Today, I want to start a series of posts about my FAVORITE of the Silent Hill games. In this series of posts, I will share a reworked version of an essay I wrote back in 2011 for a Literary Theory course while I was enrolled in my Master’s program for English Literature– I actually just walked in the commencement ceremony on the 11th. Whoohoo!
Anyway, this essay is called “Always Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide: A Study of James Sunderland in Silent HIll 2.” This paper was an exercise in utilizing psychoanalytic theory to explore the function of (James’) guilt; namely, it was an exploration of how James’ guilt was the driving force of the game and how this guilt makes him both protagonist and antagonist. It was just a little (erm, 20 page) way of working out how that was true through the use of some very specific perspectives on James and the way guilt works and manifests throughout the game.
The first half of the essay is basically a survey of what others have said before me about the game and about James. It’s main function is to serve as a framework for the theories I used, a base of knowledge if you will, and how I fit my own ideas within them and the work of previous writers. The first half also serves to observe the similarities and differences within the discussion about Silent Hill 2 as I prepare to insert my own ideas and findings.
The latter half of the paper embodies my own assertions about the game. I give closer attention to how the game relates to a constructivist model of the mind, the unconscious (and conscious!) drive of guilt, the “not me” experience, repression, memory, and… ahem… the use of Doppelgangers.
Doppelgangers, in fact, are one of the major keys to understanding James, not only as a character, but as protagonist/antagonist. James’ unconscious guilt over the slaying of Mary, powered by the strange, supernatural resort town of Silent Hill, creates hideous, warped physical manifestations of aggression and frustration; even Maria is a warped creation devised by James’ inner torment. However, although these “monsters” are hell-bent on exacting punishment and killing James for his sin, they also drive him toward seeking the Truth. With a capital T.
Furthermore, I want to make a point about the player controlling the avatar (James). Though the Doppelgangers and James’ guilt drive the narrative, we as players are no innocent bystanders because we ensure that the game continues at all. We become aware of what is occurring in the game as we navigate James through puzzles and danger toward one of the fates that await him. In a way, we view… but also experience… James’ guilt an anxiety through the story and through the atmosphere of the game, and the actions we CHOOSE for James determine his final judgment.
Though the essay I’ve written and revised uses a fictional example of the way guilt works upon a subject, my hope is that, through gaming, we also touch upon something deeper and more mysterious within ourselves. Do we, as human beings, experience something within Silent Hill 2 that reaches out into the parts of us which are left wanting?
Stay tuned for the next installment of my Silent Hill 2 series. 🙂 Thanks very much for reading this far!