Restless Dreams and Shattered Memories: Psychoanalysis and Silent Hill

Ewan Kirkland

Abstract

This paper applies psychoanalytic frameworks to the survival horror franchise Silent Hill, a series which is itself informed by psychoanalytic themes. Concerns include the construction of game space as maternal womb, cinematic sequences as primal fantasies, and the representation of memory across the games within a psychoanalytic context. The horror genres’ preoccupation with monstrous mother figures is evident in boss battle adversaries, the depiction of gamespaces as bloody «maternal caves», and in narratives concerning characters’ searching for their parental origins Distinguishing between videogames’ playable sequences and cinematics as conscious and sub-conscious aspects, cut-scenes are analysed as reproducing primal fantasies, serving to explain protagonists’ backstory and situating play within narrative contexts. Such moments intrude into the game, marking transformations between the ordinary world and the abject Otherworld, or heralding the emergence of psychoanalytically-resonant monstrous creatures which the protagonist must destroy. Finally, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is examined as a game which, even more than others, foregrounds the series’ explicit reference to psychoanalytic preoccupations, engaging with contemporary understandings concerning the relationship between memory, media and fantasy.

Keywords

Silent Hill, survival horror, psychoanalysis, videogames, memory.

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