I was sixteen when Silent Hill first came out for the Playstation.
From the first minute I played it, I was hooked and Silent Hill would go on to become the first video game that I ever seriously got into. I would study the game. I would go online, in those early days of the world wide web, to read the theories of other players and visit the occasional Geocities-hosted fan page. I actually got very upset when innocent nurse Lisa Garland was lost to the town’s curse. I was also amazed to discover that the game’s storyline and ending could change depending on whether or not I saved Cybil Bennett. A video game with multiple endings that went beyond just “good” and “bad?” This was a big deal back in 1999!
Looking back after all these years, there are four main things that I remember about Silent Hill.
First off, and I know I’m not alone,I remembered the opening and especially the music that played during the scenes of Harry Mason driving down that foggy road:
Secondly, I remember the scenes that played after the game’s ending, which featured all of Silent Hill‘s characters blowing their lines, missing their cues, and laughing about it. Today the animation may look primitive but back in 1999, seeing this at least provided some comfort if you got one of the bad endings, especially the “bad” ending where you defeated the monster but your daughter died (“Thank you, Daddy … goodbye.”) and then you ended up dead in your car.
I remember the nearly legendary fifth ending of the game, in which Harry Mason ended up getting abducted by aliens. In the days before YouTube, when you had to trust word-of-mouth, there were some people who insisted that this ending was just an urban legend while there were others who couldn’t stop bragging about how they had gotten the alien ending while the rest of us just had to settle for the “saved the world and your daughter” ending. When I finally managed to get the UFO ending, I was so happy that I felt like I was the one who had been abducted by aliens.
Finally, the main thing I remember about Silent Hill is that I was never very good at it. I was the player who always ended up getting lost and walking around in a circle. I can’t remember how many times I played before I managed to not die in the diner. As soon as I heard the radio static that indicated that I was about to get attacked, I started to run because I know I wasn’t a good enough shot to fight off any of the game’s monsters. Harry Mason was searching for his daughter and I was probably the worst possible person to lead him in that search because I somehow always managed to get Harry killed. It didn’t matter how many times I played the game, I never really got good at it. Even when I finally managed to get the best ending possible, it was only after saving and reloading the game a countless number of times.
I may have never been good at the game but I still enjoyed leading Harry to his death and occasionally to one of the good endings. Silent Hill is what taught me that there was more to video games than just jumping and shooting and for that, I will be forever thankful.