Atmosfear board game - hero image
'Nightmare' (a.k.a 'Atmosfear', 1991)
Stories & Ideas

Fri 02 Oct 2020

ACMI Recommends: Nightmare

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Brittney Montag

Festivals & Events Coordinator

Throwback to the creepiest VHS board game ever made.

Wandering in an op shop pre-lockdown I discovered a forgotten gem hidden in the glassware aisle: a board game so mysterious, children of the nineties remember it only in their deepest, darkest “nightmare”. Best played with the lights off, Nightmare (aka Atmosfear) asks you to write out your deepest fear, place it in the middle of the board and play for your life – hoping you reach the end before everyone else to keep your secret safe.

Players are guided through this interactive game by a sinister guide from the underworld, The Gatekeeper, who punishes whichever player doesn’t scream "YES, MY GATEKEEPER" loud enough when beckoned. The absurd performance, delivered via VHS, is so well designed each insult feels somehow personal. There was nothing more thrilling than being called on by The Gatekeeper, hoping for that chance to clap back with a snub more inventive than his.

Nightmare requires a VHS player, so I was pleased to find the video content had been uploaded to YouTube, meaning I could race home and face my fears. The overall feeling of the game hits different as an adult, more comedic, but nevertheless entertaining – especially after a few drinks if you're so inclined. It feels ironic to have rediscovered this innovative 1991 hybrid board game in 2020, the year that hybrid tech has emerged as a primary method of engaging with culture as we move into COVID normal. With technology taking over nearly every aspect of our lives in this pandemic, it makes me ache for a time when the extent of virtual interaction was being yelled at by a VHS tape.

– Brittney Montag, Festivals & Events Coordinator

Hunt for Nightmare at your local op shop (when it reopens) or revisit The Gatekeeper on YouTube.

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