In my restless dreams, I see that town. Silent Hill. We used to go there often. Well, I’m waiting for you there now.
The Silent Hill series was a crazy important influence in my life. Actually, that’s an understatement. I first played Silent Hill 2 not long after my dad took me to a Robert McKee seminar on horror. This was, if I recall correctly, a few months before I left for college, and watching McKee celebrate the tropes of the genre, culminating in a scene-by-scene analysis of Ridley Scott’s Alien (my first time watching it, and none too soon), primed me to have my mind blown by that game’s oppressive, surreal melancholy. Up until that point, I’d played around with humor, absurdism, and science fiction, but that confluence of events led me to realize that horror—specifically, surreal or metaphysical horror—is my genre.
It also helped me form the first principles of my theory of interactive storytelling: that the emotional, the psychological, the internal are all exploded outward, transformed into environments to be explored; that key moments should never be shown to the player when they can be experienced, so that the player becomes complicit in the protagonist’s journey. A few other games—Fatal Frame, Rule of Rose, Shadow of the Colossus—helped finesse and cement this theory, but Silent Hill snuck in there first. It also introduced me to David Lynch, to Jacob’s Ladder, to Mark Z. Danielewski, and to many others.
I’ve come to accept the fact that Silent Hill is dead—not just dead but, in series-appropriate fashion, reanimated and debased and paraded and tormented and killed again. But I’m still grateful for what it gave me.
In the spirit of that gratitude, I authored a series of pieces for Entropy called Biography of a Place. In form, they’re all over the place: some function like reviews, while others focus on a specific element of character development or symbolism, based on what grabbed me about the game and the mood I was in at the time of writing. Where I’ve said the least, I trust the games to speak for themselves.
I’m all alone there now. Waiting for you.