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Psychoanalyzing Resident Evil and Silent Hill

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the that's-some-seriously-screwed-up-stuff-there dept.

Games 67

The Game Career Guide site has up a piece doing a psychological examination of horror games. The uber-successful series Resident Evil and Silent Hill go under the microscope, giving readers a look at the psychological archetypes the games elicit, while also discussing the titles from a gameplay standpoint. It is the author's contention that the RE series is the 'standard' for the genre, while Silent Hill games shake up the gamer's viewpoint with 'avant-garde' elements. An interesting, and thoroughly academic look, at the modern face of gaming horror.

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Article (4, Informative)

Turn-X Alphonse (789240) | more than 7 years ago | (#17913970)

I like the concept of the article but when I get to the first picture and see

A, Resident evil 4 (an action game more than survival horror)
B, A complete and utterly incorrect comment

I have to wonder if I want to read an "indepth" article by these people. I mean how difficult is it to get that Resident evil 4 has ZERO Zombies? There are NO Zombies in RE4.

If you're going to do an indepth article at least make a note that the living dead tend to be... well dead.

Re:Article (1)

electrosoccertux (874415) | more than 7 years ago | (#17914500)

[Somewhat offtopic] Good catch on RE4. It simply wasn't nearly as fun as the reworked Gamecube RE, and the new RE0. As a matter of fact, I lost interest in both of those games as soon as I got a weapon upgrade beyond the pistol. Being able to burn the corpses also made the game less fun. There wasn't anything quite like being on your last 2 clips of ammo, walking through the room for the fifth time (where nothing has happened the past four times), you've got 25% health left, and as soon as you open the door to the room you hear a zombie come back to "life" and start stalking after you. You empty the first clip, zombie's still alive. You get down to 3 shots left, zombie dies, you're safe, adrenaline level falls and think "holy shit that was the funnest 30 seconds I've played in a long time."

Contrast that experience to RE4 or RE when you get the shotgun, fights are over in 10 seconds, you feel a lot less threatened, etc. The first half of the game has always been more fun for me, after that it turns into an action game.

Re:Article (1)

miscz (888242) | more than 7 years ago | (#17915584)

I've just installed PC version of RE4 and after few minutes of gameplay I've felt kinda threatened. One part was creepy villagers trying to kill me, the second part was terrible controls (directly ported from GC, even manual images and text refer to a GC gamepad)

Re:Article (3, Interesting)

theCurse (1019716) | more than 7 years ago | (#17915882)

The enemies in RE 4 were zombies. They weren't Night of the Living Dead zombies, but they were mindless husks under the control of another entity (which could be seen as more in line with the original zombie myth).

Perhaps you need to expand your definition of "zombie."

Re:Article (2, Funny)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916244)

I mean how difficult is it to get that Resident evil 4 has ZERO Zombies?

Thanks for the spoiler, jerkoff.

wow... (5, Insightful)

onemorehour (162028) | more than 7 years ago | (#17914078)

From this perspective, Saddler's long tentacles could be considered maternal, representing the "umbilical" (discussed further below) rather than the traditional phallic.
This article is, hands-down, the stupidest thing I've read all day.

It's psychology... (5, Funny)

Junta (36770) | more than 7 years ago | (#17914140)

In psychology, everything is either about sex, or your mother, but usually both at the same time...

Re:It's psychology... (1)

MBCook (132727) | more than 7 years ago | (#17914346)

There once was a man named Oedipus Rex
You may have heard about his odd complex
His name appears in Freud's index...
'Cause he.. loved his mother

From "Oedipus Rex" by Tom Lehrer [wikipedia.org] . Check out his work, he's fantastic.

Re:wow... (1)

Adambomb (118938) | more than 7 years ago | (#17914236)

seconded, albeit s/[.]/ that wasnt work related./

Re:wow... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17914742)

I'm just going to trust you then and say the article is the stupidest thing I've not read all day.

Re:wow... (0, Redundant)

jamesh (87723) | more than 7 years ago | (#17915094)

I haven't read it, but I'll take your word on it. To paraphrase Freud himself "Sometimes a tentacle is just a tentacle".

Re:wow... (2, Insightful)

Petrushka (815171) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916006)

A tentacle can be just a tentacle if you're a biologist. But this is a horror scenario: what is it about tentacles that makes them fitting in a horror scenario? Not necessarily an easy question to answer.

The gpp is quite right that the article is talking nonsense about this, though: it's got nothing to do with blurring boundaries in Kristeva's sense, or abjection. Probably lots of people will have different views on what it is about tentacles that make them "horror"-fic; what do Cthulhu, Saddler, Demogorgon, and the pool creature in LotR have in common?

Well, for one thing, they're all male. However, the classic psychoanalytic icon of a tentacular mass is the snakes on Medusa's head, which Freud interpreted as iconic of female pubic hair.

OK, starting to get bored. Basically, for an article trying to do a "psychoanalytic" reading, it's way too Lacanian for its own good. In fact it's not a psychoanalytic reading at all -- the references to Kristeva, and to Heideggerian and Derridean terminology make that clear -- it's really just a straightforward deconstructive reading, using an excessively large vocabulary and excessively convoluted sentences to disguise the fact that all the ideas in it are someone else's. It's kinda novel to see it being done on video games, but that's just another self-conscious postmodernist gesture.

They worked hard... (4, Interesting)

Junta (36770) | more than 7 years ago | (#17914416)

To try to shoehorn RE4 to line up some of the symbology to Silent Hill..

RE4 wasn't really the same sort of game as previous RE games, not really scary at all, just an action game for the most part. That said, RE has never struck me as being a particularly deep game series, for the most part simple resource scarcity and 'boo!' moments for relatively cheap suspense/horror. Extensive psychoanalysis of that series, particularly trying to pull in desire for a womb/sexual desire, comes off as a huge piece of bullshit to me.

Silent Hill's creators obviously very much buy into and intentionally incorporate every psychoanalysts dream smorgasbord of refrences/meaning. It ultimately makes it easy for psychoanalysts to roll through and point out the obvious things put in by the creators. Problem, for me at least, was the whole womb/room/umbilical cord thing just didn't strike me really. In fact, it kinda softened the impact of the whole thing because even as they tried to integrate it, it just seemed out-of-place, and not out of place in an eerie way, just in an almost funny 'reducing suspension of disbelief' sort of way. It was just so painfully obvious a psychological theory planted into the game that I've never took stock in. The fact that I didn't buy into it reinforces to me the decreased merit of 'everyone wants to be back in the womb' theories that pervade psychology. However, to me, Silent Hill *does* make good use of some deeper psychology to evoke deeper suspense and fear that is more persistant than anything in the Resident Evil series, so net Silent Hill's strategy of using more complex psychology works for them. To this end I was able to look past the parts that bugged me and enjoyed the overall game.

When I observe psychological archetypes that I do not believe have real meaning in a game, for me that's generally the point where I'm convinced (it fits so well, leaves my suspension of belief intact, and I can identify with the situation), or proves to myself that I'm not just being skeptical. Maybe it varies from person to person, but it seems most psychoanalysis is no where near as universal as the writers would have you believe.

Re:They worked hard... (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 7 years ago | (#17914582)

RE4 wasn't really the same sort of game as previous RE games
It had the gameplay mechanics of the Metal Gear Solid series, so much so that I kept trying to sneak past guards for the first hour of play (pointless, since you're meant to kill, not to sneak), and no actual zombies, unless you count Chekov from Wrath of Khan as a zombie.

BUT, fun!

Re:They worked hard... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17914662)

FYI: The "everyone wants to be back in the womb" theories and other psychoanalytical lines of thought don't pervade all of psychology. They pervade the psychoanalyst circles, which happen to be a very small subset of the psychology field.

Though obviously you didn't say it, it would be good for everyone who thinks of psychology as pseudoscience garbage due to shallow glances at Freud should explore the rest of the field, as well.

Re:They worked hard... (1)

xouumalperxe (815707) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916472)

relax, it's just a joke.

Re:They worked hard... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17915104)

From the Boondock Saints:

"Symbology"? Well, now that Duffy's relinquished his King Bonehead crown, I see we have a new heir to the throne. The word I believe you're looking for is "symbolism".
:)

Seriously though, you have a point. Noone can automatically give subliminal meaning to a work that was not intended for depth and complication.

Silent Hill and Resident Evil (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17914528)

Silent Hill is about subtle horror and intelligent, deep plot development. Silent Hill doesn't have monsters, the monsters in Silent Hill are the characters.

Resident Evil is a stupid action game with cheap OH-I-NEVER-EXPECTED-DOGS-WOULD-SUDDENLY-BURST-OUT- OF-THAT-WINDOW shock effects designed for 15 year olds.

I'm not going to read this article because even somebody that actually likes RE will agree that RE and SH are completely different games.

Re:Silent Hill and Resident Evil (1)

WiiVault (1039946) | more than 7 years ago | (#17915738)

I could not agree more. I love them both but they are pretty much polar opposites when it comes to what they are going for. RE4 is my favorite game but its much more about action while Silent Hill is really more about being damn freaking creepy. The older REs were scarier but nothing like SH.

"im not even going to read this article" (0, Offtopic)

deadlock911 (629647) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916130)

Mod this guy down please...i used all my mod points already >_

Re:"im not even going to read this article" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17916750)

First of all your posts start with a zero rating, so I don't believe you ever had mod points.

Secondly let me quote the article:

We chose to work with Resident Evil and Silent Hill since they are the two most significant series in the survival horror genre. Only once we started filtering these games through our psychoanalytic lenses did we recognize that they are significant for entirely different reasons
So initially they didn't have a clue about at least one of those two games. Also they conclude a lot of things by using The Room as an example - which shouldn't have been a Silent Hill game (don't get me wrong it is still a good game). SH4 is so different from the series and was only named Silent Hill because Konami was afraid it wouldn't sell. Then they just freely jump from SH3 to SH2 and SH4 in the rest of the article. I don't know how they want to make a coherent psychological analysis if they don't take the cruel drama of SH2 in account or the stressful gameplay of SH4.

Oh wait!

I do now! All they talk about is save points - geez, that article really seems deep but in fact it is not.

To the authors: Next time you plan to write an article, do it after having played the games. Then you might even find a interesting aspect to psychoanalyze.

Re:"im not even going to read this article" (1)

deadlock911 (629647) | more than 7 years ago | (#17993900)

Sorry, that wasn't anything against you, i just hate people who post without reading the article

Re:Silent Hill and Resident Evil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17916140)

If you read the article you would know they aren't comparing the two games as being the exact same... Hell even the article's description says they are two different styles of games. If you read the article you would know they just examine how each game creates its own sense of horror. Not really sure why the difference between the two games makes the article not worth reading. What did bug me (and what another poster mentioned) was that this article was full of mistakes (calling the undead zombies and such).

Re:Silent Hill and Resident Evil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17916864)

So why did they chose to analyze SH and RE in the same article instead of Silent Hill and Tomb Raider?

Or why not write another article psychoanalyzing Twin Peaks(SH) and Night of the Living Dead(RE)?

Your comment has no substance, good Sir.

Re:Silent Hill and Resident Evil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17917274)

They say right in it why they chose those two titles... They say its because those two are probably the most well known, popular titles. Just RTFA!

Re:Silent Hill and Resident Evil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17917348)

How about you just read my fucking comment, it does not make sense because they thought they were the same genre - WHICH THEY ARE NOT.

Re:Silent Hill and Resident Evil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17937688)

This probably depends on how we choose to define genre, and who we authorize to make such a definition. True, capital letters often lend authority, but I do think RE and SH are in a similar genre--survival horror. Sure, RE, especially in its later installments, is more third-person shooter, but anyone who remembers the original RE, especially on hard mode, will remember judiciously selecting which monsters needed to be killed, and which could be evaded. And my heart still races a bit when I think of those damn dogs jumping through the windows!



Also, we picked these series because they represent the division, roughly, between modern and postmodern theory, especially as regards subject formation. In RE, we are positioned to save the world. In SH, there is no such assurances. We are not a stable [heroic] self, and cannot be sure what's real and fiction. This is one of pomo's core themes--and we thought it was unbelievable to find such metaphysically complex questions in a video game.

It has its points (2, Interesting)

Grizpin (899482) | more than 7 years ago | (#17914722)

I have recently played through both RE4 and SH2 so the experience is fresh. I can see how the points the authors made in this peice highlight each games style. Not just in horror gaming but in how a good horror story is told. I never really thought of it the way they analyze it. I'm currently in school for game development and I enjoyed reading the psychoanalytic view of both these series. RE being the game style of save the world and put things in order vs. SH where everything that happens has us question our own avatars sanity (and perhaps our own). Horror game development is something I thought I might work on some day. This really opened my eyes and I'm glad I read it. Perhaps it will inspire me when I make my own horror game some day :)

The meaning meter is reading dangerously low! (2, Funny)

Jeian (409916) | more than 7 years ago | (#17914778)

I got about two paragraphs into the article, then decided it was computer-generated essay designed to see how many people would actually think it meant something.

Re:The meaning meter is reading dangerously low! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17914816)

i'm going to have to agree with you. i read a bit further than you, but my immediate and continued reaction to the article is, "whuuuuhhh...huh?"

Re:The meaning meter is reading dangerously low! (1)

mqduck (232646) | more than 7 years ago | (#17915196)

I got about two paragraphs into the article, then decided it was computer-generated essay designed to see how many people would actually think it meant something.
I think I may have to agree with you. There are few things in this world I'm more interested in than psychology, and the subject of this article/paper/whatever got me excited.

But it's almost unreadable. I couldn't force myself to read it. If it actually is serious, it's very poorly written. There are no arguments for the statements - and many of the statements seriously need some - that would make it academically valuable, and there's absolutely no attempt to make it readable by the curious.

Not to mention... (1)

nathan s (719490) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916290)

...that it is riddled with stupid grammatical errors on top of the verbosity. Sentence fragments like "Order by any means necessary." and omissions like that in "Silent Hill significance stems from its avant-garde status:" (apostrophe-s, anyone?) make this painful to wade through, as if the blathering exercise in gratuitous vocabulary doesn't cause enough headaches.

Uh-huh (1)

Troll_Destroyer (1060820) | more than 7 years ago | (#17914864)

Wow. I've played and beaten RE4 six times and never once stopped to think about the deep, psychological mechanisms that went into its creation. ... Yeah, I think everything this article just said is either reading WAY too much into it, or just bull s***. Spanish parasite-controlled monster for life!

Lacanian analysis. (2, Funny)

Lethyos (408045) | more than 7 years ago | (#17915792)

... [H]is end finds its meaning in the last judgment, where the Word absolves his being or condemns it—unless he reaches the subjective realization of being-toward-death.

Now I will get chills every time I have received a Word document as an email attachment or any time a potential employer requests my resume in Word format. Wow, this Lacan guy is spot-on.

Gammar exception. (1)

Lethyos (408045) | more than 7 years ago | (#17915810)

Yes, I just noticed where I forgot to change from past to future tense and I am smacking my forehead now. Thank you.

Re:Lacanian analysis. (1)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 7 years ago | (#17919766)

You could come and work for us, if we were recruiting. We reject CVs in .doc format.

For the win. (1)

Lethyos (408045) | more than 7 years ago | (#17928444)

Please hire me.

19 comments so far ? Do I sense... (1)

pruneau (208454) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916014)

...Some /. reader parser crashing, or what ?
Because yes, RTFM=big pain here, no doubt.

hmm... one word makes me want to read this article (1)

CaptainNerdCave (982411) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916036)

lacan

the fact that this article is citing lacan for support makes me think that there has to be something more to it that a lot of you are not seeing.

how many of you watched Blue Velvet and saw anything worth paying close attention to?

slavoj zizek?

michel foucault?

i think the reason that you have a hard time picking anything worthwhile out of this article could be because you're not looking at it in the right way. when you're part of the gang of skin-heads beating up a jew, you don't see it as out of the ordinary (no hidden agenda to that statement, just the first example that came to mind)

Horror games are terrifying,.. for me. (2, Interesting)

AbRASiON (589899) | more than 7 years ago | (#17916420)

Thought I might post my thoughts on horror games.

For some reason, unknown to me I have nothing short of a fantastic suspension of disbelief.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suspension_of_disbeli ef [wikipedia.org]

I don't know why, it could be my upbringing, I might have trouble telling from real and fantasy, I could have deep mental issues, who knows.
What I do know is that I totally and utterly am scared easily, be it movies / games etc, it's fantastic - because I can enjoy some games more but it's terrible because I can be frightened so much.

Here's some examples of games I have quit due to fear.

Aliens vs Predator 2 demo, quit on the second level, not seeing a single alien, scared the shit out of me.
System Shock 2, lasted 5 minutes into the demo, quit - terrifying
Ultima Underworld 1 (yes UW1) I quit when I reached level 5, the ghosts, paranormal stuff, demons and darkness - I high tailed it back to the dos prompt.
Space Hulk (again an old one) - not a chance in hell.
Doom 1, I finished it but I distinctly recall playing it on .. well an adrenaline high, I raced through - terrified, loved it but didn't stop to breathe.
Silent Hill 3, lasted about 10 minutes, iirc it was foggy - quit.
Call of Cthulu, made it to the town, got into some kind of store and stole a liquor bottle, couldn't escape before the guy caught me - fear was too intense anyhow and quit.

I couldn't watch Disney's the black hole because Maximillion scared the shit out of me :/
I watched the exorcist recently for the first time and made a conscious mental decision to simply switch my mind off - I "observed" without listening, otherwise I'd totally shit myself.
Devils advocate, didn't know what it was about, when the "evil wives" faces morphed demonically, well I finished the movie but it scared the shit out of me.

Funny enough though I also get embaressed when watching some movies, I put myself in the shoes of the actor / actors, I find some humour difficult to watch and awkward, Borat for example makes me cringe, I see the humour but I can't watch it, nor can I watch someone make a fool of themselves on youtube, I feel embaressed for them - I don't feel the disconnect from the situation that others do, so it makes things quite awkward.

So, to get back on topic, scary games can be an amazing experience, because well - I feel like I've experienced it somewhat, for real, myself - and I've survived, it's fantastic but such a burden too.

The more you know.

Re:Horror games are terrifying,.. for me. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17917174)

For some reason, unknown to me I have nothing short of a fantastic suspension of disbelief.
OMG quick, get an eBay account, I have so much worthless shit to sell you with amazing back stories.

Re:Horror games are terrifying,.. for me. (1)

Das Modell (969371) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918146)

This made me laugh quite a lot.

Re:Horror games are terrifying,.. for me. (0, Offtopic)

A Friendly Troll (1017492) | more than 7 years ago | (#17917308)

What I do know is that I totally and utterly am scared easily, be it movies / games etc, it's fantastic - because I can enjoy some games more but it's terrible because I can be frightened so much.
So tell me, mr. AbRASiON, how do you really feel about Windows Vista...?

Re:Horror games are terrifying,.. for me. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17918748)

ROFL!

why is this moderated offtopic?! jesus...

Re:Horror games are terrifying,.. for me. (1)

Machine9 (627913) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918900)

If you ever play Silent Hill: The Room, you will die.

Have you seen the yellow sign?

Re:Horror games are terrifying,.. for me. (1)

MasterGwaha (1033282) | more than 7 years ago | (#17919944)

im that way too!!! metal gear ONE!! dogs get alerted by my presence and that sound went off i jumped... and im 23 and that was two years ago GWHAHAHHAA! lol not a pansie by any means in the real world i work out and kick plenty of ass! it's that active imagination i believe. my solution was to have friends play the scary games i wanted to play and watch them and be the back seat driver/navigator HAHAHAHHA i still have only played RE1 and 2 by myself and none of the silent hill gameS!

Re:Horror games are terrifying,.. for me. (1)

Psmylie (169236) | more than 7 years ago | (#17920632)

I can sympathise with you here, especially on the comedy stuff. Certain types of humor is just too "real" and embarrasing to me. I can see why it's funny, but I just squirm when it's on. Pretty much anything involving prank calls to real people, for example, or candid-camera situations... can't handle them. And that applies to a lot of drama-overloaded "reality" tv as well. Flavor of Love is a decent into hell that culminates in I Love New York. Just the commercials for those shows makes me uncomfortable.

My wife was really into "Who Wants to Be a Superhero" a while back, and we were talking about why I couldn't watch it with her. I finally just told her, "I feel the shame that those people should be feeling"

So, to each their own. I prefer my comedy totally absurd and non-reality based. Like Monty Python, etc.

Re:Horror games are terrifying,.. for me. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17921748)

Devils advocate, didn't know what it was about, when the "evil wives" faces morphed demonically, well I finished the movie but it scared the shit out of me.
Check out the movie "From Dusk Till Dawn" - it focuses on a pair of criminals + hostages the night after a bank robbery and deals with the subject of Good vs Evil. There's a scene with Salma Hayek (she's hot) that you'll never forget.

I, like many others, saw the movie without knowing more than the above description. :(

Re:Horror games are terrifying,.. for me. (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922682)

I, like many others, saw the movie without knowing more than the above description. :(
In this day and age... how did you manage THAT?!
No... really... I'd like to know... If it's not the idiotic trailer it's the idiotic TV host/journalist.

Or the commercial on some site somewhere.

If it's not them - then it is the idiot friend that just happens to know the ending too.

So like... you live in a log cabin somewhere... with no electricity or internet? Right?

Re:Horror games are terrifying,.. for me. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17924930)

Or, perhaps ...

I walked in to a friend's dorm room within the first few minutes of the movie. It's not like I went to rent/buy it or that I had much of an opportunity to research it. The only question you're allowed to ask in such a situation is, "What's the title?" and "From Dusk Till Dawn" is quite ambiguous. I doubt you'd have fared better for an unfamiliar title. Then again, it appears that nothing would ever surprise you being that you are all-knowing, armed with electricity and the Internet.

Anyway, as for the ads: I tune out commercials so I never saw the ads for it. Well, I can say for certain that I didn't pay attention to them, if I did see them.

Similar situations occurred to friends, so I know I'm not alone on the reaction.

Lastly, this occurred in early-1999 so it wasn't quite "In this day and age".

Thanks for playing - maybe next time you'll consider that you don't have all the information to make judgment upon another. Maybe...

Re:Horror games are terrifying,.. for me. (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933132)

1999? That is like 3 years after the movie came out.

How did you manage to not get pounded by Cheech Marin's "introductory speech" in those 3 years?
Every idiot I ever came across would know at least a part of it (and was willing to share that knowledge), and then he would tell me that its form that Clooney/Tarantino movie... "You know... the one with stripper with a snake and the vampires".

And sorry if that last sentence (of the previous post) upset you in any way...

I mean it's just... almost an accomplishment to manage to stay out of tune with all the crap our eyes and ears are flooded with every day.
I wish I could. Then I would never have heard of Jackass or Ali G and Borat.

Re:Horror games are terrifying,.. for me. (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 7 years ago | (#17922790)

Ummm... I don't know how to tell you this but... you have a problem.

Not Psychoanalysis (1)

Wazukkithemaster (826055) | more than 7 years ago | (#17917404)

Psychoanalysis is a method of therapy related to psychotherapy. This is basically just looking at video games and saying "Freud would probably have said X about ..."

Lacan was a student of Freud. IIRC my psych prof. dismissed Lacan because he doesn't like to provide integral scientific data to support his conclusions.

Anyways... yeah... pretty pointless.

The first 5 seconds of the SH3 intro... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17918546)

...left me perplexed. SH2 and 3 are full of this kind of strange moments which I havent seen in any other game.
 
Are there any other games like this series?

Overanalyze much? (1)

Machine9 (627913) | more than 7 years ago | (#17919256)

Now, this might just be me here... ...but isn't this just a case of a writer trying to emphasize how smart he thinks he is? I sincerely question that the creators of these games spent any significant amount of time reading freud or looking into the deeper meaning behind "icky umbilical cord-thing". More likely, the process was something along the lines of "What creeps me out?" I'd love to see a good analysis of horror games, and the minds of their creators, and the reason why things are scary or not, but this is not it. I'd be very interested in learning why some people find the direct threat of shambling zombies scarier, whilst others find the altered reality theme of Silent Hill scarier.

Re:Overanalyze much? (1)

Harry Coin (691835) | more than 7 years ago | (#17925908)

Confused yet? Yeah, me too. This article is an example of psychoanalytic literary criticism [wikipedia.org] . A postmodern [wikipedia.org] mish-mash of psychoanalyisis, and literary criticism [wikipedia.org] . It uses deconstruction [wikipedia.org] as a tool to analyse the implicit assumptions in a text. One tenet of this school of philosophy is that it doesn't matter whether or not the author thought about, or intended to communicate these ideas. They "trust the tale, not the teller". You may consider this "reading things into" the story, but that's rather the point.

I haven't studied any of these fields in depth, and I cannot agree with some conservative commentators that they offer nothing of value, but I always find this style of writing almost completely opaque. It bothers me that those who study writing, language, and philosophy at the university level for several years find it nearly impossible to write in a way that makes their meaning clear.

Part of the problem is that of jargon [wikipedia.org] . Every field has specialized terms which often carry very specific meaning within the field, but may have a different meaning to the layman. Unfortunately, only a miniscule fraction of the population is familiar with the terms that are commonly used in this form of writing, and they are usually used without any explanation. Some examples from this article are diagesis [wikipedia.org] , discursive [wikipedia.org] , hermeneutic [wikipedia.org] , phallogocentric [wikipedia.org] . All of these terms carry deep meanings to those involved with postmodern philosophy, but come off as nonsense or "empasizing how smart the writer is" to most people.

Another problem with understanding this type of writing is the relentless name-dropping. If you see writing in this style again, scan it for proper names. You should always see: "Foucault [wikipedia.org] ", "Lacan [wikipedia.org] ", "Freud [wikipedia.org] ", and "Derrida [wikipedia.org] ". Referring to these writers likely gives the student of postmodern philosophy additional context to understand particular passages, but as most people are unfamiliar with their writings, it often comes off as either pretentious, or revealing a lack of original ideas on the part of the author.

Another barrier to understanding, at least on my part, is the fact that this type of thinking has its roots in the humanities, not in the sciences. As a result, it is unconstrained by experiment, fact, or logic. In fact, postmodern philosophy is far more interested in the "metanarrative [wikipedia.org] ", the stories we tell ourselves, rather than logic. Some even claim that logic should not have a privileged position over the narrative. A cynic would say that proposition is some extremely self-serving logic, coming from literary professors.

I actually found this story more interesting that I thought I would. Not that I gained any new insight into Resident Evil or Silent Hill, but in addressing a topic with which I am familiar, I have new insight into the worlds of psychoanalysis and literary criticism. I think I'll stick with the sciences, except when I need sleep.

Re:Overanalyze much? (1)

insignificant_wrangl (1060444) | more than 7 years ago | (#17928684)

Another barrier to understanding, at least on my part, is the fact that this type of thinking has its roots in the humanities, not in the sciences. As a result, it is unconstrained by experiment, fact, or logic. In fact, postmodern philosophy is far more interested in the "metanarrative", the stories we tell ourselves, rather than logic. Some even claim that logic should not have a privileged position over the narrative. A cynic would say that proposition is some extremely self-serving logic, coming from literary professors.

Touche. But let me say that the basis of postmodern philosophy, and its interests in metanarratives, stems from a primary postulate: that not everything "true" is empirically verifiable, that many things (but especially desire), never can be constrained by experiment, fact, or logic. The postmodernist begins (and this is not meant to be a dig) by questioning the desire for fact and logic, and the seeming stability they offer.

I wanted to respond because I appreciated the quality of your response--and confirm most of your suspicions. This article was first a conference presentation at last year's Popular Culture Association annual conference--it was intended for a narrower academic audience, and aims more at introducing academics to videogames than introducing a mass audience to postmodern psychoanalytic literary theory.

Re:Overanalyze much? (1)

Harry Coin (691835) | more than 7 years ago | (#17939790)

This article was first a conference presentation at last year's Popular Culture Association annual conference--it was intended for a narrower academic audience, and aims more at introducing academics to videogames than introducing a mass audience to postmodern psychoanalytic literary theory.

Ah, it does make more sense in that light. Most video game writing is either embarassingly superficial or poorly disguised advertising, and I for one was glad for a new perspective. I wrote that response primarily for those who may have been interested in understanding your article, and lacked the frame of reference needed to begin. Unfortunately, it seems that most people would rather make a snide comment, rather than make an effort to learn something new and improve themselves. I wish I had more time to devote to philosophy. I know very little about the postmodern school. However I dislike those who form a strong opinion about a subject without at least attempting to understand it.

But let me say that the basis of postmodern philosophy, and its interests in metanarratives, stems from a primary postulate: that not everything "true" is empirically verifiable, that many things (but especially desire), never can be constrained by experiment, fact, or logic.

I'll admit a strict rationalist bias. However, you probably already know this but there's a similar concept in mathematics that rocked it to its core. Goedel's Incompleteness Theorem [wikipedia.org] is a mathematical proof that shows that in any sufficiently advanced axiomatic system (i.e. modern mathematical notation), there exist true statements for which there is no possible proof within the system. Since, at the time, Hilbert's program [wikipedia.org] was attempting to systematize all of mathematics, it was (and is) a very shocking result. As you know, truth becomes even more slippery when human qualities are introduced to the mix. Not that the theorem says anything about the world outside of axiomatic systems, but it does hint that our knowledge is probably impossible to fit into a single, formal construct.

My previous post may not have been entirely fair to a field I know so little about. The "name-dropping" makes far more sense in the academic world where you are expected to list your references. At any rate, I appreciate your response, and I hope that you keep applying your insight to more "pop-culture" that I am familiar with. Perhaps I'll spend this evening reading the links I posted. If you can recommend a good introductory book, I'd appreciate it. There's little that I enjoy more than entertaining a fresh idea. Maybe I'll even start questioning my desire for facts and logic, eh?

Re:Overanalyze much? (1)

insignificant_wrangl (1060444) | more than 7 years ago | (#17942614)

I wasn't aware of the mathematical reference--I'll have to look into that. Mark C. Taylor's recent book on Complexity Theory [amazon.com] is an excellent book--a work that not only summarizes postmodern theory, but integrates it with recent developments in the sciences and with technological changes (in a sense, he puts technology, science, and philosophy in a feedback loop within which it is impossible to identify what leads to what). Taylor is an exceptional Derrida scholar (though I disagree with him on a few points), and his work not only highlights the keys to postmodern theory, but also suggests what might come next.

Francois Lyotard's The Postmodern Condition [amazon.com] is a short, dense, and extremely important book--probably the book in terms of postmodernism. Lyotard compactly summarizes the central arguments of the pomo crew and articulates their impact on rational epistemology. Essentially, Lyotard maintains that rationality cannot be its own foundations, and once untethered from its historic "certain" status, no longer can operate at the center of Western metaphysics (or as the center of western Universities).

Bill Reading's University in Ruins [amazon.com] further explores the impact of Lyotard and postmodernism on university education. Although some people find it slow, Reading's book is very readable, and the problems that it addresses (in terms of proving the "excellence" of education without a foundation for what "excellent" means) problems that are very present today (see No Child Left Behind).

What's important to recognize is that for Taylor, Lyotard, and Readings, leaving Platonic rationality in ruins is a postive thing--it opens the possibilty for plurality, since knowledge ceases to be singular, and learning the search for the one truth. This doesn't mean, of course, that there is no truth. Just no truth can be considered final. We still need rationality, but we must recognize its limitations, and learn to dwell in the ruins.

Anyways, thanks for the reference and the positive comments. It sounds like Taylor's book would probably be a good read.

Today's a Good Day (1)

insignificant_wrangl (1060444) | more than 7 years ago | (#17928532)

Thank you to those who enjoyed the article, I enjoyed writing it (and researching it too, of course). Seeing a link to the article on Slash.dot was quite cool. I do not pretend to understand all the depths of psychology as a field--as a rhetorician, I borrow critical theories as way of seeing and explaining the ways humans interact with each other. At the time I co-wrote the article, I was particularly drawn to Lacan because of the way he defines humans as lacking something. Now I'm not so happy of thinking of human beings as operating from lack--or of difference as essentially a negative; I'm reading a lot of Levinas and Derrida and understanding that our difference, or lack in Lacanian sense, is a postive condition for existence--if we weren't missing something, something infinitely beyond our grasp, then, well, we would all be the same / static / nothing. To those who think we read too much into RE, of course we did! But we don't take our analysis as a revelation of the game maker's intentions--rather we are hoping to demonstrate that RE's narrative (and this could be said of all narratives) reflects some of our basic human problems, things we encounter in the day to day. And our point was that RE was simple-minded when compared to Silent Hill--in the same way that Freudian psychoanalysis is conservative in comparision with Lacanian psychoanalysis (from a postmodern persepctive). I wouldn't say Freud is simple--his writings were extremely progressive, and his development/popularization of the unconscious forever changed not only psychology, but also western metaphysics. To whose who can't stand the academic-ese, sorry. But I'm a professional academic, and that's time consuming. I enjoy playing games, and would like to see academia pay legitimate respect to video games. For that to happen, academics have to receive recognition for the work they do. And the only way we get that recognition is if we write in the social language of our field. When we began working on our first article, we wanted to explicitly argue that games were worthy of academic analysis. Instead, we simply treated video games as objects of analysis, and allowed the "should they" argument to remain implicit. Again, thank you to those who enjoyed the article. Apologies to those who didn't.

Re:Today's a Good Day (1)

paladin_brand (1061540) | more than 7 years ago | (#17935316)

I must say, I wholeheartedly enjoyed your article. I found it to be very well thought out, well-argued, and just yummy. ;)

Your topic was well-chosen. It has always seemed to me that if you are going to lever the boom of psychoanalysis on any part of the gaming body o' work, Resident Evil and Silent Hill are your best initial candidates. No other games carry their Freudian complexes quite so close to the surface as those games, and their long-standing success speaks, I think, to how effective the combination of complex underlying psychology and outstanding gameplay can be.

I think, too, the outspoken vitrol of this thread is testament to how touchy of a subject all this is... and always has been. Regardless, I, for one, found your analysis (and your writing, academic or not) refreshing, marvelous, and tasty. Do it again!

Re:Today's a Good Day (1)

insignificant_wrangl (1060444) | more than 7 years ago | (#17935522)

Thanks for the kind words, and I'm glad you enjoyed the article. I think one of the things holding back more academic discussions of games is that it is very hard to get anything "different" to a mass audience--hence, there is little in the way of an "avant-garde," especially in the world of console gaming. Of course, there are exceptions (Final Fantasy X and MGS II come to mind), but most games follow traditional storylines and are more concerned with saving humanity than investigating what it feels to be(becoming) human. Silent Hill, we believe, is one of the exceptions--they are doing some crazy stuff in those games. The scene in Silent Hill III, when Vincent suggest that we haven't been killing monsters but rather real people ("they look like monsters to you?"), was without question one of the most powerful narrative moments of my life. No exxageration. It was great to have the opportunity first to speak on the topic, and then to publish. And the passage you reproduced on your blog is critical--that's essentially our main point. RE is a conservative game (in several meanings of the world)--it never calls into question the distance between player and game. Silent Hill is an incredible frickin' mind game that constantly questions this distance--and the reality of our realities.

Re:Today's a Good Day (1)

paladin_brand (1061540) | more than 7 years ago | (#17939662)

Agreed.

Have you considered the narrative & psychological substructures of other games? You describe the impact of that narrative moment in Silent Hill for you... and this brings to mind the equivalent moment for me: the penultimate cinematic sequence in the Soul Reaver series. The conclusion of Raziel's quest (and Kain's, for that matter) stands as one of the greatest story moments I've ever experienced, for reasons that I'm not entirely clear on. [SPOILER ALERT!] How does the psychology of a destroyed, betrayed (and yet very powerful) vengance seeker, who then sacrifices himself for/to the very creature who doomed him, fit into existing psychoanalytic structures?

/crosses fingers

;)

Re:Today's a Good Day (1)

insignificant_wrangl (1060444) | more than 7 years ago | (#17942730)

I've never played the Soul Reaver series (though I played the original Kain on PS1!); though the act of sacrificing oneself could likely be read pyschoanalytically... of course, one would want to ask, why sacrifice? Is the goal to save a glorified sense of self? Or is the only option to sacrifice the self, since to be "whole" would negate exisitence? Does the hero sacrifice himself as a return to the mother? In defiance of a father? Does his sacrifice castrate the father's power (thus making it an Oedipal act)?

What makes your example interesting, especially if you are a fan of Slavoj Zizek, is the reference to the vampire--an undead, but, unlike zombies, one that has consciousness. Thus, the vampire is a (non)-being outside of the symbolic order, yet still able to participate within it. Furthermore, the vampire does not have the big Other, death, to worry about. Must be nice. I don't know how much of this stuff you read, but a great introduction to Lacan is Zizek's thoroughly readable Looking Awry [amazon.com] (its a must for any Hitchcock fan). Zizek does a particularly admirable job of explicating postmodern theorists' interest in the undead.

I haven't done any writing on other games--I was working on a paper on Socom and online gaming, but had to drop the project. That investigation wasn't psychoanalytic--it was ethnographic, I'm interested in the kinds of ethics that take place in virtual communities and am torn reflecting on my own experiences with Socom (a thoroughly addicted clan member who had to quit playing in order to get a degree!). Socom does encourage ethical interaction between players, but I also witnessed some seriously questionable behavior. Anywho, that's another paper for another day.

Life's Short. Think Hard. (1)

brontemunro (1061786) | more than 7 years ago | (#17944182)

I would just like to say that, like my co-author and good friend mentioned, I, too, am very flattered that so many of you took the time to not only read this article but to also criticize or discounted it as "bull shit" :) I personally think that academia needs to write more "bull shit" about video games and their highly complex narratives. I would love to assign "chapters" in a video game to my students for their own analysis. In my opinion, Silent Hill 2 is as sophisticated as anything that ever came off the quill of Shakespeare. I also believe that the designers of the Silent Hill series are very aware of psychoanalysis, and they definitely used what they know to add fascinating visual and psychological depth. To not stop a minute and appreciate this layering would be to trivialize the experience of playing these games. So many of us are drawn into dark, dark blood-soaked caverns of survival horror games, I think Stephen King in his article "Why We Crave Horror Movies" is correct. These games are a purging of the deeper demons within all of us. They illuminate the blackest corners of our own psyches. That, to me, seems worthy of as much "bull shit" as we can devote to it.

Re:Life's Short. Think Hard. (1)

insignificant_wrangl (1060444) | more than 7 years ago | (#17948636)

I put up a blog post on my new blogger site [blogspot.com] wading through some of the bullshit. For those who care. The site is supposed to be strictly for me to practice image manipulation, and now its soiled with psychoanalysis. Sigh. Won't anything maintain order for more than five days?
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