Monstrous Existence: a critical reading of Night in the Woods through the works of Mark Fisher
Fiorilli, Patrick Oliver
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This thesis presents a critical close reading of the 2017 videogame Night in the Woods, developed by independent studio Infinite Fall. Following literary critic Irving Howe's notion of the "political novel," this thesis demonstrates that Night in the Woods exists as a rare and audacious interrogation of Capital and its deleterious fallout in the rural United States. In order to make its case, this thesis heavily incorporates the critical vocabulary of the theorist Mark Fisher, whose notions of "capitalist realism," "the weird," and "the eerie" serve to identify explicitly and categorically much of what the game in question represents implicitly and aesthetically. Structurally, the thesis first explores the themes and political rhetoric of Night in the Woods via an analysis of the places and communities featured in the game's setting. Next, the thesis explores how such themes are internalized by the game's protagonist and thereby rendered to the player. Finally, contrasting the themes of the game to the definition of "horror" outlined by the philosopher Eugene Thacker, the thesis ends with a discussion of how Night in the Woods argues for genuine and political meaning in the face of a meaningless and incomprehensible universe.