This piece of research was another gem that was mentioned by Jade during one of our character development chats at the beginning of the project. I have only just found the time to start researching around it.
Silent Hill 4:The Room is the fourth installment in the Silent Hill series. It revolves around protagonist Henry’s apartment which has holes dotted around it that lead into the games levels. The main relevance of this game to my concept is the interpretation of alternative dream worlds. As described above the protagonist is suffering from nightmares and at the start of the game has been locked in his apartment for five days. He then notices a hole in the bathroom wall, which of course he travels through into subsequent silent-hill-styled worlds.
I have not player this game before so I have been resorting to youtube to find walk-throughs of some of the games key parts, below is my analysis:
Part 1 – Locked in an apartment.
So we begin by waking up on the apartment floor as our protagonist Henry, this is done with a first person camera so intially it makes the player feel disorientated; you can see the fan spinning above you but this is the first thing you see, so it is not clear as to what has happened so far, why are we on the floor? The player is then forced to get a first person look at the nightmares as to which Henry has been having, this nightmare switches between first person and other camera angles. This makes it feel like a cut scene but also heightens the tension, choppy changes between different angles.
An initial key part of the opening scenes of this game is that it highlights lots of basic things to make the player grasp the idea of isolation. Henry, checks the phone, looks outside, checks the lock on the door, all of these added up make the player begin to become intrigue, why are we locked in here?
As a starter level it paces itself slowly, minimal scares, a lot of information to intrigue the player, and minimal sounds apart from when key progress is made by the player.
Part 2 – Through the bathroom rabbit hole
the player begins to navigate the narrow pipe aiming for the light at the end of the tunnel. This crawling is laced with a horribly repetitive shuffling sound. The first person camera takes up the style of an old film camera, with flickering lines appearing on it, it also starts jumping in places ever so slightly. Is this referring to the idea that it is a dream? Or is it simply to make the player aware that they are watching these events?
Upon entering the light, Henry is then seen traveling down an escalator into a subway station. He runs along the corridor to find his first companion, Cynthia. It turns out that Cynthia is dreaming as well. Seconds later she stops the player progression as she runs into the toilet saying she is going to throw up. Unwillingly the player is forced into a cut scene that means that they have to wait for her instead of trusting their gut feeling and running off. In my opinion this is how I would react, this set up is conspicuous and I think that the designer have made it into a cut scene to force you to stay put. Not surprisingly 3 rabid dogs emerge from the mens toilet, allowing the player their first taste of combat.
After this point the player is allowed to forget about Cynthia and progress by themselves. The soundtrack thus far is mainly silent; the only sound as you explore is the echoing footsteps of Henry and added sound effects increase when combat arises.
Once you wonder about and kill a few more rabid dogs you can enter the bathroom in which Cynthia went and upon entering a hole in the wall you are teleported back to the apartment.
Part 3 – Skip to our first lose as a player character.
This section of the game involves Cynthia’s death, it is the first tragedy that has struck our protagonist and the setup of it is quite interesting.
The whole motivation of the previous levels is to inspire the player to care about Cynthia and want to save her. She continually will call out to Henry as he travels around asking for help, and subsequently telling him to hurry. This method makes the player feel a need to progress quickly to save her in time. I haven’t considered this as a motivation method before but it is one that can be used interestingly. In Silent Hill 4, we see Henry’s hopes and dreams of saving Cynthia crushed as he finds her dead, this impacts the player in one of two ways. They will either get the intended outcome and be affected as Henry is, this makes them inspired to ‘try harder next time’ and not let anyone else die. On the other hand, they will have no attachment to the character of Cynthia and merely consider the attempt to save her a waste of time and then simply get on with the game. Why is this?
I have gained a lot of good information from looking at this game but the more I look at it the more frustrated I get. Simple things, that should have been added into it, to make it more believable, don’t exist. For example, when you are in the apartment, you can walk up to the door, look through the peep hole and see a passerby. If this happened in real life, surely the person locked in the room would shout, bang on the door, do something…anything!!! Henry merely looks out at the person and then walks away, at no point in the footage I have seen does he even attempt to escape. For me this is really jarring, it doesn’t make any sense at all.
In retrospect a very good thing about this game is the idea of the Otherworlds, these are the dreamlike worlds that Henry enters as he travels through the hole in the bathroom.
There are seven Otherworlds all of which link to the antagonist Walter, for a list of these visit here: http://silenthill.wikia.com/wiki/Walter%27s_Otherworlds
This idea of the Otherworlds relating to the antagonist and representing ghosts of his past is quite interesting and bares a resemblance to what I am trying to achieve. I guess if anything Silent Hill 4:The Room is a good reference for this.