I was going through the comments on my posts a while back, and I came across a doozy of a comment by user Maiden T. I'm not going to replicate the entire post here, but you can review the comment at the link provided. In summary, the user asserts that Silent Hill, as a series, was never about occultism, and that all the games were "repressed-memory morality tales". The first Silent Hill and "to an extent the third one" are the exceptions (according to Maiden T).
Totally unrelated image of a demon god...
My mind just about exploded when I read this comment, and I started typing up a response, only to realize that I had written a whole blog's worth of counter argument. So, I decided to just turn it into a new blog. So I'll continue my series of analysis and interpretation articles about Silent Hill with a write-up about how the series is most definitely about occultism.
What is Silent Hill about?
I've already tackled two common myths about Silent Hill. The first was about the sexual nature of Pyramid Head, and the second was about the realness of the Otherworld. Now I'll address one of the most fundamental misunderstandings about the series: what is it about?
The repressed-inner-demon myth
Probably the most core and fundamental myth about the Silent Hill series is the continued propagation of the idea that the series (as a whole) is about characters dealing with repressed inner demons - typically a repressed memory of guilt over a perceived sin which they have committed. This idea is rooted in the popularity of Silent Hill 2, and it is so pervasive, that the designers and producers of newer installments of the series embrace it, while dismissing the other critical elements of the games' stories:
"[My favorite SH game is] Silent Hill 2. I didn’t really care for all the heavy occult based storyline in SH1 and 3. I felt SH2 had the best stand alone storyline, and provided the best atmosphere of all the SH games by far. [More]
I find all the in’s and out’s of ‘The Order’ to be overly intricate and rather uninteresting, but that’s just my opinion."
- Devin Shatsky (producer, Shattered Memories, Downpour), in an interview with Hell's Descent (Nov 5, 2010).
Stumbled onto this Gamefaqs forum topic about Masahiro Ito "confirming" that the Good ending of Silent Hill is canon, and that Cybil is supposed to die. Many fans apparently see this as absolute validation of their dogmatic opinions on the topic, and that to argue otherwise is moronic. I don't understand why there is so much vitriol thrown towards people who support the Good+ ending and Cybil's survival. Why does the fanbase want Cybil dead so much?
There are three key arguments that I hear in defense of the "Good is the only canonical ending" position:
Why do fans want Cybil dead?
- Harry wouldn't have known what the Red Liquid does until after he sees Kaufman use it on Alessa, and so he couldn't have used it on Cybil earlier.
- If Harry used the Red Liquid to save Cybil, then he couldn't have had any left over to solidify into the pendant for Heather.
- Cybil does not appear in any subsequent Silent Hill. She is not referenced in SH3, and in Silent Hill Homecoming, Deputy Wheeler refers to a female police officer who went to Silent Hill and never returned. Clearly, this means that Cybil is dead.
To many fans, these three arguments are bullet proof! At this point, they've practically become gospel (along with Pyramid Head's well-known rape antics).
But how well do these arguments really stack up to scrutiny? Let's play Devil's Advocate...
I'm going to start with Masahiro Ito's comments on the issue:
On Mashiro Ito's Twitter feed, he "confirms" that Cybil is dead.
A recent posting to IMDB has some Silent Hill fans very intrigued. The post claims that "Silent Hill 9" has been announced, and that it is directed by Hideo Kojima (of Metal Gear Solid fame). This post seems a bit premature, since I'm not aware of any official announcement - or statement of any kind - from Konami regarding another Silent Hill game, but rumors have been circulating on forums for months regarding the possibility of Hideo Kojima working (directly or indirectly) on a Silent Hill project.
Supposedly, Konami has approached Kojima to direct the next installment in the franchise. He's favorable to the idea, but admits that he may not be the best man for such a leading role:
"Honestly, I’m kind of a scaredy-cat when it comes to horror movies, so I’m not confident I can do it. At the same time, there’s a certain type of horror that only people who are scared of can create, so maybe it’s something I can do." [More]
- Hideo Kojima
Is Frictional Games working on a new IP? I'm a bit curious as to why they outsourced development of the aptly-named A Machine for Pigs to the third-party developer The Chinese Room. Frictional's staff did stay on as "producers" for this game, so I'm sure that the final product is still consistent with what Frictional would have wanted if they had developed it themselves, and I think the overall story was still written by people at Frictional (but I could be wrong on that account). In any case, the change in development team has certainly had a dramatic effect on the way that the new game plays. The very core gameplay of exploring a linear dungeon with a flashlight is retained, but all the mechanics and the underlying feel of the game are completely different than its predecessor. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as Amnesia: the Dark Descent wasn't perfect.
Once again, the underlying premise that sets up Amnesia: a Machine for Pigs is that your character wakes up in a mansion with no memory of who he is or why he is there. Your early exploration of the mansion reveals some vague threat, and you are forced to descend into a deep dungeon in order to discover who you are and resolve the threat. Along the way, you'll encounter deformed creatures and collect notes and documents from your former self explaining the situation, as well as have the occasional hallucinatory flashback as your memory slowly returns. But if you're worried that this sounds too much like the previous game, then fear not: A Machine for Pigs takes an entirely different approach to the gameplay and has a totally different feel to the entire experience. [More]
This review was originally published 06/21/2010 on Game Observer. It has been republished here for archival purposes.
I originally tried to review this game in the shoes of an objective game critic instead of a Silent Hill fan. As such, I was far too generous to it. In the time since the game's release, my opinions of it have changed dramatically, and I'm a big enough boy to admit when I'm wrong. Thus, I will include updated commentary in areas of this review where my opinion has changed, and I will not disregard my fandom for the sake of mass appeal. :/
perfectly poorly mixes the premise of the first Silent Hill with the psychological story-telling of Silent Hill 2 while laying the foundation for new "Horror" gameplay mechanics.
I’m a long-time fan of Silent Hill. I started with Silent Hill 2, which is my favorite game to date, and eventually made my way through the first game all the way up to the PSP’s Origins and last year’s craptacular Homecoming. I was very bothered to hear that Konami had disbanded the team that had worked on the first four games after the mixed critical and fan reception of The Room, and gave the development to a new team. Developers Double Helix and Foundation 9 completely dropped the ball with Homecoming,
but Climax did a passable job with the story of Origins (even though the gameplay mechanics weren’t all that great) and Climax did a horrible job with Origins as well.
As you’re probably already aware, Shattered Memories is a re-imagining of the first Silent Hill game. It is NOT a port, nor is it a remake. Harry Mason gets in a car crash in the outer edge of the town of Silent Hill and wakes up to find his seven-year-old daughter, Cheryl, missing. He’ll proceed to explore the town of Silent Hill to find her, and along the way, meet several [More]
interesting annoying characters including a police officer named Cybil Bennett. But the similarities end there.
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