Monday, August 25, 2014

Silent Hill 2 Analysis - Chapter 1: Introduction

After the success of Silent Hill 1, Team Silent who were responsible for the first title, began almost immediately working on the next one in the series, but before the production in itself started, one year was dedicated to planning. Thirteen years after its original release, Silent Hill 2 continues to impress on a technical as well as an artistic level. The amount of detail and dedication that was put in to this project is still unprecedented among most video-games to this day.

By the time when it was first released in 2001, Silent Hill 2 was well received by the public and critics alike. Despite this, most reviewers only seemed to care talking about the superficial aspects of the game, like the graphics and the controls. Although these are very important aspects of the overall experience, there is another handful of meaningful aspects in Silent Hill 2 that where simply overlooked. Sadly, this sort of reviews didn’t happen only back then though, and most reviews of recent videogames are still infested with uninteresting and superficial facts and criticisms. 

Silent Hill 1 to 3 aren’t exactly easy games to understand in the first place simply because of both their depth and their subtlety. This further complicates the matters causing wrong or misleading interpretation to be given to the game as facts, like for instance what happens in the Wiki of Silent Hill 2. For example, not everything that happens in the game is due to James’s sexual frustration and in reality, very little of it is. While it is interesting to contemplate certain ways of interpreting some aspect of the game, one needs to understand that it is fundamental to search for evidence to sustain certain claims. This evidence most come firstly from within the work that is being analyzed itself, and only then one can look up interviews or other sorts of documents relating to it. When analyzing the first three titles of the Silent Hill series this is especially important since Konami doesn’t really understand the games themselves. For this reason many people who consider themselves fans of the series don’t even know what Silent Hill 1 to 3 are really about, and rely solely on wrong interpretation given by people who don’t know and don’t care for how to interpret a work of art. This is why any information given about Silent Hill 2 outside of itself that was not given from Team Silent members or from people who were involved in a meaningful way in the creation of it will not be taken into account.

Why am I being so complicated when simple explanations have already been given? Because these explanation are simply not satisfactory. Some of the most important aspects of the characters of Silent Hill 2 are simply overlooked entirely and some of the “weird” things that happen throughout the game are dismissed as being simple ways of making the players feel fear. Most people when are confronted whit this argument simply say that not everything has or needs to have a meaning. This is completely ridiculous. The main members of the team that developed Silent Hill 2 knew exactly what they wanted and did what they could in order to achieve it. For example, Masashi Tsuboyama, the director, traveled from Japan to the United States in order to photograph certain places that he thought would better represent what he had in mind. Masahiro Ito, responsible for the artistic direction, did a lot of sketches, trying out new ideas, until he could find what really represented the fundamental ideas of Silent Hill 2. Akira Yamaoka, responsible for the music and sound, recorded hundreds of different footstep sounds so that they wouldn’t feel artificial. Takayoshi Sato carefully crafted the look of the characters and their facial expressions in order to portray real emotion. The actors who did the voices and the movements for the characters had to rehearse the scenes in stage before they went into the studio so that a real reaction could be captured.
The directors knew what they wanted (…) They didn’t explained the entirety of the story of the game before I recorded the voice in order for it not to affect my performance. (…) This usually doesn’t happen in video-games but before recording the voices in the studio, we would act them on stage so that we could achieve a real reaction. (…) These guys where obsessed with details.
- Guy Cihi (voice and likeness of James) interviewed by Dave Schaufele (voice and likeness of Eddie), 2012.

Because of all this, it is safe to say that everything that is present in the game isn’t there by chance. Even those things that people say that are present just to scare the player have in fact meaning and they should not be dismissed.

Many of the misunderstandings come from the fact that most people don’t realize what Silent Hill 2 is really about. It is about James Sunderland and his journey to atonement. It is not about the town of Silent Hill, or the monsters, or “the order”. In fact, little has this game to do with the first or the third title in the series. Because of this, to try to explain the strange phenomena of this game with explanations from other games is absurd.

What made me want to write an in-depth analysis of Silent Hill 2 were all the mysterious aspects of it that were left unexplained or ‘left for interpretation’. Even though I had understood the main story, every time after completing the game I was always left puzzled in some way or another. Besides that, the explanations given to me on the internet didn’t make much sense or weren’t well thought out. So with this analysis my intention is to try and find answers and unravel once and for all what Silent Hill 2 is really about. For this reason, I’m not going to get into too much detail about things that are already generally agreed upon but instead I will focus my attention upon the most obscure stuff.

Click on the following links in order to go to another chapter:

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