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GCG Feature: 'Saving Ourselves: Psychoanalytic Investigation of  Resident Evil  and  Silent Hill '

GCG Feature: 'Saving Ourselves: Psychoanalytic Investigation of Resident Evil and Silent Hill'

January 30, 2007 | By Brandon Boyer

In the latest feature for Gamasutra sister educational site Game Career Guide, Marc C. Santos and Sarah White revisit their psychoanalysis of Resident Evil and Silent Hill. using the poststructuralist divide between Freudian and Lacanian.

In their introduction, Santos and White revisit the subject of their previous psychoanalytic look at the two franchises, before introducing their latest, which examines the latest in both franchises -- the 'conventional' Resident Evil 4 versus the 'avant-garde' Silent Hill 4: The Room:

"Imagine wandering through shadowy hallways, with monsters stalking closely behind, desperately running, screaming at the screen for a hallowed "save point." We've come so far, encountered so many clues, overcome so many obstacles, and feel the urgent need to save our progress. How else can we save ourselves?

Two years ago, we presented a psychoanalytic interpretation of the survival horror series Resident Evil and Silent Hill entitled "Playing with Ourselves." Drawing on Freud, Lacan, Kristeva, and Ian, we attempted to illuminate the overlap survival horror games shared with psychoanalytic theorists. The Resident Evil series conservatively positions a player as a defender of Lacanian "symbolic order," the psychological force constituting subjectivity (discussed further below). On the other hand, Silent Hill subverts our anticipation to occupy this position. If Resident Evil comfortably positions us as analyst, then Silent Hill mischievously collapses the distinction between analyst and analysand-undermining with it the surrounding symbolic order upon which such distinctions rely.

This investigation breaks into three distinct sections. The first section further explicates how the poststructuralist divide between Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis plays out in the differences between the Resident Evil and Silent Hill series. We hope to make clear that Silent Hill, like an avant-garde artist, undermines the genre conventions established by Resident Evil. The middle section explores how this divide manifests itself in the two recent additions to each franchise (Resident Evil 4 and Silent Hill 4: The Room). The final section examines the diegetic nature of save points in each series, paying playful attention to how saving (as a rite) records (writes) our progress as we progress toward saving the proper (right) subject. And, following the pattern we discuss in the first section, Resident Evil establishes a more conservative (Freudian) position that Silent Hill playfully (Lacanian-ly) problematizes. "

You can now read the full Game Career Guide feature to learn more about the 'post 9/11' world of Resident Evil 4 and the umbilical connection between Silent Hill 4's first and third person perspectives (no registration required, please feel free to link to this column from external websites).

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