The fear of the uncanny

Researching into the further into the Uncanny, I went to look at Freud’s lecture notes on “The Uncanny”

Within this, he links the uncanny as the aesthetics of a subject. He goes on to mention it has something to do with a certain kind of feeling alongside some emotional impulses as the subject is so frightening that it invokes fear into those who observe it. He defines the term as “uncanny as the class of frightening things that leads us back to what is known and familiar.” He talks about that many have only chosen to observe the beauty within things yet the focus on what makes the uncanny has yet to be investigated fully.

He breaks down Heimlich (Canny) and Unheimlich (Uncanny) each into two parts.

Canny 1 – known, familiar

Uncanny 1 – Unknown, unfamiliar

Canny 2 – Secret, Unknown

Uncanny 2 – Revealed, uncovered

The Uncanny.png

An example of something being uncanny would be flickering lights within a level as these make the player feel uncomfortable as it is something not expected from the environment. If a light was off at the end of the hall, this would also cause the player to feel uncomfortable as makes the player feel as if something is wrong. Having something like this make the player feel uncomfortable, they naturally begin to explore the environment more to find other things which may be “out of place”. In order for the uncanny to be effective it must be good enough for it to be plausible in the real world rather than disregarded as fantasy.

dark room

Silent Hill series is another set of games/film which is able to grasp the uncanny rather well by flicking between two different versions of the world. The “Fog” world is an almost exact copy of the “Real” world but that barely anyone resides there and it’s coated in dark fog. Within the fog world there are monsters and almost all of the city seems in disrepair.  The fog world is uncanny because it resembles the real world but it is unsettling as even talking to people within the fog world makes you feel uneasy as they are unsettling.

silent hill

Tension and release allows the uncanny to world well as the uncanny helps create the tension which is then released giving the player the shock of their experience. Tension and release is important in story telling as it’s that expectation that something is going to happen, and when it happens you feel as sense of emotion. Defeating an enemy is a form of tension and release as on a game such as Devil May Cry, when you are attacked by a monster you build the tension, and when the monster is defeated that tension is released. Some games prefer to build tension slowly so when the player is faced with their final challenge, they are now equip with more knowledge and experiences to aid them in defeating the obstacle and allowing themselves the release of what they had just been through in order to get to that moment. Within horror games, the player is able to face small doses of cognitive tension in order to get an understanding of what is around them or what they are facing, although with horror games they enjoy this being a continuous experience. The uncanny allows the player to build up tension in a way that it can be stretched for large periods of time until the right moment in which the player is given the payoff.

An example of this in a horror would be the film The Village (2004), within the film you learn about a small village that has been isolated and live in fear of creatures that live outside of the woods. One of the villages leave in order to collect medical supplies, before she leaves she is informed that in fact the monsters are not real. When she gets out of the woods she meets a park ranger who informs her that it’s actually the modern era and not the 19th century. She discovered within that moment that her whole life had been a lie. The uncanny is as Freud explains as “The unknown/secret” is now “revealed/uncovered” now allows the viewer to feel an emotional connection to the people within the village who had been lied too for their whole lives. The director manages to carry the plot twist right until the end in which the payoff is given giving the audience a sense of release.

I am unsure how I will explore tension and release within my FMP at this current point, but it is something that I wish to do especially if I want to continue my game idea to the very end. I feel that in order for it to work effectively I need to know the full story behind my game in order to plan how I will subtly implement this well.

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