In Psychonauts, players navigate the dimensions of the mind, wrestling with psychological demons on their playing field. Using psychic powers, they navigate mazes and solve puzzles to unwrap a conspiracy at the psychic summer camp. In the level I'll refer to as "the milk-man," Raz, the main character, navigates a relatively sterile environment. The world is essentially a standard, suburban neighborhood floating in space connected by a road that twists and contorts in mid air. Everything appears in order, other than the physics defying contortion of the road, yet surveillance cameras appear from all areas, popping out of garbage cans, mail boxes, and fire hydrants. Also spread about are men in coats, presumably government agents, trying to remain incognito by utilizing props to denote a different identity despite their obtuseness. Here the developers create a clear message about this mind; the standard leave-it-to-beaver space has been warped by paranoid delusion with an obsession with surface appearance. Here they create a fascinating parallel between obsession and oversight. Presumably, to the natives of this mind, the in-order presentation of the houses present the most suspicion, evidenced by the overwhelming amount of surveillance. However, the world is inhabited by secret agents who all appear identical except for one prop that separates their costumed identities. Men with road signs are clearly construction workers, men with rolling pins are clearly housewives, and men with guns are clearly assassins. Certain areas of the world are off limits to commoners, however. Only construction workers are allowed on construction sites, and only housewives are allowed in certain kitchens. We also see an irrational yet common submission to authority types at play here. Construction workers can obviously have free range in construction sites, yet neighbors cannot be trusted. I read a similar RL anecdote in a psychology text book. A therapist is called by his patient who is threatening to jump off a cliff. The therapist pleads with him unsuccessfully to reconsider. Then, a policeman notices that the jumper had illegally parked his car, and without realizing the situation, shouts that if whoever owns that car doesn't move it immediately, he's going to tow it away. Right then, the suicidal patient comes down from the cliff and moves his car as a submission to authority. "The milk-man" level plays off of this same categorization in the mind. The level is a very slow-paced area with little to no action. It would be a meditative area if not for the feeling of things not being as they seem (or the obviousness of it, also enhanced by the sound track). I wouldn't characterize it as patently male or female, judging from the examples in "A Game of One's Own." The road follows a meandering, curvy path, designed for a happy, boring American family, yet slight variation from the rules has incredibly strict directness as sirens fire and a cut-scene shows your interrogation. It's essentially a world standing on thin ice, and beautifully crafted to create that sensation with a comic twist, though not presenting any time-limit related issues or approaching danger except at the moments of revelation and confrontation.
Interestingly, every level of Psychonauts is a private theme park dedicated to the character whose mind the player progresses through. It even holds to the same metaphor of Disney World, being a guest within the mind rather than a resident. Inside the mind of an ex-soldier, one relives Saving Private Ryan but as a fantasy, fun-filled quest. Inside of the mutated lung-fish, Raz acts as a Godzilla character destroying the city of the brainwashed lung-fish speaking in profoundly clear English. The game deserves an entire class as a means of understanding psychological connections to gameplay. Everyone go buy Psychonauts, it's available on Xbox Live.