While thinking about progression in The Turner House last class, I remembered an analogy that I had stumbled upon before even starting the class. I found this analogy in a horror game called “ANATOMY.” At $3, the game is a surprisingly eerie and tense interactive story, revolving around finding and listening to cassette tapes in an old and dimly lit low-fi house, which teach you about, as described by the indie developer Kitty Horrorshow, “the physiology of domestic architecture.”
The first cassette tape explains how people define themselves through buildings, and that the house is the most important building that mankind depend upon for survival. Over the course of the game, an analogy is built that establishes the following: our houses are alive, and each room of the house can be dissected and analyzed much in the same way that one might a cadaver. For example, the kitchen and dining room are analogous to the stomach, the bathroom to excretory systems, the hallways to veins, the bedroom to the brain and dreams, and the basement to nightmares.
What follows are spoilers, discussing the final cassette tape of the game and its application to this course. If your interest is peaked, support the indie developer and play the game now, or otherwise continue reading if you want to be spoiled. Or continue reading and play the game afterwards if you find the content interesting. The choice is up to you.
Through gameplay and glitchy alterations to the house, it is established that the house has been quite literally alive, and is only dormant while no one occupies it, becoming active once the protagonist begins exploring. The final cassette tape leaves us with several questions: What does a house do when it is unoccupied? What does it think of? What does it dream? What does the house think of its owners that abandoned it?
The final question was one that stuck with me upon revisiting the game for this blog post. We see in The Turner House a family with differing opinions on what to do with their old house, and this is the human’s side of what they want to do with the old house; is there some way we could see what the house might think of the family abandoning it?
Considering that the house is representative of the huge family and generations past, and that the haint is passed down between generations of men, we could see the haint as related to the importance of the idea of passing down and maintaining generational aspects of family. The haint can be the human body that is representative of the house haunting Cha-Cha, as the haint first comes to Cha-Cha in human form when he is a child inside the house, stays with him in spirit form in later life, and only reappears in human form once Cha-Cha returns to the house. Cha-Cha fears confronting the haint in the house, as they are one and the same, although Cha-Cha only finally comes to terms with his haint as a result of him revisiting the old house.
I leave you with two excerpts from The Turner House and ANATOMY. I have no coherent conclusion to wrap up this blog post, but instead I simply found the process of replaying this game within the context of the class interesting, and I hope to have presented some new perspective or at least shown you all a cool game to enjoy over the break.
An excerpt from The Turner House:
We live and die in houses, dream of getting back to houses, take great care in considering who will inherit the houses when we’re gone. Cha-Cha knew his family was no different. The house on Yarrow Street was their sedimentary mascot, its crumbling façade the Turner coat of arms. But it disintegrated by the hour. Mold in the basement, asbestos hiding in the walls, a garage stolen. He understood these things pointed to abandonment. He knew he should walk away from the place, let it become one more blasted-out house in a city plagued by them. But what to do with the house and what to do about his mother’s sickness were problems to which Cha-Cha possessed no simple solution. In both cases, his impulse leaned toward preservation, but at what cost? If Viola wanted to die, who was he to stop her? If the house was destined for atrophy, why fight it? (312-313)
And a related quote from the final cassette tape of ANATOMY:
What happens to a house when it is left alone? […] Does it dream? How does it regard those creatures who built it, brought it into existence only to abandon it, when its usefulness no longer satisfies them? It may grow lonesome. It may stare for long hours into the darkness, its own empty halls and see shadows; in its heart they jump as it thinks “here, here is someone again, I am not alone.” And each time it is wrong, and the hurt starts over. It may haunt itself, inventing ghosts to walk its floors, making friends with its shadow puppets, laughing and whispering to itself […]. It may grow angry. Its basement may fill with churning acid like an empty stomach, and its gorge may rise as it asks itself through clenched teeth, “what did I do wrong?” It may grow bitter. It may grow hungry. So hungry and so bitter that its scribbles dissolve and its doors unlock themselves. Alas, may hunger it cannot starve, and so in fever and anger and loneliness, it may simply lie in wait. Doors open. Shades drop. Hallways empty. Hungry.