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Communication Dans Un Congrès Année : 2013

Phobos and Deimos: an Application of Literary Fear and Terror to Video Games


This intervention intends to explore how the literary expression of fear and terror may enlighten the devices established in video games and how the player's experience can offer a better understanding of what is a stake in the reading of horror texts. To this end it sets out to compare two approaches of horror in literature identified through the figures of Phobos and Deimos the first designating a human sized antagonism which can be dealt with through the reappropriation of horror and violence by the character (as it is the case in revenge tales for instance) and the latter conveying the idea of a force far beyond human reach which can only destroy ones who attempt to approach it and how these aesthetics are expressed in video games. Interestingly enough, this duality sheds a new light both on our perception of horror genres both in literature and video games. Rather than dividing them using the criterion of realism versus supernatural, this approach sets out to offer an understanding of the works focusing on the receiver’s experience and submitting the devices they show to this end. It therefore attempts to unify our perception of texts and video games in a manner that is parallel to the MDA framework. In this regard, horror offers a very efficient point of view as it focuses on a distinctive experience which has to always renew its tools in order to be effective. Although very codified and studied, the horror fiction always go past both the theorist and the receiver’s expectations and offers very fertile ground of study. As an axis of reflexion, it thus offers a grip over the mechanisms at work in the interactions of the reader and the book as well as of the player and his game, bringing up the questions of immersion, identification and freedom of the receiver: aiming at an emotion which needs to be carefully set up, horror fiction has to pay particular attention to the semiotic system it elaborates for its receiver and just how much autonomy it is ready to grant him. Its study therefore touches the core of the complex relationship established between the author and his audience through the medium of a carefully crafted system which is to be explored and interacted with. This intervention thus intends to emphasize, both through the adaptation of literary works into video games and through the comparison of independent productions, how the forms taken by horror can offer an original point of view regarding the dynamics of these two medias. The outlook is therefore mostly that of comparative literature and play studies and focuses on what is experienced by both the reader and the player and how texts and video games set out to attain this aim.
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Dates et versions

hal-01419663 , version 1 (19-12-2016)


  • HAL Id : hal-01419663 , version 1


Jean-Charles Ray. Phobos and Deimos: an Application of Literary Fear and Terror to Video Games. International Conference Series in Games and Literary Theory, Université de Malte, Nov 2013, La Valette, Malta. ⟨hal-01419663⟩
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