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

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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Back to the Future II - dates
"Back to the Future Day" is rapidly approaching.

This fall, expect to see an onslaught of social media posts about how scientists and engineers have failed us because they haven't invented hover boards, self-drying clothes, holographic sharks, or flying cars. These sorts of Back to the Future memes have been showing up on social media every October for the past few years, often with the dates misquoted. These posts also tend to lament the lack of the nifty technologies showcased in Back to the Future.

And it isn't just Back to the Future that makes people get all nostalgic for the science fiction technology of yesteryear. At the turn of the century, people also bemoaned the huge gap between the manned spaceflight program depicted in Stanley Kubrick's film adaptation of Arthur Clark's classic novel 2001: A Space Odyssey. We also don't have food in the form of pills, or robot butlers, or lightsabers, or holodecks, or wrist phones either. Oh wait, we do have wrist phones, so we can check that one off the list.

But maybe the tech that we do have is actually better than what is depicted in contemporary science fiction movies.

Here's what bothers me: the same people who use their smart phones to post these "Back to the Future Day" memes to Facebook, and demand that scientists get off their lazy butts and build a working hoverboard, often take the technology that we do have for granted...

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Civilization V Brave New World - Ashurbanipal of Assyria

I have not had a chance to play all the new civilizations in the Brave New World expansion. Each new civilization is pretty interesting though, as they all have very unique bonuses and utilize novel game mechanics. I am planning on writing a brief strategy post about each of the new civilizations as I play them, and I'm going to start with my favorite of the new civs (so far): Assyria.

Ashurbanipal - portrait

Assyria is one of the most powerful and feared civilizations of the ancient world. Their prowess on the battlefield and brutal treatment of subjugated foes made their armies so feared by rivals, that most opponents would seal themselves behind walls rather than face Assyrian armies in the open field. That is, if they didn't just surrender in exchange for leniency. Because of this, Assyria became masters of siege warfare and developed many novel tactics and inventions to assist in the storming of walls and breaking of gates. This prowess in siege is represented in Civilization V: Brave New World with both the presence of the Siege Tower unique unit, and the military experience boost given by the Royal Library unique building, as well the strong incentive that Assyrian players are given for capturing cities.

Ashurbanipal was the last significant king of the Neo-Assyrian Empire. He ruled through most of the middle of the seventh century B.C.E. Although Ashurbanipal oversaw the beginning of the decline of the Assyrian Empire, he is best known for his legendary collection of cuneiform documents that were stored in his royal palace at Nineveh.

 

UPDATE January 6, 2014 (8:40 pm PST):

It was brought to my attention that I had erroneously reported that Assyria could not steal technologies from City-States. This impression was based on an early attempt that I had made to capture a city state, but for which I did not receive a technology. I had assumed that City-States did not qualify because they do not progress through the technology tree in the same manner as normal civs (although they do generate science, their tech level seems to be based on the tech level of the most advanced normal civs that they have met).

Upon further testing, I confirmed that Assyria can, in fact, steal techs from City-State. I have corrected the section about the Treasures of Nineveh ability, and have updated the strategy accordingly.

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Civilization V

Now that Gods & Kings has rearranged the tech tree, I decided I would revisit my old Code of Law mod and update it for the new expansion. That updated version is now uploaded onto the Steam Workshop.

Civilization V - Code of Law mod The new Code of Law technology requires Writing and leads to Philosophy and Civil Service.
It allows Courthouses and Open Borders treaties.

The primary intent of this mod is to move the Courthouse building away from Mathematics so that players do not gain access to the building that nullifies unhappiness from city occupation at the same time that they unlock the first siege weapon. This way, overly-aggressive players who beeline to Iron Working and/or Mathematics so they can capture cities will have to take a minor detour through the culture and science path of the tech tree in order to be able to annex those cities and start using them as unit-farms.

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Grid Clock provided by trowaSoft.

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