Saturday, February 26, 2011

Why Silent Hill Almost Ruined Men For Me

I've always had this doubt. Are men and women really all that different?

There are the obvious answers: women are more prone to having boobies and warming up toilet seats, men are more likely to wake up with an erection.

But there was one game that showed me that men and women aren't really all that different. That game was Silent Hill.
Why, thank you.
For me, Silent Hill was and still is the king of all survival horror games. It was beatutiful without being pretentious. And it scared you shitless without even trying. You could just be standing there and you got scared because nothing was happening. The less there was, the more frightened you got. The feeling of complete loneliness and helplessness was overwhelming at times. Most of the time.

My boyfriend at the time had acquired it (legally even) and explained to me what it was about. He didn't have to though, the cover of the box was self-explanatory. According to Wikipedia:

"Played from a third-person perspective, Silent Hill uses real-time 3D environments and, as a result, the developers incorporated fog and darkness in the game as a method of hiding the limitations of the hardware."
What this means, in practice, is that you could, at any given time, see fuck all. You got out of that car and you could see probably two steps in front of you. It was terrifying. The first thing we all knew we had to do was get a pipe/crowbar. We call this "The Law of Pipe" and Silent Hill loved this law. If you wanted to get through the game, you had to rely on that trusty, rusty pipe. "No matter how big the weapon, it will run out of ammo. The pipe will not. No matter how big the enemy, the pipe will eventually down it" is the definition of this law that Mike imparted on me just now. It gets the point across.

Pylon Head, Pyramid Head's poor cousin
I once experienced a Silent Hill-like fog in real life. Mike and I were walking down from my mother's house and a thick fog had settled in earlier in the cold afternoon. It was a bit late and there was no one else outside but us. Not even cars or buses dared roam that wide street that wound down from a zone of derelict buildings and a private school. A bit further down the road we could see the lights of what we knew was a butcher shop. As we got closer we started to discern a shape inside the shop. I held onto his arm tighter and he did the same. Soon we could tell it had a humanoid shape, a fat man holding something above his hand. The yellow light behind him wouldn't let us see his face or what he was holding. A few steps later we realised what it was. It was a knife. I'm pretty sure I yelped as I felt him stiffen up. We both almost bolted. Instead, we froze. Upon closer inspection (and I don't know how we mustered the courage) we realized what we were looking at. It was the dummy they kept outside during the day that held the sign for the day's specials. They just moved it inside to stand near the window when they closed the shop. Oh, how we laughed.

But getting back to my first impression of the game. Boyfriend at the time liked to play games and have me watch. It sounds more kinky than it really was. So to set the mood I decided to close the shutters of his window and turn off the lights. He warned me not to do that but I didn't care. I was old enough not to be scared by horror movies or games. I could handle whatever Silent Hill had to throw at me. I was wrong.

Not anymore...
I started off apprehensive, cowering on his bed against the wall. He braved the fog, he picked up a pipe, he bashed the dogs, he even went past the fucking wheelchair. Something always goes bad in Silent Hill when you see a wheelchair. This is fact. But when he reached the locker cat he put down the controller, turned off the Playstation, turned to me and said "I can't play this anymore today". I couldn't blame him. I was hugging his pillow for dear life at this point.

Silent Hill had turned him into a big girl. But he wasn't the only one. A movie adaptation was eventually made of the game. I know of people that can't watch it withouth being completely wrapped up in something comforting like a blanket or their own shirt. I, myself, still cringe when my playlist throws anything from Akira Yamaoka at me when I'm in the subway.

Speaking of which, the soundtrack was one of the strongest points of this game. So good, in fact, that Yamaoka (composer) went on to become the producer for Silent Hill 3, the direct sequel for the first one, and the movie. It's moving when it needs to be and it's nothing more than pipe banging when you need to GTFO.

Don't worry, boys.
In the end, everything will be ok.

Silent Hill was what made me realize that men, behind all their gung-hoing and testosterone sweating, are as squeamish as women when faced with impossible odds against things with big knives. I could tell you stories of how they flee with broom in hand from cockroaches riding Batman bikes or how they squeal in horror at the sight of a grasshopper. But society demands they be the stronger sex, the gallant knights, the saviors of the day. So they put on a straight face and brave through the muck. This game let me see their softer side, their sweaty fingers fumbling with the controllers and their frowns at faceless nurses.

It could've ruined men for me but it only made me appreciate them more.

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