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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I frequently hear people bring up the infamous Fukuro video as a counter to my essay on why Silent Hill 2's Pyramid Head isn't a rapist. I haven't addressed this issue in the past because I actually don't know that much about the video or its creation. But I thought I would take a moment to address this issue. First off, let's watch the video in question (warning: contains disturbing content that may not be suitable for sensitive viewers).

This video was made by a small group of Team Silent members, most notably, Masahiro Ito and Akira Yamaoka, and it was included in a documentary DVD titled The Art of Silent Hill. There isn't really much information about this video on the internet other than speculation. As far as I know, Ito and Yamaoka have never made any public statements regarding its relevance to the canon of the games. When asked about the symbolism of the video on Twitter, Ito responded that it abstractly represented the womb.

Does an abstract representation of the womb have any relevance to Silent Hill 2? Not at all. It does, however, have strong ties to Silent Hill 3. In fact, the Fukuro girl character does make a brief appearance in Silent Hill 3! Perhaps Team Silent already had basic designs and outlines in place for Silent Hill 3 when they started work on Silent Hill 2, and the Fukuro video incorporated elements of both?

Fukuro's wiki page asserts that she was a scrapped monster from Silent Hill 2, however no citation is included for this claim, so I can't verify it. The wiki page goes on [without citation] to claim that Fukuro might have been another representation of James' subconscious (along with Pyramid Head). If that is true, then she may have been scrapped because the nurses and / or Maria may have made Fukuro's role superfluous and unnecessary.

Silent Hill 3 - Fukuro Lady
the Fukuro Lady appears briefly in an elevator scene in Silent Hill 3.

In any case, if Fukuro had been planned to be a monster symbolic of Jame's repressed sexual frustration, then it seems even less likely that Pyramid Head would also have represented the same element of Jame's subconscious! Pyramid Head and Fukuro's interactions in the Fukuro video could be symbolic of James' sexual desires being a source of guilt for which he wants punishment. In that case, guilt and sexual repression are still separate conditions represented by different manifested creatures that reinforce each other.

Fukuro's necessity in Silent Hill 2 was rendered moot by both Maria and the design of the nurses. It is possible that at some point during the game's design, Pyramid Head's role was intended to be different, and to be more representative of Jame's sexual urges. This could explain the creatures' visual design and the early cutscenes of him "raping" monsters. But as the game's development proceeded, Fukuro was dropped, Maria and nurses were added, and Pyramid Head's role became more explicitly representative of James' guilt and need for self-punishment as a result of Mary's death.

The bottom line is that the Fukuro video and Fukuro character are not in the actual game. At least not in Silent Hill 2. Masahiro Ito may very well believe that Pyramid Head is a sexually-symbolic monster, and he may very well have designed the creature with its Freudian aesthetic with that assumption in place. But for whatever reason, the scenario-writers decided not to pursue that avenue for the remainder of the game. Any lingering sexual symbolism for Pyramid Head is dropped within a couple hours of starting the game, and his role as a punisher is explicitly stated at the end of the game. At best, sexual aggression is a minor, implicit element of Pyramid Head's design; it is certainly not a defining characteristic of the creature, nor is it the creature's primary purpose.

A similar video was also made for Silent Hill 3, and features Robbie the Rabbit. This video also has no relevance to that game's plot.

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Not much has been seen of Hideo Kojima's Silent Hills since the Tokyo Game Show trailer last September. And now it looks like we might not be seeing any more from it any time soon. Or ever.

The latest news in the gaming world is that Hideo Kojima (and his studio Kojima Productions) is splitting from Konami. And it's a little early for April Fools... Apparently, the split is not amicable, as Konami has stripped Kojima's name from Metal Gear Solid V marketing material and that Kojima and his staff are now working as contractors to finish that game. Apparently, Konami and Kojima are planning on finishing Metal Gear Solid V, but Silent Hills may not be so fortunate.

Kojima interview
Will Kojima and his team be able to continue working on Silent Hills after leaving Konami?

Whatever happened at Konami, the company may have made a monumentally bad decision in forcing Kojima out. He has consistently delivered some of the best performing games that the company has ever made. On top of that, he has surrounded himself with a talented staff that have proven capable of developing solid game engines from scratch in order to make their games as technically-impressive as possible. Konami may be losing all of these resources.

But Konami is likely keeping the rights to the intellectual properties of Metal Gear Solid and Silent Hill. It's possible that Konami might hire Kojima Productions as a contractor to continue Silent Hills (as they are apparently doing with Metal Gear Solid V), since the game uses Kojima's proprietary Fox Engine. But even then, if the developers and the publisher / IP-holder do not have a comfortable working arrangement, then the quality of the game may suffer considerably due to the competing interests of the two companies. And if Konami pushes on with development of Silent Hills without Kojima and his Fox Engine, then the final product will likely be a disaster.

Another possibility is that Kojima Productions could buy the IP rights to Metal Gear Solid and / or Silent Hill. I think that's very unlikely, considering that both franchises are cash-cows for Konami.

I also wouldn't be surprised if Sony makes a move to acquire Kojima and his studio to make first party content, since his Metal Gear Solid games were a premiere console-selling exclusive for the PlayStation. If that happens, and Kojima's studio is allowed to continue work on Silent Hills, then the game would likely become a PS4 exclusive. That's if the three companies can come to agreements with one another to begin with.

The last possibility is that Kojima Productions could continue to work on Silent Hills as their first independent game, but without the Silent Hill naming rights from Konami. It's unclear just how much (if at all) Silent Hills' plot was dependent on the established canon of the Silent Hill series. Since the P.T. demo and Tokyo Game Show trailer didn't show anything that specifically tied the game to Silent Hill in anything but name, this may not have much of an impact on the final product if it has to go forward without the IP.

At least one source has stated that Silent Hills has, in fact, been canceled. But I'm still waiting for more concrete clarification from Konami and / or Kojima before I give up hope.

In any case, it's too early to say anything about the future of Silent Hills with any certainty. I'll definitely be keeping an eye on this story as it develops.

UPDATE: May 01, 2015, 12:00 am: Silent Hills has been officially canceled, petitioners demand Kojima finish the game

We all knew it would happen, and towards the end of April, Konami and Del Toro finally admitted that Silent Hills has been officially canceled. No real surprise here, but it is very unfortunate news. Del Toro verified on Twitter that the project "isn't gonna happen", a fact that "breaks [his] greasy heart.". Konami has also confirmed officially that the game's development has been discontinued.

This news hasn't stopped petitioners from requesting that Kojima continue development of the game. Sorry guys, but Kojima and Del Toro aren't the ones in charge! Konami is pulling the strings, and Konami doesn't want anything to do with Kojima. The only reason that Metal Gear Solid V is happening is that the game is practically already done. Having Kojima continue to work on it is just a formality. Silent Hills doesn't even seem as if it had started primary development, so Konami isn't losing much (if any) investment by canceling the project.

That being said, I did sign the petition. P.T. and what was shown of Silent Hills looked very promising from a horror gaming standpoint (not so promising as a "Silent Hill" game), and I was looking forward to the game being released. Feel free to sign the petition yourself; although, I doubt that it will have any efficacy.

Damn shame.

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Silent Hill: Cold Heart - pitch cover
Shattered Memories was derived from
a pitch called "Cold Heart",
which was not supposed to be a "re-imagining".

This may be old news to some people, but earlier this month, I came across a post on Silent Hill Memories dot net that included scans of the full, 14-page pitch document for the game that became Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. Climax held a contest to give away seven copies of the document to fans, and scans of the document have since been posted online in various sources.

The document tells us that the final product ended up being radically different than the original concept. Apparently, Climax did not originally intend to do a remake / reboot / "re-imagining" of the original Silent Hill. Instead the plot would continue on with the standard Silent Hill timeline (presumabely following the events of Homecoming) with a new character. The game's working title was Silent Hill: Cold Heart. The document outlines what some of the game's intended features were supposed to be (including combat mechanics that were completely cut from the final product), describes the main character, and also provides a brief walkthrough of an early chapter of the game.

The introduction page describes the playable character: Jessica Chambers. Jessica was planned to be an over-stressed and emotionally-vulnerable college student. She ends up in Silent Hill after a freak snow storm causes her car to crash on her way to visit her parents.

Silent Hill: Cold Heart - Jessica Chambers
Page 1 and 2 describe the main character, Jessica Chambers, and how she ends up in Silent Hill.

Jessica is described as being "emotionally vulnerable" and is dependent on a therapist. She has nightmares and is "weighed down by a deep sadness". The pitch doesn't specify the nature of this sadness or her reason for being dependent on a therapist (other than perhaps the stress of college).

I would suspect that the reason for her sadness and the therapy would have been similar to Shattered Memories: that one or both of her parents are probably dead, she has repressed the memory, and experiences nightmares of Silent Hill as a subconscious attempt to confront these repressed memories. You know, repressed memories of dead people is what Silent Hill is all about, right? ...

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Silent Hills - playable teaster title

As most internet-savvy Silent Hill fans know, the recent rumors regarding Hideo Kojima working on a Silent Hill game are true. Konami stealthily released a hidden teaser for the project within a demo for a fake game (called "P.T.") being made by a fake studio (7780 Studios).

I don't currently own a PS4, since there haven't been any interesting games out for it yet (although Bloodborne and No Man's Sky both look like they sell me a console). As such, I was a little bit late in getting a chance to actually play the "P.T." demo, but I finally was able to play it on a friend's PS4 over the Labor Day weekend. Given my strong opinions regarding the Silent Hill franchise, I thought I'd weigh in on this whole teaser thing.

It is, however, important to note that "P.T." is just an announcement teaser, and not an actual demo. As such, it is not necessarily representative of the final game - and in fact, the demo clearly states this in the final cutscene. So the demo doesn't really tell us much about the gameplay or story of the new Silent Hill game. At least not directly. And so any conclusions that any one comes to will need to be taken with some degree of skepticism.

P.T. - hallway ghost
The hallway is almost a character in and of itself, and it is gorgeously rendered in Kojima's Fox Engine.

Considering my nature as a Silent Hill "purist", I'm skeptical and cynical about any new developments in the franchise. As such, I'm going to begin by getting my concerns and fears regarding this project out of the way...

UPDATE (September 23, 2014 3:30 PM Pacific Time):
New Silent Hills teaser video released at last week's Tokyo Game Show

Last week, Konami and Hideo Kojima presented a new teaser video for Silent Hill at the Tokyo Game Show. I was going to write a post about my impressions from this video, but there's not enough new information to warrant a whole new post. You can view the video below:

The new video is very short, and doesn't give away much in terms of the narrative direction of the new game. In fact, it's probably just another "proof of concept" project, and not actually representative of the final product.

The hallway shown does look like it could possibly be the hallway of a school (or maybe a daycare). If it is a school, could it be a return to the familiar Midwhich Elementary?..

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