The Weird Humanity of I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream

How do we label games as “weird?” One way is to consider the literary analogue, that of Weird fiction, a type of speculative fiction that originated in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Speculative fiction encompasses the genre of science fiction, as well as horror fiction, apocalyptic fiction, dystopian fiction, and other strange and fantastical literature; “it shows us our nightmares and therefore contributes to our efforts to avoid them.” (Urbanski, 2007, p. 1) The primary characteristics of Weird fiction are that it blends supernatural, scientific, cosmic, and mythical elements. Weird games, similarly, mix dystopian, horrific, magical, occult, cyber, and technical elements in eccentric and twisted ways that make us feel oddly uncomfortable, curious, terrified, and amazed. One of the key Weird fiction writers is H.P. Lovecraft, who explains in a letter to Wilfred Branch Talman that, “As to what is meant by ‘weird’....I should say that the real criterion is a strong impression of the suspension of natural laws or the presence of unseen worlds or forces
close at hand.” (Derleth & Wandreii, 1968, p. 233) Weird fiction writers eschew the typical myths associated with horror, such as ghosts, vampires, and werewolves, but instead invite the suspension of disbelief into a quasi-real mythos (Gale Group, 2010). Based on this, games and the Weird seem like a natural fit. The quotidian otherworldliness of the Weird seems to remind us of the cosmic “half-real” (Juul, 2005) nature of games. Games seem to both defy and follow natural law; they are both human and inhuman, man and
machine, civilized and feral.

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