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Sobre Silent Hill 3 (en Inglés)
x Rodrigo Antezana P.
Running scarce
or Burned, Burned, my baby is toast!

By Rodrigo Antezana Patton

Thus it begins.

You are only steps away past the entrance to an amusement park, but only the glowing details will remind you of what it once was, now it’s changed. The floor is grated, metallic, rusty, here and there it has gaps, and below it there is only darkness to be seen. Peeling posters on the wall advertise this place, and the fun we are supposed to find inside, but none of that remains, only decay. Most shocking of all is the presence of two human-size costumes of  the amusement’s park pet, a rabbit, one is sitting, the other is lying on the floor, both are covered in what looks like blood. As if that weren’t creepy enough, there are two cages, one on each side, to your left and right. They contain something and are surrounded by a layer of fiery, dancing, vapor.

You can’t get out, only the door that leads into the park is open. You know that inside you’ll find trouble, you know you’ll have to fight, for an instant you stare at your hand and look at the weapon you brought with you, it’s a small knife, barely bigger than a long fingernail, better than nothing, but surely not enough. On top of that, you are a young girl, and the time has come for you to enter the next inclosure, you’ll run, you’ll fight, you’ll be greeted by monsters. They’ll kill the girl, then she’ll wake up, and so will you.

 It was only a dream, the real nightmare will start shortly. 

 Thus it begins, you are playing “Silent Hill 3”

Where am I? 

I always preferred the term “nightmare” to “bad dream”. Nightmares make you glad to be back into this world. After you’ve awaken from a nightmare, you look at the ceiling of your bedroom enjoying the simple fact of reality. Nightmares expell you from the land of Oneiros, it’s the others that I call “bad dreams”, those that invite you to stay there, those that you wake up from with your arms grasping through the air, trying to bring back that which can only be found in dreams. Those are bad dreams. You look around your own world, and dissappointment follows, luckily; most of the times, the ‘bad dream’ is quickly forgotten. From this perspective, “Silent Hill” is both, the best, and strangest, of ‘bad dreams’ or the oddest of nightmares, it expells you and yet you eagerly come back. It makes you glad reality is what it is, but you can actually get to miss that darkness. 

The media phenomena behind the astonishing success of  “Silent Hill” (SH) is a story by itself, but continuos success can only derive from talent and lots of it. This brief writing will take a closer look at “Silent Hill 3” (SH3), its many merits and small faults. 

Who are you?

Once again we have a personal character, once again the main problem concerns and intimate ‘I’. The first delivery had you with ‘I am looking for my daughter’, a small problem compared to so many campaigns to save the world, of other games. On SH3 the key of the plot is ‘I must survive’, the first part of the game being ‘I must get home’ (and you woudn’t believe how hard that is going to be). The second part of the game isn’t that original, the father of your character, the pretty yet-not-beautiful Heather, is killed by an accomplice of Claudia, and it’s revenge, besides your other problem, that moves you onward. But “SH” wouldn’t cave in to such a simple formula, if it’s revenge what you seek to obtain, the game becomes an impossible endeavour. Before the game ends you must forgive Claudia, or a female voice that sounds very much like hers. 

The setting for the act of forgiveness couldn’t be more appropiate, you enter a confessional, inside you’ll hear a voice, so emotive and well performed that you’ll have no other choice than to forgive whomever uttered those words. I don’t know if the director chose to use only sound because his nearly perfect graphic engine wouldn’t be expressive enough for a moment like this, I think he did, anyway the result is magnificent. I haven’t heard a plea so convincing since or before this one, the voice actress, of course, also deserves much of the praise. 

At the beginning you don’t know much about your character, little by little you uncover the story that she already knew, but it’s new to you, the player. Heather is the adopted daughter of Harry Mason (the heroe of the first SH), the child that appeared after Lucifer’s death. The problem is what you carry inside of you, the seed of that hellish god worshipped by the strange sect that settled on Silent Hill. The story, it’s undeniable, is the weakest of all SH deliveries so far, specially when you take a look at the other characters: Vincent, detective Douglas Cartland or Claudia Wolf herself, they are only shadows of someone when you compare them to Maria; of “SH2”, and haven’t quite got the impact of Cybill, the policewoman, or Lisa, the nurse of “SH1”.

Vincent is a thin guy with glasses, neither your enemy nor your true friend, his main role will be to mislead you, his presence will allow a couple of twists, but nothing more. He is there, within the story, to look mysterious and enlarge it –so that it won’t be even more linear. The only interesting fact concerning Vincent, is that he believes his own side of the tale, as a character he is honestly trying to use you, even if it may seem otherwise.

Douglas Cartland, the detective guy, will tell you, and your character, a part of Heather’s past, he’ll also be a free ride to Silent Hill. He has some interesting lines as well, his brief discussion about paradise with Samantha being the most important (I’ll get back to it further on), but that hardly amounts to a strong presence.

It is Claudia’s actions that set the plot on wheels, it’s her will, plus the seed, that make everything happen, but besides a confused human she is little more, you’ll remember what she did and does, but her face will fade blended with all the confused and hurt characters available out there, in narrative land. Beyond Heather, the rest of the cast are unmemorable people in an unforgetable game. 

So, finally, what is Heather like as a character? Mason, the first playable character of “SH”, was not an outstanding personality, it’s the world that surrounded him, it’s his adventure and search that we remember him by, not who he was. Heather is a step higher, but beneath the guilt ridden James Sunderland, the playable character of “SH2”. She is the girl that bears the promise of paradise within her (the strangest you’ve ever seen!), she is a sort of reincarnation, and ‘the will to live’. You can only play her if you’re willing to survive, for that’s what she wants, we are constantly reminded the sacrifice performed by her former self and the fact that now she is not willing to do the same. Cheryl wants to live, and before she becomes the dead cradle of god, she will give them war. And that’s your story now, you have to become an efficient ‘will to live’. If you give up on a game you lose, if you give up on Silent Hill 3, Heather dies. Most of the time, in games, the situation isn’t that simple. The absence of the playable characters would trigger, in most, a cataclysm, who is gonna save the world if you don’t? In “SH3”, to a degree, her suicide could end the problem that starts the story, ‘she’ contains the problem, ‘it’ lives within her.

Of course it is always difficult to enter the ‘laws’ of creative worlds such as this. But this deduction is consistent with the information provided by the game itself. (It’s not advisable to dig any deeper, because it’s extremely difficult to evaluate a playable character. For example, the creatures that Heather has to face, as we play her, I wouldn’t get near those things even if they offered me the crown of Britain, if I were on that game they would have to change the name of Heather to ‘The ever running man’ or ‘scream like a girl’, that’s what I would do...) We don’t know how she is copping with that reality, except for a line or two, nor what she thinks of the ever growing darkness, and so on. Game characters, with the exception of Silent Hill 2, are raw creatures, you can only get the basics, so, basics it is. 

What is that?

Well, they are the main characters, but what are we fighting against in Silent Hill 3? Who is the bad guy and why did she/he do all those things? Funny as it may sound, we are fighting against a better world, a “world without pain”. Facts first, then we’ll get philosophical. Heather, our character, carries within her the “seed” of none other than god itself. The information we gather from the game tells us two different things: first, ‘It’, the god, is  a supreme being, and, second, 'it' is an ancient god, not the ‘god’ of christianity or its’ opposite, but those two points of view agree that ‘It’ will come here to ‘deliver us from all evil’, literally.

Throughout SH3 we’ll battle the nightmares that are coming as the power of this god is made manifest. Everything that is done, is so because she, Claudia, thinks it’s the right thing to do. She is insane, even accolites of the same belief, such as Vincent, fight against her. She had a very painful childhood, of which we know only small details, and now she wants to aid all of us by helping Heather die as ‘It’ comes into this world. The game itself has a hard time coming to grips with this situation, Vincent tells Claudia that the reality that appears to his eyes from time to time, the hellish scenes, aren’t exactly paradise, although that is what he and the other members of the church seek, other information also points in that direction. Leonard; for example, your unlikely ally in the SH Hospital, seeks god to obtain more of what he already has, power (and it seems power has to come into a body turned into &%$, he is a monster now).

So, is this god of SH bringing paradise to earth or is it a creature of nightmares, a cruel god of old? It depends on who you ask, let’s go back to the facts: Claudia thinks that it will bring and end to pain. Everything else seems to prove the opposite, that this god is pain itself. But Claudia wants to do the right thing, period (this is important). Now, let’s get philosophical, how would a world without pain be? Or, the true question, how can we reconcile this god of pain with a world without it? It’s impossible to give a reasonable answer, but to say that pain would have to be pleasureable and that such a world would be selfdestructive, makes sense to me. From this perspective, the bizarre human-like --and yet not human-- creatures of the game, would be born from an attempt to answer such a question. Those creatures, familiar yet alien, threatening yet suffering... remember the nurses and their moaning, the dogs and their bandages, in every single one of them is present the corruption, or aggression to, of the flesh, of humanity or the natural order of things. Fact is, that a world without pain should get things upside down.

The nightmares that come into this world are part of that upside down reality, perhaps there isn’t any pain in that world (Leonard seems to be doing fine, although it will be hard for him to get a date with those looks), but what is the price paid for that? It seems something like a love for hell. And that’s where all possible ambiguity ends, Claudia’s reasons are meritory, benign, but the game uses our language to present it to us, and that is thoroughly negative: it’s decayed, it’s bloody and metallic, rusted, broken, and so on, those are clear and familiar images to us, they are meant to upset us, and succeed wonderfully. To us it can’t be other than a negative reality, call it hell or whatever. So, Claudia is wrong, or so it seems.

When Douglas confronts Claudia, one of his observations concerns more her point of view than the sympathy she may have for the strange world she wants to come about. Claudia defends herself and her actions because she wants a world without pain, and Douglas’ answer is that that world would be interesting “for castrated sheep, maybe”. Those are the exact words used by the character. So, is the idea of paradise itself a sick idea, and therefore it can only exist in a sick world? Allow me to recall an argument: pain would have to be pleasureable, a selfdestructive existence. And, Yes, I believe that is one of the ideas given to us in SH3. 

Douglas doesn´t fight back on Claudia’s convictions, he believes her, he thinks that she is telling the truth. The most obvious reaction would be to call her a liar, or ask her to return to her senses, but no, she is telling the truth, and the truth (a very particular one) has been told to her. Pilosophically speaking, the result of eliminating pain would eliminate everything that motivates us to do something, it would be a bleak world, becoming bleaker, or you could make pain attractive as its opposite is, as pleasure. But what would happen then, babies would jump into ovens, crucifiction wouldn’t be a punishment, it would be a pastime, plus starvation and burning yourself alive, would be two of the most gratifiying experiences. In a word: selfdestruction, such a world would destroy itself, and be happy to do so.

Is that what they told you?

So, as you battle the forces of good, because the good that they seek is insane, you roam through that familiar territory, which is a trademark of this wonderful work, filled with odd creatures, sounds and puzzles. “Silent Hill” is one of those games that you play because you like the way it’s written. Games are the ultimate way, or the most recently used by humans, to tell you a story and by “written” I mean every single audiovisual and physical (the vibrator) resource used to present that fictional reality to you. Games are inmersive audiovisual narratives. “Silent Hill” uses every single trick available and writes a few new ones, in order to scare you. We have the limited visibility, because of fog or darkness, we have threatening sounds, and hostile environments, on a scale from messy to hellish, there is that familiarity of places we might know, now torn and dark. And our enemies aren’t only agressive, they are familiar, as corrupted nature is.

On “SH3” they use a new trick, scarce health packages and little ammo. You have to be careful with the trigger, and never allow yourself to take too much damage. From my own gaming experience, it works perfectly, enemies seem more threatening and your victories over them, more gratifying. It amazed me how this small detail changed things, I became more careful and, therefore, my fear of the next door increased. They had succeded again, they managed to make me tense and fearful once more, their story telling proved as good as always. 

She is toast

But then, at the final stage of the game, I was ready to face god, or so I thought. The setting was simple, but attractive in that Giger-sort of way. Terrible, yet recognizable, horrible, but born out of a human terror. The evil god burned my character so many times that I thought I would get the R&B version anytime soon. It was hard but I managed, but by then she had been killed an obscenely large number of times. Man, Was it fun! The game was over, the story had ended.

I killed god. 

Heather would go on, although now she had a little time to mourn her father and that’s the final picture, an image of her over his grave. 

Although it has the most simple story of them all (Silent Hill now has 4 installments, and make that five soon), the environment is still a jewel of inmersive audiovisual creativity. “Silent hill” enjoys teasing our senses with fear, and no other game manages to paint such a picture, write with such a language. A lesson on what frightens us and how we are frightened, this game remains being the best at it in the field.

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