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I Will Be Traipsing Through Silent Hill

  Greetings Internet denizens! How are you today? That’s delightful. Say hi to the kids for me.

  So, today I’m going to be embarking on a quest I’ve been meaning to do for a while—I’m going to do a straight run through of the Silent Hill franchise and I’m going to blog about it. This means that I’m going to have a wonkier update schedule than usual, which I would apologize for but it’s my blog and I can do what I damn well please. There’s also a chance that I will occasionally pop in for other writerly musings, but I’m going to be focused on the Silent Hill thing.

Zeus is Dead
I mean, how can I not talk about this tomorrow?

  Why am I doing this? Well, Silent Hill is a super-long running franchise that got its start back in the Playstation era. It was the second major horror-themed game I played (outside of Resident Evil) and I absolutely loved it. Over time, though, I’ve started to genuinely sour on the series as a whole. But to be fair, I think that’s most of the world—outside of Silent Hill 2, most of the series canon has been lamented for any number of reasons. After some time, I started to wonder just why that is.

  So this is an exercise in trying to figure out a few things about Silent Hill from a purely gameplay perspective. Despite my own knowledge of the franchise, I will be endeavoring to understand the story and various elements without diving into the Internet for answers. That is to say, I will not rely on the Internet to tell me the agreed-upon “whys” and “whats” of the series. The enemies will be referred to as I describe, the plot elements will be what I gather from the game itself, and basically I will take only information that is organically seeded to me as a player as truth.

  The main reason for this is that I have had a sinking feeling for a while that the Silent Hill series writ-large is not really as smart as it is given credit for. But I also think that, for the most part, it hasn't gotten as fundamentally bad as people think it has, either. I have a (unresearched, unvarifiable) notion that a lot of the various incarnations of Silent Hill are definitely things that the fan community has done a lot more work at making the games “good” than the developers. Which is fine—many artistic works rely on their fans to keep pushing the original content in new directions. In the end, I think that the franchise is probably one of the more versatile horror intellectual properties out there, but in order to exploit such a position, it needs to be “comfortably average” instead of “visionary”.

  This isn’t going to be a popular opinion, of course. But hopefully by going through the games, I can begin to understand why the series has garnered such loyalty over the years, despite relatively consistent poor reception post-Silent Hill 3. I’m sure there will be people that assume I can’t actually be a good judge of these games, as I’ve played them all before. In a way they will have a point. It will be impossible to get that “first run through” back. But perhaps enough historical distance has past where I can look forward at the games rather than look back at where they came from.

  And, in the interest of full transparency, I did write two plays inspired by Silent Hill (or ripped-off of, depending on how generous you are… although it’s not like Silent Hill is innocent of such shenanigans (also, I just realized that Otherworld has a lot more in common with From Beyond and In the Mouth of Madness than anything else… that’s… um… good?)), so I have a fair degree of love for the source material. That being said, I’m going to attempt to be as neutral as possible through the process. I think it’s time that we really take a step back and evaluate these games as critically as possible without our nostalgia/pet-theories blinding us.

Silent Hill! Woooo!
Silent Hill! Woooo!

  I do have some rules that I will be striving to follow as I make my way through the foggy streets:

  The “Puzzle Difficulty” Will Always Be Hard

  I think this applies to precisely three games (SH 2, 3, Downpour), but I will take it when it’s available. There’s one particular puzzle in Silent Hill 3 that I know will be an annoying pain in the ass, but I will complain about that bullshit when I get to it. Or, who knows? Maybe I’ll figure it out the first time through, even though every previous time has met with failure.

  The “Action Difficulty” Will Always Be Normal

  Silent Hill’s difficulty never really matters much, but since it’s been a fairly long time since I played any of them, I’m going to be popping through these at a reasonable difficulty. Easy would be a cakewalk, and hard would be a slog. This will make it so that I can get a sense of what an “average” person may experience their first time through. And speaking of times through…

  I Will Only Endeavor One Run Through Per Game

  As far as I’m aware, all the Silent Hill games have multiple endings, encouraging multiple play-throughs. However, a lot of them also unlock various over-powered weapons and goofy shit as well on their subsequent runs, so I will be just venturing through once. The reason for this is largely that the game itself doesn’t really change, just how the protagonist resolves whatever catastrophe is taking place.

  That being said, later games in the series mishandle that “multiple endings” thing, which brings me to the next rule:

  I Will Do a More Thorough Critique at the End of Every Game

  As a fan of the series (whatever little that actually means), I will be talking a little more in-depth whenever I finish a particular entry. Sometimes the game makes faux-pas narratively speaking that need to be addressed, but I can’t do it in the play-through itself because I’m just too awesome/horrible to make that narrative path happen. As such, these will be touched upon when I get to them.

  The Internet Will (Largely) Stay Out of It

  What I mean to say is that the Silent Hill community has been dissecting this series for over a decade now, and I don’t think it’s fair to assume that a person going through the games a first time will run to a wiki just to make sure they’re getting their interpretation “right”. As such, things like monster names, “agreed upon” canon, plot “explanations”, and other crowd sourced material is going to be disregarded for the most part. If I reference it, there will be an appropriate citation.

  Long story short, if it doesn’t happen in-game and I can’t make a reasonable assumption about something with the information given to me by the game itself, it is not considered to be anything but a fan theory and does not count.

  I will, however, make sure to address certain annoying criticisms that I have come across in the past when applicable. It won’t happen often, but when it does, I will be sure to designate it as a SIDEBAR or something. I will also use the Internet if there’s anything that needs transcribing or the like. Because I’m not doing that shit for y’all.

  I Will Be Going In Canonical Order

  Meaning that I will be starting with Origins and ending with Shattered Memories. Why? Well, it’s not too much to assume that someone would want to start with the prequel, now is it? And wouldn’t I want to end it with the reboot that ultimately went nowhere?

  Silent Hill: the Arcade, Book of Memories, and Other Detritus Will Not be Included

  I do not have access to an arcade that offers the game at all, nor do I wish to purchase a new console for the purpose of playing one game that I will probably end up despising. Talk to me not of cell phone games, and be wary of approaching the subject of the comic books, for they fit as comfortably in canon as an elephant into a Smart Car. And, hey, just to be doubly clear on this:

  Fuck the Silent Hill Movies in Their Gaping Plot Holes

  There was a time that I actually kind of defended the original Silent Hill movie. After some reflection, though, I realized that it is a big pile of self-indulgent and utterly confused wank that has no business existing as a film, let alone a film adaptation of Silent Hill.

Purchase Project Northwoods at Amazon.com.   Purchase Washed Hands at Amazon.com   Purchase Improbables at Amazon.com.

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