Title Page
 Table of Contents
 Enemies, monsters, and the other...
 Fractured identities: siblings...
 Gothic subversions of gender: women...
 Remnants, ruins, and ruptures:...
 Documenting horror: video games...
 Platform dependent: console and...
 Sequels, prequels, and seriality...
 Biographical sketch
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00081173/00001
 Material Information
Title: Not of woman born monstrous interfaces and monstrosity in video games
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Taylor, Laurie N.
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville Fla.
Subjects / Keywords: Gothic, horror, video
Dissertations, Academic -- English -- UF
English thesis, Ph. D
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Abstract: ABSTRACT: Not of Woman Born combines an examination of the structure and genre of horror within video games to analyze how horror video games operate and the significance of those workings to video games and digital media, horror across media types, Gothic literature, and gender. The majority of texts on games like Espen Aarseth's Cybertext and Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman's Rules of Play have focused on founding the overall methods by which games operate, either in terms of other media forms or solely within games and new media. Not of Woman Born focuses on the particularities of horror games to illustrate commonalities in video games, and to illustrate how certain conventions fail or can be subverted in order to produce particular effects. Running through the chapters is an awareness of games and their current placement as mass-conglomerated media, even as games repeatedly diverge into alternative projects like independent and political games and movements like the Serious Games Initiative and the Games for Health projects. Not of Woman Born configures game and new media studies in such a way that gender studies and studies of Gothic literature expose the function of horror in/by video games, the relationship of gaming norms to that function, and the significance of horror games to typical and atypical video game playing and production from the typical technological improvements leading to improved graphical realism to the atypical and more complex connection among technology, design, and production. Essentially, Not of Woman Born serves as a foil to the structuralist studies by studying abnormal play and design, including the relevance of atypical design and play to innovative design for positive or more equivocal gender representations and for larger possibilities in game design.
Abstract: The Gothic functions as a series of monstrous becomings, and it is within these becomings that this study operates monstrosities made in the interface, the visual representations, the narratives, and in the technologies of horror games.
Thesis: Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 2006.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
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System Details: Mode of access: World Wide Web.
General Note: Title from title page of source document.
General Note: Document formatted into pages; contains 226 pages.
General Note: Includes vita.
Statement of Responsibility: by Laurie N. Taylor.
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Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Page i
        Page ii
        Page iii
        Page iv
    Table of Contents
        Page v
        Page vi
        Page vii
        Page viii
        Page ix
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    Enemies, monsters, and the other in video games
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    Fractured identities: siblings and doppelgangers in video games
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    Gothic subversions of gender: women heroes in video games
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    Remnants, ruins, and ruptures: horror video games' subversion of capitalistic conceptions of space
        Page 102
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    Documenting horror: video games as interactive, and unreal, documentaries
        Page 126
        Page 127
        Page 128
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    Platform dependent: console and computer cultures
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    Sequels, prequels, and seriality in video games
        Page 176
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    Biographical sketch
        Page 217
        Page 218
Full Text







Copyright 2006


Laurie N. Taylor

To Pete.


I have many people to thank for this dissertation: my friends, family, and teachers. I

would also like to thank the University of Florida for encouraging the study of popular

media, with a high level of critical theory and competence. This dissertation also would

not have been possible without the diligent help and guidance from my committee

members, Donald Ault and Jane Douglas, as well as numerous other faculty members

and graduate students both at the University of Florida and at other institutions. Thanks

go to friends and loved ones (and cats): Colin, Jeremiah, Nix, Galahad, and Mila. And,

thanks go always to Pete, for helping with research, discussion, giving me love and

support, and for being wonderful.


A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ...................................................................... ...................iv

AB STRA CT .............. .. ............................................................................viii


1 IN TRODU CTION .............................................. ........... ........ .. .............. 1

Introduction ...................................................................................... ......... .............
T he G othic........................................................ 5
H horror Film s ............................................................... .. .............................. 11
Ludic G othic and H orror G am es .................................................................... 14
Gender and Textuality .................................. .......................... ... ....... 18
G am e Studies.................................................................................... 20


Conflict, Opponents, Enemies, and M onsters ......................................................... 24
The Player-Character and Her Opponent(s)........................................... 27
Monsters and Horror.............................................. 29
Monstrous Focus in Resident Evil and Fatal Frame ........................ ................33
M on sters and the O ther...................................................................................... 4 1
C o n c lu sio n ................................................................. ....................................4 3

V ID E O G A M E S ................................................................................................ 4 6

Siblings in Structure: Player-Characters and Enemies ............................................ 51
Siblings in Narrative .............. ................. .......................55
Sibling Worlds: Chaos of Changing Structures .................... ................60
Sibling Worlds: Enemies and Monsters ........................ .. ..................... 66
C h aracters ............... ................. ................. ....................... 6 8
Doubles, Shadows, and the Other ................... .. .... ................70
Conclusion: Survival Horror and Family Border Crossings ............... ................ 74

GAMES .................. ......................... 76

G othic and G ender ............................................................. ................... 78

G en d er as Sty le .............................................................................. 7 9
C onclu sion .................................................................................................. ...... 99


Introduction .................................... ................................ .......... 102
V ideo G am e Spatiality ..................................... ............. ........ .............. 104
Typical Video Game Spatial Construction ........................................ 106
Space in Ludic Gothic and horror games............... ........................... ................ 111
Gothic, Horror, and Spaces of Memory...................... ...... .............. 118
Gothic's Discontents.. ................................................................... 121
C conclusion .................................................................... ........ 123

UNREAL, DOCUMENTARIES........................... .............. 126

Introduction ........... ......... ......... .................................... 126
Documentary and Docu-games .................... .. ......... ..................... 129
Mock-documentaries for the Voiceless and Invisible ........................................ 133
Docu-games for the Undocumentable .............. ..... ....................................... 138
Documentary Traditions in Fictional Gam es ......................................................... 145
C conclusion .................................................................... ........ 147


Intro du ctio n ..................... .......................................................... 152
Game Culture Platform Dependence ................................................ ............ .. 155
Academics and Computer Vs. Console Games .................................................... 156
Internal D divisions: Console W ars.................................... .................................... 160
Gaming Interface ................................... ............................ ........... 163
Consoles are for K ids................ .... ........ .......... ...... ... .... ......... 166
Places and Ways of Play: Living Rooms, Online Hints, and Game Play
Conventions .................................................................. .... ......... 167
G am e G enres .................................................... 173
Conclusion: Platforms for Academics ........................................... .............. 174


Intro du ctio n .............. ..... ........... ....... ....... ... ............................... 17 6
Continuing Narratives, Closure, and Character Development ........................... 178
Serials and Series ................. ...... ........... .............. ................ 180
Sequels, Prequels, and Seriality in Games ............. .......... .............................. 187
Defying Closure: Serial Functioning of Ludic Gothic and Horror Games............. 192
C onclu sion ................................................................................................. ....... 199

LIST OF REFEREN CE S.......................................................................... ..............203


B IO G R A PH IC A L SK E T C H ............................................................... ...................217

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Laurie N. Taylor

May 2006

Chair: Donald Ault
Major Department: English

Not of Woman Born combines an examination of the structure and genre of horror

within video games to analyze how horror video games operate and the significance of

those workings to video games and digital media, horror across media types, Gothic

literature, and gender.

The majority of texts on games-like Espen Aarseth's Cybertext and Katie Salen

and Eric Zimmerman's Rules ofPlay-have focused on founding the overall methods by

which games operate, either in terms of other media forms or solely within games and

new media. Not of Woman Born focuses on the particularities of horror games to

illustrate commonalities in video games, and to illustrate how certain conventions fail or

can be subverted in order to produce particular effects. Running through the chapters is

an awareness of games and their current placement as mass-conglomerated media, even

as games repeatedly diverge into alternative projects like independent and political games

and movements like the Serious Games Initiative and the Games for Health projects. Not

of Woman Born configures game and new media studies in such a way that gender

studies and studies of Gothic literature expose the function of horror in/by video games,

the relationship of gaming norms to that function, and the significance of horror games to

typical and atypical video game playing and production-from the typical technological

improvements leading to improved graphical realism to the atypical and more complex

connection among technology, design, and production. Essentially, Not of Woman Born

serves as a foil to the structuralist studies by studying abnormal play and design,

including the relevance of atypical design and play to innovative design for positive or

more equivocal gender representations and for larger possibilities in game design. The

Gothic functions as a series of monstrous becoming, and it is within these becoming

that this study operates-monstrosities made in the interface, the visual representations,

the narratives, and in the technologies of horror games.


"Who are the girls who fight without weapons around their lord? The dark ones
always protect him, and the fair ones seek to destroy him." A game of chess.

Mark Bryant, Dictionary of Riddles.


Given the recent books on video games, in addition to the online journal Game

Studies and the printed Games and Culture journal, video games are beginning to be

recognized as electronic, artistic, and literary forms. Not of Woman Born studies video

games as an amalgamation of their electronic and literary aspects by studying horror and

the Gothic in games. In particular, Not of Woman Born studies the Gothic and horror as

they transfer into gaming, within games that contain elements of the Gothic and horror in

a form I refer to as the ludic Gothic. The Gothic and horror genres, as they operate in

other media and as they transform into the ludic Gothic for gaming, follow exacting

formulas of production and, in doing so, also manage to disrupt the formulaic nature of

much of game design. Ludic Gothic games thus allow for both innovation in game design

and for alternate representations of norms, values, and concepts.

Ludic Gothic games draw on conventions of the Gothic for their imagery and their

narratives, as well as to subvert typical game narrative conventions, typical game

controls, and the history of gaming development. This subversion is also an act of

transgression. "The usual subject of Gothic fiction can be described as the transgression

of the paternal metaphor;" Fred Botting argues, "Transgression, however, is not simply a

celebratory breaking of laws and taboos considered unjust or repressive, nor is it a

straightforward liberation from rules and conventions binding individuals within strict

frameworks of duty or normative identity" (282). Botting continues to explain

transgression in line with Foucault's concept of "play," whereby transgression relies on

the prior limit and then the limit subsequently relies on the possibility of a real

transgression. Ludic Gothic games similarly utilize the limits already present in gaming

and in the overall trajectory of game design and development to subvert those limits in

order to present new possibilities, and new implications, for game design and

development. This dissertation studies ludic Gothic games to show how they operate in

terms of gaming and to show their significance.

Instead of approaching games from a meta-level that seeks to analyze the entire

medium, this book studies the extremely popular genre of horror games to analyze how

the games reaffirm certain values while subverting others to thus become ludic Gothic.

Horror games rely heavily on gaming and narrative conventions-conventions which are

established through genre divisions as well as player expectations and are formed through

player experience with other media and other mediated experiences-to either use or

refute those conventions. Because horror is one of the most popular gaming genres and

because it is one of the least studied by academia, horror has the potential to disrupt both

player and academic expectations in ways that are significant to game studies and to

larger cultural conceptions.

Game studies, new media studies, and gender studies, like earlier studies of Gothic

literature, all study the relationship of the structure of an individual work to the work

itself and to larger issues of the media form or genre. Gender studies most often

emphasizes the presentation of the structure of the self, the other, and the system of

selves and others as it relates to gender. Gothic literature studies more often addresses the

highly conventional nature of individual texts in relation to the manner in which those

texts present typical social and narrative structures while simultaneously disrupting those

structures. Not of Woman Born: Monstrous Interfaces and Monstrosity in Video Games

combines an examination of the structure and genre of horror video games to analyze

how they operate with a study of the significance of those operations to video games and

new media, horror across media types, Gothic literature, and gender.

The majority of critical studies of games have focused on founding the overall

methods by which games operate, either in terms of other media forms or solely within

games and new media. This study, by contrast, focuses on the particularities of horror

games to illustrate commonalities in video games, and to illustrate how certain

conventions fail or can be subverted for particular effects. Running through these

chapters is an awareness of games and their current placement as mass-conglomerated

media, even as games repeatedly diverge into alternative projects like independent and

political games through organizations like the Learning and Serious Games Initiatives

and Games for Health. This book configures game and new media studies, gender

studies, and studies of Gothic literature in order to examine the function of horror in

video games, the relationship of gaming norms to that function, and the significance of

horror games to typical and atypical video game playing and production. Essentially, Not

of Woman Born serves as a foil to studies of typical play and design by studying the

abnormal play and design of horror games, including its relevance to innovative design

for positive or more equivocal gender representations as well as for larger possibilities in

game design. For games, structure may refer to the immediately visible structures that the

player is presented with, like the visual representations, spatial representations, the

interface controls, and the game narrative. Gaming structures also include the

programmatic code through which the game operates and paratextual elements like

gaming communities and game booklets that often accompany or complement the games.

The diversity of structures and structural elements in any given game-and their

relationship to game genres, gaming as a medium, and the gaming industry-demand

complex systems of analysis.

As game studies emerges as a new field, it requires both the analysis of its works

and an analysis of the relationship of those works to existing fields of inquiry. While

many scholars have examined the typical structuring of video games, such structures are

often inverted or subverted in horror games. By examining the manner in which

normative game-play structures and game-play itself is altered in horror games, this study

shows how atypical structures and play both reaffirm certain video game norms and

repudiate others. By analyzing horror games, which are more often found on console

systems (as opposed to computers), this study addresses a doubly neglected area in game

studies. Game studies most often addresses either adventure or more serious games than

horror games, and game studies most often addresses games found on computers instead

of consoles despite the greater popularity and use of console games. By addressing these

doubly neglected games, this study also addresses the function of horror games and

games in general as popular texts in the same vein as Jane Tompkins' study of

sensational fiction, which showed that sensational fiction had been dismissed because of

its popularity and its appearance of simplicity. Inverting that, Tompkins studied

sensational fiction for the manners in which it did and did not conform to seemingly

simple formulas and the effect of conformance and nonconformance. Likewise, this study

specifically aligns the hyper-structuralization of horror video games to the popular texts

of Gothic literature-both of which often present seemingly normative narrative,

character, and world structures in order to subvert elements within those structures and

the structures themselves.

Horror games repeatedly subvert typical narrative and game-play structures,

including altering the manner in which game space is presented and the way that the

game interface is constructed and operates. By differing from the more typical game-play

interface models, studies of horror games present a significant alternative to many studies

of new media design and architecture. Further, horror games specifically counter the

typical position of women in games by allowing for a greater percentage of women

player-characters, non-player-characters, heroes, and monsters. Non-horror games allow

for significantly fewer women and they only allow for significantly less powerful

women. My study integrates these threads-video games, new media interface design,

Gothic literature, and gender-to study game creation, presentation, and representation.

The Gothic

Any discussion of genre works risks formalizing and limiting it, instead of simply

creating a loose definition for use in analysis. As Lawrence Alloway contends, "One of

the dangers of genre theory is that the categories may be taken rigidly. When that

happens they lose their descriptive usefulness and assume a normative function" (53).

Genre divisions and their descriptive usefulness also pertain to games as a medium.

Marie-Laure Ryan notes that Wittgenstein's arguments from Philosophical Investigations

can be used to show that games as a medium have a complicated network of similarities

and details, which sometimes overlap and sometimes do not. From Ryan's perspective,

Wittgenstein argues that particular forms are best characterized by "family resemblance"

because they overlap and criss-cross without forming an exact structure (177).

Consequently, video game genres, like larger media structures, are constituted by systems

of family resemblances that are cannot be strictly delimited. Ryan further states, "What

constitutes a family, however, is not resemblance but kinship relations. The set of games

may be fuzzy, which means that there is no set of necessary and sufficient conditions for

an activity to be covered by the word game" (177). While Ryan is addressing how to

classify games as a general category, the same 'kinship relations' apply to game genres.

The individual games may or may not share specific resemblances with each other, but

they will share kinship relations in terms of their formal and functional elements. As

genres, the Gothic and horror genres share many family traits as they exist in other

media, and it is with those traits that many horror games operate. However, while the

Gothic has often been described as changing from text to text and from one media form

to another, the Gothic is often more strictly defined than can be most productive for game

studies.1 Given the stricter definition, I use the term ludic Gothic to refer to games that

may be generically classes as horror or Gothic, but which specifically thwart gaming

conventions in significant manners.

Gothic literature has long been connected to periods of change, both technological

and social. In its early form, Gothic literature relied on hyper-structuralization in order to

1 For more on the conventions of the Gothic, see Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, The Coherence of Gothic
Conventions (New York: Methuen, 1980); David Punter and Glennis Byron, The Gothic (Malden, MA:
Blackwell, 2004); David Punter, Gothic F.,ih. ,i. .,.. the Text, the Body and the Law (New York: St.
Martin's, 1998); Glennis Byron and David Punter, eds., Spectral Readings: Towards a Gothic Geography
(New York: St. Martin's, 1999); and E.J. Clery and Robert Miles, eds., Gothic Documents: A Sourcebook,
1700-1820 (New York: St. Martin's, 2000).

then subvert or question those structures. In doing so, it became, as Mark Edmundson

notes, "the literature of revolution" (Nightmare on Main Street 17), which nevertheless is

also often extremely popular. This popularity has often been used as a reason to dismiss

the Gothic for, as Jane Tompkins notes of the closely related form of sensational fiction,

"The popularity of novels by women has been held against them almost as much as their

preoccupation with 'trivial' feminine concerns" (xiv). Just as the popularity of sensational

fiction has often been held against it, it has also been held against the Gothic. In being

dismissed by virtue of their popularity, both the Gothic and sensational fiction are often

refused critical acknowledgement. "The problem with the notion that a classic work

transcends the limitations of its age," Tompkins remarks, "and appeals to critics and

readers across the centuries is that one discovers, upon investigation, that the grounds of

critical approval are always shifting" (35). Video games that incorporate Gothic themes

are often dismissed in the same manner as Gothic and sensational fiction. Games like

Resident Evil, Fatal Frame, and, to a less extent, Silent Hill, are often critically lauded as

games while simultaneously being dismissed as ridiculous horror games unworthy of

narrative analysis because of their formulaic design and story structures. Tompkins again

proves useful as she states:

In arguing for the positive value of stereotyped characters and sensational,
formulaic plots, I have self-consciously reversed the negative judgments that critics
have passed on these features of popular fiction by re-describing them from the
perspective of an altered conception of what literature is. (xvii)

Similarly, I address ludic Gothic and horror games as significant in part because of their

stereotypical design and visual representations and formulaic plots. The formulaic nature

of ludic Gothic and horror games must be defined not as a rigid limiting dimension, but

as a flexible yet fundamental factor in their full analysis. As game studies continues to

grow as a medium, analyses of formulaic game designs and plots are pivotal in

illustrating both game formulas and structures but also in illustrating how typical

structures and designs can be and are subverted for alternate effects and uses. By virtue of

their extreme popularity, ludic Gothic and horror games are simultaneously influential for

video game development, and vulnerable to dismissal by academic criticism.

The Gothic presents formulas that are not only structurally and narratively based,

but also related to social, political, and technological change. As the literature of

revolution, the Gothic acts as a subversive genre not just for classic literature, but also for

later literary forms and other media forms that rely on the conventions of the Gothic. For

instance, Allan Lloyd Smith notes that the Gothic excelled during industrialization by

acting concurrently with social and political change. He argues that as such, the Gothic

relies on a shift between technology and production, which links traditional Gothic works

to cyberpunk (15). The Gothic thus relies on social, political, and technological structures

and their interrelations. From those structures, the Gothic builds a subversive stance

which remains intrinsically related to the structures it subverts. Similarly, Christoph

Grunenberg states, "The ubiquity of the cultural phenomenon of the Gothic continues in

the newest media: the computer games Myst or Obsidian explore the romantic and

industrial Gothic respectively in animated, comic-style versions of fairy-tales" (208).

While Grunenberg focuses more heavily on the artistic representation of the Gothic in

video games, games are hybrid forms that blend visual representation, narrative, and

interface designs into interactive texts.

Because games rely on these components, the Gothic often acts as an element of

visual representation in games, the narrative, and the interface. Gaming interfaces are

often presented as mere extensions of the gamer, to be learned and acclimated. However

many games, particularly horror games, use the interface as part of the overall gaming

experience. For example, many action games have sequences where the game controllers

are set to "rumble" or vibrate to complement gaming activity. Unlike those

complementary sequences, horror games often use the interface to contradict normal

play. For instance, the Resident Evil series regularly uses the rumble functions on the

game controllers to thump on alternating sides with alternating intensities in order to

mimic a human heartbeat. This thumping is done to increase tension during game-play,

but it has no corollary to onscreen shown activity. Similarly, Eternal Darkness uses an

insanity factor when the player encounters too many enemies. The insanity factor causes

the internal game representations to blur and slide and allow enemies that are not actually

there to be displayed. Such insanity factors even affect the interface itself. These include

messages stating that the game controller was unplugged, that all of the saved game

information was being erased, and so forth. These uses of the gaming interface question

the relationship of the gamer to the game, and of the gaming interface as a mediator in

that relationship. The majority of games use the interface as a functional means of

allowing for game play to occur. In contrast, ludic Gothic games often use the interface to

subvert typical play and to challenge conceptions of game interface design and game


In addition to the Gothic subversion of typical interface design and visual

representation, the Gothic strongly shapes gaming narratives. The traits of the Gothic, as

Anne Williams illustrates, include abduction, blood, caves, dreams, earthquakes,

feeblemindedness, gaming, harems, maskings, portraits, lost reputations, suicides, twins,

mad scientists, and demonic children (17). The majority of these features are present in

any horror video game, as is the Gothic use of the family as history, which is portrayed in

Gothic literature through the use of the family as a basic structure in both the narrative

and the spatial design. In Gothic literature, this is often accomplished through the castle

or haunted house in which the narrative takes place, with frequent remarks on the past

inhabitants through decorations, paintings, and other elements. In ludic Gothic video

games-which are most often set in haunted houses, castles, or science-fiction or

cyberpunk Gothic settings like space ships and island-based laboratories-the same

elements remain. The frequent use of books, paintings, pictures, vases, sculptures, and

other elements populate the game world to show that it is already inhabited by the past,

and the specifically past as a patriarchal structure. In doing so, ludic Gothi video games

both present the family and undermine it. Anne Williams cites the same behavior in

Gothic fiction:

The first of these has to do with Mark Turner's analysis of "family" as a privileged
or "basic conceptual metaphor." [. .] Elsewhere Lakoff and Turner (and others)
emphasize that metaphors are not verbal ornaments (mere "flowers of fancy") but
patterns fundamental to thought.[. .] Turner demonstrates that "family" is a source
domain both basic to cognition and particularly privileged in Western culture. To
think about any subject, we are likely to use metaphors of kinship, so that our
thinking about the subject is inevitably shaped by what we assume is and should be.

In relating the Gothic to typical conceptions of family, the Gothic story unsettles typical

narratives and has the ability to disrupt notions held in conjunction with the story-like

the male dominance in video game narratives disrupted to open a space for equal female

characters. The disruption of patriarchal systems in Gothic narratives in the past has

served to create, as Williams explains the female Gothic plot. Williams contends that

these plots are constructive and empowering for female readers because they value

female thought-processes, "not only affirm the possibilities of 'feminine' strength; they

also sketch in the outlines of a female self that is more than the 'other' as purely

archetypal or stereotypical" (138). The Female Gothic Plot carries through diverse media

forms including film and video games with a significantly higher proportion of women

primary characters in horror video games than in non-horror games. For film, the Gothic

as a subversive genre relating to women can perhaps best be seen with the Alien films.

Horror Films

Since the 1970s, horror films have largely transitioned from their portrayal of

single-minded violence towards women to valorizing women with what Carol Clover has

termed the final girl: "The image of the distressed female most likely to linger in memory

is the image of the one who did not die: the survivor, or Final Girl" (35). Clover's study

reveals that, from 1974 on, the survivor figure in horror films has been female. While

Clover's entire book examines the complexity of gender and horror films, horror video

games confirm the trend in horror films of empowering female characters. Horror video

games are not yet completely aligned with film, as to have a Final Girl in horror, but

horror games do present significantly more female characters than any other gaming

genre with the exception of "pink games" or games targeted only at female players. By

allowing for a higher percentage of female player-characters, horror games subvert

typical game narratives and gaming conventions in line with the Gothic.

Horror films, like horror in other media, function through the crossing of borders.

While horror films operate by presenting the narrative transgression and reaffirmation of

borders, they often present only the transgression or dissolution of borders. Horror works

also often present the transgression of borders in ways that transgress social norms. The

Alien films in particular critique capitalism and patriarchy within a gothic-science-fiction

setting. Even in more typical horror films, horror defines borders so that the borders can

be crossed and then possibly reinforced. "Horror defines and redefines," Gregory Waller

argues and, in doing so, it "clarifies and obscures the relationship between the human and

the monstrous, the normal and the aberrant, the sane and the mad, the natural and the

supernatural, the conscious and unconscious, the daydream and the nightmare" (12). In

exploring these borders and in constantly defining and redefining them, horror can be

both remarkably formulaic and traditional and also remarkably subversive in its

redefinition of borders and in its border crossing. Similarly, Tony Williams notes that the

family is often a locus of horror as it is in Gothic works, "Major works of family horror

explore the social contradictions of dysfunctional families forced into rigid patterns by

the dominant ideology producing victims and victimizers. Family horror films sometimes

implicitly protest against this system" (Hearths 270). Because the family often stands as a

microcosm of society, with social hierarchies and economic functions replicated within

the family unit, questioning the family structure has repercussions for all other social

systems. In this regard, Williams also catalogues the importance of horror films to larger

social critiques, especially in relation to their marginalized position as horror works. In

particular, Williams studies the relationship of George Romero's films to social critique

and to social critiques from horror comics.

EC Comics began as Educational Comics and quickly shifted to Entertaining

Comics, which focused on horror and crime. In doing so, EC Comics gathered readers

and media attention, eventually leading to the government's intervention in the US and

the Comics Code Authority regulations which sought to remove both the explicit gore as

well as much of EC Comics social commentary. Like Romero's horror films, Williams

shows that EC Comics' marginalized placement from their horror status allowed them to

present broad social critiques, which continue to influence other horror media. Williams

refers to this as the "gross out" factor:

These culturally marginalised productions also contained important allegorical
messages within their versions of "gross-out." Both EC comics and Stephen King's
writing put their respective audiences in touch with the "nightmare anxieties" of
youth, which are often socially based. The youthful readers of EC comics certainly
noticed the differences between perception of real-life injustices and the hysterical
activities of the adult world. (Cinema of George A. Romero 115)

While American horror comics, particularly comics during the early age of the comics

code, have been largely lost to the mainstream American public, their impact still

reverberates through other media, particularly horror films and video games. The EC

comics tradition is directly pertinent to horror games because the comics often embedded

their social messages, often anti-discrimination and often pro-female empowerment,

within graphic decapitations, zombies, and witches. In doing so, EC comics were able to

pass as mainstream fodder while also presenting strong messages. Horror video games,

like sensational and Gothic fiction, act in the same manner, making the connections

among Gothic fiction, horror films, horror comics, and horror video games quite strong.

Additionally, many horror games have been inspired by Romero's film-making, as well

as the Giallo Films or Italian Horror Films from the 1970s, horror comics as in the EC

comics tradition, as well as horror manga. The films and comics have frequently used

narrative conventions from Gothic and other horror fiction. In turn, horror games have

relied on the narrative traditions from Gothic fiction as well as horror films and comics.

In addition, horror games have drawn on horror films and comics for visual

representation styles, as well as relying on sound conventions from film.

Ludic Gothic and Horror Games

Ludic Gothic and horror games operate within both a rich tradition of horror media

and the technical limitations of computer gaming. While those limitations have relaxed

with increases in technology, the majority of ludic Gothic games still bear a trace of those

limitations. For instance, the first Silent Hill used fog to limit the visual scope of the

game world so that the first PlayStation could run the game. The fog allowed the game to

run without having to process all of the surrounding graphics, which would have

otherwise exceeded the PlayStation's processing abilities. Similarly, the Resident Evil

series have relied on closely confined spaces to limit the visual scope and the number of

items user's avatars can carry. Later ludic Gothic games have followed these horror

gaming conventions even when these conventions are no longer necessary from a

technological standpoint given the increases in processing power. Many of these

conventions alter typical game-play and gaming conventions for significant effects. In

addition, ludic Gothic games rely on traditional stylistic horror visual elements, including

dark landscapes, confined spaces which are then further confined through the use of

specific camera angles, dark castles and Gothic mansions, and-as in all Gothic works-

elaborate indications of the past of the place with photographs, paintings, old furniture,

books, journals, videos, and, eventually, corpses and ghosts. The heavily historicized and

personalized worlds in horror games also lend themselves to a fuller presentation of

monsters or enemies, which Chapter 2 addresses in detail. Speaking to the designation of

horror, Vivian Sobchack notes, "In the SF [science fiction] film, the Creature is less

personalized, has less of an interior presence than does the Monster in the horror film"

(32). Sobchack goes on to explain that the viewer's sympathy is never elicited by the SF

creature because it always remains a thing, while the monster becomes personalized and

humanized in some ways. The difference between SF and horror monsters is thus not the

setting, but the presentation, as with SF films that have personalized monsters like the

Alien films, with its final film focusing on the child of Ripley and the Alien Queen.

Similarly, games like System Shock 2 are set in SF worlds, but their monsters are

intensively described and humanized, making the game exist within the borders of SF,

action, and horror genres. The function and presentation of the Monster in horror games

are thus defining attributes of horror games, as well as helping to define the manner in

which games present and use enemies for particular-and often socially significant-

effects. Like the monster, visual conventions of horror also include an emphasis on

doubles and doubling, as explored in Chapter 3. In video games, horror games in

particular firmly embrace the convention of doubles and doubling for characters, spaces,

replay, and for game serialization.

Many ludic Gothic and horror games also utilize static points of view through fixed

and primarily high and closely confined camera angles. These angles present the player

as trapped within the screen and prevent the player from being able to view all aspects

within even the plane the player is in, increasing the horror effects and making the games

more difficult. In addition to their origins in horror and thriller cinema, these camera

angles originated in technological limitations, as do many of the innovations in horror

games and in gaming in general. In this case, because of the level of control required to

maintain the appearance of three dimensions, horror games relied on highly controlled

cameras and highly divided spaces to make two-dimensional game spaces appear and act

as though they were three dimensional spaces. The separate game space units were then

sutured together through doors, black fades, or other cinematic techniques. These were

used in conjunction with cinematic sound techniques-including drawing on horror films

for atypical sound use such as the use of ambient sound from the game environment

instead of an over-arching soundtrack as is used in most games. Chapter 5 studies the use

of sound and visual representation in the game space and in game design in general.

Ludic Gothic games are also heavily defined by their relationship to the gaming

interface. While this concern runs throughout the chapters, Chapter 7 in particular covers

the significance of gaming platforms-in addition to gaming interfaces-to horror

games. In addition to their internal platforms and interfaces, horror games are especially

significant for their use of media within the games. Ludic Gothic games often inherently

exhibit media awareness through their incorporation of specific media forms to conjure

historical times and the telepresent nature of media. For instance, Resident Evil orients

game-play through a save and escape model which relies on a typewriter for saving;

Fatal Frame relies on a camera for capturing spirits and saving game play; Silent Hill

uses a radio whose growing static indicates the approach of monsters; and Obscure uses

compact discs for saving game progress. Additionally, the games all include media

sources that add to game-play by presenting riddles or the information needed to solve

riddles. The fragments of language as they are embedded in particular media and as they

relate to solving the mysteries of game-play also connect ludic Gothic games to their

antecedents in Gothic fiction. As Anne Williams mentions, "In Gothic, fragments of

language often serve ambiguously to further the plot-in letters (lost, stolen, buried); in

mysterious warnings, prophecies, oaths, and curses; in lost wills and lost marriage lines"

(67). The emphasis on language is often found in the game-play riddles, which typify the

extreme codification and the subversive potential in horror games for, as Ruth E. Burke

argues, "In order to break the spell [. .] the reader has to know the secret language of

the adepts and be initiated into the society of those who understand the significance and

the interpretation of the symbols" (15). In this way, language in ludic Gothic games as

embedded in particular media serves as both a means for game-play and a metadiscourse

on that play.

In ludic Gothic games, the actual media within the games provide both a metaphor

for game-play and a path through game-play's telepresent attributes. The emphasis on

media forms for narrative and game-play also lends itself to a documentary stylization, as

it does in science-fiction films. Sobchack remarks on this tendency: "The usual mode of

ritual dialogue is, however, the television newscast and montage[. .] In general, the

newscast is used as an economical way of compressing information or expressing

emotion" (191-2). While the use of television and newspapers for truncated

communication appears in many film genres and video games, ludic Gothic video games

rely on these for background information as well as for pivotal game-play information in

a manner that informs other usages. Many real world based video games, particularly

military simulation and combat games and political games, rely on documentary

techniques. Far fewer other-world settings games use documentary techniques to even

limited extents. However, horror games, with their often very other-worldly settings, do.

The method of documentary stylization, from game-play segments to paratextual

documentaries that are included with the games like the prison-setting documentary in

The Suffering and the supplemental disc with Wesker's Report for Resident Evil are

analyzed in relation to the creation of reality and to documentaries in general in Chapter

6. The documentary stylization is especially pertinent because it highlights the manner in

which horror games, while they often operate in fantastic and other-worldly settings, still

utilize and negotiate real world social and political issues. Gender and female

empowerment are the most prominently addressed concerns of all of the social issues

most frequently covered by ludic Gothic games.

Gender and Textuality

As is perhaps already apparent, horror presents many subversive possibilities that

directly relate to gender. While horror films were once focused primarily on the

domination of women, now women have come to dominate horror and ludic Gothic

games. Similarly, Gothic fiction was once neglected because of its seemingly trivial

concerns. Now, however, scholars like Jane Tompkins and Nina Auerbach have

reclaimed Gothic fiction, replete with its subversive and empowering abilities. Digital

texts have also been lauded as potentially empowering for their non-linear and non-

patriarchal methods of data organization and access, a sort of digital l'ecriture feminine.

On radical methods of writing, Ellen G. Friedman and Miriam Fuchs argue:

Although the woman in the text may be the particular woman writer, in the case of
twentieth-century women experimental writers, the women in the text is also an
effect of the textual practice of breaking patriarchal fictional forms; the radical
forms-nonlinear, nonhierarchical, and decentering-are, in themselves, a way of
writing the feminine. (3-4)

While artists like Mary Flanagan and Shelley Jackson have explored these possibilities in

educational gaming like the Josie True project and hypertext like Patchwork Girl, the

possibility that mainstream video games may present the same empowering potential has

been less studied. Chapter 4 addresses the radical positioning of women in horror games

because, as Anne Williams argues, "the madwoman in the attic has awakened readers to

possible affinities between women writers and a literature that specializes in fear and in

monstrous domestic secrets" (10). The madwoman in the attic, a long-standing

convention of the Gothic, both reaffirms the position of the woman as connected to the

house and home while showing the insanity and horror of that connection. Ludic Gothic

video games, as they are often set in haunted houses or dwellings and with their high

frequency of female characters, foreground the same questions of womanhood, domestic

life, and monstrosity.

While many ludic Gothic games and horror films begin with women characters,

this has not always been and may not always be the case. Just as the revisions and sequels

often also alter the narratives and characterization in the earlier games, so they alter the

overall framework in which the characters and the games themselves operate. Following

these issues, Chapter 8 addresses sequels and the function of seriality and sequence in

video games. In doing so, it studies revisionist techniques in gaming, often techniques

where women characters are added. The complex framework within which video game

sequels exist-where characters change in appearance, sound, background, actions,

abilities, and contexts-is perhaps most akin to Donald Ault's articulation of aspectual

interconnection in which details localized to particular characters in William Blake's

texts may negotiate through the text into the text itself. Thus alternate versions of the text

are useful in noting the structural complexity and fluidity of the characters and texts

(Narrative Unbound). Aspectual interconnection aids in bringing seemingly disparate and

disconnected elements from the games as they are sequenced, into relation. The serial

nature of games (with remakes, patches, mods, and sequels), game interfaces, visual

representation, narrative, and the relationship of games to other media and to social issues

are all significant to game studies as a growing field.

Game Studies

Many of the current arguments on video games try to situate games within a larger

metastructure of narrative, game (Aarseth's Cybertext; Wolfs The Medium of the Video

Game), or visual representation. While these approaches can be useful for creating a

vocabulary to discuss video games, these approaches often fail to move beyond the

particulars of video games into those moments of complexity that open up discussion of

the relationship of the player, the game space, and the game narrative. Taxonomizing and

classifying moves were necessary at the infancy of game studies as a field. However,

game studies is now slightly older and, because the computer presents extremely plastic

and malleable forms, operating as a work environment for virtual word processing, as a

portal to the web, as a means to experience virtual spaces, and more, such primitive

taxonomization proves rather limiting. Like film studies in the 1960s, game studies has

not yet found a place for itself, so games are currently being studied from various fields

and with various methods and technical vocabularies.

Following, and often included with, previous arguments over game genre and

terminology are arguments over the limits of game studies. While games have only

relatively recently been studied from the perspectives of media, communications,

English, film, sociology, history, computer science, and other disciplines, game studies,

in many senses, is not a new field because sociologists like Johan Huizinga and Roger

Callois have studied games and play, as have game historians like David Parlett. But the

emphasis on games in their computerized and visual format as their own field is rather

recent. Many current debates in game studies concern whether game studies (or games

studies) should exist as its own specific field or whether it can exist in established

disciplines without being overly subordinated. While these are important debates, game

studies is best served by interdisciplinary approaches that include studies of gaming

histories. Resources for this sort of work include studies of board and card games like

David Parlett's The Oxford History of Board Games and The Oxford Guide to Card

Games; studies of play like Johan Huizinga's Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element

in Culture; and existing media studies theories. In game studies, as with other fields,

theories should be used as analytical tools. Further, game studies must learn from the fan

communities as comics studies have been informed through fan communities. Because

games are a massively popular form and because games are expensive commercial

entities that have not yet being largely archived and documented except through fan

communities, those fan communities can act both as a valuable resource for scholars

studying games and as a means for scholars to discuss their work with larger audiences.

Game studies has many hurdles to overcome, including the traditional desires for

texts to be closed and archivable, which are significant problems alone. Following those,

game studies, like comics studies, is on the forefront of image usage and citation in

academic studies and publishing. Game studies and comic studies both more frequently

require significant image use for arguments than many other fields. While online journals

have eased these concerns, the typical academic publishing systems that weighs paper-

based publications more favorably presents a serious impediment to game studies. Gothic

and horror games are an important genre for game studies because they simultaneously

present and subvert typical game-play and typical game construction, as well as typical

means of analysis. As Kelly Hurley suggests: "Gothic in particular has been theorized as

an instrumental genre, reemerging cyclically, at periods of cultural stress, to negotiate the

anxieties that accompany social and epistemological transformations and crises" (5). The

Gothic as part of popular ludic Gothic games, especially with their emphasis on

embedded media, questions the relationship of the games to the technology, and

subsequently of the players to the technology. In this movement, ludic Gothic games are

also significant for the manner in which they present and theorize anxieties about

technology and other social issues. The culture industry is most often studied for its

destructive capacities because it, as Adorno notes, combines old and new and high and

low art. In doing so, it creates "products which are tailored for consumption by masses,

and which to a great extent determine the nature of that consumption, are manufactured

more or less according to plan" (55). The Gothic and horror follow the exacting formulas

of the culture industry and, in doing so, serve to disrupt the formulaic nature of much of

game design. This allows for both innovation in game design and for the representation

of alternate social values, concepts, and ideals. The Gothic, as Kelly Hurley notes, "In its

obsession with abominations, the Gothic may be said to manifest a certain gleefulness at

the prospect of a world in which no fixity remains, only an endless series of monstrous

becoming" (28). It is within these becoming that this study operates-monstrosities

made in the interface, in the visual representations, in the narratives, and in the

technologies of horror games.


Video games have been extensively studied for the player's relationship to the

player-character and the function and structure of the player-character within the game by

critics including Espen Aarseth's Cybertext; Lev Manovich's The Language of New

Media; Andrew Rollings and Dave Morris' Game Architecture andDesign; Katie Salen

and Eric Zimmerman's Rules ofPlay; Bob Rehak's "Playing at Being." These and other

works address the overall structure of game-play or the place of the player-character or

avatar in depth. But, by necessity of their wide-scope approach, they spend less time on

the figure generally classed as enemy or opponent. In regard to enemy figures, Salen and

Zimmerman note that conflict is an intrinsic part of narratively based games, but given

their abstracted approach, they do not address the nature of conflict nor the fact that many

video games show the conflict through battles with individual enemies (79). Similarly,

Mark J.P. Wolf and Bernard Perron attempt to define video games without enemies,

instead stating that video games are made of the fundamental elements, "an algorithm,

player activity, interface, and graphics" ("Introduction" 14). Like these studies, the

majority of scholarship on video games has focused on establishing a wider image or core

theory for game studies. In order to do so, these theories must be abstracted and cannot

include monsters or the Other because many games, like the quintessential examples of

Pong and Tetris, do not have enemies or monsters.

While definitions that include conflict and player activity are necessary for game

studies and abstracted analysis, heavily narrativized games like Deus Ex (2000), Tenchu:


S.ite, th Assassins (1998), the games in the Final Fantasy, Resident Evil, and Fatal Frame

series, and many others require a nuanced approach to conflict because they function-

for both game play and game narrative-through a fundamental relationship between the

player-character and the enemy-monster-other figures. Because relatively little work has

been done on the function and place of the opponent figures, it is beyond the scope of this

article to present a comprehensive study. However, the function of the opponent-as

opponent, enemy, monster, or another form of Other-relates specifically to the game

play type, the game world type, and the game narrative, so these figures need to be

addressed within the specifics of their game world, game narrative, and game play. For

this, I focus specifically on monsters and the Other as enemies in horror games to

illustrate the function, use, and significance of these figures as narrativized symbols of

conflict that also affect game play.

In this chapter, I use the examples of the zombies in Resident Evil and the ghosts in

Fatal Frame to show that enemies, monsters, and the Other are not synonymous with

abstracted concepts of conflict or opponent. While video games are capable of presenting

varied forms of opponents and enemies, in presenting monsters and monstrous Others,

games must rely on the structure of monsters and the Other instead of relying on

stereotypical game design. This is because, while stereotypical game design schemas

operate effectively for enemies, they lack the ability to present and accommodate

monsters and the Other because these fall outside of the simple role of enemy or


Conflict, Opponents, Enemies, and Monsters

While many video game enemies can easily be covered under Salen and

Zimmerman's rubric of conflict-for instance, the game space itself as conflict and the

enemies as threats to controlling territory in games like Civilization and Warcraft-games

that are heavily narratively driven more often have enemies that are characters and that

cannot be covered under conflict alone. Even non-horrific games like those in The

Legend ofZelda, Metroid, and Sonic the Hedgehog series use 'dark' enemies to further

define their player-characters through the relationship of the player-characters to their

enemies. As will be discussed in Chapter 3, these dark enemies are visually and

characteristically mirrored or inverted versions of the primary characters-just as the

duplication of siblings occurs in games-as with Shadow Sonic. In this way, many video

game characters are defined as much by what or whom they fight as they are internally

defined. The definitional aspect of the enemies as opponents serves to lay the framework

for the game world as well as for much of the functioning for game play.

Video games design and play schemas often create monsters that are simply non-

descript evil enemies, which exist as tropes for the Other and as tropes for conflict.

Horror games like System Shock 2 (1998), Resident Evil (1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2002),

Fatal Frame (2002, 2003), and Silent Hill (2000) change these schemas by creating

enemies that are actual characters, though they often are flawed or mutated characters.

Horror games explore enemy character schemas more fully than many video games

because horror games rely on the personalization and humanization of the enemy

characters to make the game spaces more horrific. Because of this, the game narrative-

through its depiction of enemies and monsters-directly relates to game play and the

gaming experience. While some degree of additional time on the enemy characters is

expected with horror games, many horror games like Resident Evil explore their monster-

enemies as fully as they do their player-characters, which is odd even given the larger

enemy-development schemas for horror video games. Resident Evil's extended

exploration of the enemies aids in making the enemies more than tropes for conflict or

troped opponents.

Many video games present monsters as both the monster-as-Other and as actual

monstrous beasts. Monsters in video games serve to both structure and disrupt the game

structure through their abnormal workings. As Jeffrey Jerome Cohen notes, "a monster

signifies something other than itself; it is always a displacement, always inhabits the gap

between the time of upheaval that created it and the moment into which it is received, to

be born again" ("Monster Culture" 4). Cohen continues on to argue that monsters are an

attempt at embodying Otherness or the uncanny, "The monster is difference made flesh,

come to dwell among us" (7). Similarly, Kathy Nuzum remarks, "any individual or group

that can be marginalized or viewed as standing outside the norm may be monstrosized"

("The Monster's Sacrifice" 208). As such, monsters cannot accurately be subsumed into

larger classifications of conflict or opponent because they serve to disrupt the very

classification systems that would seek to normalize them by placing them within those


Because the vast majority of video games present enemies as simplistic beings to

be fought against, horror games like Resident Evil's personification and exploration of

enemy characters represents new avenues in game design, which changes the schemas for

the enemies, for the structure of game play, and for the structure of the game world.

Resident Evil's use of monsters is similar to the monsters in other horror games like Fatal

Frame, and the daughter-as-monster in the first Silent Hill. In each of these games,

monstrosity itself narratively and structurally embodies the fragmentation and dissolution

of boundaries between human and non-human, between good and evil, and between men

and women. For instance, in Resident Evil, the enemies are depicted as monsters in the

present time of the game. However, the game also represents the past when the monsters

were human. In doing so, the lines between monster and human are blurred. The

dissolution of boundaries through the player-character and enemy relationship also often

parallels the changing game spaces which, in horror games, often evolve over time to be

more horrific and more monstrous. By undermining boundaries, the monster serves to

create its own space in which traditional cultural rules, and traditional rules of game play

and game design, also change.

The Player-Character and Her Opponent(s)

Narratively based video games super-construct the self-other relationship.1 In

narrativized video games, the player is often constrained to using or manipulating only

the player-character, and often the player can obtain only limited information on other

characters aside from their appearances. With this, the player relationships are player-

characters, non-player-characters (NPCs) who are helpful or sympathetic to the player-

character, and enemies. In order to define the player and player-character relationship,

video games attempt to clearly construct systems that predetermine who the player is and

is not within the game. This is often done through the game visual representation during

game play as well as through game book paratexts that describe the player-character,

non-player-characters, and enemies. While these attempts to fix the relationship between

1 By narratively based video games, I mean video games with intrinsic stories like Resident Evil; games
like Civilization could also arguably qualify, but Tetris does not because it does not have an intrinsic story,
just an intrinsic game. Narrative and non-narrative games are one of the larger discussions in game studies,
and this chapter is by no means an attempt to separate games into narrative and non-narrative. Rather, this
simply argues that many games have enemies, opponents, and monsters that cannot be sufficiently
described under the rubric of 'conflict' or 'algorithm,' which are two of the terms chosen because they
operate with equal validity for games and can avoid the problems of narrative or non-narrative games.

the player and player-character remain problematic,2 they still lay the foundation for the

abstracted tripartite game design and game play structure that includes player-character,

non-player-character, and opponent. While useful, the level of abstraction required for

this structure of characters (or potential characters) in games fails to allow for the

complexity of opponents as enemies, monsters, and as Others.

Within the abstracted structure, players may play as more than one player-

character, as with party system games like those in the Final Fantasy series where the

player controls a group of characters, but the basic structure remains. Enemies may come

in more than one form, but essentially, the player only experiences her own positionality

in the world, which is that of the player-character. All of this structuring often leads to a

fundamental collapse of the Other, the enemy, and the monster into one position within

the game structure as the opponent. In these cases, the enemies and monsters are all non-

descript others to the self-as-player-character. While this simplification can be useful for

game play design-David Kusher notes the Doom (1993) designers chose to remove

narrative elements and to make the enemies more generalized for faster paced game play

(Masters of Doom)-this simplification also removes many possibilities in game

narratives and game design.

Horror games, because of their need for monsters to define the horrific nature of the

game space and game narrative, have more fully explored the possibilities offered with

using fully developed enemies. This is because, in order to make the system more

horrific, horror games undermine the fundamental structure in most video games-that of

player-character, NPC, opponent-by making the monsters not clearly the opponents,

2 For more on the tenuous relationship between the player and the player-character, see Bob Rehak's
"Playing at Being" and Laurie N. Taylor's "When Seams Fall Apart," as well as the wealth of research on
Lara Croft and her relationship to the player.

which leads to changes in game play. For instance, horror games often require players to

flee from fights instead of constantly engaging in battle as in most games. The game play

becomes not just that of opposition or conflict, but of conflict avoidance.

Other non-horror games-notably including the Metroid series with the player-

character Samus Aran being defined largely by her relationship with the monsters called

Metroids instead of by the game narrative-have explored enemies and monsters as more

than simple opponent figures. Like the atypical Metroid games, horror games take

advantage of this sort of atypical play by forcing the player-character into frequent and

direct contact with the monsters. Subgenres of horror like survival horror games further

complicate this by adding the 'survival' aspect, which forces the player through lack of

ammunition to run frequently instead of fighting. In this process, survival horror games

change the typical video game structure of 'us against them' to 'us away from them.'

This makes the game space more horrific because the player is forced into proximity with

the monsters, while having escape or avoidance as the primary goals. Additionally, video

games also sometimes change the structure of PC, NPC, and opponent by portraying

friendly or sympathetic characters as they become traitors and by showing the human

side of some of the monsters. This process upsets the fundamental structure, allowing for

further exploration of the structure itself and its functioning within the game narrative

and game space. In doing so, it shows that changing the game play function of the

opponent is inextricably linked to changing the narrative function of the monster, both of

which change the overall structure of the game and the game play.

Monsters and Horror

In video games, as in film, the horror genre holds the monster as one of its most

significant aspects, be it the monster proper or a monstrous Other. While comparisons of

genre-especially across media-are problematic, horror in all forms focuses on the

monster. Horror video games, in turn, can utilize studies of horror in other forms while

still noting differences as they occur in video games especially as those differences apply

to the playable game space and game play itself. While the horror genre most often

includes a monstrous Other, the monstrous Other need not actually be a monster in the

typical werewolf, ghost, zombie sense, but can also be represented as an alien monster,

monstrous humanity (often serial killers in 'realist' horror), as well as through the internal

loss of control (as in American McGee's Alice where Alice fights herself). In

"Reimagining the Gargoyle: Psychoanalytic Notes on Alien," Greenberg discusses the

anatomy of horror films and comments, "No matter how evocative the milieu, the

monster film ultimately stands or falls on the believability of its inhuman protagonist"

(89). Greenberg's comment shows how monster films particularly, and horror films more

generally, rely on the monstrous Other to form their settings and narratives.

Like horror films, horror video games also rely on the monster to construct game

play, game space, and game narrative. Because video game conventions are so firmly

defined through the player-character-against-opponent structure, video game player-

characters and video game spaces are defined by their relation to the opponent. Horror

games in particular rely on the opponent as monster to create the horrific game space.

Many games are more 'classically' horror in that they are gothically stylized and focus on

haunted houses, supernatural events, and fantastic settings that transgress one world and

go into another dark world. Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem (2002), Fatal Frame

(2002), and Silent Hill all typify this sort of classic monster or monstrous world horror.

However, the Gothic style is by no means inclusive of horror video games because games

like System Shock 2 (1998) create horror in science fiction settings. System Shock 2 is a

particularly good example because nothing in it is supernatural. Instead, it offers science

gone mad through the monster of the murderous artificially intelligent computer

SHODAN. For the slippery divisions between horror and non-horror, Vivian Sobchack's

remarks on the formulation of horror in relation to its monsters prove useful:

In the SF [science fiction] film, the Creature is less personalized, has less of an
interior presence than does the Monster in the horror film... Our sympathy is never
evoked by an SF Creature; it remains, always, a thing. Conversely, in the horror
film there is always something sympathetic about the Monster, something which
gives us however briefly a sense of seeing the world through his eyes, from his
point of view. (32)

Sobchack's comments show that horror is not defined simply by the world theme; indeed,

if it were, Lucas Arts humorous Grim Fandango (1998) could qualify as horror for its use

of the dead and demons. Instead, horror is defined by the monsters that alter the structure

of the world to make the world itself horrific. Other game genres similarly use the form

of the monster to disrupt typical game design and game play.

Sobchack explains not only the manner in which horror is formed, but the

significance of the monster in that formulation and the manners in which monsters are

transgressive because they question the relationship of the human to the monster. For

video games, personalized monsters pervade the entire game space because the games are

played and structured with the player in direct opposition to the monster. As such, any

discussion of the structure of the horror game must also include a discussion of the

monster, a clause that either does not hold for other game genres, or does not hold in the

same degree.

Because the monster and horror are intertwined, video games handle horror in

similar ways to horror film in terms of setting and visual structure as scholars like Steven

Poole have argued (66-9). In "Hands-On Horror," Tanya Krzywinska remarks on this

tendency and argues that horror video games present more intense horror experiences

than horror film. She suggests that the video games create horror through a combination

of cinematic effects and through the alteration between player control and loss of control

(206-223). This loss of control stems both from the structure of the game and from the

internal game elements. While Krzywinska's analysis operates specifically at the level of

the horror genre and within the medium of video games, her notes on the visual display

and its relation to game play for creating horrific effects are significant because they

address both how video games draw upon cinema and how they remediate cinematic


Because the horror genre is extremely structured in terms of narrative and

opponent-enemy-monster formulation, it offers a base structure from which alteration and

change in the individual game elements can emerge. Horror games, like horror films, fall

into one of the most codified genres in their medium. Conventions of the video game

horror genre often include constrained views; limited fighting ability, often through lack

of weapons or an inability to fight back, as with the monsters in Siren (2004) that cannot

be killed; horrific premises, that are often supernatural with ghosts, demons, and gates to

hell; monsters or enemies that undermine the player-character's humanity as in American

McGee's Alice (2000) in which Alice's fight for sanity and her killing the monsters is

clearly her killing the unwell parts of herself; and altered realities, as with the two worlds

of Silent Hill. Conventions of subgenres like survival horror genre are further

constrained, and include limitations placed on game play to make the horror games more

horrific by making the games more difficult to play. However, one element that remains

constant in horror and its subgenres is that of the enemy as monster.

Monstrous Focus in Resident Evil and Fatal Frame

The stark demarcations of elements within horror games allow for a clear analysis

of the monster and how the monster operates in these games. In order to explain how

horror games use and rely on monsters and monstrous Others for game play and game

space creation, Resident Evil's use of zombies and Fatal Frame's use of ghosts and

demons illustrate how the monstrous blurs distinctions and complicates game play and

game readings. Zombies in video games often exist as simple examples of enemy-

monsters, appearing in the Castlevania (action-adventure) games and the House of the

Dead (arcade style) light gun shooter games. However, the Resident Evil games actually

explore zombies as perversions of life and living. In order to produce zombies as fully

defined creatures, rather than as generally horrific or monstrous creatures, the zombies

are shown in direct contrast to their former living selves. The figure of the zombie is that

of the dead returned, or the undead, and showing the undead without revealing their prior

life negates the un-ness of the dead and makes them a fashion of monster instead of a

specific monster type with the trappings of that particular figure. Many early horror-

themed games, like Castlevania (1987) and House of the Dead, did not explore the figure

of the zombie because they did not explore these creatures' existences prior to their

zombie conversion, nor did they explore the human to zombie conversion that took place

after the humans were infected.

On the other hand, the Resident Evil series, which falls within the subgenre of

survival horror, aimed to create a horrific atmosphere and so showed the particularities of

the zombie figure as a perversion of life in order to increase the horrific nature of game

experience. The exploration of the monster and the monstrous in the Resident Evil games

directly serves game play and game design in the creation of a tense and horrific

atmosphere. Other games do not rely on monsters for game play tension. For instance,

horror and monsters are not explored in the House of the Dead games because they are

light gun shooters and do not require narrative in the normal sense; likewise the

exploration of monstrous characters outside of Dracula is not warranted within the

Castlevania game series which combines role-playing and action adventure elements to

focus on the story of Dracula and the Beaumont family that fights him.

The Resident Evil games begin by showing zombies as a tropological figure of the

Other, the enemy, or the generalized monster. But as the internal game play of each

Resident Evil game progresses and, as the series itself progressed, the games began to

explore more fully the nature each zombie and of zombies in general. This progression

includes having the main characters first fight seemingly non-humanized zombies in each

game. But as each individual game progresses, the players read the notes and see the

belongings of those who have since become zombies. Thus, the zombies in each game

progresses from more generalized opponent figures to specific and often named persons

who have become monsters. As the game series progresses, and the technology used in

the games progresses with it, even more background is provided for the once-human

monsters. The Resident Evil games even force the player-characters to kill their loved

ones after they become zombies, or face dying. In doing so, the games create horrific

game spaces by relying on the narrativized relationship and game play interaction

between the player-character and the non-player-characters who become monsters.

In Resident Evil Code: Veronica- (2000), the player occasionally plays through

Steve Burnside, making him temporarily a player-character. At other times, he also exists

as a non-player-character in the sense that he is not continuously playable and that his

death does not constitute a losing, but a winning scenario at the game's end. While a

playable character, Steve kills his father to protect Claire Redfield, one of the main

player-characters. After befriending and trusting Steve, Claire is later forced to kill him

after he becomes a zombie. The Resident Evil games present various situations like this,

where player-characters or friendly non-player characters die or are treacherous and must

be killed or fought. Perhaps the most significant examples of treachery are Albert

Wesker, who betrays the main tactical team S.T.A.R.S. and directly causes almost all of

the suffering and death in the games. To a much lesser degree, Barry Burton betrays Jill

Valentine in the first Resident Evil order to protect his family from Albert Wesker. While

these convolutions of friend and foe and the changing from human to zombie proliferate

in the Resident Evil games, one example typifies the difference between Resident Evil's

use of zombies and monsters and the other games' use of monsters. This example comes

in the form of the child-woman named Lisa Trevor.

Lisa Trevor, who appears in Resident Evil: 0 (2002), represents the most in-depth

zombie created in any video game thus far. Lisa appears in the first Resident Evil. She is

a child, whose father, George Trevor, inadvertently worked for Umbrella by acting as the

architect for the Spenser Mansion. As a maniacal corporation, Umbrella management

killed George and his wife. Lisa managed to escape immediate death, but was infected by

the zombie-causing virus. Lisa grows into a zombie-creature with some memories.

Before confronting Lisa, the player has a chance to read Lisa's journal, where Lisa writes

of missing her mother and being afraid. Slowly, Lisa's journal entries deteriorate in terms

of grammar, punctuation, and spelling, until her last entry consists only of scratches on

the page.

Resident Evil's use of journals to narrate the transition from human to zombie, with

the gradual breakdown of language that occurs as the change progresses shows Lisa as

both human and as a monster, along with the intermediate steps. When the player first

meets Lisa, Lisa attacks and captures the player, saving the player to be eaten later. Most

representations of zombies, including those in Resident Evil games, depict zombies as

mindless, unthinking creatures. Lisa exhibits not only a past as a human, but a current

ability to think that cannot rely only on past experience because an ordinary young girl

would not know how to capture and constrain an adult. Later in the game, the player

escapes Lisa by opening a coffin, and throwing it over a ledge, with the remains of Lisa's

mother inside. Lisa jumps after her mother, yelling "mo..ther.." Lisa clearly has both

memories and thought processes as a zombie, and she has the ability to care, as she does

for her mother. While players could ignore the narrative elements that construct Lisa as a

character, Lisa cannot be fought outright or physically. In order to defeat Lisa, players

must read about her character to learn that Lisa would abandon food for her mother. The

game narrative in this and many other instances is wedded to the game play-in this case,

for defeating Lisa-and the game space, in this case for making the space more horrific

based on the narrative.

By presenting Lisa first as a monster, and then as a monster with a past, Lisa is both

associated with otherness from the start, while also moving towards humanness because

of her past and because of her ability to remember and think, attributes that separate her

from other monsters. Lisa is always a monster in the exact present of the game, yet she

also carries a trace of humanity with her. As such, Lisa is unlike monsters in most video

games, and unlike those in a good deal of literature. As Ruth Waterhouse notes about

female monsters:

Grendel's mother is a monster who, like Hyde, Frankenstein's wretch, and Dracula,
kills, she differs strikingly from the women in the recent monster discourses
because unlike Lucy, who in Dracula is drawn into Otherness only after her death,
she is, together with Grendel, associated from the start with Otherness. (35)

Like Grendel's mother, Lisa is associated from the start with Otherness, but she is also

associated with humanness from the start. Lisa is a monster who carries traces of human,

thus narratively complicating any easy divisions or simplifications between human and

monster. When Lisa follows her mother, the player is able to escape, but the player can

never directly fight Lisa. To fight Lisa guarantees death because a single hit from Lisa

kills and because Lisa is not even injured by the weapons available to the player. The

player's inability to fight Lisa displaces the normal structure of monster/opponent

equivalence because the opponent role in video games implies the ability to fight, at least

at some point in the game. Because Lisa can never be fought, Lisa is also outside of the

structure for normal opponents or conflict even though she can kill the player and thus

end the game.

Lisa Trevor is certainly an extreme example, but she is an elaborated form of many

of the zombies in Resident Evil, whose human pasts are shown in their photographs and

journals. She is also an elaborated form of many of the creatures in horror games who

cannot be fought, and so they cannot be easily classified as generic enemies. For the

zombie-character backgrounds, Resident Evil even goes so far as to have the journals

appear on the screen, while having the character who wrote them provide a voice-over

reading. This voice-over serves to bring the dead-as-alive back into the journal writing

and to the moment in which the player reads the journal by making the writer's voice

exist in the present. The combination of opponents that cannot be opponents because they

cannot be fought and monsters that cannot be simply monsters because their humanness

constantly re-intrudes upon the game leads to an overall breakdown of the clarity of game

play. This breakdown leads the player to be aware of the need for running instead of

fighting, for using items, or for fighting, instead of relying on the general schema to fight

anything that can be fought, which would inevitably cause the player to lose many horror


In terms of game narrative, this also prevents the player from making any easy

distinctions between friend and foe, because these change the game play. For instance, in

Resident Evil Code: Veronica-, the player as Claire Redfield must leave items for her

brother Chris Redfield to use, or the game becomes incredibly difficult to play as Chris.

The player cannot simply follow this logic and leave additional items for other characters,

like Steve Burnside, because the player has to fight and kill Steve after he becomes a

zombie. If the player had left items for Steve, the player would have inadvertently

hindered her own game play in doing so. The lack of clear distinctions shows how horror

games subvert norms to establish their own game play and genre through that subversion.

Like Resident Evil's penchant for zombies, the Fatal Frame games rely on ghostly

monsters-most of whom appear to be ghosts and demons-to create horrific worlds.

Unlike Resident Evil, where the zombies are generally non-descript people who may have

been in service to the evil Umbrella corporation or who could have been innocent

bystanders, with the divisions coming through based on the journals and notes found,

Fatal Frame's enemies are almost entirely evil in some way.

The Fatal Frame games are both set in small communities-the first, in a mansion

home with the surrounding support systems buildings and the second, in a small village-

whose residents have tried to sacrifice young women. In each of the games, the game

narrative insinuates that the villagers are trapped in an undead state, not for the murder-

sacrifices they committed, but for their failure in performing one of these ritualized

murders. Given this premise, the townspeople are all portrayed as somewhat monstrous

initially for their part in these rituals, but also as very human for being trapped in these

cycles of death and fear. Because the townspeople did live in these places, the buildings,

rooms, and gardens are filled with their journals, photographs, clothing, and day-to-day

items like pots and pans. This abundance of material portrays the people, even with their

horrendous acts, as humans and, even in their horrendous forms as ghosts, as extremely

human. The game further confuses questions of good and evil and human and monstrous

by making the sacrificed "innocents" also attack the player-characters. The game also

muddles these distinctions by making the player-characters slowly become like the now-

dead sacrificed women. This is evidenced Miku's scars in the first Fatal Frame and by

Mayo's possession by the place and by one of the sacrificed in the second Fatal Frame.

By presenting Fatal Frame's mansion and townspeople not as normal video game

non-player-characters-which is a norm that places them as either helpful or innocuous

towards the player-characters-the townspeople populate a horrific place that has

complicated moral determinants. The townspeople committed decidedly wrong acts by

killing young girls; however, they were also forced to commit these acts by their

circumstances. This makes the townspeople's actions no less deplorable, but it does make

the actors not overtly evil, where most video games have opponents that are evil actors

and evil characters collapsed into one singular figure of the opponent for representational

ease and clarity.

Similarly, the player-characters in each Fatal Frame game slowly become like the

girls killed before them. Even as they do, the sacrificed girls continue to attack them. The

"innocent" girls attacking the innocent player-characters and attempting to kill them blurs

the lines between monster and human because the sacrificed girls are narratively the

victims. The repetition of human characters who are not necessarily immoral and their

immoral attacks on the player-character could indicate that they are just ghosts, and that

as ghosts they act in evil ways, except for the fact that the second game has the ghost of a

young boy who is good. By presenting him as a ghost from the same time and the same

town, and yet allowing him to be good, the game erases the possibility for any clear

moral divisions that could situate the ghosts as evil, thus allowing the townspeople to

remain morally indeterminate as ghosts and humans. Instead, Fatal Frame works to blurs

the boundaries between good and evil, moral and immoral, and action and character. In

doing so, a video game structure of player-character and opponent cannot sufficiently

address the functioning of the characters in light of the game narratives.

Lisa, the less elaborate zombies in Resident Evil, and the monsters in Fatal Frame

are not presented as simple enemy-monsters, but as complex creatures who have been

formed through their human pasts and monstrous present. "Monsters are never created ex

nihilo," Cohen argues, but are instead created, "through a process of fragmentation and

recombination in which elements are extracted 'from various forms' (including indeed,

especially marginalized social groups) and then assembled as the monster, 'which can

then claim an independent identity"' ("Monster Culture" 11). The majority of zombies in

Resident Evil are either lower-level Umbrella employees or innocent bystanders. As such,

they are most often portrayed as middle or working class people who have been trapped

into their positions, and their eventual zombification, through their social standing. Like

them, the ghosts in Fatal Frame are trapped in their towns and as ghosts because of the

bizarre rituals required of them to keep the gates to Hell closed. Their humanness,

including the social rules that bound and doomed them into their later monstrous forms,

along with the monstrousness of the zombies and ghosts combine to create monsters that

are more than the troped opponent or conflict schemas established in earlier games.

Monsters and the Other

In addition to the monster as a form of Other, some horror games clearly present

creatures which are explicitly both monster and human, making them fundamentally

Other and uncodifable. With their full exploration of monsters as more than a simplistic

form of opponents, the zombies in Resident Evil and the ghosts in Fatal Frame are unlike

those in other video games. However, each of these enemies/monsters is still an alteration

of the typical opponent structure. In addition to the opponent structure, are monstrous

non-player-characters who cannot be fought, and are narratively constructed such that the

player-character would not fight them. In this place, the narrative significance of the non-

player-character still affects game play by creating a more horrific game space and more

horrific game play that does not narratively end even with the winning of the game. An

example of this comes from the player-character in Silent Hill, Harry, who is seeking his

adopted daughter Cheryl who was lost in the town of Silent Hill after a car accident.

Because the player-character goal for the game is a reunion with Cheryl, the game

requires that players follow narrative cues to learn more about Cheryl and more about her


In her discussion of survival horror structures, in "Play Dead: Genre and Affect in

Silent Hill and Planescape Torment" Diane Carr notes that, "Silent Hill's tight, maze

structure fuels its ability to frighten its users" (para. 17). Carr continues on to note that

Silent Hill uses monsters to change the town's structure from the safe regions of schools

and hospitals to horrific spaces. In her notes, Carr does not definitively place the

monsters as the flying and skittering non-human things or as Harry's daughter, but

Harry's daughter could be the most monstrous of all.

As the game progresses, the player learns that Cheryl was not formally adopted, but

found. Also as the game progresses, Harry learns that Cheryl was not born and is not a

singular entity. Instead, Cheryl is one part of two children who form a demon, or the anti-

Christ (the game is a bit unclear as to the exact name or place of the creature, but it is

fairly clear that the creature is a demon who can end all existence). Harry's relationship

begins with Harry as a father to Cheryl, which is certainly a self-other relationship in the

psychoanalytic sense. Then Harry learns that Cheryl is a monster, making the relationship

a self-other in the human-monstrous sense. Subsequently, Harry must deal with the fact

that Cheryl is not even one monster, but part of one monster. She is thus not human and

not monster; she is also his daughter and not his daughter. Cheryl is in some ways

defined by what she is not, but by the end of the game, she cannot be defined by what she

is. In this way, Cheryl becomes wholly Other because she cannot be included in any

structure-she exists outside of all. As Cohen remarks, Cheryl and other monsters are

disruptions because of their abnormal existences where they refuse "to participate in the

classificatory 'order of things"' and act as, "disturbing hybrids whose externally

incoherent bodies resist attempts to include them in any systematic structuration. And so

the monster is dangerous, a form suspended between forms that threatens to smash

distinctions" ("Monster Culture" 6). Harry similarly occupies an odd place as player-

character because of his relationship as father to Cheryl as monster.

With Harry's entire driving motivation in Silent Hill his desire to save his daughter,

Harry's existence is bound to his relationship to Cheryl. Cheryl's otherness pushes the

town of Silent Hill from a typical town to being a town that is sometimes earthly, and

sometimes part of a demonic or hellish plane of existence. Neither of these spaces can

accommate Cheryl because she is neither monster nor human; she is part monster, but not

even a full being. The physical changing game space of the town of Silent Hill is thus

directly related to the game narrative and Cheryl. While Cheryl is a non-player-character,

Lisa is a monster, and Steve is both a player-character and an opponent-monster, the

narrativization of each of these characters as fully being Other characters affects the feel

of the game space as well as the method of game play.


Video games may present enemies, monsters, and the Other who are more than just

troped figures for conflict. In doing so, they allow for new directions in game design and

game narrative because they include a figure that complicates traditional game design

boundaries as well as traditional narrative boundaries. Additionally, the figure of the

monster complicates the overall structure of the game by breaking and crossing existing

boundaries that serve to create that structure. Cohen remarks on how monsters change

structures noting, "The monster haunts; it does not simply bring past and present

together, but destroys the boundary that demanded their twinned foreclosure" ("Preface"

ix-x). Cohen also remarks that, "Monstrosity challenges a coherent or totalizing concept

of history" ("Preface" x). Cohen's remark on monsters and borders, and monsters and

history directly relate to monsters in video games because monsters in video games serve

to transgress and alter boundaries both for game narratives and for game design.

The history of the monstrous creatures before becoming monstrous also serves to

present multiple narrative possibilities for the game space and for the game narrative,

each of which tie to game design because of the influence of narrative on game play. As

the monster disrupts the systems in which it exists, it also metaphorically points outside

of itself. Basic opponents exist as tropes and generally do not have internal representation

so they cannot act metaphorically in relation to something outside of themselves, but non-

troped, or fully formed enemies and monsters can. This full formation of opponent-

enemy-monster allows for the critique of consumerism in both Romero's Dawn of the

Dead and the critique of humanity in System Shock 2 and Resident Evil. As Constance

Penley suggests about horror film:

George Romero's Dawn of the Dead is more than a kitsch ambience, it is a way of
concretely demonstrating the zombification of consumer culture. By exposing
every corner of the mall stores, escalators, public walkways, basement, roof the
location becomes more saturated with meaning. (71)

Similarly, Resident Evil uses zombies to critique the general video game structures-

video game structures that I have previously noted enforce capitalistic systems of points

for kills and for exploration ("Working the System"). Instead, Resident Evil offers extras

only for beating the game quickly, which necessitates running and not fighting and not


The zombies and ghosts in horror games critique video game structures that offer

troped and unformed opponents who have no internal characteristics by offering

opponents whose humanity is imbued in the artifacts of their lives within the game space.

Horror games also offer a critique to the types of game play that these general structures

give rise to in relation to monsters and enemies because, while many games operate as

'hack and slash' or the ambivalent killing for progress, horror games often instead make

players question every bullet or attack by restricting ammunition. The critiques are often

presented in kitschy and overly contrived Gothic stylings-like Romero's Dead series

and the 1970's Italian horror films, known as Giallo, from which the games draw stylistic

and thematic elements. While the presentation of horror games often leads them to be

dismissed as a result of poor game design or poor game narrative, horror games like

Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and Fatal Frame present alternate options for game design by

fully incorporating the monster into their game structures. In doing so, the overly

contrived structures, game play, and themes serve to create boundaries that the monster

blurs and dissolves.


As a new media form, video games are inextricably bound by their technological

limitations.' These include limitations in terms of processing power and in terms of code

space on early cartridge and CD-based games. The limitations for game design have

decreased dramatically as the processing power of the game stations and the run-of-the-

mill personal computer have increased along with the data capacity for individual games.

However, the prior limitations led to certain approaches to game construction that

became tropes of game design that remain in use. Those former technologically based

limitations that have become tropes often rely on the doubled use of code to mirror

certain parts of the screen or parts of the game world, parts of the game narrative, and

particular game characters or aspects of the characters. Using examples from several

video games and particularly games from the Resident Evil and Fatal Frame series, this

chapter demonstrates the manner in which character mirroring or doubling functions in

games. In particular, I argue that the mirrored characters parallel the structure of folk and

fairy tales in their subversive potential. By studying popular video games in connection

with folk and fairy tales, this chapter illustrates the potential of popular, mainstream

video games to present subversive and empowering narratives to their players.

1 An earlier version of this chapter appears as "Fractured Identities: Siblings and Doubles in Video Games,"
in Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture 5.2 (Spring 2005).

In literature, the figure of the double takes many forms. As Albert Guerard notes,

"The word double is embarrassingly vague, as used in literary criticism. It need not imply

autoscopic hallucination or even close physical resemblance" (3). In video games, which

are bound by technological limitations, the double emerges in a very distinct manner both

within game-play and within gaming narratives. In a single-character and thus seemingly

simpler example, many critics have attempted to frame Tomb Raider's Lara Croft within

Laura Mulvey's theories of voyeurism in film. However, as Helen W. Kennedy rightly

argues in "Lara Croft: Feminist Icon or Cyberbimbo?: On the Limits of Textual

Analysis," Lara Croft cannot be easily accommodated into the voyeuristic gaze because

Lara is both the object of the gaze and the acting heroine within the game. Lara Croft

manages to complicate any attempt to simplify her relationship to the player or the game

because of the importance of game-play. While Lara Croft offers a comparatively simple

example because she is one character, many video games double and multiply single

characters into multiple player-character choices, and may then even double those player-

characters into their own enemies.

Studies on doubling and identification in games have more often used

psychoanalysis to focus on the doubling of the player in relation to the player-character.

However, doubling and mirroring in video games also occurs at the level of game-play,

with the player doubling the player-character, and within the game structure as the

characters themselves are doubled and multiplied. The doubling and multiplication within

the game structure is directly tied to the game's technological requirements that demand

the mirroring of code for conservation of space. For instance, the first Metroid presented

mirrored game areas so that the game could appear more expansive while utilizing the

same code. However, because technological mirroring proves necessary, many games

incorporate that mirroring into the game narratives to make the games' narratives operate

within the structural confines of that mirroring. Thus, many games have structural and

spatial, as well as narratively mirrored characters. Because of the partly technology-

derived mirroring of narratives and characters, and their subsequent multiplication, video

games often focus on sibling rather than romantic relationships.

The shift from romantic to sibling relationships not only changes the space in

which the games are played, but also the overall movement and shape of the game

narratives. In doing so, many video game stories present radical departures from

traditional romantic storytelling conventions specifically because they adhere to game

design conventions and constraints. While many games also follow more conventional

romantic storylines, these are often portrayed in conjunction with sibling storylines.

While psychologically-motivated romantic structures occur more frequently in game

narratives, as video games develop and more mature-rated and adult-themed games are

released, the sibling structures dominating earlier game narratives still remains in use in

many current and upcoming games.

Because of their prevalent use of sibling structures, video games connect to a long

tradition of fairy and folk tales. Further, folk and fairy tales highlight the subversive and

radical possibilities in video games, whereby video games can subvert traditional

narrative and typical game-play conventions.2 Bruno Bettelheim notes in his study of

2Typical game-play conventions tend to focus on acquisition and progression while less typical games tend
to focus on exploration and use. By focusing on acquisition and progression, many games emulate an
exchange model where game-play is rewarded by virtual goods or spaces. For more on game-play
dynamics and their relationship to an exchange model, see Laurie N. Taylor, "Working the System:
Economic Models for Video Game Narrative and Play," Works and Days 2: 43-44 11" 114): 143-153.

fairy tales The Uses of Enchantment that two siblings are often used in fairy tales, often

as brother and sister, to represent two different types or different aspects of the same

person. This structure has continued and evolved through comics, animation, and video

games. One modern day example of this structure comes from Donald Duck's nephews,

Huey, Dewey, and Louie who act as a unit in terms of actions and speech-they are parts

of one person divided into three. In video games, this occurs frequently with one sibling

representing greater skill in one area or more fully embodying a certain concept. For

instance, one game player-character is stronger and another is faster, or, as a variation on

the "Two Brothers" theme that Bettelheim studies, one character often embodies "the

striving for independence and self-assertion, and the opposite tendency to remain safely

home, tied to the parents (91). Bettelheim's remarks here are in reference to the entire

frame of fairy tales, but they also apply to video games, as Janet Murray has noted in

using Vladmir Propp's "Morphology of the Folk Tale" to study the story structure of

video games (Hamlet on the Holodeck). While Propp can be apt and useful for many

games, for others, Propp's analysis is overly simplistic and cannot account for the many

variations. As a result Bettelheim's remarks on the movement and tension between

siblings and on how those tensions often vary in accordance with the siblings'

relationships opens the gap left in Propp's work and shows that video games, like fairy

tales, need a more complex approach to even seemingly simple stories.

The sibling structure in video games often acts in the same subversive manner as

the sibling structures in fairy tales. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari explain the

significance of sibling relationships for social change in the context of schizoanalysis,

which they consider to be an alternative to psychoanalysis in respecting the relationship

of siblings and equals instead of predicating all relationships on the dominant family

structure with father and mother. "This combined formula, which has value only as an

ensemble, is that of schizo-incest," Deleuze and Guattari explain: "Psychoanalysis,

because it understands nothing, has always confused two sorts of incest: the sister is

presented as a substitute for the mother, the maid as a derivative of the mother, the whore

as a reaction-formation" (Kafka 66). Psychoanalysis reaffirms that dominant structure by

insisting on the power and presence, even in absence, of the ordering or power structure

of the adult-parent formation. As Deleuze and Guattari note, psychoanalysis insists on the

mother even when the mother is absent; when the mother is absent and the sister fills a

pivotal role by becoming representative of the mother. Alternately, schizoanalysis argues

that for some texts while the parental-power formation remains present the parental-

power structure is not the pivotal relationship within that structure.

The structure of schizoanalysis is a structure of confusion and movement, of

doubles and combinations. As such, it allows for changing and evolving structures that

exist outside of the patriarchal power system. Folk tales that subvert social norms like

Hansel and Gretel as the tale of two children surviving parental abandonment and as a

critique of the family structure that allowed for child abandonment often use figures of

children to question the existing power structure in part by reaffirming the fundamental

nature of the sibling relationship. Similarly, many video games also reaffirm the sibling

relationship, often to specifically argue against the power structures present in the game.

Because of their emphasis on game-play, video games rely heavily on the

reader/player for interpretation and meaning, especially as that meaning may change

based on different game-play strategies. The fluid nature of video game play allows

games to be analyzed using schizoanalysis and psychoanalysis with the majority of

games displaying components of each, especially given the usefulness of psychoanalysis

to articulate the relationship between the player and the player-character(s). The

usefulness of psychoanalytic and non-psychoanalytic models is clear given the ubiquity

of sibling relationships in video games. These siblings are often doubles in their places

within the game narratives and in their visual representation and also afford a subversive

vision akin to the sibling doubles from fairy tales, a vision that requires multiple lenses.

The prevalent use of siblings and emphasis on sibling relationships in games points to

narrativized struggles between traditional and non-traditional social models. As Paul

Wells notes, the double is generally used as a metaphor for "struggles between law and

order, the sacred and the profane, barbarism and civility, truth and lies" (8-9).

Siblings in Structure: Player-Characters and Enemies

Video game designers often use sibling relationships because-though changing

rapidly with the popularity of teen and mature rated games-the majority of video games

are still created and rated for all ages. Video games need stories that are accessible for all

ages and that can be translated for cultural and linguistic changes. The need for

translatability is foregrounded because video games are sold across the world, with most

games developed in either Japan or the United States. The need for translation requires

video games to use a simple schema for game-play, and one that backgrounds more

adult-related issues like sexuality. While many video games do have romantic

relationships and high levels of explicit sexuality, these present greater difficulty in

translation because of the different cultural standards for beauty, romantic relationships,

and gender-specific behavior. While having a female character fight to save her beloved

may not easily translate across cultures because of the position of women in those

cultures, children's stories provide a schema in which male and female player-characters

can play and fight with almost equal strength as siblings.

Using nearly-equivalent siblings also allows game designers to easily offer player

character options that do not unfairly skew game-play. As Andrew Rollings and Dave

Morris note in Game Architecture andDesign, game balance includes matching the

player's skill to the game-play, matching game-play elements with each other (for

instance having equivalent weapons do equivalent damage), and matching the player

option so that each player, or player-character, is afforded equal skills and abilities (73-

4). Rollings and Morris go on to note that exact symmetry is the fairest solution, "but it's

rarely the most interesting" (74). By striving for symmetry, video games follow other

competitive sports and events like horse races and boxing in that video games try to

equally weigh the players in order to create an even and competitive match. One common

way to make games fair while also providing equivalent, but not symmetrical, characters

is to make multiple player-characters that have higher abilities in certain areas. The

characters are then balanced overall with each excelling in certain areas; the characters

are siblings in structural usage because they are equivalent but not necessarily


One example of the relationship of sibling structures for character creation and

development are the characters in Tenchu: Sic.i, i Assassins. In Tenchu, the player can

choose to play as the male character Rikimaru or the female character, Ayame, who is

faster but less powerful than her male counterpart. This allows for slight player-character

differences that relate to gender, but that more significantly relate to different options in

game-play. Ayame allows for game-play that is based on quick movement and that

requires more hits for a kill, while Rikimaru allows for slower play based on slower,

more powerful attacks with less movement and fewer hits required for a kill. The two

characters are then synonymous with their game-play options and they parallel each other

in terms of their ability to represent facets of game-play.

Following the need for ease of translation, game designers also need to be able to

easily implement multiple possible player-characters, for play in multiplayer games, and

in multiple-character single player games. Siblings and sibling structures-where the

player-characters are equivalent in age, overall skills, and goals-allow for game

designers to create multiple characters with few extra programming demands. Because

video games are incredibly popular and game technology is rapidly evolving, game

designers' and technological needs play a large role in the creation and evolution of game

structures and narratives. As such, the sibling structures for game-play and game design

operate on both the more simplistic level of player-character choice, as well as on the

level of the underlying game meta-structures.

In terms of player-character choice, using siblings as the multiple player-character

options allows the game narratives to be written once, and then the siblings can be easily

substituted for each other during game-play without the need for multiple narrative

structures or game-play options. This also allows game designers to add additional

characters and character types and to add in unlockable3 or extra characters with relative

ease. One simplified example of a video game that uses characters within a sibling

structure, but not a sibling narrative is Gauntlet. Gauntlet provides an excellent example

3 In video games, items and characters are said to be unlockable if they are at first locked and inaccessible
to the player and then, after the player completes a particular action or quest, the items become 'unlocked'
and available.

of the sibling structure because the player plays as one of several player-characters which

all begin with different levels of ability within the same skill sets. As the game

progresses, all of the characters slowly grow more powerful in the same main categories

of strength, speed, endurance, and magic. New characters with the same skill areas can be

unlocked and all characters have the same maximum levels for each skill, allowing them

to become equal in terms of their in-game attributes. While the characters differ only

slightly, and their differences do not greatly affect game play, Gauntlet still offers the

appearance of choice by using the sibling player-character structure with each character

as an aspect of the other characters.

The sibling structure also allows game designers to easily add in additional

characters for the appearance of additional game-play options and rewards. For instance,

Super Mario Brothers uses the siblings Mario and Luigi as identical character options,

except for their coloration, in the two-player game. While Super Mario Brothers is 'a

princess on a pedestal game,' in which the player fights to save a trapped princess, it

focuses first on the sibling relationship because both brothers are enlisted to save the

princess. Mario and Luigi are identical in terms of abilities, age, and their appearance

only varies in terms of the colors of their clothing; Mario wears red and brown and Luigi

wears white and green.4

In Super Mario Brothers, the sibling relationship is also apparent in enemies like

the Hammer Brothers, who are always in pairs and who fight by throwing hammers at the

player-character. In later Mario games, the player can play as Mario, Luigi, Toad, or the

Princess, all of whom have higher abilities in some areas, but have equal overall skills.

4 Mario and Luigi's appearances do change in later games, but at first they appear identical except for the
colors of their outfits.

More recent games also feature the character Wario, a larger and more yellow version of

Mario, as an enemy or a player-character, depending on the game. The multiple player-

characters and monsters, even in the simple example of the Super Mario Brothers,

connect to the overall evolution of monsters. As Judith Halberstam notes, "[t]he post-

Frankenstein monster emerges at the turn of the century as a creature marked by an

essential duality and a potential multiplicity" (53). Like other monsters, those presented

by video games are multiple in each of their instances, and in the spectrum of their

iterations within a single game. And while the monsters in Super Mario Brothers are not

horrific monsters, the general structural and narrative multiplicity of enemies and

monsters in video games allows for the creation of multiple monster types, including

horrific monsters and doppelgangers.

Siblings in Narrative

Design requirements push game designers towards using sibling structures for

player-characters. However, the scope in which many games use siblings not only for

player-character choice, but for the game meta-narrative and game-play design shows

that video games operate both within traditional romantic and familial structures, as well

as within alternatives like sibling structures. For games using the sibling structures for

game design, Deleuze and Guattari's schizoanalysis proves a useful approach. For

instance, both of the early games Super Mario Brothers (1985) and The Legend of Zelda

(1986) are technically 'princess on pedestal' stories, but to read these merely in a

psychoanalytic manner misses the sibling relationships in each. In The Legend of Zelda,

the main character, Link, and Zelda, the princess he must save, appear as brother and

sister. In a later game in the series, The Legend of Zelda: the Wind Waker Link is, in fact,

explicitly named as brother to Aryll, whom he must save.

In each of these games, the 'princess on a pedestal' story is also a narrative of a

brother saving his sister. As such, the game narratives are more like modern renditions of

radical folk tales that question the explicit power structure by presenting an alternate

structure. The folk and fairy tale structures in these games further reinforces their

subversive tendencies, as Jack Zipes notes: "No matter what has become of the fairy tale,

its main impulse was at first revolutionary and progressive, not escapist, as has too often

been suggested" (36). While folk and fairy tales can be subversive, Zipes also argues that

their presentation often diminishes or negates their subversive potential. In particular,

Zipes states that the mass production of fairy tales leads to, "a technologically produced

universal voice and image which impose themselves on the imagination of passive

audiences. The fragmented experiences of atomized and alienated people are ordered and

harmonized by turning the electric magic switch" (17). Thus, the structure of folk and

fairy tales alone does not necessarily allow for subversion. Rather, it is a combination of

the stories themselves and the manner in those stories and their structures are presented

that allow for the subversive potential. Because video games must offer options, or the

appearance of options, and because they rely on game-play, they may escape the

universalized voice. For instance, even in games like Super Mario Brothers in which the

player is sent on a quest to save the princess, the game focuses first on the brotherly

relationship between Mario and Luigi and then on their quest to save the princess. In

moves similar to this, the Mario video games often posit the primary relationship to be

that of siblings, with the Princess included as an equal as she is a player-character in

several of the games.

Super Mario Brother's characters can be incorporated into a psychoanalytic

structure that would reaffirm the dominant social-power structure of the family, but to

remain only within this interpretative framework would neglect or obscure significant

aspects of the game. Making this misstep, Mia Consalvo in "Hot Dates and Fairy-Tale

Romances: Studying Sexuality in Videogames" psychoanalytically analyzes one of the

games in the immensely popular Final Fantasy series for its characters' romances.

However, Consalvo's analysis fails to take note that all of the characters in Final Fantasy

are orphans in worlds torn by war, with absent parents, making the characters siblings

through their loss. Her analysis also neglects that, while the games' ending and the jokes

during the game suggest romance, the game is played in a traditional fairy tale form with

the siblings fighting for survival. Consalvo bases her psychoanalytic reading of the Final

Fantasy games only on the game dialogue. While dialogue is an important component for

game analysis, game-play and structure point to another structural level that complicate

readings of the game structure presented by the game dialogue.

The sibling structure employed in Final Fantasy, with its use of orphan-siblings as

the player characters, also occurs in the Final Fantasy offshoot, Kingdom Hearts.

Kingdom Hearts retains some of the Final Fantasy characters while also adding new

ones. Kingdom Hearts also has the player-character Sora fight his own shadow. Final

Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts' use of orphans to provide equivalent player characters

influences the game narrative and connects to doubles. As Karl Miller notes, whereee the

double is, the orphan is never far away" (39). For video games, orphans and doubles are

connected by the game narratives that seek to provide equality, and must thus remove the

more powerful 'parental' figures and make the characters equal by way of making them

orphans. Because of the need to balance player characters, video games use doubles for

both characters and enemies. By making the players in Final Fantasy orphans, the

players are equal in a manner that psychoanalysis, with its emphasis on sexual

relationships and the priority of the parent, cannot grasp.

Furthermore, because the player-characters are all orphans and exhibit equivalent

abilities, the player-characters act as doubles of each other with each one providing slight

alterations, but acting in similar ways and remaining tied to the other characters within

the narrative. Similar to Final Fantasy, the game ICO places the player as a young boy

banished from his home village. In order to escape the prison the villagers confine him to,

he must help another prisoner, a young girl named Yorda. Because of the girl's age and

the game's storytelling style, ICO also shows a sibling relationship with the two children

joined in their orphaned status, banishment, and loss. In Gender Inclusive Game Design,

Sheri Graner Ray argues that in ICO, "the way in which the NPC [non-player character]

is presented to the player encourages emotional involvement" (55).

This emotional involvement stems from the depiction of Yorda depicts as a sibling

in need of help, and as a sibling in circumstances that place both the player-character and

Yorda living by themselves in exile. The fairy tale structure in these games is not a

reaffirmation of the dominant structure, but one more in line with the subversive nature

of early fairy tales. This is not to say that video games were designed for their

revolutionary potential, just as folk and fairy tales were not always created for

revolutionary reasons. As Zipes contends, folk and fairy tales have been considered

subversive, "as they have tended to project other and better worlds," and additionally

they, "have provided the critical measure of how far we are from taking history into our

own hands and creating more just societies" (Zipes 3). The majority of video games are

certainly not developed with revolution in mind, but the majority of video games do

present the possibility of better worlds and a method for making those worlds, if only in

terms of the fictional worlds they present.

Final Fantasy, ICO, Super Mario Brothers, and The Legend of Zelda are typical

video games in their presentation of sibling relationships as the primary relationships,

with parents and parental structures being notably absent. On its own, a psychoanalytic

framework proves inadequate for video games like these, if one wants to address the

manner in which relationships are constructed and explored, as they are often without

parental or other hegemonic structures. Psychoanalytic theories would most likely

respond to this that the parents may be removed, but that they still exist structurally. In

these games, however, the parents and all parental structures have not only been

removed, but the game worlds are also frequently in chaos. To argue that this chaos still

implies a traditional psychoanalytic structure misapprehends these narratives and their

development through game-play. As an alternative to a psychoanalytical frame for

discussing these games, schizoanalysis helps to illustrate the manner in which games use

sibling structures and the significance of the sibling structures in games.

In Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Deleuze and Guattari argue that

psychoanalysis misunderstands the function of the family. In doing so, they argue that the

entire field of the familial structure is misinterpreted in making the family the site where

the entire social field is applied and performed:

The family becomes the subaggregate to which the whole of the social field is
applied. Since each person has his own private father and mother, it is a distributive
subaggregate that simulates for each person the collective whole of social persons
and that closes off his domain and scrambles his images. Everything is reduced to

the father-mother-child triangle, which reverberates the answer 'daddy-mommy'
every time it is stimulated by images of capital. (265)

Deleuze and Guattari here specifically relate schizoanalysis to the capitalistic system and

to the overall social structure. While it is beyond the scope of this paper to explore the

implications of sibling-structured video games for capitalist society, the alternative social

structure presented in such games corresponds to the subversive potential of folk and

fairy tales which question the dominant social order.

Sibling Worlds: Chaos of Changing Structures

Horror games like those in the Fatal Frame and Resident Evil series present

examples of subversive texts that rely on the sibling structure in order to question the

narrativized power structures in their game worlds and the function of player-characters

and non-player-characters in those worlds. Unlike many sibling-based games that are

designed for all player ages and designed with little of a recognizably real world

included, survival horror games provide a critical perspective on sibling relationships

because they are situated within more realistic worlds, both with older player-characters,

and designed for older players. Furthermore the games also question all of the world

structures they depict. Survival horror games are also easier to disentangle from their

explicit narratives because the narratives are often Gothic. As Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick

explains of Gothic conventions; "Surely no other modern literary form as influential as

the Gothic novel has also been as pervasively conventional. Once you know that a novel

is of Gothic kind [...] you can predict its contents with an unnerving certainty" (9). Gothic

conventions may make for greater confusion in terms of the actual narrative and

structure; yet, the codification of Gothic conventions serves to simplify the separation of

the structures from the explicit narrative. Because Gothic narratives often appear as

psychologically motivated tales, their use in survival horror games also further helps to

show the need for schizoanalysis given the failure of psychoanalysis to fully explain

these games. Psychoanalysis postulates that the fundamental structure is that of the

family-whether this structure is that of mother-father-child or of caregiver's absence,

the structure always refers to the initial values of the hierarchical family of parents and

children. Deleuze and Guattari argue against this structure because it attributes all power

to the parents and reifies the small nuclear group even as it applies to the larger social

structures. The subversion of this is the schizoanalytic structure, which is one of change

and evolution and which focuses on the relationship between equals that of siblings or


Removal of the parents or governing power, which is typical of many children'

stories and video games, does not in itself change the narrative movement from

psychoanalytic to schizoanalytic. The psychoanalytic structure must be fundamentally

subverted or questioned for the schizoanalytic structure to take hold. This fundamental

change is enacted throughout the Resident Evil and Fatal Frame games, in which the

parental figures are removed, undermined, or corrupted. The removal of parental figures

and structures leads to changes in the narrative structure and the game world presentation

that make psychoanalytic treatments of these games inadequate. Deleuze and Guattari

contend that:

The Oedipal incest occurs, or imagines that it occurs, or is interpreted as if it
occurs, as an incest with the mother, who is a territoriality, a reterritorialization.
Schizo-incest takes place with the sister, who is not a substitute for the mother, but
who is on the other side of the class struggle, the side of maids and whores, the
incest of deterritorialization [...] Schizo-incest, in contrast, is connected to sound, to
the manner in which sound takes flight and in which memory-less blocks introduce
themselves in full vitality into the present to activate it, to precipitate it, to multiply
its connections. (Kafka 67)

In many video games, the sister or brother is just that a sister or brother and does not

represent the mother or any sort of territorialized structure. In the survival horror games

investigated here, all of the existing structures are eroded or destroyed; only the sibling

relationships remain and these are relationships of tension and change.

Within the schizoanalytic structure, Deleuze and Guattari also note the importance

of sound for schizo-incest's ability to take flight. Sound in the doubled and sibling worlds

of survival horror video games provides the only reliable game system vision cannot be

trusted, and often cannot be used effectively at all because of the lack of light and heavy

fog. Sound fills survival horror games to define the characters' relationship to the virtual

space of the game world, the narrative, and each other. Survival horror games are

nightworlds and operate, as Paul Coates suggests, as worlds "in which vision is abolished

and a series of suggestive sounds come into their own" (123). Within these worlds, all

structures are lost, save for sounds and siblings. The emphasis on sound complements the

narrative removal of traditional hierarchies (with parents and the government) by

removing the traditional focus of the game display by refocusing it on the auditory rather

than the visual.

The Resident Evil games begin with capitalistic and militaristic structures gone

haywire. The games' conflict begins with a corporation named Umbrella, which engineers

biological weapons, creating one called the T-Virus (and mutations of this virus in

subsequent games). This virus animates dead flesh so that dead creatures live on in an

undead state and attack the living in the attempt to devour them. As the virus mutates and

as Umbrella develops other virus strains, dead plants and animals also become extremely

violent and aggressive. In the various game iterations, the virus gets released into a city

and several Umbrella training and development areas, which the player fights his or her

way through in order to survive and to find friends and family. While the basic plot on

the surface seems to be that of a low-budget horror film, the story that unfolds through

game-play and the game characters indicates that this can hardly be the case. Through

game paratexts and game-play, the player learns that some of the player-characters are

members of S.T.A.R.S., a tactical unit that has been sent in to control the virus.

Player-characters include Claire Redfield, sister to Chris who is in the S.T.A.R.S.

unit; Leon Kennedy, who was reporting to Raccoon City to be a police officer (but since

the Police are destroyed, he is completely unconnected); Steve Burnside, son of two

Umbrella operatives now dead; and Billy Coen, a fugitive naval officer who was framed,

incarcerated, and has escaped from that incarceration. In the course of the game plot, the

S.T.A.R.S. leader, Albert Wesker, betrays the group and attempts to kill them. In all of

these cases, for S.T.A.R.S. members like Chris, Jill Valentine, Barry Burton, and

Rebecca Chambers, and for the others like Claire, Leon, Steve, and Billy, the controlling

social structure is absent. Only in Steve's case is this structure literally parental, but all of

the characters previously existed within a psychoanalytic structure of family, career, and

military forces, but which have been removed or proved corrupt.

Psychoanalysis could take this removal and aberration of the traditional structure as

simply that, an aberration being used to generate horror in the games. However, the

games refuse such a simple reading. The removal of the parental and patriarchal

structures is shown in small paratextual notes and in short cinematic sequences sprinkled

in with game-play so sparsely as to be insignificant compared to the sibling relationships.

For instance, members of the S.T.A.R.S. team are all shocked when they learn of

Wesker's betrayal, but that shock in reaction to Wesker is much less than their reaction to

the loss of any of their quasi-sibling team members. The overall game trajectory,

including the overall movement of actual play, focuses on the characters operating as

siblings in order to help each other, often in direct opposition to their other orders. The

focus of the game is on saving the sibling characters, and those who act otherwise are

shown to be destructive and evil.

Even the romantic relationships in Resident Evil are first and foremost sibling

relationships-in structure or in actuality-and only after that are any of the relationships

romantic for those that are not actual siblings. In Resident Evil 0, the S.T.A.R.S. medic

Rebecca Chambers, and the fugitive Billy Coen have moments where they seem to be

romantically interested in each other, but the game never makes this clear. They are both

clearly linked as caring friends, as comrades fighting against the monsters around them.

This cooperation questions the apparent order because Rebecca's military orders are to

capture Billy and because, even though she was told that Billy is a criminal by her

superiors, she still trusts him. Rebecca is still a teenager in the game and her placement as

a child within a militaristic order structure casts her military superiors, like Albert

Wesker, as parental figures. While this is true for all of the S.T.A.R.S. members, it is

especially true for Rebecca because she does not appear to be in a strong position, in

terms of age or physical ability, to resist the existing structure in any way. Her placement

as medic, and thus less skilled with weaponry, further reinforces her subordinate position.

However, she disobeys her orders and resists the dominant powers with little effort.

Like the seemingly romantic relationship between Rebecca and Billy, Jill Valentine

and Chris Redfield (Resident Evil, Resident Evil 2) seem to be romantically interested in

each other. Like Chris, Jill is a member of the S.T.A.R.S. team and they both fight to help

each other. Their relationship, other than their functional relationship as siblings in their

military unit, is never made explicit. However, Chris searches for Jill in the same manner

that he searches for his sister, Claire; and as Claire and Jill are furthermore similar in

appearance, they both function and appear as Chris' sister. In addition to these oddly

unromantic relationships, one must also consider Barry Burton and his family (Resident

Evil). Barry obeys Wesker because Wesker threatens to kill Barry's wife and child. Barry

acts as a traitor to his team for a period of time, but then risks his family in order to save

his team members. In doing so, Barry both overthrows Wesker's control and reaffirms

that the sibling relationship between S.T.A.R.S. members and other survivors comes

before that of the traditional family structure. Following Barry, the traditional family is

even shown to be a destructive force.

Destructive forces appear in all of the complete family units presented even in

those that are now incomplete, as with Steve Burnside's family (Resident Evil Code:

Veronica -) and Lisa's family (Resident Evil). Steve Burnside has to fight to survive after

he and his parents are taken to an island and imprisoned by Umbrella. In one cut scene,

Steve even kills his zombified father in order to protect Claire. While this could be read

psychoanalytically with the teenage Steve destroying his father to emerge in full

manhood, the scene, however is merely a cut-scene and the player has no control over

this action. Steve does kill his father to save Claire, and Steve is clearly shown to be

attracted to Claire; but his patricide is clearly shown as motivated by the desire to protect

his equal and become part of the system in which she exists with her brother Chris, a

system of siblings and of survival.

Sibling Worlds: Enemies and Monsters

While the sibling system presents a web of equal and equivalent characters, it also

provides the basic structure that ties the characters to their enemies. The doubling of

characters in video games applies to player-characters, non-player-characters, and

enemies alike, as well as to the entire structure of game-play itself. In the words of Matt

Bittanti, "[t]he avatar is a technologically charged dy' 'lgauger" (248). This doubling of

the player and the player-character is repeated throughout video games for both player-

characters and their enemies. This multiplicity figures in the construction of the monster

in both game narrative and structure because the monster also presents a portion of the

subject. The monster, Judith Halberstam explains, is the subject's double and, "represents

not simply that which is the buried self, rather the monster is evidence of the production

of multiformed egos. Indeed, it is only the evidence of one self buried in the other that

marks the subject human" (71). In this way, the monsters within the sibling system also

present the system itself either by verifying the sibling structure or by embodying the

traditional structures and showing that these must be destroyed. While this replication of

the system could serve to verify the hegemonic structures, in the case of survival horror

video games, it serves to further undermine those structures.

A large factor in undermining the traditional family structure is Lisa, in the first

Resident Evil, a monster. Like Steve, Lisa is a young girl whose parents worked for and

were subsequently killed by Umbrella. Lisa's parents are already dead when the game

narrative begins, but the player learns of Lisa's parents through their journals, notes, and

other remnants of their lives as humans. As noted in Chapter 2, the player also finds

Lisa's journal which progresses from Lisa the small girl, through her infection by the

virus where her written language deteriorates until she at last writes meaningless

scribbles. Lisa is one of the more difficult opponents to fight in terms of game-play

because Lisa is strong and still has some level of intelligence. By reading Lisa's journals

and other notes in the game, the player learns that Lisa wants to be whole again and so

Lisa eats everything and everyone in order to have them as part of her. Lisa has been

given a clear psychological motivation in this sense, because she desires to fill her

emotional needs by quite literally devouring that which she needs, and her needs include

human companionship. Specifically she wants to eat her mother, the one she misses most.

Lisa and, to a lesser extent Steve, can thus be read psychoanalytically, but to read

them only psychoanalytically misses the complexity of both game narrative and game-

play. Lisa and Steve represent traditional family structures, are both monsters, and are

both killed in the end.5 The structure that is killed with them represents the attempt at a

traditional family structure and unity. Steve tries to be a sibling to Claire, but he is

inevitably unable to escape his family structure and has to kill himself in order to protect

Claire from the monster he becomes. Like Steve, Lisa is trapped by her familial past and

is killed.

By showing the family structure fetishized by psychoanalysis as a structure which

kills, the Resident Evil games open the possibility for another reading; and, because of the

emphasis on equal sibling relationships with the chaotic disruptions that this brings with

it, a schizoanalytic reading. Because the games can be considered Gothic, the

conventionality of the games in terms of structure and narrative sets the stage for explicit

breakages within the hyper-structuralization of the Gothic genre. As Halberstam

demonstrates, the Gothic, "tracks the transformation of struggles within the body politic

5 While they seem to die, the game leaves open whether or not Lisa survives.

to local struggles within individual bodies. The Gothic monster, moreover, as a creature

of mixed blood, breaks down the very categories that constitute class, sexual, and racial

difference" (78). Lisa, as a monster, acts to break down multiple categories through her

growth from a child into an adult monster. As a monster of family, Lisa thus represents

family even while disrupting the familial structures.


Far from being unusual examples, the Resident Evil games parallel the Fatal Frame

series of games, which also present sibling relationships as the fundamental connection

between player-characters. This connection is made and maintained even through

multiple realms of existence. In Fatal Frame's case these are a realistic realm and at least

one spiritual realm. The first Fatal Frame follows a young girl named Miku as she

searches for her brother Mafuyu in a haunted mansion. Because of her concern for him,

Miku searches for her brother even when confronted with terrifying ghosts and the gates

to hell. Not only are Miku and Mafuyu children of a dead mother and an absent father,

they are also psychically linked, which is how Miku is able to track her brother. During

game-play, the player as Miku will occasionally stumble onto a place her brother has

been recently and the player, along with Miku, sees what happened to Mafuyu at that


Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly also follows two siblings. This time the siblings

are twin girls, Mio and Mayu Amakura. The player plays primarily as Mio, but also plays

as the sibling Mayu for short sequences. Fatal Frame 2 begins with the two sisters

walking in the woods. They stumble into a haunted village and, once inside, they cannot

leave. Mayu seems possessed by the place and walks away, quickly lost in the space and

time of the village. The village is frozen in time from nearly a century ago, when the

town was supposed to perform a bloody ritual involving the sacrifice of twin girls to

appease spirits. The townspeople failed, and now the town is frozen in time and place,

trapping and killing all those who enter. As Mayu drifts into the alternate realm in which

the town exists, she also slowly merges with one of the twins who was to be sacrificed so

many years ago, while Mio attempts to save them both. The Fatal Frame games differ

from the Resident Evil games because the player only has one player-character choice in

the Fatal Frame games. However, the sibling relationship in the Fatal Frame games is

even more intense because the only relationships in the games are that of the two siblings,

and those of the ghosts of the townspeople who performed human sacrifices.

In each of the games, the narrative focuses on human sacrifice-women in the first

game and young girls in the second. A male town elder sacrifices the women in order to

prevent a catastrophe from occurring. In each game, the other townspeople assist the male

elder in the sacrifices. After the sacrifices fail, the townspeople in their ghostly forms

attack the player-characters. In fact, the only helpful non-player-character in either of the

games is a young boy in the second game. However, the townspeople-ghosts' cruelty

towards the player-characters is understandable because the mansion and the town suffer

not for performing these sacrifices, but for failing to do so. The sacrifices are presented as

good acts, in the sense of preventing the doors to hell from opening, as well as evil for

their cruelty. All of the townspeople's relationships are bound by death and, at best,

ambiguous moral choices. In this way, the only relationship that does not involve death is

that of the siblings, and the only path to freedom or even survival is through the siblings

working together. The parents, town elders, and all those in power are absent or

malevolent. The only survival or hope is through disrupting the systems that they have

put in place by reaffirming the sibling relationship. In both the Resident Evil and the

Fatal Frame series, the characters, worlds, and game-play are thus defined by the sibling

relationships. The sibling relationships, moreover, define the enemies and their places

within these narratives.

Doubles, Shadows, and the Other

Like the doubling of player-characters, video games also present enemies as double

or shadow characters because it allows the game designers to repeat code, making the

games easier to program and design. These double or shadow characters can be found in

all game types. Some of the games with explicit shadow characters include: Super Mario

Sunshine, which presents a water-shadow Mario enemy; The Legend of Zelda II, which

has a dark or shadow Link enemy; and Sonic Adventure 2, which has a Shadow Sonic

enemy. The shadows in these and many other games are doubles and are concordantly

presented and often also named "Shadow" or "Dark," but these doubles are not horrific as

doubles and shadows often are. Instead, doubles and shadows are connected to

technology for both literature and for video games. In The Double and the Other: Identity

as Ideology in Post-Romantic Fiction, Paul Coates argues that the large-scale emergence

of the double in literary works relates to the cheapening of mirrors and their increasing

commonality in people's experiences, stating: "As the multiplication of reflecting

surfaces, mirrors and plate glass in modern architecture increases the self-consciousness

of society, the sight of one's own image ceases to be the harbringer of death" (35). To

cope with the technological limitations, Nick Montfort explains, video game doubling

began with the early games, where half of the screen had to be mirrored to present a full


Following the extreme limitations of mirroring the game screen, other early games,

like The Legend ofZelda II, doubled characters because it allowed the game designers to

reuse code for both the fighting and movement styles as well as the character appearance.

Even in the early Resident Evil games, the doubling of the player-character-choices

with only minor changes to the game space and game-play for each character- allowed

the game world to seem larger without requiring large amounts of additional code. While

the repeated use of code led to many doubled characters, many of these were doubles in a

non-horrific sense.

The double as a horrific structure further complicates and subverts traditional

structures. Doubles exist within traditional structures, and they exist in manners that

question the relationship of one of the doubles to the other. In video games, the doubling

questions both the relationship of the doubles and the structures in which the doubles

exist because video games that use sibling structures present horrific doubles that are

fundamentally connected to each other and to the story. Because video games often use

sibling relationships as primary, the threat of the other becomes not a threat of something

unknown, but the threat of a perversion of the known. As such, video game enemies in

sibling-based stories are more likely to be doppelgangers, shadows or doubles of the

player-characters. While early shadow characters are simply that, video games quickly

6 See Nick Montfort's work on early text-based games and early video game consoles, like the Atari for
more on code and screen mirroring. It is also interesting to note that mirror effects in games, where the
characters could walk in front of a mirror or mirrored surface like water and see their reflection, is a rather
recent effect in games, emerging around 2003. The underlying technical mirroring exists on the code and
narrative levels, but the visual representation of that mirroring has only been technically possible in recent
games. Montfort presented his work on this at Princeton's "Video Game, Form, Culture, and Criticism
Conference," in March 2004.

developed non-symmetrical shadow characters in the double and doppelganger figures of

Mario's double in Wario, Luigi's double in Waluigi, Solid Snake's double in Liquid

Snake, and Samus' Alien-Samus double in Metroid Fusion. Resident Evil Code:

Veronica also has the explicitly double characters of Chris and Claire Redfield as brother

and sister and as the game's player-characters, and then their doubles in sister and brother

Alexia and Alfred Ashford, the heads of the Umbrella corporation and the main enemies

in this game. Code: Veronica also uses Alexia and Alfred as dopplegangers, having Alex

dress in drag as Alexia after he has confined her to a zombie existence through a failed

experiment. Alexia emerges to fight as a zombie-esque creature at the end of the game,

making her a double or perversion of her human self. The reversal and mirroring of the

brother-sister pair in Resident Evil concretizes the seemingly simple sibling relationships

in video games, but also the twisted relationships of dual character games where the male

and female characters are used as interchangeable counterparts for each other to add

player-character choice without disrupting the game narrative.

Fatal Frame more explicitly doubles the player-characters in relation to the

enemies than does the Resident Evil series, as the first Fatal Frame depicts the scars of

the sacrificed women slowly appearing on Miku while she stays on the haunted estate. In

Fatal Frame 2, the twin girls parallel the girls who were almost sacrificed so long ago.

The twin girls become doubles of each other and of the pair of girls before them. In

addition to the player-character doubles in the twin girls, the earlier twins themselves

have doubles in their dolls. In the game's background story, one of the earlier twin girls

to be sacrificed ran away, and her sister was terribly upset. To console her, the

townspeople made a doll of her sister that slowly comes to life as the girl plays with, and

loves, the human-sized doll. The player-character has to fight both of these earlier twin

girls and the doll, which also gets doubled into two dolls, at different points in the game.

The use of dolls as doubles is a familiar trope, as Paul Coates discusses Henry James'

non-horror What Maisie Knew and how the young girl, Maisie, used her dolls in such a

way that they became her doubles (59). The dolls as doubles for video games is

particularly odd because it inherently questions methods of game-play because the player

is playing as one of the characters, making the character perform as a puppet or a doll for

the player. This bizarre connection between the player and the player-character is further

reinforced in games like Resident Evil where the controller can be set to use rumble-

effects to thump and pulse like a human heartbeat. These odd connections serve to

increase the doubling effect and to increase the horror of the game, all the while

increasing the importance of the sibling relationship as the only means of escape.

Fatal Frame's game-play and fighting style further increase the doubling effects

because its game-play is based on the characters fighting the ghosts by taking

photographs of them that slowly diminish the ghosts' power and eventually destroy them.

In discussing that the double most often appears at dusk, Coates argues that the double is

like that of the photograph, stating that "[t]he Double in fin de siecle literature is thus the

uncanny aspect of the photograph, which is similarly momentary and monochrome" (4).

The ghosts in Fatal Frame can only be clearly seen through the camera lens, but using

the camera lens makes moving the player-character more difficult and more awkward.

When the player takes pictures of the ghosts, the ghosts are sometimes knocked

backwards by the force of the shot, while at other times the ghost retreat slightly, and on

occasion the ghosts charge forward, undaunted. The closer the range in which the

photographs are taken, the more damage to the ghosts, so the player must balance fear of

the ghosts and the damage they do with the need to conserve film to survive subsequent

encounters. Balancing these needs often means that, in terms of game-play, the player

must wait until the ghosts fill the entire screen view, because the view is through the

camera lens, and the ghosts are about the pounce upon the player before the player

attacks. The need for close-up photographs and the camera-view construction forces the

player into close proximity with the ghosts. Thus, the player is bound by a visual and

proximate relationship with the ghosts while also forced to take multiple shots of a single

ghost, memorializing these enemies in the game photographs, which the game allows the

player to keep. The Fatal Frame and Resident Evil series, while extremely codified, also

present ruptures using the sibling structures to double the human with human, the human

with monster, to double the structures of narrative, and to double the structures of game

design. Moreover, the actual game-play further enforces this ghostly doubling by

repeatedly bringing the characters in contact with doubled spaces and doubled monsters.

Conclusion: Survival Horror and Family Border Crossings

The doubles in video games serve to undermine traditional family structures while

also presenting game spaces filled by multiplicity, mirrors, and complications that

intertwine game-play, narrative, and game design. Using the figure of the double, video

games present subversive texts that parallel folk and fairy tales in their questioning of

dominant structures, including their foregrounding of technological structures that require

such doubling. Arguing for the neutral value of technology in the presentation of folk and

fairy tales, Zipes states, "Technology itself is not an enemy of folk and fairy tales. On the

contrary, it can actually help liberate and fulfill the imaginative projections of better

worlds which are contained in fairy tales" (18). Zipes' statement indicates that video

games, like folk and fairy tales, can display both alternate world structures or the

problems in current worlds. Video game doubles and sibling structures inherently

question the reigning order and provide an alternate path, one for which folk and fairy

tales point the way for both children's stories and adult fiction.

In More Than a Game, Barry Atkins suggests that Tomb Raider is very much like

an epic folk tale because of its use of a princely narrative structure where the child of an

aristocrat goes on heroic quests (42). Atkins' remarks on the folk tale are a minor note in

terms of his overall argument; however, his remarks are telling in that so many games,

even those with limited use of doubles, still connect to folk and fairy tales. Furthermore,

video games' relationship to folk and fairy tales are far from simple. While Tomb Raider

and many video games like the classic hero story-structured The Legend of Zelda can

easily be read as duplicating a basic fairy tale structure, seeing only that structure without

regard to its implications for subversion neglects other equally valid structures within the

text. Video games, as a new and popular medium, are in danger of being inaccurately

analyzed as simplistic stories in ways that neglect the interplay between game design,

game-play, and narrative. Schizoanalysis is but one method for investigating video games

in a manner that respects their formulation through game-play, game design, and

narrative, because it retains the complex interrelations of power and social structures and

sees them in relation to the subversive structures created by the game narrative and the

actions of game play.


Video games most often feature male protagonists. When video games do feature

female protagonists, the women are generally intended as-whether or not they prove to

be-eye-candy for a male audience, like Tomb Raider's Lara Croft (first released by

Eidos in 1996) and the girls of Dead or Alive (Cad Douglas et al. 6). However, other

depictions of women and gender are explored in video games. Several ludic Gothic

horror video games, because of their relation to the breakages and openings created by

the Gothic, serve as settings for several of the most progressive female video game

characters to date. These include the Fatal Frame games and Resident Evil games -

complete with their dark towers and eerie courtyards and American McGee's Alice, with

its Gothic-punk Alice and Cheshire Cat. Women in Fatal Frame, Resident Evil, and

American McGee's Alice disrupt the norms of video gaming because they present strong

female protagonists who are defined by skill and wit, rather than by their feminine

physiques or feminized personalities.1 The women in these games are rounded characters

- capable of fighting and thinking because they were designed as full characters and

must be played as such in order to succeed in the games. This chapter addresses the

changing role of women as players and characters in video games, as this evolution

occurs in several ludic Gothic video games with emphasis on the peculiar manner in

1 In one of the more exaggerated examples of female characters being defined by their bodies, Dead or
Alive 2 was actually programmed to make the female fighter's breasts bounce at all times-even when the
characters were not otherwise moving. The breasts bounce without any possible physical reason for doing
so. For details on the programming involved, see Chris Baker's "Gettin' Jiggly wit It" in Wired Magazine,
10.11 (Nov. 2002): 5 pars. 1 Sept. 2005 .

which this evolves in American McGee's Alice and in the Fatal Frame and Resident Evil


The Gothic setting allows for the disruption of norms and normality. In doing so,

the female characters are not immediately identified as sexualized objects, but are instead

identified as characters trying to survive. Within these games' Gothic settings, the

characters' physical appearances do not factor into their abilities and actions, nor into the

game narratives as they do for female characters in other games. By being made first into

full characters, rather than caricatures of women, they exceed the stereotypical confines

for women in games. The games themselves also require excessive repetition and replay,

such that the method of play becomes nonstandard and non-stereotypical. By exceeding

the predetermined limits imposed by normal gaming, ludic Gothic and horror games

allow for women characters to be portrayed within the act of play as a sort of l'dcriture

feminine in much the same manner that theorists like Michelle Kendrick have argued

hypertext could allow for a possible eruption of l'dcriture fminine (3). For video games,

I'dcriture fminine relates to the context of the video game narratives and worlds, but

primarily to the construction of play which relies on the process of a form of disruption as

a form for play.

The women characters in Fatal Frame, Resident Evil, and American McGee's Alice

are composed as whole characters formed through fragments. They rise to the level of

full characters as heroes and monsters, roles that they have been barred from in other

video games. They have been empowered to occupy these more complete roles by the

changes in character and world design that Gothic allows, and through the Gothic method

of play that subverts play standards that would otherwise codify these characters.

Gothic and Gender

The Gothic is particularly important to the evolution of women as characters in and

players of video games because the Gothic allows for the fissures through which new

representations and methods of play may erupt. Gothic elements create Gothic texts;

however, a codified Gothic genre does not exist because the Gothic relates to a

composition of fragments and themes instead of cohesive elements. As Misha Kavka

argues "there is no established genre called Gothic cinema or Gothic film" (209). Kavka

continues, the Gothic is not a unified form or class, but a collection of elements that

together situate a particular work as Gothic: there are "Gothic images and Gothic plots

and Gothic characters and even Gothic styles [. .] but there is no delimited or

demonstrable genre specific to film called the Gothic" (209). Because the Gothic is

defined by these elements horror video games, like horror films, may have elements of

the Gothic; therefore, they may also function as Gothic texts.

Within the fragmentary form of the Gothic, ludic Gothic video games present an

opening for changing video game gender roles in terms of the visual and narrative

representations as well as the game-play methods. While not all games have narratives-

as with Pong and Tetris-and some games relate to their narratives in only marginal or

tangential ways, ludic Gothic games heavily rely on the game narratives for continued

game-play and for the construction of the game world. In this reliance on the game

narrative, ludic Gothic games depict Gothic themes that subvert the often implicit and

foundational patriarchal narratives found in other video games. As Anne Williams argues

in Art of Darkness: A Poetics of Gothic, "'The Gothic myth,' the mythos or structure

informing this Gothic category of 'otherness,' is the patriarchal family" (22). The Gothic

as such serves to disrupt the norms of video games as a whole as with the presentation

and implementation of female figures. The history of Gothic narratives situates

gothically-styled video games within a rich tradition of breakages-breakages

specifically within patriarchal structures and concepts. These breakages allow for non-

traditional video game gender roles, while also allowing for non-traditional video game


The Gothic for video games is indicative of a blending and dissolution of

boundaries. Because games often present truncated narratives and world views, games

also often reduce difficult concepts to binary opposition. However, the Gothic disrupts

simple opposition. As William Veeder suggests, the Gothic is not a set of simple

opposition, but the interplay between opposition, a "praxis that involves necessarily -

the interplay of psychological and social forces" (20). Judith Butler similarly presents a

view of the Gothic not as an overall category, but one that "is the breakdown of genre and

the crisis occasioned by the inability to 'tell,' meaning both the inability to narrate and

the inability to categorize" (.\kA-i .,\n,ii 23). Ludic Gothic video games, like Resident Evil

and American McGee 's Alice, embody the breakdown of opposition and definitions

through the movement between individual versus collective psychological and social

forces in their game narratives, their representations of women, and their game-play.

Gender as Style

Because of the widespread, disproportionate number of male to female characters

in other video games, many examinations of gender in video games have focused on how

any female characters are used. Lara Croft has garnered the most attention because of her

prominent role as the player-character in the Tomb Raider series and because of her

prominent sexuality. While Lara certainly figures into any study of gender and gaming, I

suggest here that the use of gendered characters, the stories in which they exist, and the

method of game-play must be seen as interacting together to portray gender in gaming.

Consequently, the use of female characters alone is less significant than the manner in

which the characters are presented in video games. Thus, while Lara Croft is "an avatar;

she is not just viewed, she is played, occupied and propelled by an off-screen agent," as

Diane Carr notes (171), Lara is also structured first as a woman and as a woman to be

looked upon. Carr continues, "When I play as Lara, I play in the company of her creators,

and in the shadow of the desiring gaze that her breasts and short shorts were formed to

address" (174). Similarly, Claudia Herbst remarks on Lara's construction, "The image of

Lara has been employed in the promotion of female empowerment. [. .] Women are

supposed to ignore that the image of Lara was created neither by them nor for them" (28).

Helen W. Kennedy similarly argues that Lara Croft cannot be easily accommodated into

the voyeuristic gaze because Lara is both the object of the gaze and the acting heroine

within the game. Kennedy, Carr, and Herbst all note that Lara, while in many ways

representative of female empowerment, remains a construction completely based on

gender. Carr rightly concludes that Lara, despite her strength and agency, still "reaffirms

more borders than she crosses" (178). Lara does so because, while disrupting some

gender stereotypes, she simultaneously functions to encourage others.

Lara's gendering remains problematic because, as Judith Butler has shown, gender

is not a fixed category, but a "corporeal style, an 'act' [. .] which is both intentional and

performative, where 'performance' suggests a dramatic and contingent construction of

meaning" (Gender Trouble 130). As such, gender in video games can be examined in

terms of that performance. Lara performs in empowered ways, disrupting gender norms;

however, her appearance and even her very existence then recapitulate those norms. In

video games, gender acts as created performance to an additional degree because the

player performs as the character, who is often preset to perform as a certain gender and

according to certain gendered norms.

Eric Hayot and Edward Wesp, in their article "Style: Strategy and Mimesis in

Ergodic Literature," have analyzed the performance of social and cultural stereotypes.

Hayot and Wesp frame the use of race in video games through Rey Chow's concept of

'coercive mimeticism' in which Chow argues that ethnic subjects are expected to both

wear and perform the mark of their difference. Hayot and Wesp argue that this expected

performance connects directly to video games in terms of the predetermined methods of

play in colonial video games, like Age of Empires. While Hayot and Wesp relate Chow's

coercive mimeticism to representations of race in video games, the same coercive

mimeticism also functions for representations of gender. Hayot and Wesp posit that the

games they examined use race to mark the physical appearance of the ethnic groups,

while also marking the game-play strategies as ethnic. Hayot and Wesp note, "The ethnic

subjects of game-play in Age of Kings have no 'choice' but to enact at the levels of both

ornament and ability the ethnic identity to which game designers have assigned them"

(411). Hayot and Wesp further argue that the game's logic teaches players to perform as

the ethnic identity chosen the Mongols are best played as horseback-riding archers, the

Chinese begin with a larger population, more easily outnumbering enemies and that this

performance is encoded in a "genetic" game logic that situates race as a determined and

determining factor of appearance and action.

In this same stylistic encoding, video games engender player-characters by making

the female characters both appear and act as excessively feminine. In doing so, the games

coerce players into playing the game within the confines of the character's limits for the

performance of gender. For instance, women characters in most video games both look

and act within stereotypical gender bounds; women characters are much more likely to be

skilled at running or healing than the male characters who are presumed to be more

skilled at fighting. While Lara Croft breaks borders through her strength and her ability to

fight, she nonetheless reaffirms borders through the way her female bodily characteristics

are hyperbolically represented. Despite her reaffirmation of some borders, however, Lara

still breaks from the traditional video game representation by not coercing the players to

play "as a woman," which would generally mean to play as a healer or as a cooperative

helper. Nevertheless, Lara still cannot completely break the barriers of her gender

because of her placement within a highly defined gaming genre and game design. The

same limits that bind Lara are often the result of game designers' needs for ease and

clarity of game-play.

Using gender as style to create a coercive mimeticism is facilitated by game

designers' needs to offer non-trivial game choices while also offering a balanced game-

play system. Andrew Rollings and Dave Morris argue in Game Architecture and Design

that, "player/player balance is the art of making the game fair so that each player gets no

other special advantage but his skill. There can be luck in the game, but it must apply

evenly to all players" (73). But Rollings and Morris also contend while that symmetry

"may be the fairest solution [. .] it's rarely the most interesting" (74). In order to provide

interesting, yet equal, variations many games offer female characters as alternatives to

male characters. The female characters appear not only as feminine in appearance, but

also as women according to culturally sanctioned roles for women.

The gendered player-character roles can be seen easily in party system games,

where a single player controls multiple characters, each with different skills. In party

system games, the woman character is most often the healer, as is the case with White

Mage in Final Fantasy. Similarly, the gendered roles are also apparent in single player

games where the female player-character is an option with other male player-characters

and, in most of these games, the woman character is better skilled at fleeing than at

fighting. Examples of skilled escapist women include the Princess in Super Mario

Brothers 2, who excels at jumping, making the difficult game jumps easier and allowing

her to jump over enemies.

Other games present the "fleeing woman" less transparently and structure the

woman character's skills to be faster and more nimble, yet less powerful and less able to

endure attacks from other characters. This format applies to for the woman ninja, Ayame,

in Tenchu: Sic., ihi Assassins and the many woman warrior-characters in Dynasty

Warriors 3. In presenting women characters this way, video games use femininity as a

stylistic choice, and one that encodes traditional gender norms of women as healers or

caretakers, and as physically smaller and weaker. While these options for any single

game are not inherently problematic, the lack of women characters combined with the

limited presentation of female characters who most often exemplify femininity through

their appearance and/or function becomes problematic for the overall video game


Despite video game design, which attempts to normalize female characters as the

sexualized sisters of their male counterparts, the very act of making them into women,

and into sisters in particular, opens game design for more possibilities and ruptures. As

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari acknowledge in Kafka: Towards a Minor Literature;

"But women present an even more precise blend of things: they are part sister, part maid,

part whore. They are anticonjugal and antifamilial" (64). By including women characters

at all, video games open a space for change and for characters that are actually women,

rather than the amalgamation of gendered attributes and performances. The changes also

allow for atypical game design, as in the case of ludic Gothic games, which in turn allow

for the further disruption of video game and gender borders.

Gender as Structure

Gothic structures in video games present breakages that allow for alternatives to the

traditional stereotypical representations of women. While most female video game

characters began as either versions of their male counterparts as with Ms. Pac-Man in

Ms. Pac-Man, the female frog in Frogger, and the Valkyrie in Gauntlet or as damsels

in distress, ludic Gothic games immediately allow for primary woman characters. The

damsels needing rescue, from angry apes like King Kong in Mario Brothers and evil

spiders in Wizards and Warriors, are generally the first women video game characters

noted by game journalists and game studies critics. They also note that Lara Croft is the

first major woman protagonist, although this is far from true. The history of women

characters in video games, especially by virtue of its omissions, proves that women

characters in video games need a rupture or breakage to overcome the design limitations

already present. The history of video game women characters, designers, and players is

particularly important because the meta-narrative tells of a masculine genre, with male

characters and male players. Without reclaiming parts of this history, some of the more

recent changes cannot be properly contextualized. Ludic Gothic games are particularly

important in this regard because they are ahistorical in terms of most video game

development. They are ahistorical in that video games generally follow a trajectory of

increasing technological ability that corresponds to improvements in computer graphics.

Ludic Gothic and horror games; however, often rely on lower-quality images to obfuscate

image and vision, disrupting technologically-based historical placement.

Before delving further into women in ludic Gothic games, it is necessary to

mention their precursors in the history of women game characters. One of the first

breakages allowing for women video game characters occurred in an action adventure

game. This rupture came with Samus Aran, who starred inMetroid as the galaxy's best

bounty hunter. Both Sheri Graner Ray and Marsha Kinder have noted the oddity of

Samus Aran as such a powerful character in the early years of mainstream video gaming

(Gender Inclusive Game Design and Playing i/ ith Power). Metroid's game book told

players that Samus Aran's past was unknown, but that he was the last hope for the galaxy

in the face of the alien Metroid threat. The game book referred to Samus as 'he,' but after

winning, Metroid's final credits revealed Samus to be a woman by showing her with long

hair and in a bikini. She became the first Nintendo female protagonist, when Metroid was

released in 1985.

Most important, while Samus appears in the bikini at the end of Metroid, players

see this ending only if they win by meeting several requirements. Moreover, Samus

always appears first in her spacesuit, so her outfit is not sexualized. In addition to her

initial outfit, Samus also does not appear as sexualized in any sort of graphical manner.

Her image is extremely basic and the hair and bikini are used to show her as female she

does not have exaggerated breasts and she does not appear outside of her space suit in

more graphically advanced games that would be capable of showing her as sexualized.

This explanation of Samus's outfit and appearance is necessary to show the important

differences between Samus and Lara Croft. Both characters are highly skilled, but Lara is

portrayed as a highly sexualized object while Samus is not. Samus came alive in a game

that never mentioned her past and in which she never spoke. Samus's silence offers the

counter-history of women in video games-that of a slow and steady growth of strength

and power that is not immediately recognizable in mainstream histories of gender and

video games. Samus, in herself, certainly does not represent a full history of gender in

video games, but she does serve as a pivotal example of how the existing histories that

focus on Lara Croft have missed not only a precursor, but another version of femininity

which favors innate ability over a sexualized appearance.

As the first non-hypersexualized female video game protagonist, Samus Aran

presents an opening in the history of gender in video games. Despite this initial opening,

emphasis on male video game characters remains because of the types of stories that

video games present and because of players' perceptions of those stories. Video game

stories often draw on existing story frameworks, and many of those frameworks put men

as the main characters with women as helpers, romantic interests, or side characters. This

use of existing stories is evident in military scenario games; detective based stories like

Max Payne and Post Mortem; anti-hero epics like Soul Reaver and Grand Theft Auto 3;

action-adventure knight tales like The Legend of Zelda, Prince ofPersia, and Maximo;

and many others. These story types fit within basic culturally-held story schemas where

the protagonist is generally a man, where women only save or help him in his quest.

Video game story schemas are adapting these pre-existing schemas to include more

women characters; however, schema modification occurs slowly. In order for women

characters to be present in video games in more active and empowered positions, the

games themselves, as well as the stories the games are based on, must change.

The majority of video games that include female characters have amended the

narratives in minor ways to allow for women to play a more prominent role. For instance,

in cases like Onimusha the player performs as the woman character for only a few

minutes during the entire game-play. In games that replace the male for a female

protagonist, as with games like Ms. Pac-Man and Bloodrayne, a woman plays the anti-

hero. In games that use gender as a stylistic choice, as with Dynasty Warriors 3 and with

the ruling figures in strategy games like Civilization III, a woman plays as a hero who is

divorced from gender. These three uses of women in video games do show an overall arc

of improvement in that women are being included in games more frequently, but none of

these constitute a radical shift in the way gender is configured in games. Gender in video

games, like other media, remains highly problematic.

For games to present gender in ways that do not fall under the current problems of

gender as style or simple option of appearance, video games must use existing schemas

that do not figure gender within the common cultural stereotypes of woman as weak,

non-aggressive, victims, and men as strong, heroic, and aggressive. Gothic narratives

present this opportunity because they are based in breaks from family rule, patriarchy,

and conventional conceptions of gender. Gothic narratives thus present stories that can be

used to portray gender roles that exist outside of stereotypical constructs. Further,

because the Gothic is founded on disruptions of vision and space, game-play based on the

Gothic similarly changes.

Ludic Gothic Video Games

As an amorphous and changing collection of elements, Gothic narratives are not

easily situated in any particular time or place. Instead, Gothic narratives are most often

defined by their setting (normally castles, mansions, or another form that invokes the

structure and influence of the often familial past); involvement with tangled (and often

incestuous) family and hegemonic structures; pre-occupation with the past (often

resulting in hauntings); and an overall focus on disrupting the traditional family structure,

through the broken home, broken family history, or broken social concepts that underlie

these structures. In discussing the home as a family structure, Anne Williams argues that

"A haunted castle, so crucial to early Gothic, connotes many inherited traditions, such as

the structures of political power and families, which are not only inherited but potentially

imprisoning: in short, the Gothic novel evokes the weight of the past" ("Edifying

Narratives: The Gothic Novel, 1764-1997" 127). The focus on the past and the existing

structures of power situates Gothic narratives as disruptions-Gothic texts overtly

structure the past and the structure of power as it builds from past to present. This

emphasis on the past and the structure allows Gothic narratives to disrupt convention.

The Gothic, because its existing structures and images have altered throughout its

use, has traditionally relied on multiple, conflicting structures in order to present its

counters to those structures and divisions. Kate Ferguson Ellis claims, of monasteries,

prisons, and insane asylums: "In the Gothic novels of this period, these institutions are set

up as foils to the domestic sphere" (45). Since Gothic narratives often construct two types

of buildings that divide gender, with the home for women and those buildings outside the

home for men, Ellis argues that, "The reconceptualization of womanhood that is being

argued out in the subtext if the Gothic novel engendered a parallel discourse about men"

(151). Gothic narratives, by arguing against the traditional gender roles for men and

women, present new ways of conceptualizing gender as a whole in terms of both gender

roles and the spatial context in which those roles are enacted. Thus, Gothic narratives

fuse with spatial construction to disrupt the general schemas for patriarchal story

structures and world views.

Video games that use Gothic narratives then, are able to break not only with the

commonly known and accepted stories for video games but also with the common tropes

for game-play. Video games that use Gothic narratives present the openings and radical

dimensions that are found in other Gothic texts. These Gothic elements are radical not

only for the types of stories they allow, but for the types of play spaces they create. In

"'Complete Freedom of Movement': Video Games as Gendered Play Spaces," Henry

Jenkins notes that action-oriented play spaces are gendered as male both in the physical

and the virtual spaces of novels and video games. Unlike the stereotype of action-only

video games, American McGee's Alice and the Fatal Frame and Resident Evil series all

present action-oriented spaces that are couched within Gothic narratives, which create the

narratives as spaces of action for both men and women.

Resident Evil, Fatal Frame, and American McGee's Alice are representative of

ludic Gothic video games that present Gothic narratives and disruptions in the standard

video game form. Each of these games presents women characters in atypical ways for

video games. They do so by presenting women characters who are well-developed and

defined by more than their appearance or their stylization as female. The Gothic settings

and stories of each of these games allow for the presentation and the playability of some

of the most powerful female video game characters to date.

Additionally, the continuing Resident Evil and Fatal Frame series allow players to

repeatedly play using the women characters, which allows for further character

development. In a similar vein, Jeffrey A. Brown notes that television serials allow

viewers to more easily "grasp the heroines as more than mere fetish objects for male

viewers. They may be sex symbols, but they are sex symbols that we come to know over

time as fully rounded characters" (71). While Brown is discussing female characters in

television, the same transformational character development is afforded through the

serialization of video games. Because they are serials, these video games also show that

their representations of women in one game are not errors or experiments, but that the

portrayal is part of a larger gaming structure, be that the narrative or the game world

design. Combined with the disjointed structure of ludic Gothic games, the iterability and

repetition of play-both within the play of a single game and through repeated serialized

play-help to foster a type of atypical play, play that repeats and undoes itself as

l'ecriture fminine. As l'ecriture fminine, this atypical play counters the typical methods

of play while also subverting the entire structure through which play is codified.

Un-making Family and Social Structures

The Resident Evil games offer players the choice of playing as a male or a female

character. The game-play develops differently for each character, based on the

character's background and the items to which each character has access. The game

stories also vary slightly based on the character used. In most of the Resident Evil games,

the player will control both sexes at some point in the game or both sexes will be reunited

in one or more cut-scenes. The family, military, and corporate structures presented in

Resident Evil are all corrupt and broken allowing for characters to prove themselves

based on their actions rather than their placements within these structures. Resident Evil

lacks a traditional patriarchal structure because all systems in the game lack dominant

male figures. The two militaristic units, Umbrella and S.T.A.R.S.-the tactical team sent

to kill the zombies and right Umbrella's wrongs-itself both lack paternal figures. In

addition to the absence of dominant males within these structures, the characters in

Resident Evil lack actual fathers. Resident Evils characters include a number of young

adult player-characters including eighteen-year old Rebecca Chambers (Resident Evil 0),

nineteen-year old Claire Redfield (Code Veronica), and seventeen-year old Steve

Burnside (Code Veronica).

In Code Veronica Claire, who lacks professional training, has set out to find her

brother, Chris (who is a member of the S.T.A.R.S. team), but their parents are not

mentioned. Chris also fights to find Claire, but neither of them is shown as the better or

stronger of the two. Instead, Chris and Claire both fight valiantly in a world overrun by

zombies and confusion. Rebecca is the youngest member of the S.T.A.R.S. team and is a

medic; thus she narratively falls into the traditional role afforded for women in video

games, that of the healer. Yet, while Rebecca is listed as the S.T.A.R.S. medic, she does

not actually function as the medic on the team because of the way that the game-play is

constructed. Instead, she fights, heals, and rests as much and as often the other characters.

While S.T.A.R.S. is led by the male commander Albert Wesker, he turns on everyone,

including Umbrella, for which he initially betrayed the S.T.A.R.S. team. Thus, Rebecca

lacks any resemblance of a patriarchal frame. No mention of Rebecca's family or parents