However, Seeing how some of the opinions in this thread reflect exactly what I would have written about,
I might as well talk about it more directly right here, even if it‘s only semi-related to the original topic.
Q. Valintyne wrote:The characters are the point in any bit of literature, game, or movie. Sure you'll have a "reaction" to it, but you can't truly feel the pain of the character. Ever. It isn't real, for one thing. Second, it's a character-driven story. It's not a "player-driven" one (Shattered Memories was in a way, but I digress).
Games like Dead Space are designed to scare the player. The creatures hold no symbolism to Isaac at all. In Silent Hill's case, the world and the creatures are character-specific.
Meltdown wrote:Going back to the idea that the Silent Hill atmosphere and monsters reflect the character and are not simply there to scare and scar the player, wouldn't it be logical to say that we might be holding the creatures to an unfair standard? The monsters and creatures of the original 3 Silent Hills were all reflective of the torment psyches of a handful of characters. As such, we shouldn't expect the monsters of Downpour to be at all similar to them.
I am all about fear of the unknown. Its what freaks me out the most. But perhaps Murphy's tortured mind is just vastly different than James' or Alessa's. Therefor his monsters/world take on a very different feel, even if its not quite as mysterious and foggy as games past.
Avianna wrote:That's a good point. And except for one ending, Murphy didn't kill anyone (well... one of those is supposed to be a mistake). James killed his wife. Alessa is just messed up beyond belief because of how she grew up. The only thing really messed up about Murphy is that somewhat recently he found out his child was killed. He's pain isn't necessarily violent in nature. Even when he tried to get himself into prison to kill someone, he couldn't do it.
Meltdown wrote:Exactly. Murphy's past isn't nearly as tormented as Alessa, James, Heather, or even Alex. Perhaps this is reflected in the less abstract creatures and environment in Silent Hill?
Some of you point out that maybe Downpour couldn't and shouldn't be as disturbing as other titles because Murphy has a less traumatic past than the other protagonists, and that his mind could be vastly different from theirs. There's even an argument that the player's experience is secondary to that of the character's. Basically you’re saying that Downpour couldn’t have been as disturbing because the story didn’t allow it.
First of all...
Second, I think you grossly underestimate how fundamentally prison can change a man for the worse. If anything, this alone should have made Murphy's otherworld worse than most of the other protagonists'.
...But whatever, let‘s just go with what you’re saying here.
Let us now, for the sake of discussion, say that the story in Downpour absolutely didn't provide the foundation necessary for some actual disturbing visual content. What then?
Well, then they should have just changed the story!
Yes, that's right.
If the story in Downpour didn't support the same level of disturbing imagery that some of us have come to expect from the series, the developers should have changed the story to better provide for it.
Before you hastily respond to this statement, there’s a few things you need to keep in mind:
Storytelling is an iterative process. The first draft is never considered a finished story...it has to be constantly revised and rewritten to better serve the intended theme and experience.
Likewise, game development is an iterative process, not a linear one. It’s not so that a long-established story dictates how the game looks and plays. Rather contrarily, the story is usually one of the last things to get completed after more important factors like gameplay mechanics, level design, and art direction has been nailed down.
Take the Uncharted series, for instance. The developers designed the levels and the essential experience long before they even knew how it would fit into the story, or even if it would fit with the story.
00:50 - 01:36.
“I think what would surprise people, is that when we set out to figure out what we’re gonna do with each new game, a lot of it is driven by practical concerns (...) and then we kind of write the story around that.”
00:10 - 00:56.
"Sometimes a level is designed long before we have any clue of what the story is."
This is the norm, not the exception. It’s basic Game Design 101.
Now, at this point you’d think maybe Silent Hill would be an exception to this rule, but you'd be wrong.
I can pretty much guarantee that in virtually every installment, especially the originals, the developers had an idea of what kind of imagery and experience they intended for the player before they had a complete story.
The same goes for the overblown concept of symbolism too. When Masahiro Ito & co designed some of the series’ most iconic creatures, they were more concerned about what worked than what the specific symbolism would be, and it shows at times. If you take a closer look at almost any given installment, you will definitely find imagery that doesn’t necessarily relate to the protagonist’s predicament.
In fact, most of the “symbolism” we have seen throughout the series could easily have been retrofitted to fit the imagery, rather than the imagery being tailored to some specific backstory.
Don’t believe me? Well, then check this out:
17:30 - 18:43.
The design of the iconic lying figure came first, by pure chance.
The specific symbolism of “restraint” and “pain”, was just tacked on later.
Also, the inspiration drawn from Francis Bacon influenced the imagery of the game right from the very beginning. The venereal horror was there before the story was fully fleshed out.
28:45 - 29:33.
(about the prison scene) "the point was to confuse the game players, to get them thinking that maybe, after all, she was Mary." Notice how there's not one word about how the protagonist should feel. Why? Because the player experience was more important than how the protagonist felt.
Yeah, you may like to think that every minute little detail in the games has been symbolical of some long-established character backstory. If, however, you pay attention to some of the concepts they outline throughout, you will see that they definitely figured out how they wanted the player to experience the game before any specific notions of story and symbolism came about. Again, it’s basic game design.
But don’t get me wrong here...
The story and symbolism will always be a vital part of the final product that is silent Hill.
But, in the process of designing an effective game, there’s bigger, more important concerns that must be addressed first, such as gameplay, art direction, tone, atmosphere, and overall player experience.
Bottom line is, it shouldn't be so that the game can't have disturbing imagery because "the story doesn't allow it". Story, imagery and experience should affect each other mutually, especially if that game is Silent Hill, where the disturbing imagery always has been such a vital part of the complete experience.
But let’s not kid ourselves here...
Like I said in my initial post, the problem here wasn't really the story. The developers just didn't understand how to make the game disturbing. If they had understood how to do this, they would have made the game more disturbing regardless of story.