This chapter explores the ways horror videogames signify evil through the emulation of analogue corruption. I draw upon Bolter and Grusin’s ‘remediation’, describing the process by which new media deploys, refashions and reflects upon older media texts and technologies. Videogames frequently reproduce signs of non-digital media to evoke the realism, authority and emotional affect associated with traditional forms. However, horror videogames specifically employ non-diegetic remediation of audiovisual effects resembling analogue distortion - radio white noise, television static, scratched celluloid - to signify evil. Games in which players tune into zombie monsters like channels on a TV set, alert players to approaching creatures through bursts of radio static, or signify attacks on the avatar’s body through flashes to photographic negative, associate ‘old’ media with the uncanny, supernatural, and threatening. Such moments draw upon and construct notions of analogue media as archaic, chaotic, ethereal, unknowable, corruptible and corrupting. While operating in videogame cyberspace, these remediations constitute digital media’s depiction of evil according to familiar constructs, as arcane, polluting, all engulfing, as beyond representation and language. Videogames considered include Fatal Frame, Forbidden Siren and Silent Hill.
This chapter explores the nature of videogame avatars, using Capcom’s survival horror title Haunting Ground as case study. Various approaches to theorising the relationship between player and avatar are outlined and contrasted, including a film studies model of spectatorship, an approach emphasising avatars’ functionality, and notions of the avatar/player’s relationship as variously cyborgian. Particular attention is paid to the forms of subjectivity facilitated and constructed by the game, especially in relation to issues of gender. Throughout this chapter, my own position as a white heterosexual male player will also be considered as impacting on my relationship with the avatar of Haunted Ground.
This chapter examines the racial politics of Little Big Planet in terms of game design, game play, and what is seen as the preferred process of level construction. This platform game involves players travelling through various levels themed around different continents and countries, collecting objects, and combining them to produce their own games which can be shared online with other players. The game’s pre-designed content can be criticised from the perspective of Orientalism, as embodying stereotypical images of non-Western nations. Gameplay involves collecting bubbles containing the various ethnically coded objects which define these spaces, reproducing a form of virtual colonialism evident across a range of game genres and titles. This process of collection allows the player to create their own worlds, a bricolage of symbols of other people’s cultures, removed from any meaningful national or ethnic context. Little Big Planet illustrates the tendency for videogame design to decontextualise signifiers of otherness in reducing them to the superficially decorative. Moreover, the game exemplifies the implied white subjectivity which characterises much game culture, here entailing the appropriation, assembling, and public display of symbols of other cultures and ethnicities.
The ‘Remain Indoors’ series, from Mitchell and Webb’s BBC sketch show, is explored in this chapter as science fiction, as absurdist comedy, and as apocalypse narrative. This series of sketches takes the form of a futuristic game show being broadcast after an occurrence referred to only as ‘The Event’. Through the quiz master’s desperately cheerful banter, exchanges with deranged contestants, and the questions he asks - the correct answers to which are unknown to all concerned - viewers are given random insights into this bleak world. While the nature of ‘The Event’ is never clarified, it appears most people are now blind, all the children have died, the word ‘water’ has lost all meaning, and both human civilisation and its memory are corrupted beyond all recognition. While rooted in dystopian science fiction, the ‘Remain Indoors’ series can also be related to absurdist theatre, and certain traditions in British comedy. Like the hapless characters of Beckett’s Endgame, both host and contestants seem trapped within a ruined landscape, possessing only a hazy sense of who, where, or why they are, and engaging in nonsensical conversations, which have no point or satisfactory conclusion. From Monty Python to Brass Eye to Psychoville, British comedy has echoed such dark and surrealist themes. This leads to a consideration of apocalypse narratives, which both the ‘Remain Indoors’ series and Beckett’s plays evoke. The surreal war-zones of science-fiction comic books, the tattered narrative style of Threads, or the breakdown of language in the linguistic zombie film Pontypool, reflect similar themes, in which the end of civilisation constitutes the end of meaning, the collapse of discourse, and the fragmentation of collective and individual memory.