies and pathways through snaking drains. My experience of Lost in Vivo\u00a0during lockdown enhanced its frights, but also persuasively conveyed the emotional and practical tools to combat those induced feelings of isolation. Horror has consistently revolved around catharsis, more so than fear.\u00a0Silent Hill 4\u00a0and\u00a0Lost in Vivo\u00a0both accurately depict the intensity of extreme claustrophobic scenarios, but amidst the equally extreme current climate, they also offer valuable moments of self-examination. Through\u00a0Silent Hill 4, I grew to appreciate the delicacy of our situation. Through\u00a0Lost in Vivo, I understood that sometimes we need to lose our understanding of normalcy to find a better alternative. At times, these games heightened my fear and paranoia as intended. But against the backdrop of a real-life crisis they told me that, ultimately, everything is going to be okay. You should definitely follow Thumbsticks on Twitter for more gaming features. Enjoyed this long read? Support us on Patreon\u00a0or\u00a0buy us a coffee\u00a0to enable more of it.