The dregs of April are long gone into the month of May. It is the 10th, around 10 pm. Being exhausted from my many exams, I decide to watch something that would alleviate my woes. Being somewhat of a débutante into the wide gamut of new-age horror, having garnered interest for Shinji Mikami’s The Evil Within, and the beautifully Geiger-esque Alien: Isolation, I take a chance and watch PewDiePie’s playthrough of P.T, the playable teaser for the next instalment in the Silent Hills franchise, which I entirely missed out on in its initial release. I like PewDiePie. I’m edgy like that.
It’s a few seconds in. This isn’t particularly scary to me. This is just a house. PewDiePie is walking through a house, and there’s a radio report in the background. Okay. Pinnacle of horror right here. Pffffft. Wait. That’s weird. “Police, arriving on-scene after neighbours called nine eleven”. Shouldn’t it be ‘nine-one-one’? Anyway… there’s not much substance to this house. Just a few cobwebs. Right then, PewDiePie walks through the loop door…
Wait. What? I swear I just… This is the same corridor! Ohhh, I see. Kojima is trying to unease the player by his…
Okay what the hell was that banging?! Okay. It’s stopped. PewDiePie can walk through the door again. Phew. That was really creepy. What a surprise… it’s the same corridor. This time the door is open. PewDiePie begins to walk and…
JESUS CHRIST I SWEAR IF YOU BANG THAT DOOR AGAIN! My God, man! Oh… what the hell? Is someone crying in there?! Don’t look… don’t look, just walk away… Next loop. No one is banging on the door now. The door to the next loop is open…
and now it’s closed.
What’s that creaking?! The door with the banging and eerie noise is now open a crack. No, no, no… don’t do that… don’t queue that eerie music. Oh god, there’s cockroaches coming from the crack in the door. PewDiePie goes to investigate.
WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?! I SWEAR I SAW SOMEONE! WHAT THE HELL?! Okay… just breathe… it’s only a game. The sound of a baby crying comes from behind the door. Next loop. I swear I just saw something. Lights off. Lights on. Cockroaches paint the wall. Next loop. Crying rings the walls again. The ominous door is now wide open. Hair-tingling premonitions ensue. There’s a flashlight. Something closes the door behind us. PewDiePie looks in the sink and finds an inchoate foetus, with a pulsing chest.
Nope. Nu-uh. Nope. That’s disgusting. Okay, now it’s crying. A few loops later, a window crashes from the ceiling. PewDiePie looks towards the balcony.
And I watch the rest of the video, transfixed in petrified awe. This is by far the scariest thing I have ever seen. Not game. Thing. Kojima’s classic use of metafiction (such as an easter egg hidden in the pause menu, and an Arkham Asylum scarecrow-style game crash) and creepy player awareness is absolutely blood curdling, and Del Toro’s atmospheric insight works in a terrifying tandem. Not only is this game potently scary, it’s layered. There’s a substantial amount of backstory as to why you’re being haunted, and as to who this dashing character is, if you have the strength to play through multiple times, you begin to see how everything is linked. This kind of development exudes passion, this attention to detail and perfectly balanced ambiguity is so rare that I can only think of Five Nights at Freddy’s as comparable. And this isn’t even a demo, it’s a teaser. I spend the rest of the night watching YouTuber Marszie’s 3 part analysis series of P.T, and, subsequently, sleep eludes me. And I love it.
It’s the 11th of May, around 11 pm. The pitter patter of rain falls down my windows. Arsenal have just lost to Swansea, whilst fighting for 2nd place in the league table. I stub my big toe as I sit down to use my laptop. I am not happy. Having only intermittent breaks from work to unwind recently, I have been completely detached from all news surrounding the games industry. I check up on twitter and other outlets. Silent Hills is trending. That’s good! Maybe a new feature will be announced, or perhaps the PC specifications. Silent Hills, what would’ve been the monolithic mother of PT, is cancelled.
I step outside into the torrent of hail and rain, rip off my shirt by its stitches, throw my fist to the sky and scream ‘CURSE YOU, KONAMI!!! CURSE YOU!!!’
Okay, well, I didn’t do that. But I like to imagine I did. It wasn’t even raining, but for all intents and purposes the pathetic fallacy helps to articulate my very palpable frustration. Damn you, Konazi (heh, get it? Yeah, sure you do…)!
What does this mean for horror?
Beyond the altercations of horror aficionados over who’s the most annoyed by the cancellation, is some genuine cause for dismay. I think it’s unfair to rest a lot of importance onto Silent Hills, as we simply don’t know how the final product would have formed, but I don’t care and I’m going to anyway. It very easily could have been a husk of promises, as The Order: 1886 was, however, if there’s one thing I know about Hideo Kojima, is that he has an aptitude for adapting. This may sound silly, as the only time Kojima has ever stepped outside his own Metal Gear series is to produce Castlevania: Lords of Shadows, but within the Metal Gear series, Kojima has adapted to master every change in console generation, including handheld, and he’s adapted the genre of his story many times, from light hearted adventure to… well… gritty dystopia with child abuse in the most recent Ground Zeroes. I have no sliver of a doubt that Kojima had both the capacity and the passion to master Silent Hills, judging by P.T.
And I have to say… without the attention to detail and general competence that Silent Hills very possibly could’ve exhibited, hypothetically speaking, it leaves the genre in a general drought of such talent. Even the most lauded horror titles such as Outlast or Dead Space, perhaps even Amnesia borrow so heavily on the player’s inherent promise to simply react to jumpscares. To me it just seems so vapid after a while. What P.T exhibits excellently is it’s focus on aura, and reassuring the player that they can be certain of nothing. I have full confidence that, if Silent Hills was on par with its teaser, it would have been a monument, a pioneer for new age horror. Titles which rival P.T’s level of backstory and lore, such as Five Nights at Freddy’s also suffer that pervasive attitude, in thinking that jumpscares are concordant with good development.
Is there a glimmer of hope?
Post haste after being completely perplexed by the terse abortion of Silent Hills, I signed a petition (link below) to revive this conglomerate of genius. It has accumulated over 150,000 signatures, and luckily it has come to the attention of front man Norman Reedus, and Del Toro himself. Del Toro has actually signed it, and he has expressed his disappointment over the melancholy termination. Hopefully there still stands a chance down the hallway for Silent Hills. The peculiar thing is… no one really knows why it was cancelled, allegedly because of corporate conflicts between Konami and Kojima, with more precise but no more reliable sources stating that the conflicts were over the FOX game engine.
I sincerely doubt that Konami acknowledge what it is they are denying the world, and, because of this, how petty the cancellation is. However, this may not be Konami’s fault after all, it is easy to assume this because, as fans of P.T, we automatically favour Kojima, but perhaps it was indeed Kojima who desired the termination of his masterpiece. Whatever the case, it should not have been cancelled, and if you care about horror games, games, or art, you should find it incumbent that you do everything you can to resume Silent Hills, beginning with a petition.
For your consideration: