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Psychoanalyzing Resident Evil and Silent Hill 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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Psychoanalyzing Resident Evil and Silent Hill

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  • Article (Score:5, Informative)

    by Turn-X Alphonse ( 789240 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @07:50PM (#17913970) Journal
    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.
    • [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
      • by miscz ( 888242 )
        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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by theCurse ( 1019716 )
      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: (Score:3, Funny)

      by UbuntuDupe ( 970646 ) *
      I mean how difficult is it to get that Resident evil 4 has ZERO Zombies?

      Thanks for the spoiler, jerkoff.
  • wow... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by onemorehour ( 162028 ) * on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @07:58PM (#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.
    • by Junta ( 36770 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @08:02PM (#17914140)
      In psychology, everything is either about sex, or your mother, but usually both at the same time...
      • by MBCook ( 132727 )

        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 []. Check out his work, he's fantastic.

    • seconded, albeit s/[.]/ that wasnt work related./
    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      by jamesh ( 87723 )
      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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Petrushka ( 815171 )

        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, Demogorg

  • They worked hard... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Junta ( 36770 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @08:22PM (#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.
    • 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!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    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.
    • 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.
  • It has its points (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Grizpin ( 899482 )
    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 questi
  • 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.
    • by mqduck ( 232646 )

      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 t

      • ...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.
  • 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!
  • by Lethyos ( 408045 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @10:52PM (#17915792) Journal

    ... [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.

  • I think I know what inspired at least parts of Resident Evil 4: [] []
  • ...Some /. reader parser crashing, or what ?
    Because yes, RTFM=big pain here, no doubt.
  • 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 ord

  • by AbRASiON ( 589899 ) * on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @12:14AM (#17916420) Journal
    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. ef []

    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: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

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

      Have you seen the yellow sign?
    • 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!
    • by Psmylie ( 169236 ) *
      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.


  • 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.
  • 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
    • Confused yet? Yeah, me too. This article is an example of psychoanalytic literary criticism []. A postmodern [] mish-mash of psychoanalyisis, and literary criticism []. It uses deconstruction [] 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 poi

      • 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 co

        • 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 fo

          • I wasn't aware of the mathematical reference--I'll have to look into that. Mark C. Taylor's recent book on Complexity Theory []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)

  • 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 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 thinkin
    • 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 combina

      • 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(
        • 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 destro

          • 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 a

  • 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

I was playing poker the other night... with Tarot cards. I got a full house and 4 people died. -- Steven Wright