Gothic and Fantastic

The term Gothic brings images to our minds that range from an old tribe wandering through Europe that had a massive effect on the fall of the Roman Empire to a black-dressed subculture since the 1980s. Furthermore, this term covers on the one hand haunted mansions and castles with evil forces in them and on the other hand the cathedrals of the so-called ‚Dark Ages‘ with walls filled with glass and made of light. The manifold and contradicting matters and objects associated with Gothic makes it one of the most interesting and ambiguous terms in all fields of research.

Promotion image for Bloodborne
Image via PlayStation Blog auf Flickr

The video game Bloodborne

The video game Bloodborne was developed by FromSoftware and was published in 2015 by Sony for PlayStation 4. It is an action role-play game with a main character, called The Hunter, and its plot is focused on combat and exploration.

Promotion image for Bloodborne
Image via PlayStation Blog auf Flickr

The world of Bloodborne is described as a decrepit Gothic, Victorian-era city named Yharnam, which was known for its medical advances and blood as its main part. After a plague hit the population and turned them into monsters and nightmares, the city is in decay, mostly abandoned and a place for evil to spread. Yharnam consists of different districts and levels and also has the ‚mandatory‘ dungeons with their horrors to overcome.

Game still of Bloodborne
Image via PlayStation Blog auf Flickr

The game belongs to the horror genre and is set in the 19th century, using actual architectural references in combination with artistic imaginations and literal motifs, especially from Gothic novels like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the first horror authors like H. P. Lovecraft with his entities called The Old Ones.

Game still of Bloodborne
Image via PlayStation Blog auf Flickr

The city consists of many tall and representative buildings with up to four stories or more. A lot of viewing points, for example the Great Bridge or the towers of the Grand Cathedral, also use the city’s silhouette with its pointy towers and spires as a background. All buildings follow the Gothic style of the 19th century, mostly in its English type, with pinnacles, finials and crockets everywhere. Especially the pinnacles are used as smaller endings of architectural elements like portals or edges all over. They align with the bigger roofs and towers which are demonstrativly pointy and serrated designed.

Promotion image for Bloodborne
Image via PlayStation Blog auf Flickr

As described above, the basic elements of Gothic style over centuries can be found everywhere on the exteriors as on the interiors. Also smaller objects such as fireplaces or shelves are decorated with lancet arches and traceries.
A good example for an exterior design is Odeon Chapel. The six stories high facade is decorated with various Gothic architectural elements. All piers and edges are ending in pinnacles, the bigger pointed arches over the portals and windows are filled with quatrefoils and other tracery elements.

Oedon Chapelle in the background
Image via Bloodborne Wiki

The mentioned viewing points show the combined result of this vertical elements: the city appears in a homogeneous look while using one style and thereby as an overwhelming mass with sharp edges and spikes.

Promotion image for Bloodborne
Image via PlayStation Blog auf Flickr

Besides the unifying architectural look and the narrow setting of the buildings the color scheme with dark and dirty colors evokes the image of the city as one unit. Also, it is always night time or sunset with a cloudy sky and foggy weather that support the horror atmosphere and is used to underline the sharp and pointy appearance of the city.

Is Gothic evil?

With the Gothic style being used for centuries for representative functions, Divine contexts and as a visible, positive statement to the past, how could it turn dark and being used so often in the Fantastic medias in context of darkness, evilness and to characterize the homes of villains?

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