For my Critical Perspectives Task, as a part of our Creative And Theoretical Studies, I have chosen to Psychoanalyse the Video Game: Alan Wake.
I chose this image for Alan Wake because I feel like it does an excellent job in not only telling us what it is, but also setting a scene for the game and allowing the player to really come to terms with the type of game this is (Survival Horror). Psychoanalysts are not interested in who produced the image or artifact, they are more interested in how the spectator or the audience will interpret the images and how this will affect them.
Alan Wake was released in Europe in 2010. The story is about a world famous author who is struggling with writers block, his wife takes him on holiday to relax but is in fact a rues to break his writers block. His wife goes missing and the plot is centred around Alan trying to find her. The gameplay is centred around the events of a book, that Alan has written but cannot remember writing. A dark presence haunts the where a man named Thomas Zane used to live, in a cabin on an island in the middle of the lake: Lake Cauldron, Thomas died a few years prior to Alan’s arrival due to an earthquake and the island sunk into the Lake. It is this lake where his wife went missing and later in the game he finds out that this presence has the ability to make fiction into reality, this presence had sufficiently grown in power enough to allow take control of Alan and write a means of escape through a manuscript. The presence took control of Alan to write this book because it knew that Alan has the knowledge to help it escape.
The theory behind psychoanalysis was developed by Sigmund Freud a psychiatrist who revolutionised psychology. What psychoanalysis does is attempt to explore the unconscious mind through a series of methods, the idea is that these methods would be as close as possible to “True spoken and realised thoughts, free of self-censorship”. I feel like this game is basically using psychology to tell a story, Alan wake was unconscious the entire time he was writing this story and doesn’t remember it. It was the entity who had control of Alan’s physical body, with the influence of the late Thomas Zane who managed to make it possible for Alan to be able to beat this presence, and restore reality.
This game builds a world for the player to immerse themselves into, this draws the player in and makes him or her feel as though they are in this town experiencing the same things as Alan is. Games have the same effect on people as movies do, if not even more powerful due to interactivity, the games designer is given a range of tools to provoke all kinds of emotions and feelings in games. People can create a personal bond and form their own unique attachments to characters and feel very real fear if the character is in danger, even though the player is in no real danger. The game does this by the clever use of the plot and sounds, the plot is focused around darkness and shadows by placing the player in the middle of a forest with a dying flash light, fear of shadows attacking the player creates the feeling of anxiety and paranoia and with a little ambient sound or even something as simple as a breaking of a twig in game can cause the player to be stuck to the ceiling.
The beginning of the game makes you follow Alan Wake and his wife on their journey to the town of Bright Falls, in this scene you are allowed to witness Alan and his wife in a relaxed state and you are allowed to witness the bond of love between these 2 characters, this allows the player to get a feeling for both parties, but the focus is on the wife for the most part, I believe this is to allow the player to get attached to this character and once you begin to feel this bond of love between the two, she is ripped away and not seen again till the end of the game, I believe that this is to give the player a feeling of urgency and motivation to push past the fear, when you hear someone you love scream you run to check on them. I believe that motivation and urgency are two key things in producing fear in a game. One scene you can hear your wives voice calling to you telling you to hurry she needs your help, your natural reaction is to run and try to help, but with someone you have grown attached to that feeling is amplified, while you have this amplified feeling of what could be described as adrenalin the game makes something happen and instils fear once again.
This whole game is focused around manipulating your mind and placing you inside a fictional realm made into reality, “The Presence has the ability to make fiction a reality”. Making fiction a reality has sometimes been the dreams and desires of some people to escape the monotony of their own lives and live a more fulfilling life in the fictional world, in Alan Wake you are controlling a character who is successful and is an accomplished author, going through a hard time, this for most people is easy to find in their lives and to experience that in a game, it allows the player to feel this sense of adventure and giving their lives meaning. Players love to be able to feel like they mean something to someone and putting them in the lives of an accomplished author, with a wife who loves them, allows the player to feel this same connection and make them want to keep that feeling alive by saving her.
To conclude my essay on the psychoanalysis of Alan Wake I believe that not only is Alan a mentally strong individual but it makes the viewer or player even more mentally strong, giving them the feeling of Fear, Motivation and Urgency all the while giving them the sense of accomplishment and feeling of Euphoria for completing this game.
- Why I love Alan Wake – Reader’s Feature (metro.co.uk)
- Is Psychoanalysis Harmful? by Albert Ellis, Ph.D. (arunasiddiqua.wordpress.com)
- Five Lectures on Psychoanalysis – Sigmund Freud (1909) (multilingualreadings.wordpress.com)
- Freud, S. A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis, Lecture 17 on The Sense of Symptoms- (OCD), and Lecture 18(PTSD) (thinkingthoughtsdotorg.wordpress.com)
- Psychoanalysis and the architecture of the human mind (dt99414.wordpress.com)