Silent Hill: The Short Message - title

Silent Hill: The Short Message is a first-person horror game about wandering through looping, decrepit hallways in an abandoned apartment building, while confronting a secret, repressed guilt. And stop me if you've heard any of this before.

Silent Hill used to be a series that innovated, that pushed the envelope. The first game basically introduced the video-game-playing public to the concept of psychological horror. The second polished the formula to introspective perfection, while also providing a template for a plot twist that would be repeated in (what feels like) every horror game since -- at least the ones not named Resident Evil. Even action-oriented games like Dead Space ripped off Silent Hill 2.

Silent Hill 3 introduced gamers to a teenage girl protagonist who actually felt like a real person, instead of being a hyper-sexualized "boob ninja" in a bikini or skin-tight catsuit, while also providing jaw-dropping technical accomplishments. The moving, bleeding, living environmental textures of Silent Hill 3's Otherworld amazing and un-precedented at the time. And it's character models and lighting looked better than many games that would be released on the following generation of consoles.

Hideo Kojima's playable teaser P.T. spawned a cohort of horror games ripping off the formula of first-person looping hallway horrors, of which The Short Message is only the latest example. And heck, even P.T. was really only popularizing horror conventions that Silent Hill 4 had already started experimenting with a decade earlier.

This is a blunt and earnest depiction of teen depression, self-harm, and suicide.

The Short Message, on the other hand, is largely a retreading of horror gaming tropes that are quickly becoming tired and stale. The looping hallways were mind-blowing back when P.T. did it -- ten years ago. But I've seen it in seemingly every horror game since, from Layers of Fear to Visage to MadIson.

It isn't just general horror trends that The Short Message is retreading either. It's also invoking well-worn and frustrating habits that the Silent Hill series just refused to break in its never-ending quest to recreate the lightning-in-a-bottle that was Silent Hill 2. The character's repressed guilt being hidden from the player and revealed as a mid or late-game plot twist? Check. The person you're looking for being dead already? Check. Silent Hill acting as a purgatory that seems to be willfully trapping people until they confront and overcome aforementioned guilt? Check.

The heaviest, bluntest hammer Konami could find

One thing that The Short Message doesn't bother to copy from its ancestors is the subtlety and nuance that Silent Hill used to be famous for. The Short Message is unbelievably heavy-handed, blunt, and melo-dramatic. This is owing, in large part, to trepidation from Konami and/or developer HexaDrive about how to depict the game's subject matter: teen depression, self-harm, and suicide. It's a touchy subject, for sure. One has to give credit to Konami and HexaDrive for so directly addressing an issue that most game publishers and developers won't touch with a 20-foot pole.

HexaDrive's depiction of mental illness is not
as hopeless and fatalistic as Bloober's.

But this is also where The Short Message lands on one of its greatest strengths. It's blunt depiction of teen suicide is at least a hopeful and optimistic one -- one that is also grounded based on the very real social and technological issues that often motivate or catalyze real-life self-harm and suicide by actual teenagers. And this is not something that we should overlook in discussion of The Short Message. It's almost the polar opposite of how Team Bloober (the company that is developing the Silent Hill 2 remake) has historically treated the same topic. Bloober has always shown abuse victims as totally, fundamentally broken individuals for whom death or suicide is a welcome release that spares the world from their burden.

In contrast to Bloober, The Short Message wants depressed teens to know that they are not broken, that they can get help, and that there are people out there who care about them and would miss them and would be there for them in their times of need. The Short Message wants people to know that recognizing the red flags, and talking to the person can save their life, and that, for the depressed individual, things will get better.

If nothing else, The Short Message has its heart in the right place.

And let's face it, teenagers aren't exactly known for subtlety or nuance. Teenagers do tend to blow things out of proportion and be melo-dramatic. So it's hard for me to hold The Short Message's overly-blunt and melo-dramatic dialogue against it. Yeah it's cringe-worthy at times, but it's cringey in exactly the way that real-life teenagers are often cringey. There might also be more intentionality behind the blunt, cringey dialogue than is apparent at the surface level. Does the heavy-handed and cringey dialogue represent the literal events as they actually happened? Or are we seeing the world as the teenage character sees it?

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Yes, I still try to wear a facemask whenever I go to an indoor public space, whether it be the grocery store or the sportsbook. I even wear a mask most of the day at the office, unless the people in the desks closest to mine aren't in that day. I just don't want to get sick. I'm vaccinated for both the flue and COVID, and am up-to-date on my COVID boosters, so I'm not terribly concerned about getting severely sick. But I would just prefer not to be sick at all, if I can take reasonable precautions to avoid it.

Unfortunately, I haven't always been as strict about it as I probably should have been. I did catch COVID a few months ago. It was pretty mild. I had a pretty bad fever for a day, with my temperature almost getting up to 104 degrees. After the fever broke, I was coughing and sniffly for a week or so, but was able to function. I still kept myself in quarantine though, since I'm lucky enough to work at a company that allows remote work.

The cough lingered on and off for a few weeks, which made exercise a bit more difficult. But otherwise, I haven't had any lasting effects (that I'm aware of).

I am still wearing a face mask in indoor public places, and sometimes at home.

Ironically, I had just been in the pharmacy a couple weeks before getting COVID, and the pharmacist had asked if I wanted a booster. I didn't think they took walk-ins, but I was like "sure!". Unfortunately, I didn't have my vaccine card on my person at that time, so the pharmacist asked me to come back again later. I planned on going back later that week, but kept putting it off and didn't get around to it. Then I caught the damn thing and got sick.

If I had gotten that booster, and had been more consistent about wearing my mask, it is possible that I could have avoided getting sick at all. But I didn't, so now I've joined the ranks of the overwhelming majority who has caught COVID. Even so, I am now back to wearing a mask when I go out. Even though I'm unlikely to catch COVID again so soon, there are still regular colds and the flu floating around out there, and I don't want to catch those either.

Honestly, even after the COVID pandemic is finally over and COVID has settled into being little worse than a regular cold, I might still continue wearing a mask under certain conditions. I've actually found a lot more value to wearing a mask beyond just the prevention or mitigation of COVID.

First and foremost, quarantine and masks have proven effective at preventing the spread of regular cold and flu. So I'll probably continue to mask up during cold and flu season, whether there's an ongoing pandemic or not. I have a teenage daughter in middle school, and a toddler son who goes to daycare occasionally. Kids bring home bugs all the time. So I might still catch things from them, at home, no matter what I do. But might as well take precautions so as not to catch anything from strangers when I'm out and about.

The other big advantage that I've found to wearing a mask has been the mitigation of allergy symptoms. I suffer from seasonal allergies, and I know there is something in my neighborhood that is a major trigger for my allergies, but I just don't know what, specifically it is. Maybe it's mulberry; or maybe it's oleander. I'm not sure. Whatever it is, it can mess me up really bad. I've had to take time off of work in the past because my allergy attacks were almost as bad as having the flu.

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Last year, when the PS5 released, I didn't bother trying to pre-order one or buy one after release. I just wasn't very interested in the machine that first year, as there weren't that many games for it. Sure, I was curious to see what the Demon's Souls remake wold be like, considering that is one of my favorite games ever. And I would gladly have played the Miles Morales Spider-Man game. But neither of these (nor the two combined) were enough to sell me on a $500 console. I love Demon's Souls, and was sad when the servers were finally shut down, but not enough to shell out $600 to be able to keep playing it.

I'm sorry Sony, but you really needed more than just a remake of a 10-year old game from 2 console generations ago, and a single sequel to a popular game from a few years ago, to sell me on the new machine. Maybe if Silent Hills hadn't been cancelled, and ended up being a PS5-exclusive launch title, or if Death Stranding or Ghost of Tsushima had been PS5-exclusive launch titles, then I would have been more eager to procure a console.

Everything else that I was interested in was a multi-platform release. I bought Cyberpunk 2077 on Steam (then never played it because the launch condition was so atrocious), and ended up playing Control (for free) via PlayStation Plus. So what the heck did I actually need a PS5 for?

The only 2 games on PS5 worth playing are not worth buying a new console.

I also didn't feel like going through the trouble of trying to claim the limited pre-order supply of PS5s. I thought for sure that in 6 months or so, PS5s would be sitting on the shelves of just about every Best Buy, Target, Wal-Mart, and Gamestop, just collecting dust. After all, people were losing their jobs and health insurance left and right due to business closures and city lockdowns being imposed due to a global health pandemic. Surely people wouldn't have enough disposable income to justify new $500 consoles, right?

Well, apparently, I completely mis-judged the situation. Losing their jobs and being unable to even look for new jobs (due to the aforementioned business closures and lockdowns) meant that people spent what little disposable money they did have (as well as the eventual government stimulus checks) on home entertainment products like video games. The video game business (along with online shopping, streaming television services, home delivery services, and video conferencing services) was one of the few industries that boomed during the pandemic, and much to my surprise, the PS5 and XBox Series X | S became the fastest-selling video game consoles in history, despite the supply shortages.

I will honestly say that I did not see that coming. Though I do have to wonder if those sales figures would be so inflated if not for scalpers buying up all the stock with automated bots.

Now it's December of 2021 (holiday season), the PS5 has been available for well over a year, and I'm starting to want one, but can't find one. What's changed? Why do I want a console now, when I didn't want one last year?

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Last summer I wrote that my experience with the COVID-19 pandemic at that time was "pretty pedestrian". At the time, I was optimistic that the pandemic would soon be well under control, despite the absolute ineptitude of our government's initial response. But here we are, a year and a half later, and community spread of COVID is still causing almost as many deaths on a weekly basis as it did at the height of the pandemic a year ago. This is despite the widespread availability of free, CDC and FDA-approved vaccines!

Vaccines are now available for children as young as 5.

My partner and I are vaccinated, as are most of our friends and relatives, but we have a 11-year old child attending public school, and a 2 1/2 month old infant. Neither child is vaccinated yet. The vaccines weren't approved for use in children under 12 until recently, and even then, they are only approved for children as young as 5. We had scheduled for our 11-year old to get the first vaccine shot in early November (the week after it was approved for children in her age group). But in a twisted bit of irony, COVID made it into our household before she could get that shot.

Close calls

We narrowly avoided contracting COVID earlier in October. I was asked by a neighbor to walk their children to school one morning because she and her husband had to go into work early. I was happy to oblige. It's the neighborly thing to do. What I didn't know was that the father is unvaccinated. Had I known, I likely would have refused. And I would have been vindicated in that refusal because their entire household came down with COVID that week. The father is a teacher and was required to do weekly testing. He tested on Monday, I walked the kids to school on Tuesday, the father received his positive result on Wednesday, and the kids and their mother began showing symptoms that weekend.

Lucky for us, none of us got sick. The kids either weren't contagious yet, or we just weren't close enough to contract it from them. And don't worry, our neighbors and their kids are all recovered now.

The next exposure, we weren't quite so lucky.

Our luck runs out

The week before our daughter was scheduled to get her first vaccine shot, my partner contracted COVID. The likely vector for the virus was another child of un-vaccinated parents who went trick-or-treating with our daughter on Halloween. The mother of one of our daughter's friends had been watching him on weekends because his deadbeat mom kept dumping him off on her. He had been feeling sick the week before, but didn't bother to tell us, nor did his mother bother to tell us. I think she just wanted to get him out of the house so that she could get some booty calls.

It's too bad the CDC couldn't have authorized the vaccine for younger children before Halloween.
I imagine we weren't the only ones to catch COVID while trick-or-treating.

We had 2 occasions in which we socialized with children of un-vaccinated parents, and in both cases, we were exposed to COVID. We had been rigorous about making sure that any adults we socialized with were vaccinated. But children couldn't be vaccinated, and we couldn't deny letting our daughter visit with friends. All of her friends' parents were vaccinated, so it never really occurred to us to make a policy of verifying the vaccination status of other childrens' parents. It seems obvious in hindsight, but we just never thought of it.

We avoided COVID for a year and a half,
but our luck ran out this November.

Anyway, he tested positive the day after Halloween, and our kid's friend's mom tested positive a couple days after that. A week after Halloween, my partner started sniffling and coughing while breast-feeding our son. I had her take a home COVID test, and sure enough, it was positive. We promptly put her into quarantine in our guest room (thankfully we have a house large enough to allow us to keep a guest room). And since we couldn't be certain that we had quarantined her before she spread it to myself or our 11-year-old, we were forced to all start wearing masks in the house whenever we were around each other, or whenever any of us was handling the baby.

It sucked. You think it's uncomfortable and inconvenient to wear a mask in public? Imagine having to do it all day in your own home!

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There are days in all of our lives in which our life irreversibly changes forever. A few weeks ago, I had such a day. My partner of 7 years and I welcomed into the world a new baby boy. Little Julian was born via C-section in early September at 7 pounds and 3 ounces, and is so far healthy and happy.

My partner and I welcomed our baby son, Julian into the world in early September.

Regular readers might know that I already have a child for all intents and purposes. When I met my partner, she already had a 3 year old daughter from a previous relationship. We've had full custody of that child, and so I've been raising as my own. Since I didn't even meet her until she was 3 years old, I missed out on all the baby stuff. In fact, she was just finishing up potty training when I met her, so I never had to deal with diapers. I had a daughter, but I never had a baby.

The only time I've ever had to deal with infants and diapers and bottles was years ago when a co-worker and friend friend had twin daughters through (I think) in vitro fertilization. She was raising the girls as a single mother and needed some extra help, and since she lived a few minutes from me, I offered to go over and help watch the babies from time to time so that she could take care of chores around the house. She taught me how to change diapers, feed babies, hold them, and calm them when they were crying. One of the twins was particularly responsive to me, and always seemed to calm down when I held her.

They were my little "practice babies", and I was sad when their mother decided to move out of state to the midwest to be with family. She had limited support here (even with friends and colleagues like me trying to help out whenever we could), so I can't blame or fault her for the decision.

But now I have a little baby of my own, and so that practice is finally paying off!

With my partner bed-ridden after the C-section, I was responsible for diaper changes in the first couple days.

In fact, I had to put that practice into effect almost immediately. Since my partner had to have a C-section, she was bed-ridden for the first couple days after the delivery. This meant that during those first couple days in the hospital, I was on full-time diaper duty. Newborn diapers weren't exactly what I was prepared for. The thick, black, sticky meconium was quite a bit different than what I remembered from the practice twins. Having a boy also meant I had the risk of being peed on during a diaper change, which isn't really a problem with baby girls (as far as I've been told). Though Julian has actually yet to pee on us directly. He did pee on his own face once though. I was holding is legs up to clean him after a dirty diaper, he started peeing while pointing right at his face. He was not a happy baby.

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Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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