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I’m overcoming my fear of everything to play Lethal Company

The comedic elements are the perfect match for how scary it is 

An image from the video game Lethal Company with a rudimentary avatar of a space explorer typing at a computer console in an orange suit with other similarly adorned avatars nearby. Image: Zeekerss
Ana Diaz (she/her) is a culture writer at Polygon, covering internet culture, fandom, and video games. Her work has previously appeared at NPR, Wired, and The Verge.

I didn’t really do horror games before Lethal Company.

If I were to categorize myself, I’d fully check the “scaredy cat” box. Jump scares make my heart race. Virtual creepy-crawlies twist my gut up inside. I enjoy a good sense of suspense in a game or movie, but I still struggle with it. (I do watch horror movies, but I break them into three sections to minimize the sense of dread.) Now, against all odds, I’ve found myself thoroughly enjoying Lethal Company.

Lethal Company is a first-person co-op horror game in which you play as an employee of an ominous entity known as “The Company.” You and up to three friends can team up online to go on extraterrestrial missions where you’ll collect scraps and trinkets that you can sell back to your employer in order to meet a quota. Each day in the game, you’ll explore dark and twisting industrial corridors that contain unknown monsters, like giant spiders or creepy animatronic-like nutcrackers.

But my experience with the game actually started with funny videos on TikTok. As I scrolled, my algorithm showed me clip after clip of Lethal Company shenanigans, with videos highlighting dramatic moments in voice chat as people ran away from monsters, or footage showing the difference between the game’s intense and relaxed moments. Even though it looked scary, and also maybe hard, I wanted to see what all the excitement was about. I decided to take the plunge and commit to giving it my best shot. So, as the diligent employee for The Company that I now am, I recruited three friends to come along with me for what might be the worst virtual job ever.

According to me and also Steam, Lethal Company is a horror game. True to this classification, the game contains plenty of jump scares and other horror elements. You’ll spend a lot of time exploring abandoned industrial facilities with dark, twisting metal corridors where you might hear the echoing scuttles of a nearby monster. Even on a quiet forest planet, you might find yourself running for dear life from an eyeless dog on the hunt — while also lugging 40 pounds of metal for your employer. Elements like this make Lethal Company scary, but the game is just as much a comedy game as it is a horror game.

While exploring, you might trip over a self-detonating mine, but you also might just walk over a whoopee cushion and make a farting sound. It also helps to have friends in tow. Something like a giant Coil Head — which has a spring-like, jack-in-the-box head — might be really scary to see by yourself, but it could become funny if you run into it with friends. Nothing is better than hearing the sound of a friend screaming and running away while you sacrifice yourself to delay the monster and allow them and your other friends to escape.

Playing and enjoying Lethal Company has stretched my taste for what I’d typically enjoy in a game. The comedic moments were mainly what helped me overcome the barrier of fear that has prevented me from playing most horror games. In this sense, Lethal Company almost feels like a horror game with training wheels. The horror elements feel limited, and their sharp edges are buffed out by the slapstick nature of it all.

Lethal Company also shows how comedy can be a really powerful tool to bridge certain gaps and get people into new genres. In the past, I also found the absurd elements of Fortnite helped make the battle royale aspect feel friendlier and the competitive online shooter format more approachable. Now, in the case of Lethal Company, it’s just that the comedic elements allow players like me to find joyful, funny moments even while facing our fears.

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