In this media paper, my purpose is to inform you of how fear and anxiety drive limbo forward.
I assume you are a college-educated person with at least elementary knowledge of videogames in general and LIMBO in particular
I assume you are familiar with how elementary audio, video, and design features work in videogames
I assume you have experience with some kind of interactive media
I assume you have some knowledge of cultural studies and will define specialized terms and briefly introduce authors mentioned
In this work, I will do my best to be simple, clear, and honest

I believe Limbo uses anxiety and fear to control how you play and experience the game.

There are multiple section in Limbo that use fear and anxiety to push the player and character forward. These include the spider, the brain leeches and other creatures and events. For this, I have divided this report into different sections based on different parts of the game that use fear to push the player forward. To help supplement these assertions, I have included images, video, and audio that support the claims I have made. At the end of the report, there are notes in purple that help explain less common terms and ideas used in this report.

Screenshot of Limbo spider wrapping you in webbing.

To properly explain the difference between fear and anxiety as well as how they drive Limbo forward, I must first introduce Freud and his description of fear and anxiety. Sigmund Freud was a very prominent figure in psychoanalysis and is often credited with creating the field. According to Freud, "'Fright', 'fear' and anxiety are improperly used as synonymous expressions; they are in fact capable of clear distinction in their relation to danger. 'Anxiety' describes a particular state of expecting the danger or preparing for it, even though it may be an unknown one. 'Fear' requires a definite object of which to be afraid. Freud, Sigmund. Beyond the Pleasure Principle. James Strachey (New York and London: Norton, 1990 (1920)): 12"

The spider capturing you in its web is the first real stage in the game that I had something to truly fear in the game. Up until this point, the most the game has done has given me a sense of anxiety.

While you do meet the spider earlier when you use the bear traps on its legs, it never really gave me a true sense of fear. I was wary of it, but I did not fear it because I had control of the event that occurred between the spider and me. In this case, the event is baiting it into catching its own legs in bear traps. It was only during the cave scene where the spider is wrapping you up that I started to fear it, as I no longer had control over the situation. To comment on it bit more, it is comparable to the reverse of Freud's observation of the Fort/Da game. (See note 1 for more information on Fort/Da game) "At the outset he was in a passive situation-he was overpowered by the experience; but, by repeating it, unplcasurable though it was, as a game, he took on an active part. (Freud, 1990: 16)" You start out having an active role in the game with the spider, however, during the events where you get wrapped in web, you take on the passive role, which leads to a less agreeable but memorable experience.

From this point to the moment you manage to kill the spider, the game uses this fear that has been created as a driving force. The spider will constantly chase you through multiple stages and does not seem to give up, even when it loses multiple legs. By consistently using the same sounds and visual effects each time the spider appears, the game gives you a subtle hail so you know that the spider is around. (See note 2 for more information on hailing) After the spider having the same sounds and visual effects over many affects, you begin to accept it as natural, thus becoming a hail. Althusser, Louis. "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses" in Lenin and Philosophy. Ben Brewste (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1971).

Here is a clip of the spider chasing you and catching you right before a lake.

In this clip you can hear an almost droning noise and what seems to be an odd pulsing effect coming from the spider. This is the hail, so even if you do not see the spider immeadiatly, you will still here it coming and know to start moving. Here it is again without the video.

Sound clip of the spider chasing you.

The pulsing noise coming from the spider earlier is most likely its heartbeat. This thought is from the fact that it stops only once it dies, and that it has a very consistent beat when you see it visually.

Screenshot of a visual representation of the spider audio.

While hard to see, there are small yellow peaks that occur conisitently at the bottom of the image. These peaks are what I believe to be the odd pulsing "heartbeat" noise of the spider. Assuming these noises are diagetic,(See note 3 for definition of diagetic sounds) these sounds and noises together create the spider's sound envelope(See note 4 for more information on the sound envolope), which is is designed to help push along the fear the spider is desinged to give the player.Anzieu, Didier. "The Sound Envelop" in The Skin Ego. Chris Turner (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989).

But it is not only the spider that the game uses to control the players movement through fear and anxiety. For instance, the brain leeches in the caves. You first notice the victims of these creatures lying in a pool dead. Later in the story, you see a person who has been taken over by one and how he acts. Then finally, you see the leech-like creature itself.

Screenshot of first encounter of brain parasite.

Since you have already seen the effects of what the creature does, unlike the spder, you immeadiatly know to fear it. In fact, the leech is another example of the player having to take on a passive role, as you lose control of your movement under its effects. This greatly enhances the fear it can cause. While eventually you have to travel under the leech and be caught, it slowed me down significantly and I spent a lot of time trying to find a way around it.

This idea of fear pushing you forward or stopping you continues throughout the rest of the game as well. An example being the water levels rising in the industrial area. While the game is physically forcing you forward in order to not die, it is also pushing you forward through the fear of the water reaching you. Even in the end of the game, while in itself does not produce fear, keeps you going while producing anxiety. After finishing the final puzzle, up before you reach your sister, there is a question of what will happen. You do not know what your about to see. It might be dangerous, or even hostile, but the idea of not knowing what happens keeps you moving forward.

Note 1: The Fort/Da game is one in which a young child would throw a cotton real out of a cot and then real it back in. These children are typicall very young and according the Freud, are thought to use the game as a way to compensate for the dissapearance of the mother.(Freud, 1990: 16)

Note 2: Hailing is where something will call out, and you respond to and accept as natural or obvious. An example of this is is when a police officer shouts, many people will turn around as a natural repsonse, even though there is no guarantee that the call is specifically for you.

Note 3: Diagetic sounds are any sounds that could potentially be heard by an object in the game or other media. For example, hearing footsteps from a character is diagetic, as any other charcter in the game would be able to hear them. However, hearing background music is non-diagetic, as only the player would be able to hear that, and not the character they are controlling.

Note 4: The sound envelope of an object is any all sounds that are created by that object. This can include noises they make, speaking, and other actions.