I was originally going to title this episode Ceci n’est pas une Peter Stormare based on the joke / reference Chris made. I changed it for two reasons:
- I’m wary that the too-smart-by-half Google curation bot would assume the episode was in French and would begin offering it to French-speaking viewers and not suggesting it to English speakers.
- I was wary of a wave of pedants informing me that “Ceci n’est pas une Peter Stormare” is grammatically incorrect.
The section where Mike is wandering around alone doing adventure game stuff while carrying a light source feels really Silent Hill-ish. I’m not saying it’s as good as Silent Hill or anything. Even Silent Hill isn’t as good as Silent Hill. The “Silent Hill experience” that fans love actually only existed for a moment in the history of the series, and it feels like an accident among the mediocrity. In fact, I’m pretty sure my entire relationship with the survival horror genre is a hopeless search for something that can hit that Silent Hill 2 note again.
For me, nothing else has really come close. Sure, there have been good games in the genre. Several of them might have done just as well on the scare-o-meter. But nothing else has quite nailed that same balance of immersion, existential dread, mystery, paranoia, and character revelation / development. It’s been 16 years, and since then AAA game designers have completely forgotten what made the game work in the first place. Either they assume that “stiff, frustrating combat is the point of the game”, or they attempt to “fix” the combat by “modernizing” it.
I think to make something like Silent Hill 2, you have to start with the writing, and allow that to inform your environment and monster designs, which will then shape your gameplay. But if you’re thinking you can take some standard gameplay and re-skin it with spooky monsters and scenery, then you’re never going to get there. Sure, you’ll make something spoopy and annoying whelps will dutifully scream at the surprise blood and the roaring monsters on their livestreams, but years later your game will be forgotten and fans will still be talking about Silent Hill 2 and waiting for the lightning to strike a second time.
I guess what I’m saying is that the AAA industry as it exists now is physically incapable of supporting the kind of auteur that could make another Silent Hill 2 happen.