Week Two – Word Research – “Supernatural”


Having now examined and expanded on “Supernatural” as a term within a mindmap, I further narrowed the topic down to four more interesting and researchable terms: Paranormal, Boogeyman, Hallucination and Desperation. During this research post I will further examine these four subtopics and then pick the most interesting or thought provoking one to continue with.


Paranormal –

Denoting events or phenomena such as telekinesis or clairvoyance that are beyond the scope of normal scientific understanding.” – Oxford Dictionaries

The subtopic of paranormal is a rather open one, as the subjects it can cover range from a book falling from a shelf one night all the way up to full on ghosts or apparitions. When I first selected the word I wanted to lean more towards the “supernatural” side of the subtopic (hence the original “supernatural” word choice) and so in order to get better and certainly more interesting research ideas I narrowed the subtopic down even further. One of the more interesting things I found while attempting this was the idea that paranormal events may just be science that we do not understand yet. These events also tend to scare or frighten people, as a fear of the unknown is pretty common amongst most people. And there lay my next subtopic. The fear of the unknown.

Fear of the Unknown is a very intriguing phrase. There is no specific phobia or coined term for it, and yet it is something most people have. For example, looking up into the sky I find myself thinking sometimes; I wonder if there really is alien life up there? Of course, this question has been nagging the human race for centuries, but if you actually sit and think about it for a little while you eventually find yourself at a crossroads:
Will they be friendly? What if they’re not?
And there it is. The fear of the unknown begins to sink in as you look up at the sky again and a small part of you suddenly doesn’t want to know the answer to one of the oldest questions ever asked. Surely it would be better to not explore space at all, for fear of finding something terrifying up there.
That got very deep, very quickly I know. But you see my point.

With that idea of the Fear of the Unknown in mind, I began looking into popular media for an actual example. And of course, the one that popped up nearly immediately was Alien.


I then dived pretty deep into the film, watching it once through and then reading several articles that directly link Alien to the fear of the unknown (see here). It’s not a difficult link to make, but it is an incredibly interesting one. Spoilers for Alien follow.
The basic premise for the movie is that a group of workers on a spaceship pick up and respond to a distress call from a seemingly abandoned planet. They arrive and investigate the incredibly creepy crashed ship pictured above, find a mysterious creature and then it all goes wrong.

As a horror movie, Alien hit critical acclaim primarily because of the way it scared people. It didn’t use jumpscares (save for one), instead using ideas and thought provoking imagery to genuinely terrify its audience. It places questions in your head about what could really be awaiting us amongst the stars, and then plants the idea that the events of Alien could actually happen to us one day. After all, something very much like the creature from the film could exist somewhere in space. It’s possible. Or, there could be something far, far worse. Alien takes these ideas and combines these with a massive, eerie and dark spaceship setting, and what you are then left with is the fear. The creature doesn’t appear in every scene, but it could. Watching the film you know a mysterious, murderous creature lurks in the ship somewhere with the crew, but where. Alien is a horrific and at the same time amazing film experience, and it perfectly captures the essence of the fear of the unknown. And that could be used for anything, if you think about it. That idea could generate game mechanics, or story ideas. You can do a lot with the idea of fearing something that may or may not even exist. It’s a fantastic concept, and one I’m thinking heavily of bringing forward.


Desperation –

A state of despair, typically one which results in rash or extreme behaviour.” – Oxford Dictionaries

Desperation – it’s an intriguing concept. The idea that people will do pretty much anything to anyone if they are scared or indeed desperate enough. As I began researching this more in-depth, I found that the concept in fiction tended to appear most in post-apocalyptic settings, as the writers try to emulate how different people might react to a horrific world-ending situation, and more often than not people essentially screw eachother over just to survive – for food, guns, shelter etc. It’s interesting that these events occur in these fictions, and even more interesting that the writers believe that is exactly what would happen should the world-ending situation appear in reality. Indeed, it is human nature somewhat to want to survive yourself more than wanting to help others, after all – self preservation is a need that pretty much every living thing shares. It is intriguing however to see in these fictions just how far the writers think people will go to ensure their own survival. One story that I found particularly of interest was from the popular post-apocalyptic zombie survival comic series The Walking Dead.


Here, Father Gabriel chose to deliberately abandon people outside his church and leave them to their gruesome zombie fate rather than open the door for them. Out of desperation he chose his own survival over theirs – which keys heavily in with the ideas and definitions I have found of desperation in my research. Events such as these also occur or are spoken about frequently throughout the comic series, for example people robbing or stealing from eachother out of starvation or taking vehicles to escape with as they believe they are more important than the group they are taking from. The idea that Robert Kirkman (the main writer of The Walking Dead) tries to get across in regard to desperation is that people will do anything if they are desperate enough, and that is an incredibly thought provoking concept.

In terms of a story idea, desperation could be used to do pretty much anything. Certainly as a starting point it would likely create a very interesting narrative, one that is perhaps worth exploring. I do also feel however that as a research avenue it is perhaps weaker than others – once again narrowing me down a particular path (though not as narrow as some of the subtopics I have found). It is a great idea however, and I will definitely keep it in mind as I go forward in researching the subtopics.


Hallucination –

An experience involving the apparent perception of something not present.” – Oxford Dictionaries

Hallucinations are perhaps the least “supernatural” of the subtopics I am investigating in this post, but that doesn’t make them any less interesting. What brought me to this particular word initially was the classic horror movie narrative (which has been used considerably over the years) that somebody is seeing creepy things move or happen but nobody believes them, so they start to think they are hallucinating until suddenly the supernatural thing moves for everybody, and everybody then works together to defeat the ghost/ghoul/whatever. I then latched onto the hallucination aspect of that narrative – the idea that you can potentially see something that isn’t real. Certainly in real life this subtopic tends to occur a lot more than more “supernatural” things, which was something I discovered quite quickly during my initial research of hallucinations.


Mirages for example are technically hallucinations. They are a phenomenon in which light rays bend to produce a distorted image in the distance, and in some cases as you can see from the image above they tend to look like water, so when people see them on the horizon they think they are percieving a river or lake when in reality it’s just an illusion and not really there. In fiction mirages tend to occur primarily in deserts, and the protagonists are typically very desperate or running out of water. I found a pretty good and indeed hilarious example below, from The Adventures Of Tintin: Land Of Black Gold (written and drawn by Hergé).

Hallucinations can also occur when certain drugs are ingested (for example, cocaine and LSD) or if a person has the mental condition schizophrenia. They can also be caused by certain medical conditions. During looking at the symptoms and reasons for them, I also found a rather helpful list of the different types of hallucinations (from here):

  • Visual (seeing things that aren’t there)
  • Auditory (hearing voices or other sounds)
  • Gustatory (tasting something that isn’t there – more common in medical conditions)
  • Olfactory (smelling something)
  • Somatic (a false perception of touch or feeling)
  • Mood-Congruent (feeling a mood for no apparent reason)

As a concept for either further research or game ideas, hallucinations are interesting. I think I would have to be slightly careful with how they were handled however (due to not wanting to make fun or light of mental or medical conditions) but the idea of seeing things that aren’t really there could be a very captivating aspect of a game – a main mechanic perhaps, or even a story-based one. Unlike a few of the subtopics I have dived into, hallucinations are a little more open, and a few potential research avenues come to mind when thinking about how to further advance this subtopic. In conclusion, I think they would be a rather promising start.


Boogeyman –

An imaginary evil spirit or being, used to frighten children.”
A person or thing that is widely regarded as an object of fear.” – Oxford Dictionaries

The idea of a boogeyman is rather fascinating; a spirit or phantom that is regarded purely as an object of fear. Everything that somebody or something fears can be poured into this one figure, this one demon. A boogeyman is essentially the physical embodiment of everybody’s worst nightmare, which I imagine is why it seems to come in so many different forms. While researching the subtopic I found it difficult initially, as there is no clearly defined definition (hence the two above) and also no clear visual understanding of what a boogeyman is, because of course they appear differently for different visual ideas or understandings of what one could possibly look like. There are also many different interpretations of what a boogeyman is, such as the Slenderman for example. With all this in mind, I began to collect some of the more interesting and thought provoking imagery surrounding the idea of a boogeyman, and once I had a pretty good idea I compiled them into the image below.


Included in the image are artists sketched or painted interpretations of the subtopic, as well as movie versions and entirely different interpretations of what a boogeyman is. John Wick is a good example of this (his picture is in the bottom left of the compilation above). It is a movie in which Keanu Reeves stars as a hired master assassin, capable of killing anyone anywhere. He is so good at his job that nearly all of the criminal underworld fears him, and anybody who doesn’t very much does by the end of the film. The story of the movie focuses considerably around this idea, as at the start somebody breaks into John Wick’s house, kills his dog and steals his car. That person then takes the car to sell to other criminals, who quickly become terrified as they realise whose car has been stolen. The original thief is not initially afraid, but Wick then comes out of retirement on a killing rampage, intending to find and murder the thief.

His nickname in the criminal underworld is Baba Yaga; The Boogeyman (just to really hammer that home).

The fear that forms a huge part of the film as well as the general idea of the boogeyman is the most interesting aspect of this subtopic. The boogeyman can be anyone or anything, it is just something you fear. Interesting side point – If you think about it, The Batman is very much a boogeyman, as he is feared greatly by criminals. It’s the idea, the symbol that really interests me – in a game, it could be a very interesting aspect – a story element, an event, a mechanic – the ideas are flowing.


The only thing I will say is that the boogeyman does kind of narrow me down into a very specific research alley, despite it being a very interesting idea. Having now looked into it rather deeply, I can also see connections back to the fear of the unknown that I analysed earlier, and so it might actually be best to incorporate the ideas from here into that more general subtopic. So rather than taking boogeyman itself forward, I take it forward as a part of a bigger research idea.




Having now looked rather deeply into the four different subtopics I mindmapped from “Supernatural”, I find that I have a much deeper understanding of the four words as well as one of “Supernatural” itself. This research also enabled me to better understand which of the four would be best to take forward into deeper research, and unlike with “Mental Breakdown” I have found the choice here fairly easy. As interesting as Boogeyman and Hallucinations were, they most definitely paled in comparison both research and concept-wise to Fear Of The Unknown and Desperation. Even then, I found the choice fairly easy, as Fear Of The Unknown is a far more intriguing idea than Desperation. Certainly as a research avenue I found myself much more heavily drawn to it. While continuing looking into it somewhat, I also found a pretty good term to describe it; trepidation.

A feeling of fear or anxiety about something that may happen.” – Oxford Dictionaries

There is so much you can do with that word, and as an idea I find it very compelling as well as thought-provoking. Even just thinking about it for a few minutes I found myself brimming with new ideas about where I could take it research-wise, and so the choice was made. So without further ado, I move trepidation forward as the second of the four words I will present in week three.




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