The word uncanny describes phenomena or entities that elicit an eerie, strange, or uncomfortable sensation.
As a concept, the uncanny was first theorized by the German psychiatrist Ernst Jentsch in 1906. For Jentsch (1906/2008), the uncanny (Germ. unheimlich) is a sensation which we, as human beings, experience when we encounter something new or something that makes us feel a bit strange (think of zombies, dead bodies, entities which are almost human, but not completely).
Sigmund Freud (1919) later attempted to explain the uncanny by equating it to the sensation that we would experience if we encountered our double (Germ. doppelgänger). Something that is familiar, but not quite.
Today, most would associate the uncanny with the term uncanny valley (roughly translated in English from the Japanese bukimi no tani). Masahiro Mori, professor of robotics at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, introduced the term to describe the sensation that humans experience when they encounter human-like robots.
In my work, I draw from the above scholars' theories to create texts or visuals that emanate an uncanny sensation. Repetition and defamiliarization - phenomena thought to provoke uncanny sensations - allow me to craft stories, characters, and visual stimuli in the aesthetic tradition of the uncanny.
Aesthetics of Disgust
Professor of comparative literature and scholar of aesthetics Winfried Menninghaus (1999) describes disgust as "one of the most violent affections of the human perceptual system" because, for the human body, disgust is "a state of alarm and emergency, an acute crisis of self-preservation in the face of an unassimilable otherness, a convulsive struggle” (p. 1).
At the core of disgust lies a reversal of the categories of inside and outside (e.g., the release of gases, like cadaverine, as a result of the digestive processes taking place in the human necrobiome; something that was inside is suddenly outside).
Having spent several months on a project that involved extensive research on the aesthetics of disgust in the context of care (caring for "the disgusting"), I gained in-depth knowledge of the anatomy of this violent affection.
The Horror Genre
I am deeply familiar with the horror genre, various aesthetics that tie into it, its history across different media forms (film, video games, literature), and dominant tropes.
My approach to horror focuses on creating unnerving atmospheres, fleshing out the psychology of "dark characters" (anti-heroes and antagonists), and intertwining realism with fantasy.
While the genre has been incredibly successful in cinema and literature, it is still young in the video game industry. I want to explore the opportunities that the medium of video games offers to the horror tradition.
I started reading and listening to folk and fairy tales as a child. Some of the first collections I read included the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault, and Hans Christian Andersen.
With time, this childhood interested developed into an enthusiasm for folklore around the world and I quickly became familiar with dominant folk believes in different countries and their underlying narrative patterns.
I am particularly interested in the folklore of the British Isles, such as the beliefs of the cunning folk in Britain and the folk beliefs surrounding Halloween, as well as Japanese folklore and mythology.
Languages and Cultures
Going hand-in-hand with my interest in Folklore, most of my academic education focused on studying languages and cultures, which has provided me with a deep understanding of various cultural phenomena, with a focus on Slavic, Northern American, and East-Asian cultural histories and trends.
I am also proficient in English, Croatian, Russian, German, French, Dutch, and Japanese (on different levels), and can easily acquire new languages.
Literature and Literary Theory
Due to my bachelor's education in European Languages and Cultures, I am familiar with literary traditions, developments, and narrative patterns across the globe. I can easily operationalize this knowledge when crafting a story for a game by, for example, smartly using (or avoiding) established clichés in literary history (think of "the amnesiac hero," "the last of our race," or "the evil lackey").
Throughout my education, I have also studied linguistics, as well as how audiences react to texts in different media, which allows me to base my design decisions on solid empirical evidence and qualitative research conducted with users.