Arachnophobia – Why more women don’t play Wow.


Forgive the poor Gimpage skills.  But you get the Gist

Arachnophobia – the fear of spiders  apparently occurs in 50% of Women,  and 10% of men. The Phobia can be mild,   or quite severe, it seems rather high, that 50% of women have it.  It’s supposed to be the most common of all phobias.

If you look at the list of Spiders on  Thottbot you will see that spiders can be found at most of the stages of leveling in World of Warcraft,  and no matter the class, or race you play  – you will see spiders at some point.

In Wow, they throw poison spit at you,   web, and trap you like prey stare at you with beady eyes.

Could you play Wow if you had Arachnophia?

I will admit they are creepy.  I’m a Woman. I’m not sure I would call my feeling towards them a  phobia,  In Australia we grow up being exposed  redback spiders in our backyards. We even make fun of them in a Song called “Red back on the Toilet seat.”  I think I have a healthy respect for them,  not a fear or a phobia.  But I will kill a redback and a white tail if I see them.

One of the  places in WOW  if I did have a phobia of spiders that I imagine I would not be able to endure is the Spider trash room,  clearing your way to Sindragosa In ICC,

If you haven’t seen the room I found a short Youtube Video  Rogues V Spiders that show the spiders creeping towards the centre,   hanging from webs and crawling down the walls.

The Gates close behind you, and you are trapped and face an onslaught of what seems an unending  flood of spiders.  Your party stands there chest deep ( or over your head if you’re a gnome or a dwarf)  in the bodies of the fallen spiders.  I’ve used a screen shot from the remains of that fight, overlayed with the Arachnophobia Title from the 1990 movie.

Do you know anyone with a fear of spiders that plays Wow? – How does it affect them while they are playing?  Or are the graphics far enough away from reality to disassociate?

The Spider Phobia is easily enough to relate back to Wow,  but I wonder if people can get affected by other phobias by gaming, and specifically our experiences in WOW

Ophidiophobia: Fear of snakes – we have snakes in game.

Acrophobia: Fear of Heights – we have lots of high places, and even a quest horde side in a Thousand Needles  that requires you to jump off a cliff for Test of Faith as well as the quest requiring you to jump off a cliff for the Tuskars : Conversing with the Depths

Pteromerhanophibia: Fear of flying – would make getting around  a lot harder

Even Emetophobia:  Fear of Vomiting.    Better hope you don’t get Vile Gas in the Plague wing

I’m sure we could find a lot of phobia triggers  within the game,  but is the person far enough removed from the reality of the phobia, that it doesnt affect them by gaming.

Could then gaming be used to treat phobias?  Creating Virtual environments for people to explore their fears without threats.

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33 Responses to “Arachnophobia – Why more women don’t play Wow.”


  1. 1 Phöbe May 29, 2010 at 10:04 am

    It’s definitely an interesting thought.
    I’m a woman and I don’t actually like spiders. I can kill the very tiny ones – no problem – but as soon as they’re a bit bigger I need something with a certain range. As I live in Germany there aren’t a lot of spiders around at all.
    When I play WoW and see one of these creepy animals it’s not like I’d think “Oh my gosh, it’s a spider”. I didn’t even realize this room in ICC was full of spiders ’till you said that. So I think Spiders in World of Warcraft are not related to reality – who would associate a spider as big as car with real life? I don’t think World of Warcraft is close enough to reality at all to treat phobias. Perhaps you should keep in mind that most of the characters you play don’t look at all like you – they’re simply a tool to represent yourself ingame. But all the stuff that happens to your charakter is not real.
    People who can’t differ between game and reality would not only have a problem with phobias ingame but also with loads of other things.

    Maybe I’m looking at my charakter in WoW a bit too distant. But I have no problem with spiders ingame. In comparison to life I couldn’t kill a spider as big as a eurocent.

  2. 2 Shiva May 29, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    I recently wrote about this… but I’d just want to say, it ain’t got nothing to do with just women! A lot of men don’t like it either.

    I refuse to play Druid/Shapeshifter on Dragon Age: Origins since the base form is a stupid hideously ugly spider.

    • 3 Shiva May 29, 2010 at 3:58 pm

      P.S. On a side comment, and because I don’t know of a better place to put this question; how come sometimes my comments need moderation and others (like these two) don’t?

      Oh, and I feel slightly better about spiders when I get to destroy them and run away. But ugh, I hated the spiders in the Harry Potter movie as well — a scene which I think inspired your screenshot.

      • 4 Pugnacious Priest May 29, 2010 at 4:05 pm

        if there are more then 2 links in a comment it gets moderated, a spam thingy – thats the only thing I can think of that would trigger it

      • 5 Dusknoir May 29, 2010 at 4:06 pm

        It’s probably automated inside WordPress; if your comment contains two or more links (by default) or certain blacklisted words, it will automatically be added to the moderation queue.

        On topic, I remember running Azjol Nerub not too long ago with a woman who was afraid of spiders. She would pan her camera away from Hadronox, but when we used the hunter Feign Death reset strat, it spawned right in front of her and she closed WoW immediately. We still talk about it in guild chat all the time.

    • 6 Pugnacious Priest May 29, 2010 at 4:19 pm

      oh.. where.. you never link a blog in your comments – I would like to read it

  3. 7 Akasza May 30, 2010 at 3:50 am

    I think it’s a typical sexist stereotype, that women are afraid of spiders, mice, vermin, snakes and basically delicate ephemeral beings who faint, scream and cry “without reason”.

  4. 9 Versailles May 30, 2010 at 4:39 am

    I haven’t really given any thought to whether a person would be able to play a video game with certain things or characteristics if they were afraid of them in real life. There isn’t anything in WoW off the top of my head that I’ve thought was completely disgusting or a time when it was hard to play because of things in the game. I do, however, have a hard time playing ultra-violent games, and I don’t know if it’s because I’m a woman. I’ve never had a problem with World of Warcraft, but I do remember having a hard time with GTA. It’s not the actual game play, but I’d have a hard time just role playing when you go and shoot up a huge place. I don’t even know what it is. Heavy Rain is quite violent, but the violence didn’t bother me as it goes with the storyline. I don’t exactly know what the GTA story line is. Does it even have a story?

    I will definitely poke around about phobias affecting individuals while playing video games. It’s quite a unique and interesting theory.

  5. 10 gevlon May 30, 2010 at 6:00 am

    I guess the reason why women rarely play is rather assholofobia (fear of guys who talk offensive nonsense).

  6. 12 Xeppe May 30, 2010 at 6:27 am

    I concur with both Phöbe and Gevlon. I’m terrified of spiders (even very leetle ones) irl — one of the fundamental planks of my marriage is my hubbies ability to run in and kill them quickly when I scream my spider scream. But while I get a bit nauseous looking at photos of spiders, I could run AN or do spider wing in Naxx all day without getting that spider feeling. They just aren’t spiders.

    And some of the guys I’ve met on WoW have been way scarier than a whole cluster of spiders!

  7. 14 Narx May 30, 2010 at 6:56 am

    My wife doesn’t play because she isn’t that great in terms of spatial awareness.

    Quite simply, platform games she is fine with. The minute you have an up, down, behind, forward etc she get’s lost.

    This is also why she never drives…

  8. 16 wemibelec90 May 30, 2010 at 9:07 am

    I remember back in ZG we had a pugger that was deathly afraid of spiders. When we got to the spider hallway each week, we had to sit him out and bring in someone else for the duration.

  9. 18 Weatherlight May 30, 2010 at 11:54 am

    I wondered where you got the 50% and 10% numbers so I clicked on Wiki’s source. I almost LOLed. Do you really go believing that stuff?

    A mild dislike can hardly be called a medical “phobia,” although I guess some lay people use the word that way?

    Severity varies. A mild dislike of something can serve as negative reinforcement when it is removed in response to a behavior (eg yelling “It’s a spider, kill it!”). So that kind of learned behavior in response to seeing a spider isn’t a reliable indicator. Things like involuntary screaming, dizziness, sweating, trembling, steep rise in blood pressure, and passing out would signal a true phobia. Fantasy and imagery can be helpful for exposure therapy to some people, but doesn’t seem to do much for others. It really depends on the individual case. It’s not a matter of separating reality vs fiction, it’s a matter of triggers. You could say any dysfunctional fear is not being in touch with reality if you want to put it that way, but I think phobias are emotional and not intellectual for most people.

    As spiders have central nervous systems, brains, autonomous motion, etc I believe they are likely to be sentient, and therefore I avoid killing them. Just because I don’t like their looks doesn’t give me the right to murder them at whim. Hell, there are plenty of things I don’t like the looks of; I don’t go around breaking or killing them for it.

    There’s also very little risk to me for being seriously harmed by any spider, since I live in the USA where there are only two species (black widow and brown recluse) that can do any real damage to humans unless they’re especially sensitive (eg allergic), and even those two aren’t going to kill me (I’m not an infant, am not very old, don’t have cancer/not undergoing chemotherapy, etc). So I can’t clam self-defense either if I were to kill them.

    I am afraid of heights, but not the point I can’t play WoW :P I actually love flying and some views from cliffs, but my heart does “skip a beat” sometimes if I fall (I love druid, flight form ftw) or suddenly look down from up high. Oh, right, and when I did that 1k Needles quest ;)

    Also, agreeing with Akasza, I also believe it’s a stereotype that women can’t game. Some people do have worse reaction times than others, are worse at judging distance (DBM & AVR yay), have poorer eyesight, etc but no need to generalize about XXs vs XYs (and where do XXXs, XXYs, XY/XXs, XYYs, XXYYs, etc fit in?). I believe there are plenty of female gamers, especially in MMOs (as opposed to, say, FPSs). They just don’t announce it to the world. I rarely correct people these days when they refer to me as male ingame, especially if I’m on a male toon (I figure it’s like they’re talking to my character and not me). I used to do it more, say when I played War3 a lot, but I never had male toons there; back then I didn’t announce it to everyone, just if someone happened to call me “brother,” “guy,” “he,” etc. I might say “actually, it’s ‘she'” or something.

    • 19 Pugnacious Priest May 31, 2010 at 12:29 am

      If you’ve ever read freakonomics – they take seemingly unrelated events and connect them to a statistic, I thought it would be funny if the inequality of female gamers could be explained by something so far fetched as a fear of spiders because of the gaming models used, so no I don’t believe that women stop playing because of spiders, it was a tounge in cheek title, but when we game we do bring ourselves to the Pc screen, likes dislikes, fears, loves, and it’s been interesting to read some of the spider related stories – which show that yes, this fear can influence your game

      • 20 Shiva May 31, 2010 at 12:46 am

        As I said earlier, for what it’s worth, I am male and I refuse to play certain portions of game solely because of the spider models.

        Equally so, I despise playing zombie games. I don’t really have a fear or disgust of zombies (as I can fully distinguish they’re imaginary) I just hate seeing their warped gore-y nature.

        This is the reason why I don’t play any of those zombie shooters. Heck, if you had the same game but with some al-Qaida, aliens, Soviets, whatever, I’d probably play them.

        I suppose what I am saying is, if there was a game that was like “Spider Killer 2000″ or something, I don’t care how fun the gameplay is, I refuse to play it. I think this kind of thing has little to do between sexes, it’s a human reaction of people who dislike something to not do it. Granted, it’s an entirely different topic if there are more women who hate spiders than males.

        But let me ask you this; why do women get more defensive when they’re called male or referred to male as opposed to when a man gets called a female or chick or she or whatever? My priest is female, and I get called chick/she/her all the time. I almost never announce I am male (because most of the time these are just random people, if they’re friends or guildies, I will correct them).

        • 21 Pugnacious Priest May 31, 2010 at 3:37 am

          maybe because more women play female characters, whereas guys have a tendency to play both – it also depends on the situation – when I get refered to as She – I am female, my Toons are all female, so She covers it. If the conversation was aimed at me personally in reference to Gender, and I am struggling to think of an example – I guess when it’s a ” He did that ” I may correct it, but I often find it is more simplier to let them think I am a guy. I am more likely to correct if it’s in a guild/friend setting

  10. 24 Ali May 30, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    Where to start…

    First of all, it took me two attempts to be able to read this post. On the first attempt I’d opened it in a background tab, and when it became the top tab and I saw the pictures, I had to close it immediately and try to keep my stomach under control.

    And yes, I know they’re just pixels, and even that there are no natural poisonous ones where I live, so they can’t _hurt_ me. I’ve been trying to explain this one to my husband for years. Best I can manage is that how they move triggers my hindbrain and tells me that I don’t want to be anywhere near things that move like that.

    I can sort of back this up with the fact that the spindly-legged ones in Duskwood are much worse than the hairy-legged and bodied ones in the sawmill in Redridge, for example. Whatever it is, however it is, whyever it is, it is. And the pixels/any pictures of them, even not moving – yes, I’m deliberately not using their name, given a choice – remind my brain what they are/look like when they do move, which triggers my responses. And in a few minutes, when I calm down from having to scroll past those pictures you put up at the top, I’ll be able to put my feet back down on the floor.

    I will note in passing that I know it’s an illogical fear, but it’s an ingrained reaction – I react this way to them before I think? I ask the husband to remove our unwanted visitors from the house – I don’t see why they should die because I’m illogical.

    Hang on, I’ll go re-read what I can of your post and see if I have any on-topic comments to make…

    How does it affect me when gaming, or do I dissociate?

    I don’t dissociate, if you’d not guessed.

    It first started affecting me when the husband and I played Diablo II together. We’d get down to the Catacombs and he’d hear a shriek and know he was soloing for a while. Confused him a bit, but, lovely man that he is, he accepted it.

    Then we moved on to WoW. And it does affect me when gaming. Despite two level 80s and a level 78, I’ve never seen Ahn-whatsit. And I’ve only been through Old Kingdom a few times, mostly with my eyes closed for the first part.

    I’ve been lucky enough to have an accepting husband and guild/gamemates. Highlights would be when folks’d tow me around or past unplesant (can’t spell that right) areas.

    In fact, the first WoWer we met and really got along with was as our pair of dwarves met a group coming down out of Loch Modan into Wetlands, and we joined them to fight the mobs on the way down. The group wanted to go to do whatever quest it was in the 8-legged infested cave nearby, and I said that I couldn’t go in because if it had them living there, and the guy who then shaped my early WoW experience said that it wasn’t a problem, he’d protect me. And he did.

    I used to go through the Smoulderweb section of Blackrock Spire facing a wall and spamming heals until we were past them. Guild and alliance friends got to the point where we could manage a seamless transition from me tanking to me spamming heals as they nuked the way clear for me.

    Drak’Tharon Keep was also interesting, snce I spent most of my WoW-time playing a tank. Again, usually it’d be with friends who knew me and would nuke though that room whilst I spammed heals and removed poisons.

    I got better over time, a little – had been playing for 3 and a half years when I quit WoW and moved to DDO. By the end, I could deal with the Duskwood version if I had to, but it wasn’t nice or fun and still made me nauseaus (can’t spell that either), so I’d much rather avoid them, frankly.

    We moved onto DDO after that, and theirs are all low to the ground types which move a little differently, and aren’t as bad to deal with. They’re more realistically coloured, so they’re making me dislike the real ones I see even more, although the husband doesn’t know that yet.

    WoW didn’t work for aversion therapy for me. It’s made me a little better able to deal with my reactions to them, but I still have the reactions and I still don’t like them.

    I’ve not WoWed to get to that area you describe, but I’m like another commenter said – the ZG area was one I refused to enter until it was massively outlevelled enough that I wasn’t going to get swarmed, and I wouldn’t cope with that area you described. Still, better to not go to the bad instances than to phobia-quit, I guess. But then I was lucky enough to have a husband, guild and alliance channel who scouted for me. They’d be looking for folks to a specific instance, I’d volunteer and they’d explain why I didn’t want to go there.

    Typing this has reminded me just how lucky I was back then. Still fighting the withdrawal battle, over nine months since I quit.

    To all other phobics – there are people out here who understand and are probably worse :-) And good luck!

    Husband says that he doesn’t understand it, but phobias are supposed to be irrational fears and not rational ones… so being afraid of a bunch of triangles that move in a similar fashion to an actual thing sort of makes sense.

    He does find it odd that I cope much better with them in DDO than in WoW despite a general acceptance that DDO models are more realistic than WoW’s but he has to rescue me a lot less in DDO than he did in WoW.

    • 25 Pugnacious Priest May 31, 2010 at 12:24 am

      Wow, thankyou for sharing, yet for your fear you still play – thats pretty brave. Some of the things I’ve read on it suggest that it’s a primordial reaction that we have to them, maybe back in cave men time they were bigger, and our survival instincts to flee are pretty hard to ignore. I hope that despite your phobia you still manage to enjoy the game – thankyou again for taking the time to explain your side

  11. 26 Kayeri May 30, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    Hm… I am female, I’ve been a WoW player for… 3 1/2 years or so now and yes, I HATE spiders… one of my worst childhood memories is a giant spider movie preview from the 70’s… (yes, I’m OLD) where they showed a blood-covered man hanging out of the spiders mouth and the spider is making sucking noises… TRULY disgusting and more than enough to blow the mind of the child I was then.

    in-game spiders… well, they just don’t bother me that bad… Yes, I think “eew, that is almost as big as THAT spider” but I go kill it/them anyway, because that’s what I need to do for the quest or dungeon or raid. It’s going to vary highly with the individual, but labeling it as a primary reason more women don’t play WoW is kind of iffy in my mind, especially as more and more women seem to be coming into the game now than ever before.

  12. 27 Weatherlight May 30, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    Besides, it would be pretty funny to see a Blizzard announcement like

    “Actually, an equal number of male and female players opened trial accounts. However, only 10% of male players and 50% of female players quit and did not purchase a subscription. The reason given in all cases of people quitting was arachnophobia. That’s right, we lost 30% of our entire trial player base when they first encountered spiders while leveling up. Prior to playing, they didn’t think of spiders making them hate the game and only realized it when they first saw one ingame. Therefore, we have removed all spiders from the game, and expect everyone to come back. Then the player base will be 50/50 male and female.”

    Sorry, but that’s just…stupid.

  13. 29 Weatherlight May 30, 2010 at 11:33 pm

    P.S. I wish it was considered “normal” rather than “lucky” to game with players who are considerate and respectful. Just because someone doesn’t have the same likes, dislikes, phobias, loves, etc as you, doesn’t mean those are “invalid” in some way. If I like playing with someone and they like playing with me, but they hate spider rooms, who cares, we’ll play together in the other areas. I hate arena, I have friends who play all sorts of PvE stuff and BGs with me and never insist I arena with them.

    Games are for fun. Some people have fun with optimal performance and with playing with others who are the same way, but I think most of us don’t care about having the top players in our regions consistently doing whatever’s “best for the raid” for their class or whatever. We just like to do whatever’s best for all of us to have fun ^^

    • 30 Pugnacious Priest May 31, 2010 at 12:50 am

      Feel lucky – because I certainly do after this weekend – it firstly is good to be able to share something that may affect your enjoyment with people who will take that into consideration when being played with,

  14. 31 Ringo Flinthammer June 1, 2010 at 7:13 am

    My wife actually had a problem with the endboss of the first chapter of Diablo II for that reason. I’m not sure what would happen if she did ICC — I have zero arachnophobia issues (and I certainly could, having accidentally shoved my hand into a box full of black widows once) — but I imagine it wouldn’t be pretty.

  15. 32 Jaedia June 2, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    Thinking about it, my stomach jumps a little whenever I do the jumping off cliffs quests :p

    I’ve never been a big fan of gorillas or rotting flesh/maggots, however I do think that it’s easier to disassociate knowing that they’re only pixels.

  16. 33 citysoliloquy June 3, 2010 at 12:12 am

    I’m female and I have a fear of spiders – mostly big spindley types, tarantulas I’m not keen on and I wouldn’t touch one but they are more bearable. I just hate the way spiders move and the way their legs move that’s my deal with these creepy crawleys.

    Saying that the spiders on WOW have never made me flinch or move away from the keyboard. I don’t find them scary, even a tiny bit. I guess I find it easy to disconnect from it all.

    How with my large and very clear monitor if someone put a real life big photo of a spider up on my screen my stomach probably would turn.


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