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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).

Silent Hill - Incubus concept art
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.
[...]
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).

The reason that Silent Hill 2's design was so successful (and unique within the series) is because SH2's excellent atmosphere was based around feelings of melancholy and depression rather than fear and threat. Exploring a character's personal guilt and depression works great when the entire game is designed around that central, unifying theme! It doesn't work quite so well when you try to combine it with a primal fear response. Depression makes you slow, apathetic, and unresponsive. Fear makes you alert and active.

The other Silent Hill games were designed to be horror games intended to frighten the player, not to depress the player. It's like the difference between the depressingly-introspective poetry of Edgar Allen Poe versus a more visceral "monter flick" like Bram Stoker's Dracula. Dracula will leave you searching under your bed and in your closet for monsters that are going to eat you, but Poe will leave you sobbing into your pillow with the anxiety that everything you love can be suddenly taken away from you.

It seems that Silent Hill fans have a preference for the emotional and melancholy themes of Silent Hill 2, and have projected them onto the entire series. Yes, those themes are present in the other games (especially SH3 and SH4), but they are not the basis of the narratives. Yet that hasn't stopped fans from making statements like this:

"The original Silent Hill series wasn't really about the 'Occult', it was just the first and to an extent the third one that were [...] Silent Hill stories are repressed-memory morality tales, where the protagonist finds themselves in a nightmarish world haunted by creatures that represent their own psyche"
   - Maiden T, in a comment on MegaBearsFan blog.

No. That was Silent Hill 2. The rest of the games were about occultism.

This is exactly the kind of mentality that has derailed the series and made it stale and boring. Every game since Origins has followed the same philosophy of trying to be about the character's secret repressed guilt, and it has made every one of those games feel derivative and predictable. Even if this cliche were perfectly executed every time (as it was in SH2), it would still get dull and tedious because we'd go into every game knowing that some deep-rooted guilt is going to be revealed at some point. There would be no mystery; no intrigue.

Original game plots, by Team Silent

So what were the actual plots of the Silent Hill games? Unless I am horribly mistaken, the plots of the first four games (original development / design team) are as follows:

Silent Hill - Dahlia
Occultism is center stage

Silent Hill [1] :

Harry Mason attempts to rescue his adopted daughter, Cheryl from a cult leader, Dahlia, who is attempting to perform a cult ritual using the 7-year old psychic girl to birth the cult's god.

The cult is definitely, unambiguously the primary focus of the narrative.

Furthermore, the game is not focused on Harry's psyche because the environments and monsters are drawn from the memories and personality of Alessa, who is accidentally projecting her chronic-pain-induced nightmares while trying to use her psychic powers to save the world from the influence of the god.

Silent Hill 2 :

James Sunderland must come to terms with the repressed memories and guilt associated with the death of his wife, and puts himself through his own, personal hell. The cult is definitely not the primary focus of this story. However, the cult is referenced numerous times, including:

Silent Hill 2 - sacred place
Silent Hill 2 is loaded with subtle references to the occult basis of the series.
  • as an aesthetic basis for the game's primary antagonist: Red Pyramid Thing
  • numerous references to religious persecution and spiritualism on the inscriptions of memorials scattered throughout town
  • documents found within the game (most notably the one about Walter Sullivan - see (4.)) that reveal town history and lore
  • cutscenes featuring Mary, in which she refers to the town as a "holy place"
  • and the unlockable "rebirth" ending, in which a cult ritual is performed in order to resurrect James' dead wife
  • and more...

Silent Hill 3 :

Silent Hill 3 - Vincent accuses Claudia
Vincent blames the decor on Claudia's imagination.

A new cult leader, Claudia, attempts to catalyze the birth of the cult's god within Heather by stimulating her with strong emotions such as fear, despair, and hatred, which, according to the cult's teachings, are the genesis of the god to begin with. Heather travels to the cult's church, learns about the cult's history, confronts the cult's leaders (Claudia and Vincent), and kills the cult's god in an act of revenge.

The cult is definitely the primary focus of the narrative.

On top of that, the creatures and environments are not exclusively drawn from Heather's psyche. They come from both Heather and Claudia's minds. Heather's psychology is not the focus of the narrative.

Silent Hill 4 - note about Alessa and Walter
The 21 Sacrements plan was a backup or supplement to the Alessa plan.

Silent Hill 4: the Room :

A cult ritual turns the apartment of Henry Townshend into a sort of psychic nexus in which he can directly access the memories of the soul of Walter Sullivan, a deceased convicted murderer who was orphaned and adopted by an orphanage operated by the cult in order to be raised to perform the 21 Sacrements ritual in an attempt to birth the cult's god so that he can see his mother again.

Once again, this game's narrative is exclusively centered around a cult ritual (in fact, it's more elaboration of the Alessa storyline).

Henry isn't a very expressive character, and we don't learn much about his life or history. All the locations and monsters in the game are derived from Walter's un-repressed memories - making the game absolutely not about Henry dealing with his own repressed memories.

Each game has unique themes, but the narrative focus of the series is on the cult

So of the first four games developed by the original creative team, three of them were primarily focused around the cult. Specifically, they were about various attempts by the cult to birth their god. The remaining (SH2) was a stand-alone, personal story, but it was still subtly imbued with cult elements.

All of the games do have themes of personal loss and tragedy, but they are never the central focus of the narrative, nor does a characters' depression or guilt become a major factor - except in Silent Hill 2:

  • In the first game, Harry is trying to find his lost daughter, who has re-combined with Alessa. There are several mentions that Harry's wife had died. That is the extent of the personal loss in this game. The predominant themes are anxiety, confusion, and claustraphobia, as well as conspiratorial undertones. There are no repressed memories or guilt of any kind.
  • In the third game, Heather is seeking revenge for her murdered father. Hate and anger take center stage as predominant themes of this game, along with birth and faith. The fact that Heather remembers her past life as Alessa is solely a narrative device to catch the player up on the events of the first game - it is not a central focus or theme of the game. In fact, Heather reads about those events in a journal that Harry left, so it isn't entirely clear whether she actually remembers it happening, or she's just describing what Harry had written.
  • The fourth game revolves around the villain's desire to reunite with the mother who abandoned him. Death, decay, neglect, and voyeurism are the most prominent themes of this game. Neither Henry nor Walter have repressed memories; although, Walter is the victim of brainwashing, and an avatar of the part of his mind that represents his "child-like innocence" does play a conflicting role.

Each game had a unique set of themes that tied to the characters, narrative, and gameplay. They weren't all based on the same motifs and cliches. They weren't all based on repressed guilt. And they weren't all themed around the main character's psyche. In fact, all the metaphor and symbolism in the games' monsters and creatures in all four games comes from the psyche of the villain (or perceived villain, in the case of Alessa up until you get to the Amusement Park and realize that Dahlia had been manipulating you). The only reason that Silent Hill 2 is themed around Jame's psyche (and Eddie's, and Angela's) is because they are all their own villains!

Other developers attempts at "official" fan-fiction

And when development was moved outside of Konami, both Homecoming and Origins retained significant cult influences on their narratives (i.e. the narratives were primarily about the cult):

Silent Hill Homecoming :

Silent Hill Homecoming - Book of the Faith
Shepherd's Glen Cult's "Book of Belief".

A tangential sect of the same cult from the first 4 games has relocated to Sheperd's Glen, where they must perform a cult ritual in which they sacrifice a child every generation in order to appease the cult gods so as not to incur their wrath.

This plot is definitely about the occult (albeight a tangential, schism group) - even Double Helix knew that the franchise was about occultism, and they didn't try to take that away.

Yes, they threw in repressed memory stuff, but that was secondary to the cult-based primary plot, as well as sloppy and contrived. This implies that the repressed memory elements of the plot might have been an afterthought or were forced onto the development team by the publisher.

Silent Hill Origins :

Silent Hill Origins - Cult gathering around Alessa
The cult gathers to decide what to do with Alessa.

A prequel to the first game, in which Travis Grady rescues Alessa from a cult ritual only to be made into an unwilling partcipant in the cult's attempt to birth the cult god. Travis seals the cult god into the Flauros so that Alessa can split her soul and trigger the events of the first game.

This game is just as unambiguously about the cult as the first game is.

Again, this game includes repressed memory stuff, but that feels like filler material for a the primary narrative's butchering of Silent Hill's occult backstory.

Still a majority focus on the cult

At this point, four out of six Silent Hill games had a plot that directly involved a cult trying to birth its god, and one more game (Homecoming) was about a cult sacrificing children in order to pacify that same god. That's five out of six Silent Hill games that are directly about a cult and their worship of a god. An overwhelming majority of the series, at this point, is focused around occultism, and the specific cult that it is about is the unifying thread that ties all the games in the series together. In fact, the cult is more prominent than the titular town of Silent Hill at this point! A majority of Silent Hill 3, Silent Hill 4, and Homecoming do not even take place in Silent Hill.

The creators of Homecoming and Origins also recognized the themes of personal (i.e. familial) loss and tragedy, and incorporated those into their games. In Origins, Travis must face the memory of his mother attempting to kill him in some sort of postpartum depression. In Homecoming, Alex is searching for his lost brother in an attempt to combine the major premises of both of the first two Silent Hill games.

Only Downpour and Shattered Memories did not involve themselves in occultism, and they ended up being thematically the worst games in the series, and felt the most disconnected from the rest of the franchise. These games also maintained the family tragedy themes, but the natures of the various endings erode these themes. Can we really sympathize with Cheryl's loss in Shattered Memories if her dad ends up being a neglectful, womanizing alcoholic? Similarly, can we sympathize with Murphy if he ends up being a remorseless child-murderer? More confusing yet: are we supposed to?

Silent Hill - not guilty characters
Characters in the first four Silent Hill games who are not overwhelmed with personal guilt.

RE: personal guilt in Silent Hill

Prior to Homecoming, only Silent Hill 2 was about the protagonists' guilt. Harry was not guilty of anything except being a devoted dad. Heather was not guilty of anything except being a reincarnation of Alessa (who was not guilty of anything except for trying to stop the god's birth and destruction of the world). Henry was not guilty of anything except for signing a lease to the wrong apartment (and maybe being a peeping Tom).

So only one out of four original games had anything to do with a protagonist confronting his or her own inner guilt.

Furthermore, only Silent Hill 2 had repressed memories as a predominant theme. Yes, Heather had repressed memories of her past life as Alessa in SH3, but that is incidental, and not the driving force of the narrative. Recalling memories of her past life was just a way for the designers to give the player a recap of the first game, which could have been handled just as easily through reading journal entries from Harry.

So repressed memories is only even a factor in two of the original four games, and is only a major component of one of those narratives.

So to claim that a plot device that is only used in 1/4th of the series is "what the series was always about" is empirically and unequivocally false.

Yet, by the time of Origins and Homecoming, amnesia and repressed guilt had become a secondary element of the plot in an attempt to recreate the success of Silent Hill 2. And by Shattered Memories and Downpour, it had become the only plot device. Shattered Memories had reduced the narrative to a therapy session, and Downpour turned the town into some kind of "limbo" from which a character cannot escape unless he or she confronts his or her inner demons.

Silent Hill Downpour - DJ Ricks in limbo
Spinning records for eternity in limbo is the punishment the town has bestowed on the D.J..
What is he guilty of? Assuming he even exists...

Furthermore, the town in Downpour isn't even behaving as it did in SH2 anymore. In SH2, the world reshapes reality based on the mental state of one or more of its occupants as a sort of organic interaction between the character's mind and the supernatural influences of the region; whereas, in Downpour, there is no reality, and the world is operating via apparently consciously-designed and deliberately-executed rules. Suddenly, the town isn't reacting to [and giving physical form to] the characters' own desires to punish themselves; it is proactively executing its own will to punish them (and in the case of several Downpour endings: for sins that the character didn't even commit!).

Is this shift from reactive punishment to proactive punishment an intentional narrative decision by the designers at Vatra? Are they trying to tell us that the rules of the game's world have changed? Or did they (and the producers at Konami) just not understand the earlier games? Considering how badly they blundered Downpour's story in general, I'm leaning towards the latter.

The success of Silent Hill 2 (and of James as a character) is that we sympathize with him because the decisions he had to make were very difficult ones. His actions lie very thoroughly in a moral gray area that make James neither a saint nor a villain. He is clearly a very tormented individual, and his personal history is consistent in any replay of the game. So every player sees the same sympathetic character, and the only thing that changes is how he handles the revelation - not the content of the revelation itself.

Silent Hill Downpour - DJ Ricks explains the rules Silent Hill 2- James needs punishment
A fundamental difference in Silent Hill's behavior between Downpour and Silent Hill 2:
[LEFT] Murphy and D.J. Ricks are being punished by Silent Hill in Downpour (what are Ricks' sins?);
[RIGHT] whereas, in Silent Hill 2, Silent Hill was merely making tangible James' own desire to punish himself.

Travis' story probably could have been a much better and more tragic tale if it had been the exclusive focus of the game and if the designers had a little more talent and consistent vision. Origins is quite literally two games in one: a fallacious retelling of the first game's backstory, and a tale of personal tragedy. The two are completely unrelated, but without the cult half of the story, the game loses its connection to the Silent Hill franchise. Homecoming's writers did a much better job of integrating the personal tragedy into the cult-based story, but the story that was written is just bad.

Downpour's endings just didn't make sense. Depending on which one you get, it's impossible to sympathize with Murphy, or (in some cases) even know what the heck was going on.

This is what the "repressed-guilt" myth has done to the series. This obsession with rebranding the entire Silent Hill series based solely on Silent Hill 2 is condemning the franchise to a slow and painful (and tedious) death. The designers of new games are constrained to this tired cliche and are forced to actively avoid exploring new and interesting elements of the setting and lore out of a fear of deviating too far from Silent Hill 2's "formula of success" or alienating fans who are stuck with the impression of the series being about guilt and memory-repression. They completely ignore the merits of the themes, styles, and concepts explored in Silent Hill [1] and 3, despite the fact that those games were also critically and commercially successful, and they fail to realize why Silent Hill 2 was successful to begin with.

Silent Hill - travel brochure
There are still plenty of reasons to revisit the setting of Silent Hill.

Moving forward with the series

However, just because the series' history has been about a specific cult group, doesn't mean that the series has to continue down those lines. But instead of going off on completely unrelated tangents, why not first try to explore the elements of the series' mythos and lore which have been established, but not been explored? The first four games are littered with details about hundreds of years of town history, including mysteries, scandals, and corruption. Those could be ripe concepts for new games moving forward.

While I would prefer that future games retain some thematic and narrative connections to the older games, if future developers make great stand-alone games that are named Silent Hill, then I won't complain [as much]. I'd still rather not see Silent Hill turn into the "Twilight Zone" of video games. If Konami wants to make a series of stand-alone horror games about personal guilt and characters that have been dead all along, then why do they have to put the "Silent Hill" label on it? Just let Silent Hill be what it's always been, and release new games with new titles. I know you're terrified of releasing new IP that doesn't have any name recognition, but if you make good games, then people will buy them, and you'll have a new name to cash-in on! If you keep going down this same path, then eventually the name "Silent Hill" will be synonymous with "crappy, shallow, un-scary horror game". And when that happens (if it hasn't already), then the name-recognition will come back and bite your future sales figures in the ass, and there won't be any fans left.

Comments (17) -

Fabricio Destro
Fabricio Destro
03/13/2014 04:32:04 #

Good to see you creating new posts again!

I agree with you completely. It's like most of the fans forget about any SH "that is not SH2" due to its popularity. Keiichiro Toyama himself said once that he directed SH1 because he loved themes of occultism. How can everyone dismiss that?

By the way, thanks for making all these strong points, your posts are very fun and entertaining to read!

Greetings from Brazil.

Chris Kirkpatrick
Chris Kirkpatrick
03/19/2014 14:06:13 #

I'm a new reader to your material and I have to say your ideas, evidence, and opinions have really been a great read. I started my adventure into Silent Hill with the first game (however rather late to the scene having only been playing the series for a few years) and have played through almost all the main story games except for 4. I never finished the first one frankly because at the time the gamea scared me so much I couldn't play it alone and haven't had another chance since. I have always loved the series almost 100% because of the story, so your blog posts immediately caught my eye.

Now that my life story is over, I have a few thoughts on this subject.

Absolutely no doubt is the overall theme, purpose, or point of the series the occult. I can't understand how anyone could not see that unles they only played 2 Downpour and/or Shattered Memories. While I share your opinion of the first four games being amazing (I may have not played 4 but I have through the story of it) I also enjoyed the newer games in tue series as well. The ones that deviate from the cult story arc were an interesting look at the results of being consumed by revenge (Downpour) and an overall rejection of reality (Shattered Memories). I still liked these games for the story as I do the cult centered games, but the reasons I do and the experience gathered are different between the two types for me. Its similar to the Resident Evil franchise which I've been a huge fan of and have played since I was a kid with 2. The newer games are so different gameplay wise I almost cinsider them a different franchise entirely, but still very much enjoy the experience for different reasons. Interestingly the two different series never appeared to me as rivals in the survival horror genre since the methods of horro are very different.

I'm playing through Silent Hill 3 for the first time after more or less studying the story for a while. In regards to the other games I've played before this one, once I got accustomed to series it hasn't really seriously messed with me like it first did...until I played 3 finally. Regardless of knowing what in general is going on this game's dark occult atmosphere has made me jump, yell, question what was in the game vs. what was in my house, and love every second of it.

This dark cult centered world of The Order is certainly what the series is about, not individual characters and their guilt. The experience I'm having with 3 is Silent Hill, at least I believe so.

Beyond that, what if future titles retuned that? Where is there in the story of The Order and their home to go at this point? Personally I would like to be taken back to earlier days of the Order and the town, maybe ti whatever it is that causes Silent Hill to have these occurrences we experience in the games. I don't think Travis Grady is the first person to "stumble" (seemingly by chance when they first enter the town) into the Hell caused by The Order or their own subconscious dealing with whatever it needs to deal with. We know that the mailman seen in Downpour has been in the town for a very long time, so there must be other people involved with The Order we don't know about that had interesting stories as well.

I agree that Origins seems to be two different storylines thrown together. Do you think it would have flowed better if they had givent Travis' parents some connection with The Order? We know they at least lived in the town or at least his mother was admitted there. I think it would've been easy to blend the two more by giving his parents some ties as just regular members or something.

Well I'm done rambling. Continue to write on the series!

03/20/2014 06:58:46 #

Thanks Chris for your impressions and feedback. It's always gratifying to hear that there are others out there who appreciate this series for what it is, rather than what some fans want it to be (copy-cats of Silent Hill 2).

I'll admit, I've only played through Origins once, so there are a lot of details of that game that I don't remember. I'm not sure if Travis or his parents were tied to the cult in any way. I think that in order to tie the stories together, Travis' family would have to be specifically tied to Dahlia, Alessa, and the god-birthing ritual; otherwise, the connection between the two plot lines would be purely superficial and still feel tacked-on.

Regarding where I think the series can go from here: I do have an older post about that very thing at www.megabearsfan.net/.../Silent-Hill-Over.aspx, as well as a post specifically about the possibility of multiplayer in Silent Hill at www.megabearsfan.net/.../...-Silent-Hill-game.aspx. Feel free to check those out and give feedback if you wish.

04/25/2014 10:41:50 #

It has been very long time since I've read an article about Silent Hill as good as this is.

Congratulations, mate!

I mean, I love SH since SH1 (which is my favorite, although SH2 and SH3 are excellent as well), and I've played as much as I've been able the games, searched, disserted and everything, and I think I can say I know and understand pretty well the original, true series, and I must say I never read or heard anyone saying what SH is really about (not even Twin Perfect, at least not directly)! And to think it's so obvious... I mean, if you played SH1 and SH3, and even SH4 you realize that, among other concepts, SH is about occultism. Heck, even SH2 is about occultism despite focusing more on the emotions! The best example of them all, the Rebirth ending...

And among many other potent reasons, that's what makes of SH1 my personal favorite. And that's what is missing, again among other things, in post-SH4 stuff...

Shanx
Shanx
06/16/2014 01:28:47 #

Well SH is about both. Alessa Gillespie "created" SH mainly to punish Order's members, but anyone with repressed guilt deep in their hearts will be dragged to the city.

06/16/2014 04:38:19 #

@Shanx:

Not necessarily. I would suggest that you replay the first and third Silent Hill game.

The "Manifestation of Delusions" article in the Midwhich library reserve (silenthill.wikia.com/.../Manifestations_of_Delusions) implies that nightmares can be manifested into physical form by fear or stress:

Poltergeists are among these. Negative
emotions like fear, worry or stress
manifest into external energy with
physical effects. Nightmares have, in
some cases, been shown to trigger them.

However, one such phenomenon doesn't
appear to happen to just anyone. Although
it's not clear why, adolescents, especially
girls, are prone to such occurrences.


The fact that Alessa is spreading the Seal around the city also implies that she is trying to seal off the town from the demon, rather than allow it. So it would seem that Alessa is actually trying to protect everybody (including the cultists) from the influence of the demon, but that her own nightmares are being projected onto the town accidentally.

This is verified SH3 by the Memory of Alessa note that is left after Heather defeats the Memory of Alessa on the carousel in the Otherworld Amusement Park (http://silenthill.wikia.com/wiki/Memory_of_Alessa). In that note, Alessa specifically states that :

When I think of the endless pain it will bring when it is birthed...
I decided that, instead of the suffering and cruelty I endured in that sick room...
That I would like to bestow a more gentle and peaceful death on "myself".


All of this combined strongly suggests that Alessa is not intentionally punishing anyone, nor is the Otherworld any kind of repressed guilt. There is no desire for revenge from Alessa. The Otherworld is an accidental projection of her fear, pain, and suffering.

Brian
Brian
08/04/2014 03:53:36 #

I think you've misunderstood the crucial difference between a story's plot and it's theme. The fact that the narrative is structured around a cult doesn't mean that it's theme is occultism. That doesn't even make sense. Occultism isn't a theme. In a literary sense, a theme has to say something about life, for example "there are sometimes unintended consequences to repressing your emotions." That's a theme. Occultism is just a tool for the plot. If SH said something about the nature of occultism, spirituality, etc. then that would be a theme.

Furthermore, you've conflated this confusion with your dislike of SH's actual themes in later games. The fact that you think themes of repressed guilt are ruining the series does not mean that those themes don't exist.

Michael
Michael
09/18/2014 14:37:05 #

I agree with Brian. I enjoy all the Silent Hill games. I personally think the cult plots of the game are interesting but I get a little bored with them. I love the story of the first game. I would agree that the series as a whole is not focused on the main protagonist's psyche other than SH2 and some of the later games. I would argue that the town of Silent Hill shapes itself based on one or more or all of the people "brought" to it. For example in Silent Hill 1 all of the monsters and areas are manifestations of Alessa and what she experienced in the town. One of these areas is a hospital. However in Silent Hill 2 there is a completely different hospital based around James' psyche. In my opinion the town shifts and changes based on the guilt or pain or hate of someone who has come to the town. (James, Alessa, Cheryl, ect) There is a heavy focus on the Cult... great.... that doesn't mean every game from now to eternity needs to revolve around what the cult does. You agree that if the series is all about the repressed guilt of the person you play as the series would become predictable and there would be no surprises. (I agree) But the same could be said about 20 plots all based around the cult birthing their (stupid) God.
The main point I'm trying to make is that their are repressed guilt plots, there are a lot of cult plots, but the series would get repetitive if every game focused on one or the other. The next game should do something new and original similar to how Silent Hill 2 did something almost totally unique from Silent Hill 1 in scope and storyline... The same way Silent Hill 4 further redefined the storyline. As long as they do something new and unique but retain pieces of what Silent Hill, as a whole, is about (the cult, repressed guilt, depression,  ect) it will be an excellent game!

09/24/2014 05:08:39 #

@Brian and Michael:

I don't think I said that every future game needs to be about the cult (in fact, I explicitly stated that in the concluding section of this post). I said that games need to acknowledge their existence. Even SH2 maintained some of the influences of the cult despite being unrelated from a plot perspective. It expounded upon the history of the town in meaningful ways that related back to the cult storyline from the first game, even though SH2 did not directly involve said cult.

Even Homecoming's concept was not inherently flawed. The idea of exploring a schism within the cult was a perfectly valid approach. That game was just very poorly designed and executed at almost every level (including the script). As a counter-example, Origins focused on the cult as its primary plot device. But the writers' didn't seem to understand the first game (specifically, Alessa's motivations), and so their interpretation was flawed, and that game turned out very poorly. So just because the narrative involves the cult doesn't mean that the game is automatically good.

Downpour and Shattered Memories completely divorced themselves from the cult themes, and so did not at all feel connected to the rest of the franchise. Shattered Memories* was an interesting premise (being a sequel to SH1's bad ending), and I would be willing to give it a pass if the game had more going on in it. Similarly, Downpour** had some good ideas going into it, but the story was stupid and the mechanics were sloppy.

But my core point is that any game that ignores the cult influences is in serious jeopardy of missing a key element of the series' overarching story and a major reason for why Silent Hill is what it is. I even have a post from a couple years ago in which I suggested some ideas for game plots*** that would progress the franchise's overarching plots from the first four games, and they don't all directly involve the cult nor are they based around birthing the god. I want to see SH explore new and interesting ideas just as much as you do, but I also want to see the series stay true to the original creators' visions. I encourage you to read that post, and I would be interested in hearing both of your thoughts!

*Shattered Memories review: www.megabearsfan.net/.../...d-Memories-review.aspx
**Downpour review: www.megabearsfan.net/.../...l-Downpour-review.aspx
***Silent Hill sequel plot ideas: www.megabearsfan.net/.../Silent-Hill-Over.aspx

@Michael:

Yes, Alchemilla and Brookhaven are two different hospitals. One is a medical hospital, and the other is a mental institution. They both actually exist within the city of Silent Hill (in the games), and are different places. So it is not the case that Alchemilla changed into Brookhaven because of James, or that Brookhaven was summoned out of the ether for SH2. Rather, James' desire for punishment was rooted in psychological trauma; whereas, Alessa's trauma was primarily physical. So in SH1, Harry is guided to the medical hospital; and in SH2, James is guided to the mental hospital (which is a different place).

Malik
Malik
09/24/2014 07:48:30 #

I have to disagree. The series has never established the cult as the basis for the goings-on in Silent Hill. It is never explicitly stated that the cult or Alessa are the true source of the supernatural power in Silent Hill. As evidenced by Silent Hill 2, the more likely explanation is that the town is like a boggart that changes its appearance either subjectively to reflect the negative state of the individual, or objectively to reflect the strongest negative influence in the area. It primarily reflects the antagonist in games 1, 3 and 4 because the protagonist's "energy" is more positive than that of the antagonist, but the two are still related in some way, giving the town a reason to bring the protagonist along on the antagonist's ride. Think of it this way: in the second game, the characters have had intensely negative emotional/physical/sexual experiences. The "energy" they produce and which the town perceives is therefore highly negative, negative enough to warrant a subjective physical manifestation. Harry, Heather* and Henry have never had experiences of this calibre, and the energy they produce and which the town perceives is nowhere near as negative as the energy produced by the suffering of Alessa and Angela, the guilt of Eddie and James, the "god" growing inside Heather, or the energy produced by Walter's 21 Sacraments. Nevertheless, Harry, Heather and Henry are all related to the antagonist(s), and they all have a reason to enter their manifestation of Silent Hill/Otherworlds.

*About halfway through the game Heather's father is butchered, the hate and anger within her begins to grow (as Claudia intended), and she makes her way to Silent Hill, newly aware of her past. It is at this point that we begin to see manifestations of her own psyche. For example, it is implied at a few points in the game that Heather has a mild fear of mirrors, hence the hospital storeroom scene in the latter half of the game. Whether or not God's growing influence is fully the cause of this kind of manifestation is unclear, but it is apparent that her own mind is where the initial idea comes from and either God, the town, or some combination of both are just taking advantage of her negative associations. Also, this may just be a coincidence, but notice how Brookhaven (a mental institution) appears only in Silent Hill 2 and 3 (albeit in different forms), suggesting that both protagonists have some issues they need to deal with. You'd think Heather would've ended up at Alchemilla otherwise, considering its significance to Alessa.

To elaborate on the initial paragraph, in Silent Hill 1, the Cult was very active in the town, and the town manifested the fears/experiences of Alessa. Harry Mason was essentially drawn to the town at the urging of his adopted daughter Cheryl (who harbors part of Alessa's soul, and who was called to the town by Alessa herself) and because of the appearance of Alessa on the side of the road, causing him to crash the car and chase his missing daughter (who the Cult is also looking for). Because of these direct relations to the Cult and Alessa aspects of the town, he was subjected to the "Alessa Manifestation" of Silent Hill.

In Silent Hill 2, we can assume that the Cult is inactive and/or the emotional states of the various characters take precedence. James, Angela and Eddie all came to Silent Hill because of their pasts, not because of any association with the Cult or Alessa, and so the town reflects their inner demons and they never encounter the "Alessa Manifestation."

In Silent Hill 3, the Cult is active once more and "God" is growing inside Heather. "God" is the primary influence on the version of Silent Hill that Heather encounters (whenever the Otherworld is encountered, Heather experiences pain and clutches at her stomach), but it is also impacted by her status as a reincarnation of Alessa, and her own fears and experiences.

I won't go into 4 because I've never played the whole thing.

Anyway, as we can see, the cult does appear in several games, but Silent Hill isn't "all about the cult."Silent Hill is about the seemingly unexplainable ability of a town to hold up a dark mirror to the experiences, emotional states, and fears of those within it. The cult is but a single conduit for Silent Hill's Lovecraftian evil, just as repressed memories/guilt are only a single means to the same end. I personally believe that by the fifth Silent Hill game produced by Team Silent, they would've ditched both (or at least the increasingly-tired cult story) and invented a new reason for the town to manifest the way it does. You don't need a cult plot, or a repressed guilt plot, to make a Silent Hill game. You need a plot about someone entering a town with the dark and unnatural power to create their own worst nightmare (or someone else's). Whether the town does this because of a cult and a tortured little girl or a repressed memory or any other reason is irrelevant, there are a thousand different ways of utilizing the town's evil. Personally, I'd rather new games in the series chose one of those instead of rehashing or even rebooting old plots. The truth is, the cult story was just as tired by the end of Silent Hill 3 (and ostensibly Silent Hill 4) as the repressed guilt plot was by Downpour.

Btw, the Order plot in Silent Hill: Homecoming was just as sloppy, contrived and repetitive as the repressed memory plot. I can tell you hold a special place in your heart for the cult aspects of Silent Hill, which is fine, but it's clearly clouding your judgement.

You basically say the "repressed guilt" story has been done to death, but ignore the fact that just as many games have had the cult story in them. Literally every game after Silent Hill 4 has failed in some spectacular way, regardless of whether it was about the a cult or if it was a Silent Hill 2 ripoff. The cult does not a Silent Hill game make. If we want a game truly worthy of the title Silent Hill 5, we need to realize that after 3 out of 4 cult-centric Silent Hill games there's not really much left to say on the subject. Way back in 2001 Team Silent demonstrated that an authentic Silent Hill game without the cult could be even more successful and beloved than one with the cult. The series isn't limited to two different kinds of stories, and removing the cult doesn't automatically = a Silent Hill 2 ripoff.

Nexusshark
Nexusshark
09/26/2014 01:54:20 #

@Malik
Dude, I think you haven't paid enough attention to his blogs, especially to the final paragraph. He never said that the series is supposed to be only about the cult. And it doesn't look to me that you disagree with him as much as you think you do. First of all, the story of the whole franchise was born on the cult and it's failed attemts to birth their god by using Alessa as the surrogate mother. The events of the first game have never been encountered before in the town. Kaufmann is just as surprised as Harry to encounter monsters in town. The otherworld, the nightmare, the monsters ect. never happened before. Yes, there was a spiritual force surrounding the town before the events of SH1, but it was Alessa's power that corrupted the power of the town and made it related to the god's will. Silent Hill 2 is an aftermath story. The power of the town then called people with darkness in their hearts in one way or another and the characters inner darkness manifested itself in various shapes. But contrary to popular believe, Silent Hill 2 does not ignore the cult's existence. It has various references to it. Silent Hill 3 is a direct sequel to the first game. It was made in the attemt to finish up the story and end the series. Silent Hill 4 was originally intended to be a spin-off, but fans demanded another SH game, so the game was made to coinside with the Silent Hill story.
Silent Hill 4 refers back to both Silent Hill 1 and 2. Walter Sullivan, a serial killer from the newspaper articles in SH2 was an orphan who was adopted in an orphanage lead by the cult of Silent Hill. Dahlia has taught Walter everything about their cult rituals and brainwashed him into using him for the 21 sacrements to "reunite with his mother", which is actually an alternative way to summon the cult's god.

What the post team silent games do is just use and recycle previous ideas instead of giving something new. At the same time they also contradict established elements in the story and the mechanics of the power of the town, as this blog pointed out. He never denied the fact that Homecomings story was badly written, regardless if it was the cult of the inner demon thing. What matters is the result. Homecoming simply gets more credit for at least TRYING to stay true to the established cult story. But this blog isn't actally about which Silent Hill game is good and which is not. But if the game has no cult elements, references or anything, then it's not a Silent Hill game. Silent Hill 2 DOES have references, and the Pyramid Head is based on the cult's executioner and is also a homage to Valtiel, the one closest to God.

The original Silent Hill games established new elements and explored other things that haven't been explored yet. Every game from Team Silent told us something new. Silent Hill 1 set up the premisse and started the nightmare. It introduced the cult, the otherworld, Alessa, the town and the power of the town. Silent Hill 2 was an aftermath to the first game. It explores the nature of the spiritual force of the town aswell as exploring the town history further. And we see the state of the town after the events of SH1. SH2 could not have happened without the events of SH1, where the power of the town was twisted and corrupted by Alessa's power and the god's influence. Silent Hill 3 continues the story of Silent Hill 1 and we find out what happened to Harry and Cheril after they escaped. We learn that they started a new life under different names and went into hiding from the cult. SH3 also explores the cult and it's teachings further. We learn that the cult has changed it's believes after the events of SH1. But SH3 was also supposed to finish up the story as Owaku stated. While SH3 was being made, the Team Silent has split into two, with the second team working on another game that would later become Silent Hill 4. SH4 wasn't as heavy on the occult story as 1 and 3 and is more of a side story (kinda like Silent Hill 2), but the story has still a lot of connection to the cult. SH4 explores the cult's influence on the outside world aswell as Walter Sullivan, who was first mentioned in Silent Hill 2. We also see James's father, Frank. Walter performs a cult ritual that created a nightmare world, that consists of and is limited to Walter's memories. This world of Walter however later influences the real world, creating a similar effect as the spiritual power of Silent Hill.

The newer games however, continue to contradict what has been established in the original series. Not only that, but they continue to copy the story elements of Silent Hill 2 and they do a poor job at that AND the cult side of the story. But the inner demon side of the story is always the same and it end in a cheap and contrived revelation, ending the game in one of various confusing and contradictory ways.

No, not having the cult does not automatically mean it's a copy of SH2. Megabearsfan never said that. He actually has made a blog about what possible Silent Hill stories could be made WITHOUT copying SH2. So you clearly misunderstood Megabearsfan. Yes, Silent Hill isn't solely about the cult, but the cult is still a major part of the Silent Hill mythology and narrative.

Katy
Katy
12/29/2015 03:33:09 #

I don't see why it's one or the other. I see the theme's of both occultism and repressed guilt. Gods and reincarnations of our darkest desires and fears. One's vision of these creatures might be different than another, but collectively they begin to appear the same. Like a Jungian archetypes.
The Order creates their gods out fear and punishment, collective emotions within them.

BeatTheGG
BeatTheGG
02/26/2016 16:19:46 #

@Katy

It's not about both because the themes involving repressed guilt aren't present in any of the core games but SH2. So it being an important, unavoidable staple to the overall franchise isn't possible. The cult are at the epicenter of this twisted power that now takes on different forms when projecting peoples nightmares outward. There is no repressed guilt to be found in Alessa, Claudia or Walter's nightmares. Only dark pasts.

02/27/2016 12:16:41 #

Well, what Katy is trying to say is that the cult created the god out of their own sense of guilt and desire for punishment (are they Catholic?). Thus, guilt is a dominant theme of the series because the cult (who Katy perceives as feeling guilty) are a dominant power in the series, and the entire series' narrative is derived from their guilt-inspired need to create the god. Or something like that.

I don't agree with Katy's particular interpretation that the cultists feel guilt and a need for punishment. In the first game, they just want the god to create a paradise. I don't recall there being any guilt in that motivation. In Silent Hill 3, the cult's beliefs had shifted. Claudia's flock believed that the world had become corrupt and needed salvation. Birthing god would allow her to create paradise and save the faithful (or possibly everyone). You could make a case for Claudia wanting to save humanity from its own collective guilt, but I don't think that the cultists themselves feel guilty or desire punishment. In fact, they may just be attempting to fulfill prophecy. But even so, guilt isn't a driving force of the narratives for any except the second game. Even though it's possible that collective guilt [of humanity] might tangentially be a factor in the causal chain leading up to the games, it's far from being a dominant theme of the series, let alone "what the games are about".

Alex
Alex
06/25/2016 04:50:18 #

You forgot to mention maybe the most tangible aspect of Silent Hill: The consistent reference to aliens who are a big part of the occult!
Joke aside, Kojima surely knows more on the subject as a whole than the majority of you think he knows..... or even yourselves know....
Silent hill is all about the occult. Just look at all those hermetic symbols you don't understand their meanings if you don't do a search. Even if some icons have generic functions throughout the games, the ancient and magical symbols are there! However, the game won't point out their true significance and they will remain hermetic.
You'll have to go deep in physics to understand that a space travel through a spacecraft carrying physical things at the proposed speeds is not possible for many reasons. You'll have to read unpartial books on the subject (NOT THE NEW AGE ONES). Check the bible. You'll be blown away.
Aliens are a concept known in occult circles as the ascended masters. The light made and light giving beings that will trigger the human species forward to the next level of consciousness, bodily and spiritual evolution...
......Yes, you need to use the Channeling Stone to achieve that ending..... Got it? Again in occult circles you'll only need to perform channelling when you want to contact the immaterial, interdimensional, all in the spiritual sense. Do you need to do channeling to talk to a physical friend beside you or to someone physical on the other side of the world? There are many easier ways to talk to physical beings and they don't include channeling.
These are all fruits from the same tree. Don't be fooled. And don't be surprised because the series include endings based on the alien subject, based on the occultic ascended masters, based on those who are not saying the truth.
Kojima absolutely knew the connection and maybe had the total image on the subject.
Read, search with open mind. You can find the truth.
I found the absolute of truths: Jesus is the real savior and even advised us of these  delusions in the real world.

Leonardo
Leonardo
09/14/2016 21:32:51 #

Excellent article.

Leonardo
Leonardo
09/14/2016 21:41:15 #

Talk about the Aliens - Demons conection in the UFO endings.

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