This may be an unusual Character RETROspect this week, but I’ll try to explain how the town of Silent Hill is a legitimate character in the Silent Hill franchise. While it may not be a traditional “character” in the sense that we are used to, I will defend my opinion of this with the fact that because of its mood and overall composition, it is as integral a character as any protagonist or major enemy. It changes and adapts to whomever enters, using techniques that are meant to breakdown a person’s psychological processes and bring forth imagery that is pertinent to that individual.
Oh, and the fog is a genius inclusion by Team Silent for both its foreboding atmospheric presence, as well as the sense of seclusion — with only a glimmer of hope of making it through the town’s heavy fog.
Chapter 16: The Top Vacation Destination, Silent Hill
One of the most captivating series in all of video games, Silent Hill burst onto the scene in 1999 with a mission: be the antithesis of Resident Evil and take over as king of the survival horror genre. Team Silent, an internal team of Konami employees, set out to lead the survival horror genre away from the more action-packed tendencies that were prevalent in the Resident Evil series (and its clones) and replace it with a psychological style of horror. If any of you read my article last week on Scissorman from the Clock Tower series, I am a huge fan of psychological horror elements, and it makes complete sense that I would eventually talk about Silent Hill.
The unique thing about the town of Silent Hill is that it is comprised of three overall “states.”
- The “Real World”
- The “Fog World”
- The “Otherworld”
The Real World: The first state is the actual reality of the town — the version of the town that most tourists traveling through would actually see with their own eyes. While this is the state of Silent Hill that the player will seldom be involved with, it was featured somewhat regularly in the movie, which was used in stark contrast to the most commonly known state, the “fog world.”
The Fog World: The fog, being an absolute brilliant inclusion as I stated before in this article, is where most of the game(s) takes place. It is an alternate dimension of the real world because, while being a somewhat copy of the real Silent Hill, the fog world is home to hellish creatures that roam the streets, all while a slight snow is falling in the apparently deserted town. While in the fog world state, the player will occasionally come across sections of road that seem to drop off into an abyss, lending to the idea of isolation. Most characters that are in this state will also have the same overall experience as others, e.g., fog, otherworldly creatures, as well as mostly deserted streets and buildings.
The Otherworld: This state is unique to each individual that has the displeasure of witnessing Silent Hill’s final and most horrific state. More or less, the otherworld is a symbolic state of the overall reflection of the character’s psyche, often resulting in disturbing imagery directly tied to the character’s suppressed memories and fears. The otherworld uses similar architectural components found in the real world and fog world states, albeit with a mostly bloodstained and rusted metal look.
The idea of using the otherworld as a disturbing reflection of a character’s psyche is what gives the original Team Silent games a huge step-up from other survival horror games. Sure, there are zombies to drop a few rounds into in the Resident Evil series, and there are ghosts to take pictures of in the Fatal Frame series, but the first Silent Hill games are an absolute treat for anyone interested in the survival horror genre.