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Bad Mothers and Fetuses from Other Dimensions: Phallic Mothers and the Representation of Pregnancy and Childbirth in Video Games (pp. 103-123)

David Muiños García

Universidade da Coruña


Video games are a recent medium compared to film or literature, but boast an immense cultural output. Their production values have escalated alongside their popularity. During this prolific history, most developers have ignored or misrepresented female characters and issues. However, the patriarchal perspectives that have given birth to certain ubiquitous tropes are not new, as they are rooted in earlier reactions to the presence of female literary production in Western culture (Francus, 2013).

Still, video games possess a unique device: player agency. It is defined as the ability of players to have effects and cause change in a virtual game world (Eng, 2020). It holds potential to create a powerful impression of the cultural perspectives it bears, in addition to engaging audiences in a more direct experience with them. When pregnancy, childbirth and parentcraft are at the core of a video game’s narrative or gameplay, they are still distorted by patriarchal misrepresentation.

This paper puts forward a typology of representation of pregnancy in video games based on Barbara Creed’s (1993) aspects of the “monstrous feminine”. Using the contrast between what she calls the pre-phallic “archaic mother” and what the Freudian imaginary considers the pre-Oedipal phallic mother, this article draws up a category of misrepresented pregnancy referred to as “the supernatural birth”. To illustrate, three case studies will be analyzed, interpreting their symbolic systems according to their use of horror themes and and their grotesque portrayals of female fertility, sexuality, and reproduction. These are: Bloodborne (FromSoftware, 2015), Dante’s Inferno (Electronic Arts, 2010), and F.E.A.R. 3 (Warner Bros. Games, 2011).

Thus, I expect to contribute to ludology studies focusing on gender, and to invite academic discussion into the matter of female-specific issues being shunned by cultural representations in video games.

Keywords: Cultural studies; gender studies; pregnancy; motherhood; video games


David Muiños García obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in English Philology from Universidade da Coruña, where he also earned a Master’s Degree in Advanced English Studies. He also switches between his research interests and his passion for teaching thanks to a Master’s Degree in Teaching for Secondary Education. Currently, he is writing his PhD thesis, in which he looks into the representation of pregnancy, childbirth, motherhood, and fatherhood in video games.

e-mail addressd.muinos@gmail.com


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