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  • Fear And Emotion In Silent Hill 2

    [01.26.12]
    - Demitrius James Pennebaker
  •  [In this latest game narrative review, The Guildhall at SMU student Demitrius James Pennebaker picks apart the ways in which Silent Hill 2's story succeeds, and the ways in which it falters.]

    Introduction

    Silent Hill is a psychologically unsettling game with a dark theme. Not all players have a taste for its subject matter and style, though players and critics still hold it in high regard and write about it often. Its story/gameplay interaction method is an old standard, and contains no conceptual leap or notable innovations in that regard.

    Nonetheless, it illustrates a successful solution to what may be the single most common barrier to invoking emotion through game narrative applicable to many genres, and many themes. This narrative review seeks to shed light on that barrier without proposing a single solution. Instead, it provides an example of a game that does not suffer from that common limitation, as support of the thesis. Finally, this review gives some general conceptual frameworks for possible application of the lessons learned.

    Overview

    The player character and main character of Silent Hill 2 is James Sunderland. Beyond elements crucial to the narrative, the game leaves the player to fill in the details of James' character traits. The effect is that James initially appears to be a "normal guy" in an understandable state of depression over the loss of his wife Maria, who died due to illness three years before the game begins. His call to adventure is a letter he receives, apparently from his deceased wife. It claims that she is waiting for him at their "special place" in the town of Silent Hill.

    The game starts out with James looking at himself in a mirror, in a dirty bathroom, at night, in a building on a scenic overlook of Silent Hill. When he enters the town, he notices things are foggy and strange. Slowly, grotesque and oddly human-like monsters begin to appear. The sparse few people seem to be deranged or out of place; not the least of which is Maria, a woman who -- at least physically -- is a near twin of James' deceased wife. Before long, the player begins to wonder if this strange place even exists, or if it is only a hallucination of a man who has irreversibly succumbed to psychological decay caused by his own grief.


    Characters

    James Sunderland

    The player character, main character and protagonist. He is decidedly average in size, looks, and age. He goes to Silent Hill after receiving a strange letter from his three years deceased wife Mary, who asks him to meet her there.

    Mary Sheperd-Sunderland

    James' wife. She apparently died due to a non-specific illness three years before the story begins. Before her premature death, she was in every way a simple, caring, idealistic wife.

    Maria

    Physically nearly identical to James' wife Mary, and the second most prominent character after James. She claims she mysteriously awoke in Silent Hill, and is only looking for a way to survive. A shape shifter character type, she is sometimes caring, and sometimes aggressively demeaning. She wears a provocative, revealing outfit, reflecting her stark contrast to the humble, faithful Mary.

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