Silent Hill 2

Video games are unique as an artistic medium. Not only do they allow the consumer to interact with a much wider possibility space than other mediums, but they also allow the consumer to directly influence the art itself. The stories, experiences, messages, and meaning that are conveyed are not only subject to the interpretation of the consumer, but they can be directly influenced or changed by the consumer. In some cases, a game can even prey upon the expectations of the player, or the player's desire to complete the game, in order to convey a particular message, or to make a statement about the player's actions.

One classic example of a game that plays the player as much as the player plays it is Silent Hill 2. That game's endings, and the triggers for each ending, have always been one of my favorite design aspects of that game. Silent Hill 2 takes advantage of the player's preconceived notions about how a horror game should be played, and it uses your play to pivot James' resolution (and his very character) in one of several directions.

Watch a video version of this blog post on YouTube!

I'm going to be talking about Silent Hill 2's endings. It should go without saying that this post will include major spoilers for Silent Hill 2. I'll also be comparing Silent Hill 2 to other games such as Mass Effect, Fallout, The Witcher III, The Last of Us, and What Remains of Edith Finch. As well as the post-Team Silent games: Silent Hill: Homecoming, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, and Silent Hill: Downpour. So there will also be varying degrees of spoilers for those other games as well.


Spoilers incoming for the above games. Consider yourself warned!
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In the comments of a recent post about Silent Hill 2's Otherworld, I had a discussion with a reader about the time period in which the Silent Hill games take place. This is actually an interesting and difficult topic, so I thought that I would dedicate a post specifically to it.

First and foremost, let's remind ourselves of when the games were released:

Game titleOriginal release
Silent Hill coverSilent HillJanuary 1999
Silent Hill 2 coverSilent Hill 2September 2001
Silent Hill 3 coverSilent Hill 3May 2003
Silent Hill 4 coverSilent Hill 4: the RoomSeptember 2004

UPDATE 1 January 2020:
A recent tweet from Masahiro Ito claimed that Silent Hill 2 was set in the "late 70's or early 80's", which would make my estimates about 10 later than Masahiro Ito understood the setting to be. If we take evidence in the first Silent Hill game at face value, this would mean that Silent Hill 2 would have to take place prior to the events of Silent Hill, since Silent Hill can take place no earlier than 1987.

It is also possible that Ito's comment is referring to the aesthetics of the game (in keeping with many of the game's film and literary influences), and not necessarily to its actual timeline. It isn't that I don't trust Ito's memory or his authority, but Team Silent went to great pains to conceal the exact date of the games (as we'll discuss in the following post), so it seems that they wanted the years in which the games take place to be ambiguous to the players -- which kind of makes this entire exercise moot.

Contemporary fiction

It is very important to note that no specific dates ever appear in any of the Silent Hill games that were developed by Konami's internal Team Silent studio. If dates are provided, they are either only the month and day (and not the year), or they are time periods relative to the events of the game (such as referring to the "events of 17 years ago" in Silent Hill 3), or it is just the year of an historical event in the past (such as the document about the sinking of the Little Baroness). Even documents that you would expect to have dates (such as newspapers, journals, diaries, patient reports, and police records) are intentionally left dateless (or at least ambiguous).

In Silent Hill 2, there is a point in which James finds newspapers scattered around a hallway. Upon examining the floor or walls, James comments that the newspapers have today's date. This would have been a perfect opportunity for the developers to provide a specific date for the game, if they wanted to. They could have had James read the date on the paper to the player, or the paper itself (with its date) could have been made clearly visible. The developers didn't do this; they left it completely ambiguous.

Silent Hill 2 - labyrinth newspapers
James notes that these newspapers have today's date, but doesn't tell us what the date is.

The developers went out of their way to not provide any specific dates for the games. Why would they do this? Typically, works of fiction that are not set in particular time period are written to be contemporary. Unless otherwise specified, most works of fiction should be assumed to take place now with respect to the consumption of the work by its audience, regardless of when "now" happens to be. if it's not contemporary to consumption, then it's usually contemporary to creation. This is usually pretty obvious if the work contains detailed descriptions of locations, technologies, and events that can be easily dated.

If we look at the original Silent Hill game in a vacuum, then the game provides no internal indication that it takes place at any specific time period. Players in 1999 probably had no reason to believe that the game took place in any year other than 1999. The same is true for Silent Hill 2, 3, and 4: if looked at in a vacuum, they can all be considered to take place in the same year that they were released. And if you didn't even know the year that the game was released, there's very little within the games to indicate that they take place at any time other than now.

However, this assumption falls apart because there is an absolute time difference of seventeen years between the events of the first game and the events of the third game, even though the difference in time between releases of the games was only four years. So we can't assume that each game takes place in the year of its release. At least one game has to be shifted on the timeline. So which game (or games) should be assumed to have taken place when?

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Silent Hill HD Collection banner - black

Konami recently released a preview of the new voice work for the upcoming Silent Hill HD Collection. Due to legal issues with at least one of the original game's voice actors (specifically, Konami refuses to pay James Sunderland voice actor Guy Cihi royalties for their re-releases of the game on other platforms), Konami had to find new people to perform the voice work for the games. So now they've got two sets of people that they will need to play royalties to, and in the meantime, us fans get this:

Nerd Rage Time!

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Silent Hill 2

My Pyramid Head cosplay (2010-2011)
My cosplay for 2010-2011

Silent Hill is sadly one of the most misunderstood game franchises in existence. Part of this is due to the fragmentary and disjointed way in which the original games tell their stories. The designers of the first three games didn't just tell the player what the game's story is. There is no “Bond villian wrap-up” at the end. The designers respected the intelligence of the player, gave us clues piece by piece over the course of each game, and relied on us to put it all together in the end.

But too many fans rely on information that has been circulated by many third-party documents, including some “official” strategy guides and plot analysis that contain possibly inaccurate information that ignores information specifically provided within the game. And when Team Silent disbanded after Silent Hill 4, this erroneous information became the basis for the plots of the future games (and the movie), further tainting people's ideas of the original plots.

As such, this is going to be the first in a series of analysis and interpretation articles that I will be posting on this blog in anticipation of the upcoming Silent Hill Downpour.

Of course, any discussion of Pyramid Head is going to include PLOT SPOILERS for the game. If you haven't played the game yet, read ahead at your own risk. Also, this post contains images and video that may not be safe for work!

The “Rape Time” myth

One example of an unfortunate misunderstanding with the franchise is that Silent Hill fans have latched onto this idea that Red Pyramid Thing (a.k.a. “Pyramid Head”) is a raving serial mannequin-rapist. I believe that label is unjustified.

The idea that Red Pyramid Thing is a mannequin rapist comes almost exclusively from this first major encounter with the creature in the apartment buildings.

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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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