Resident Evil and Silent Hill have been given a psychoanalytic interpretation by two academics wanting to undercover the underlying symbolism of these popular video games.
Needless to say, the article is steeped in the language of psychoanalysis and postmodernism. But if you can get through the jargon, it’s an entertaining essay on the narratives used in the game play and plot of the two games.
Silent Hill significance stems from its avant-garde status: it anticipates our familiarity with these conventions and works to subvert them, problematizing our desire for stability and coherence. These subversions work by collapsing the distances between player, avatar, and game unsettling our expectation to retain a clinical distance between the twisted world of our avatars and the sacred normality of our own real world.
This is epitomized near the end of Silent Hill 3 when a professorial character inquisitively questions the “enjoyment” that Heather, our avatar, draws from killing the threatening abjections around her. When she responds that she has only killed monsters, Vincent replies with “they look like monsters to you…” Our game play, which until this point has been comfortably positioned as an analytic activity helping Heather work through her traumas, becomes traumatic.
Vincent punctures the fictional fantasy screen, speaking not only to Heather, but also to us. Suddenly the game world collapses around us-for a moment we are subjected as murders, potentially as psychotic as our avatar and/or as one of the very psychopaths we so confidently believed we were killing.
Nothing can be trusted. No longer is it clear that we are working to uphold symbolic order. No longer is it clear that any such order ever has or could so securely exist. Put simply, Resident Evil maintains desire for a Freudian dynamic (one in which order is out there), Silent Hill opens us up to a Lacanian one (one in which, to quote Derrida, “order is no longer assured”
Link to ‘Saving Ourselves: Psychoanalytic Investigation of Resident Evil and Silent Hill’.