The Collective Unconscious as Culprit: Archetypal Projections from the Unconscious in Video Games (and Film)

The Collective Unconscious as Culprit: Archetypal Projections from the Unconscious in Video Games (and Film)

Beat Suter (University of the Arts Zurich, Switzerland)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 27
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9891-8.ch005
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This chapter shows the attempt to use narrative projections of the unconscious in video games (and film) for transgressing into a virtual world. It demonstrates the conceptual development from C.G. Jung's theories via Joseph Campbell and Hollywood's screenwriters to Video Game mythologies. It shows that a visual approach by game artists often leads to stereotypical implementation of archetypes and archeplot in video games that illustrates a lack of reflection and flexibility of mind and creativity. It further shows that a conscious implementation of individual patterns and archetypes as seen in Adventure Games and recent Indie Games may obtain narrative depth for a game and contribute to exploring the collective unconscious in new media. Gaming is rapidly changing and aims towards the ideal of a Holodeck. New Virtual Reality experiments and gadgets prepare the ground for new ways to engage in imagined (conscious and unconscious) realities. The chapter concludes with an example of an attempt to build a virtual dream world with the project Birdly (2014) and Oculus Rift.
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Carl Jung reminds us that, “Consciousness is a very recent acquisition of nature, and it is still in an “experimental” state.” (Jung, 1964, p.6) More recently in the film, Matrix, Neo raises the question of consciousness as dream. “Have you ever had that feeling, where you're not sure if you're awake or still dreaming?” The concept of reality-as-dream is longstanding—reaching back to mythic origins and beyond. Today, in the orthodox understanding, the metaphor of the monomyth is a common idea, but its significance is largely unknown. The monomyth—The Hero’s Journey—may be understood as a template and key to understanding reality-as-dream, and its principles of dream analysis can be applied to the dreamlike interactive metaverse.

Archetypes of the collective unconscious were defined and explained by Carl Gustav Jung. In his essays, “The archetypes and the collective unconscious,” Jung employs illustrations from fairy tales, myths, mandalas, and clinical examples from his practice as a therapist in Zurich in order to illustrate the nature of symbolic patterns. The collective unconscious expresses itself as projected images embedded with archetypal patterns. Jung called the projections archetypal representations. In 1913 after a split with Sigmund Freud, Jung put his academic career on hold and devoted himself to the mythological exploration of his inner world of images. He said later that the next four years were the most important time of his life. Jung's statements are originally written in German. Rather than relying on translation and interpretation, quoting and paraphrasing the original words should provide a purposeful emphasis.

[...] führt [...] nämlich zur Erkenntnis einer Unterscheidung im Unbewussten. Wir haben nämlich ein persönliches Unbewusstes und ein un- oder überpersönliches Unbewusstes zu unterscheiden. Wir bezeichnen Letzteres auch als das absolute oder kollektive Unbewusste, eben weil es vom Persönlichen losgelöst und ganz allgemein ist, weil seine Inhalte in allen Köpfen gefunden werden können, was bei den persönlichen Inhalten natürlich nicht der Fall ist. (Jung, 1917, p. 86)

Jung states that the unconscious mind is divided into a personal unconscious and an impersonal or transpersonal unconscious (literal translation). This is also known as absolute or collective unconscious. The contents of the collective unconscious can be accessed as an integrated record of human experience, whereas the “personal unconscious” is more contextual—based on personal experiences. Jung is convinced that all humans share the content of the impersonal unconscious.

Die urtümlichen Bilder sind die āltesten und allgemeinsten und tiefsten Gedanken der Menschheit überhaupt. Sie sind eben sowohl Gefühl als Gedanke, man könnte sie darum auch ursprüngliches Fühldenken nennen. (Jung, 1917, p. 86)

The next paragraph focuses on Jung’s visual approach. He points out that primeval images represent the most common and deepest experiences of human beings. He interprets these images on four functional levels (thinking, feeling, sensing, and intuiting) but emphasizes “Feelthinking”—a hybrid of feelings and thoughts. This term may be interpreted as emotional thinking that comes in the shape of visuals. A process of thinking evokes an emotional reaction and vice versa.

Damit haben wir nun auch das Objekt gefunden, das die Libido wählte, nachdem sie aus der persönlich infantilen Übertragungsform befreit war. Sie sinkt nämlich hinunter in das Tiefste des Unbewussten und belebt dort, was seit Uralters schlummerte. Sie hat den vergrabenen Schatz entdeckt, aus dem die Menschheit je und je schöpfte, aus dem sie ihre Götter und Dāmonen emporhob und alle jene stärksten und gewaltigsten Gedanken, ohne welche der Mensch aufhört, Mensch zu sein. (Jung, 1917, p. 86)

This visual “Feelthinking” consists of energy patterns that are expressed by the term Libido. Jungian libido means energy, and the term is not constricted to sexual implication as is Freudian libido. So, Libido has its source in the collective unconscious and is projected as archetypal representations that function as mirror images of archetypal energy patterns. The archetypal template is a trove of narrative mythological material. Jung says that it consists of gods and demons—the vast and powerful human roots without which the human reality cannot exist.

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