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  • Saving Ourselves: Psychoanalytic Investigation of Resident Evil and Silent Hill

    - Marc C. Santos and Sarah White
  •  Works Cited

    Brooks, Peter. Reading for the Plot: Design and Intention in Narrative. Cambridge, MA: Harvard U. P., 2002.

    Butler, Judith. Bodies that Matter. New York: Routledge, 1993.

    Carr, Diane. "Play Dead: Genre and Affect in Silent Hill and Planescape Torment." Game Studies: The international Journal of Computer Game Research. 3.1 (May 2003): 20 April 2006.

    Derrida, Jacques. Archive Fever. Chicago: U. of Chicago P., 1998.

    Freud, Sigmund. "Note Upon the ‘Mystic Writing Pad'." General Psychological Theory. Ed. Philip Rieff. Trans. James Strachey. NY: Simon & Schuster, 1997.

    ----. An Outline of Psycho-Analysis. The Standard Edition. Trans & ed. James Strachey. NY: W.W. Norton & Co., 1989.

    ----. Beyond the Pleasure Principle. The Standard Edition. Trans & ed. James Strachey. NY: W.W. Norton & Co., 1989.

    Ian, Marcia. Remembering the Phallic Mother: Psychoanalysis, Modernism, and the Fetish. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1993.

    Kristeva, Julia. The Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection. Trans. Leon S. Roudiez. New York: Columbia UP, 1982.

    Juul, Jesper. Half-Real / Video Games Between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds. Cambridge, MA: M.I.T. Press, 2005.

    Lacan, Jacques. Four Fundamental Concepts of Pscyhoanalysis. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan Book XI. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Trans. Alan Sheridan. New York: WW. Norton, 1998.

    ----. Ecrits. Trans. Bruce Fink. NewYork: W.W. Norton & Co, 2002.

    Santos, Marc C. and Sarah E. White. "Playing with Ourselves: A Psychoanalytic Investigation of Resident Evil and Silent Hill." Digital Gameplay: Essays on the Nexus of Game and Gamer. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2005.

    Žižek, Slavoj. Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan through Popular Culture. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992.

    ----. Welcome to the Desert of the Real: Five Essays on September 11th and Related Dates. New York: Verso, 2002..

    Games Analyzed (all for Playstation or Playstation 2)

    Resident Evil. Director's Cut Edition. U.S.A.: Capcom Co. LTD, 1998.

    Resident Evil 2. U.S.A.: Capcom Co. LTD, 1998.

    Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. U.S.A.: Capcom Co. LTD, 1999.

    Resident Evil: Code Veronica. U.S.A.: Capcom Co. LTD, 2001.

    Resident Evil 4. U.S.A.: Capcom Co. LTD, 2004.

    Silent Hill. Greatest Hits Edition. U.S.A.: Konami of America, 2000.

    Silent Hill 2. Greatest Hits Edition. U.S.A.: Konami of America, 2002.

    Silent Hill 3. U.S.A.: Konami of America, 2003.

    Silent Hill 4: "The Room." U.S.A.: Konami of America, 2004.

    [i] In her article "Play Dead: Genre and Affect in Silent Hill and Planescape Torment, Diane Carr argues that "the success of the Silent Hill series is a result of its capacity to frighten its users." We are attempting to show how deep such fright runs: beyond the tension generated by directed game play (Carr), which is certainly effectively affective, Silent Hill engages, in subtle and sophisticated ways, the (anti-)foundational nature of Being and beings.

    [ii] Here we are drawing on rhetorician Kenneth Burke's very readable chapter on language's "paradox of substance" in The Grammar of Motives. Burke points out the language can never exist objectively, without a "sub" (ground, context) upon which it stands (produces meaning). Those looking for a more conventional introduction to postructuralism should examine Saussure's canonical "Lectures on General Linguistics," Heidegger's Principle of Reason, or Derrida's Of Grammatology.

    [iii] Recall Freud's comments from The Interpretation of Dreams, that "anyone, however, that has had a little experience in translating dreams will at once reflect that penetrating into narrow spaces and opening closed doors are among the most commonest sexual symbols" (433). Anticipating our concluding arguments, we can identify ways in which these games capture Peter Brook's narratological tying of narrative progression to sexual fulfillment.

    [iv] For this reason, and many others, we both agree Silent Hill rivals the character, psychological, and narrative complexity of any of Shakespeare's plays. The game invites a player to question whether the world of the avatar is subjective or objective (shades of Hamlet), whether we are inside a psychotic mind or in a horrific reality, where each clue brings you closer to a repressed memory of our avatar, and (in Silent Hill 2) potentially ends in the main character's apparent suicide. We first entered into these investigations hoping to argue that video games were worthy of the high theoretical criticism often reserved for more canonical material. We hope this argument no longer needs to be made-we hope that the sophistication of Silent Hill, which we only begin to touch on in these articles, speaks for itself.

    [v] In "Playing with Ourselves" we note that the final boss battle of both Resident Evil: Code Veronica and Silent Hill 3 involves "phallic mothers"-mothers who threaten to overthrow the Law of the Father, thereby annihilating symbolic order and subjectivity. We will address Marcia Ian's work on the maternal phallus below. The maternal phallus challenges phallic dominance through the threat of connection.

    [vi] Of course, one could argue that rather than undermining psychic ordering, Res 4 simply makes a great pitch for the series' next installment!

    [vii] For those not familiar with console gaming, "saving" allowed a player to record her progress in the story. If players died during a difficult episode, they could load their progress and try again. Furthermore, saving encourages much longer games that are not designed to be completed in a single gaming session. Games have/are consistently growing longer: Marc's first play of Resident Evil, for instance, took about 8 hours, while his first play of Resident Evil 4 took about 25 hours. This increase facilitates more complicated narratives and more intricate plots.

    [viii] In our previous study, we addressed one such pivotal file: the "Keeper's Diary." As discussed below, this file is tremendously important since it makes an explicit connection between writing properly and maintaining the right subjectivity. Playing with echoes, it positions writing as a rite that rights us.

    [ix] See Lacan's discussion of the skull in Hans Holbein's painting The Ambassadors in section 3 of his lecture on "Anamorphosis" in The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis.

    [x] This is perhaps the most radical development of Freudian theory, one which Freud himself was never quite comfortable-the psychic existence of a nihilistic drive. See Beyond the Pleasure Principle 50-55, especially: "We...dealing not with the living substance but with the forces operating in it, have been led to distinguish two kinds of instincts: those which seek to lead what is living to death, and others, the sexual instincts, which are perpetually attempting and achieving a renewal of life" (55).


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