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An alternative view of the Silent Hill series

An alternative view of the Silent Hill series

silenthill_jaccuse

I just ate an ice cream in the shape of a ghost. It was scarier than any Silent Hill game, and a lot less annoying. When I went to the freezer to get my ghost ice cream I didn’t have to try to open about six ‘locked’ ice creams that weren’t actually ice creams before finally finding one that actually opens. The box of ice creams made no attempt to hint at and allude to a wider, scarier range of ice creams just beyond my reach that in actual fact wasn’t there, never had been and never would be. It just made it clear that there were four genuine ghost ice creams (two dark with light eyes and mouths and two light with dark eyes and mouths) inside. I appreciate that sometimes there’s nothing scarier than the unknown, but in this particular instance, knowing that there were four ghost ice creams in the box was frightening enough in itself. No tricks were necessary.
Now, this might be reading like I’m rambling deliriously about ice cream because the hot weather has messed with my head worse than any Silent Hill game could ever hope to, and there’s certainly some truth in that, but be assured I do have a point to make. My point is that Silent Hill games are so full of transparent and obvious tricks that any atmospheric qualities they may possess are smothered as you’re reminded, time after time, that you’re just playing a game, and that the whole experience is artificial.
Good survival horror game design anticipates what the player will want to do, what the player will try to do and sets up scares in his or her path. Bad survival horror sets up the scares then forces the player into them with flawed logic, fake doors, invisible walls and stuff like not being able to find an item until after someone has told you it’s there even though you know it’s there because you already did this bit then died and the check point, as is often the case, was just before the really tedious bit instead of just before the really hard bit. The design of every Silent Hill game falls into the latter camp. How anyone can be scared or entertained when they’re so blatantly being manipulated and irritated is totally beyond me. It’s just a bit of fog and a few demons for pity’s sake.
What’s really weird is that despite its flaws and shortcomings, the first Silent Hill did at least feel ambitious. It felt like it was trying to push the survival horror genre forward but had struggled with the limitations of the PSone hardware. The baffling thing is that once better technology became available, Konami churned out four more Silent Hills, each as illogical, linear, irksome and non-scary as the last.
Now, anyone for… I scream?! Mwahahaha!




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