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Grounded caters to those with arachnophobia in a very unusual way

A slider lets you adjust how much spider shows up on screen

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Grounded - the kids run through a gigantic back yard, with gnarled roots Image: Obsidian Entertainment/Microsoft Game Studios
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Obsidian Entertainment launched a 30-minute demo for Grounded on Tuesday. The game shrinks players down until they’re smaller than a pebble, bringing them face-to-face with all manner of beasts ... including spiders. To make the game palatable for those who suffer from arachnophobia, developers have opted for a unique solution: A slider that dials back how spider-like the game’s spiders actually are. Here’s how it works.

Booting up the game for the first time, players are immediately shown a warning about the game’s eight-legged content.

“This game contains spiders that are often much larger than the player,” the warning says. “If you’re super not okay with that, you can enable Arachnophobia Safe Mode in the Accessibility options. This is a visual-only setting that does not affect gameplay or difficulty.”

Inside the menu is a slider that players can use. It dials back the identifying characteristics of the game’s giant spiders until they look like this:

A green orb over a gray orb in the distance. Blades of grass arch overhead. Image: Obsidian Entertainment/Microsoft Game Studios via Polygon

You can see it right there below the tip of my spear. One green orb (the abdomen, if memory serves) and another gray orb for the head. This spider is walking to the right.

Visually, it’s very un-spiderlike. The mode also removes all the chittering and squeaking usually ascribed to video game spiders. According to a video posted to YouTube on Monday, Obsidian worked with the Microsoft User Research Lab to find a good solution for players. Polygon has reached out the Microsoft for more details about how that research was conducted.

[Warning: We’re going to show a picture of an in-game spider with four legs below.]

In practice, however, moving the slider all the way to the right isn’t all that practical. The spider still has legs, which can attack you from range. Making those legs invisible actually makes the game harder to play. Thankfully it’s a multiplayer game. Arachnophobia mode is a local client setting, so you’ll benefit from having other players on your side who can see the whole spider on their PC or game console.

But the setting isn’t binary. It’s a spectrum, meaning that arachnophobes can adjust the setting to remove just enough of the spider’s features to make them a bit more palatable. Setting one reduces the number of legs, for instance, while setting four removes the mandibles entirely. You’ve got quite a few options before you get to amorphous blob territory.

A floating spider abdomen, minus the mandibles. Image: Obsidian Entertainment/Microsoft Game Studios via Polygon
A floating spider abdomen with smaller mandibles. Image: Obsidian Entertainment/Microsoft Game Studios
A four-legged spider. Image: Obsidian Entertainment/Microsoft Game Studios via Polygon

Without the Arachnophobia Safe Mode turned on, spiders are pretty intimidating — even if you’re not prone to being afraid of them. You’ll want to avoid them as best you can, deal with them at range, and/or with a group of players. Grounded supports up to four players via online play.

The timed, 30-minute demo of Grounded runs until June 22. Those interested can access it through Steam — by adding it to their wishlist — and via the Xbox Insider program on PC and Xbox One.

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