Cetaphobia is a game by Benji Sayed and can be found at time of writing at this page for free.
When you load Cetaphobia’s game page on itch you’ll find a curt description of the game.
“A game about trauma.”
It’s a bold first introduction, and certainly not a welcoming invitation by any means. But it’s fitting for this work by Benji Sayed, Cetaphobia isn’t supposed to be easily consumable or even enjoyable in the conventional sense. The game confronts the player with its despair from the opening frames. It’s a game about hurting, depression and loneliness and confronting all of those things on one’s own.
Cetaphobia is a kind of 5-act play about the 5 stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance). Each scene of the game represents each of the stages through a jarring glitchscape of contorted images, written text and obfuscated video. It’s best to approach Cetaphobia with this knowledge as otherwise it may be hard to deduct that without being informed ahead of time. But with this focus there the game works as a analogy of the stages.
Cetaphobia is mechanically simple, using only the four directional keys and little interaction. This works for the piece as it lets the player be consumed by the sentiments and imagery of the piece. The game’s player character is a small bald-headed character but you’ll also walk across full-screen video of the same person shaking their head seemingly in disdain (whom I believe to be preformed personally by Sayed). It creates a deep sense of self-loathing where the entire environment is a blur of imagery of self-hate or self-criticism. Poetry and text found strewn about the world deepen this sense of alienation.
There’s more to this imagery throughout Cetaphobia but I’d be doing it a disservice by cataloguing the symbolism piece by piece here, I don’t think that is of much value anyways. I don’t know what kind of trauma Sayed wants to speak to but I think anyone who’s gone through any kind of depression like period would be able to see some of themselves in the game. For those who won’t personally identify with the experience Cetaphobia is still a worthy example of games as a personal artform. Cetaphobia feels like a videogame incarnation of somebody’s personal wounds, an intimacy uncommon to the medium. I strongly recommend anyone able to handle depictions of trauma and depression to give it a look.
Hot Tips: Parts of Cetaphobia can be hard to complete without knowledge of how to proceed. I wouldn’t have been able to finish it without tips Sayed shared with me on twitter. If you get stuck I invite you to message me and I can help you out.