Shadow of Phoenix

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Subverting Survival Horror: Silent Hill – Cafe

Subverting Survival Horror: Silent Hill – Cafe

Posted: Thursday, June 25, 2019

Previously in Silent Hill’s Intro Stage

Harry Mason and his daughter Cheryl came to Silent Hill for a vacation. They get into a car crash as they approach the town. Harry wakes up in his crashed jeep to an oddly foggy/snowing town, and his daughter is nowhere to be seen. He takes to the streets of Silent Hill to find her. He sees a glimpse of her in the fog, and chases her into the alley like Alice chasing the rabbit. The alley transforms into a nightmare. Cheryl is no longer seen, but Harry keeps going thinking he will catch up to her. When the nightmare is at its worst, Harry is attacked by monsters and he seemingly dies.

That is the summarization of the character narrative for the first stage of Silent Hill. We focused on Alice in Wonderland being used as a metaphor for its game mechanic. We recognized the game mechanic, controls, and camera as the core narrative. While the other elements provide the complementary narrative to enhance the core narrative. In the complementary narrative, the environment and audio provide the horror context, and the cutscenes and protagonist monologue give the character portrayal. Core narrative and complementary narrative are terms I created to explain Silent Hill’s narrative. The core narrative and complementary narrative form a ludonarrative resonance. Ludonarrative resonance was not coined by me. I have yet to find who created the term. Ludonarrative resonance is when all aspects of a video game work together to create a cohesive narrative. Silent Hill’s narrative is a demonstration of ludonarrative resonance.

Map showing all the points for Going Down the Rabbit Hole: Silent Hill Intro Stage Part 2
Mindmap for Intro Stage Part 2

Now onto to the Next Stage

This essay will focus on the cafe. I will continue to divide Silent Hill’s elements into the core narrative and complementary narrative, and bring them together to form ludonarrative resonance. The elements for each is the same as the first stage. This time I will emphasize how each one relates to my main thesis in this essay. I realize from my previous two essays that I need to improve on how each narrative element connects to my thesis for that particular essay. My thesis though, does not connect to all the narrative elements. I will first go into detail explaining the narrative elements that do connect to my thesis. Then I will showcase the other narrative aspects that don’t relate to the thesis, but still have a narrative significance for Silent Hill. Once again, I will show a mindmap of my points in each section to visualize how everything connects together.

In both essays on the first stage, my thesis was that Alice chasing the rabbit was used as a metaphor for its game mechanic, and it’s presented a little differently in each part of the stage. Harry is Alice and Cheryl is the rabbit. The Alice chasing the rabbit theme will continue to be true through the rest of the game. Harry will chase Cheryl until he finds her. She motivates him to persist through the nightmare no matter how terrible it gets. 

A new idea is added to Silent Hill’s narrative in each stage. We’ve already experienced in the introductory stage that Silent Hill is a horror game unlike any other. Of course, that’s in thinking of when Silent Hill came out in 1999, and comparing it to the other horror games that had been released on the fifth console generation such as Resident Evil. In the cafe of this stage, it becomes more obvious that Silent Hill subverts the horror established by survival horror games of its time. 

Game Mechanics: Intro of the How to Subvert Survival Horror

Subverting the survival horror genre is most obvious in its game mechanics. Game mechanics or how the player interacts with a game is the most important part of a video game. That is why I prefer to go over the game mechanics first. As soon as players assume control of Harry in the cafe, he/she will be introduced to four types of game mechanics that are needed to ensure Harry’s survival. They are item collection, inventory, saving, and defense. This list makes it seem like Silent Hill is only borrowing from other survival horror games of the mid to late 90’s such as Resident Evil instead of doing anything new. It is true that Silent Hill borrows it’s game mechanics from Resident Evil, although Silent Hill is utilizing each of these game mechanics differently than Resident Evil. 

There were definitely other horror games besides Resident Evil that were released during this console generation. I will be comparing Silent Hill a lot with Resident Evil since Resident Evil is often credited with popularizing survival horror as a genre. 

Item Collection

Someone who plays Resident Evil has to collect items to progress, however the inventory space is limited. This requires the player to learn how to manage the items he/she collects. On top of collecting keys and puzzle items to progress through the game, the player must consider when it’s best to take items to keep the protagonist alive. Is the green herb worth my one open inventory space? If not, is it worth backtracking later to get it? Is the ink ribbon in that room worth shooting the zombie for? 

Ink ribbons are needed to save game progress at typewriters. The number of ink ribbons available is low. Due to this, the player must decide when it’s best to save the game. If the protagonist dies then the player must restart the game from the last save point. This, on top of a small amount of ammo, makes the player more selective on whether or not to take a chance in killing a zombie. 

The protagonist (Jill or Chris) starts with a handgun and knife for defense. One would think that the knife could be a weapon to use to save ammo for the handgun. Unfortunately, the knife is almost useless, and will most likely get the protagonist killed. The handgun must be used for defense when necessary. 

There are save rooms to take a break from the stress of surviving the zombie outbreak. A save room is an area to store items from the limited inventory to an item box of infinite space, save the game, and enjoy it as a safe haven until the player is ready to continue. All in all, the game mechanic of survival based on item management is a fear created for the player that he/she will only experience within the game. That is Resident Evil though. We’re talking about Silent Hill.

Item Collection
Inventory (Chris – 6 slots)

Silent Hill does not create fear that the player only has within the game, but takes on the appearance of creating the same fear as Resident Evil at first. As Harry collects items in the cafe, his inventory will show eight slots. The same number of inventory slots that Jill has in Resident Evil. The player will soon realize that there is no item management like Resident Evil. One indicator of that in the cafe is that there is no item box even though there is a save point like there would be in Resident Evil. As for saving, it takes the form of a notepad, although there is no need to collect pens to use the notepad to save. The player can see that the notepad already has a pen for Harry. The player can save as often as he/she wants without restrictions unlike Resident Evil’s typewriters always needing an ink ribbon to save the game. Harry does start with a handgun and knife for defense like Resident Evil, however when Harry fights the first monster (since getting the handgun) the player isn’t focused on running out of ammo. The main focus is the shock of the attack. The shock of the attack is caused by the game mechanics and, as we will see, the other parts of the game’s narrative.

SH Inventory (wheel showing 8 slots)
RE Inventory (Jill – 8 slots)
SH Save Point (notepad with pen)
RE Save Point (typewriter needs ink ribbon)

The game mechanics leading to the player being shocked by the surprise attack is from the lack of item management. The lack of item management may catch a Resident Evil fan off guard. How can this game be scary if there is no item management to worry about survival? How can this even be a horror game? Silent Hill will challenge the player to overcome the fear for survival. Instead of restricting supplies and the protagonist’s space for those supplies, Silent Hill will force the player to survive his/her deepest real life fears. As for the cafe, the player may expect it to be a safe haven established by Resident Evil since there is a save point and supplies that Harry needs. The game mechanics here is to stimulate the player’s fear of the unknown by shattering the expectations the player has developed from playing a game like Resident Evil. Just as the player begins to relax in collecting items, however, the camera shows that it may not be a safe haven.

Camera: Perspective on Subverting Survival Horror

This time I’m going to divide the game’s camera into two categories: main camera and forced angle. The main camera is one that always follows Harry, and the player has some control over it. Forced angle is when the camera is in a fixed position that may move with Harry, but it cannot be controlled by the player. Truthfully, the camera has been using both types since the intro stage. Although, it probably won’t be obvious to the player until this point. 

Main Camera

Forced Angle

After the cutscene for this stage ends, the game switches to the main camera. It’s angled in a way behind Harry to show the front door, and hint to the player to explore this part of the cafe. As Harry walks to the bar, the main camera pulls back to show the items he needs to collect as well as interesting environment objects to examine. I will talk more about these objects in the environment section.

Main Camera 1

Once Harry reaches the far end of the bar, the camera takes on a forced angle to focus on the items he needs. As I said previously, the forced angled camera will still move with Harry, however the player has no control over it. Notice the items that it’s showing: flashlight, map, health drink, and save point. These items are important for navigating the town. The flashlight is a an item that will stay with Harry to allow him to see when darkness takes over. Harry will collect a map every time he’s enters a new area or building in the town. The health drink is to heal his health status if an enemy strikes him, and more health drinks will be in various places throughout the game. Save points will also be scattered throughout the game. I like how the articles he needs for traversing the town are grouped in the same area like a clue to the player.

Forced Angle 1

When Harry picks up the map, a brief forced angle shows the player that the cafe may not be the safe haven he/she expects it to be. The brief forced angle is in a position behind the bar to look at Harry. It’s not Harry that the player should look at. It’s the window behind him. As soon as the player turns Harry to take the health drink, something can be seen moving outside the window. Then the camera switches back to the original forced angle. That forced angled camera behind that end of the bar is not used again. 

The first time player will not know to look at the window behind Harry. The camera switching positions is a common occurrence trained to the player in Resident Evil and the beginning of Silent Hill. The camera angle can change, and the player won’t think much of it except for how inconvenient it is for the controls if he/she is not used to it. Since the first time player will most likely not focus on the window behind Harry, the player may catch a brief glimpse of the movement outside. 

By the time the player realizes it, the camera switches back to the forced angle it was positioned at before. It happens so quickly that the player will question whether or not there was actually something moving outside. Did I really see that or was it my imagination? It’s truly a foreshadow that an attack is about to happen, but the foreshadowing happens in a way to create uncertainty in the player. All the player can do is continue searching the cafe being aware that something isn’t right.

Forced Angle 2 (Foreshadow)

The perspective will return to the main camera as Harry walks away from that end of the bar. Interestingly, the main camera is still pointing towards the end of the cafe as he walks away from it. It could be a way of guiding the player to the other side of the cafe. Another possibility is that the camera is hiding the area that Harry is walking towards to make the player anticipate that something could happen when Harry gets there.

Main Camera 2

When Harry does get there, the perspective becomes another forced angle. This time it’s positioned behind the bar facing the window. Almost like the brief forced angle showing something move outside. I will point out that the forced angle is positioned a little differently to emphasize the knife and health drink on the bar as well as the radio on the table behind Harry. Take note that these are items that Harry needs for defense against enemies. The knife to strike enemies, which is not effective compared to the handgun. Another health drink since Harry will more likely be hit by an enemy if he stands up against it. The radio, as we will soon see, is to alert Harry (and the player) that an enemy is close by. 

Even though the forced angle is positioned a little differently to emphasize the items that Harry needs to take, the fact that it’s showing the window behind Harry (like it did on the other side to show something move outside) makes the player think that an attack may happen. An attack does happen, although it occurs in a cutscene when Harry tries to leave the cafe. The camera constantly makes the player anticipate that something will happen. Then that something happens in a way the player didn’t expect.

Forced Angle 3

After the cutscene showing the enemy coming through the window, Harry must shoot it down. Using the knife will only get Harry killed especially when the monster has the capability of flying. The main camera shows the fight between Harry and the monster from the other side of the cafe, and stays at the same level as the monster hovers above Harry. It makes Harry appear smaller than the monster, and intimidating to the player. It’s as if the monster has an advantage over Harry.

Force Angle 4

The player has the option to move Harry to the other side of the cafe where the main camera is currently. Although, if Harry goes in that direction, the main camera will move to where the radio is on the table. This time it’s on the same level as Harry while angled upward to show the monster above him. Harry still looks smaller than the monster from this perspective. Since the camera is on the same level as Harry though, it indicates that the player has increased Harry’s chance against the monster by moving to a better position for the player to see the fight. As we discussed in the second part of the intro stage, the different camera position can cause the player to need more time to get used to the controls. Silent Hill has the advantage of allowing the player to have some control of the main camera.

Forced Angle 5

Controls: Feeling of Subverting Survival Horror

As I stated previously, the player has some control over the main camera. The player can examine the environment around Harry by pressing the L2 button. The L2 button moves the main camera. The main camera always stays with Harry though. The survival horror genre of this time is subverted by giving the player some control over the camera. Most horror games had fixed camera angles, which the player had no control over. The player may feel more fearful if he/she is not allowed to have control of the camera. The player worries about what can’t be seen, which gives enemies an advantage of sneaking up on the protagonist. At first, it may seem that Silent Hill is taking away the fear of what the player can’t see. Yes, Silent Hill gives the player some control of the main camera, but the control that is given to the player is limited. 

The main camera can only show so much. Plus, there are times as we’ve seen when the camera switches to what I call a forced angle. It’s like a fixed camera angle from Resident Evil except for the fact that Resident Evil’s cameras do not move with the protagonist. A forced angle can still move with Harry, although the player has no control of it. The fact that the game will switch between a camera that the player can control, and a camera that he/she can’t control makes the player’s view unpredictable. Horror games with fixed camera angles like Resident Evil create fear by restricting the player’s view of the game, however the player has a good chance of adapting to the restricted viewpoints. Silent Hill makes it difficult for the player to adapt its camera system. One moment the player is controlling Harry through the lens of the main camera. Then the game switches to a forced angle. The switch can happen when the player doesn’t expect it. It’s unpredictable. Unpredictability stimulates the human innate fear of the unknown.

Controls for Main Camera

Forced Angle (No Control of Camera)

Along with controls for the camera, the player gets an introduction for how the controls work for item collection, inventory navigation, and defense against enemies. These controls are straight forward. When it comes to collecting items, Harry must be close to the item. The player presses the X button for Harry to take it. The item will be showcased to the player with an on-screen question asking the player whether or not take the item. By selecting yes (with the up or down direction button and X button), the item will disappear from the screen and appear in the inventory. This process is not much different for other horror games. 

One note I will make is that the player may question why the game must ask if he/she wants the item when the inventory is infinite. It makes sense to ask in Resident Evil because there are only six to eight slots available in the inventory. But, why would Silent Hill need to ask the player if the item is worth the space in an infinite inventory? There’s probably no significance in asking the player whether or not to take the item despite an unrestricted inventory. I just want to point out the small detail taken from Resident Evil that doesn’t seem to be necessary in Silent Hill. Perhaps if the player was only asked to take items in the cafe when he/she expects the inventory to be restricted to eight slots, but not asked for the rest of the game then it would make more sense for it to be in the game. In that case, it would only briefly exist to fulfill the player’s expectations of an inventory like Resident Evil until it becomes obvious that’s not the way it is in Silent Hill. 

Controls for Item Collection

I’ve already talked about the inventory having unrestricted space subverting the limited inventory started by Resident Evil. The controls for the inventory screen are simple. The select button brings up the inventory screen. The directional buttons are used to highlight options and scroll through the inventory. The highlighted option or item is selected with the X button. To exit the inventory, the player can press the select button or triangle button twice (pressing square twice or circle twice has the same result). The inventory screen is the only way for the player to access weapons for defense as well as healing items.

Controls for Inventory

Harry must have a weapon to defend himself. He cannot use his bare fists for defense. A weapon must be equipped within the inventory. Equipped means that the weapon is in Harry’s hands. He aims when R2 is pressed and strikes (with melee weapon) or shoots (with firearm) when the X button is pressed. If Harry takes too many hits from enemies, it will decrease his health status to the point where he needs a health drink to bring his health back up. This is all done within the inventory. 

One nice touch is that Silent Hill uses the vibration function of the PlayStation’s dual shock controller when Harry’s health is low. It is not only a way of alerting the player that his health is low, it’s also making the player feel Harry’s low health. The controller is the connection between player and protagonist, and the player is the one to make the choice to heal the protagonist. The vibration can simulate a rapidly beating heart from blood loss making the player feel like he’s low on blood (health), and that he needs to be healed.

Controls for Defense & Healing

Silent Hill’s controls for defense and healing don’t really subvert survival horror in any way. Even the controller vibration function was added to later editions of Resident Evil 1 and 2 before Silent Hill was released. I will note that a fan of Resident Evil may try to use R1 to aim Harry’s weapon, but he will strafe to the right instead of aiming. There is no strafing in Resident Evil. It’s a useful mechanic that I will talk more in a later part of the game. Team Silent (development team of Silent Hill) may have thought it would be better to have R1 and L1 for strafing, which would move the aiming button to R2.

Now that we have gone over how the core narrative subverts survival horror, we can now examine how two of the complementary narrative parts (audio and cutscenes) contribute to this theme. We’ll begin with the audio this time.

Audio: Sound of Subverting Survival Horror

Returning to the signs that the cafe is not a safe haven, Resident Evil’s save rooms almost always have soothing music that plays in that room only. It’s very relaxing to the player. The first save room, however, that the player will most likely enter in Resident Evil’s mansion has no music. Silent Hill’s cafe has no music. The cafe is the first area with a save point. The fact that it has no music is just like Resident Evil’s first save room having no music. No music may make the player think that the cafe is a safe haven at first since ambient tracks have played in every point of the game until now. Although, silence (no music) can be deceiving in Silent Hill.

Music finally plays when the monster comes through the window to attack Harry. The track is called “Until Death” with unrecognizable instruments producing an ear-piercing panic. The surprise attack causes a panic in the player. 

The player may expect to relax in a save room like he/she could in Resident Evil, and thinks that Silent Hill not having music is a sign to relax. The truth is that there is no time to relax in Silent Hill with the exception of cutscenes. 

Silent Hill’s Silence & Music in Cafe

Resident Evil’s Music in Save Room

Cutscenes: Character Portrayal Subverting Survival Horror

Cutscenes in Silent Hill are a component of character portrayal for the complementary narrative, and they subvert the cutscenes in survival horror games of the 90’s in a couple ways. 

One way is its use of CGI scenes and in-game engine scenes. The limitations of the fifth generation consoles prevented the use of CGI scenes too often. Many games of this generation (including some horror games like Resident Evil 2 and Dino Crisis) would use CGI scenes for the opening and ending cinematics as well as any action scene during the game. Silent Hill uses CGI to emphasize the body language of the characters. Of course, it’s only on certain occasions within the game, and the runtime of the CGI scene is very short. It shows what it needs to of the character’s actions then switches to the in-game engine scene for the character dialogue. As for the cafe, a CGI scene starts the stage with Harry sitting up from lying on a booth seat with a new character (Cybil Bennett) walking toward him. The key thing to observe is Harry’s facial expression when he sees Cybil walking towards him, and Cybil’s facial expression when she sees Harry. An in-game engine scene may be able to show Harry sitting up and Cybil walking towards folding her arms, but not as effectively as CGI. Their facial expression definitely cannot be shown through an in-game engine scene.

An in-game engine scene can focus on character dialogue. It can be noticed that there is no dialogue in CGI scenes because it’s saved for the in-game engine scenes. Resident Evil, along with many video games of this time, were known for its poor voice acting. Silent Hill does not have Hollywood level voice acting either. It does make up for this though, by having the actors exchange dialogue lines like every day conversations between people. It’s a simple yet effective way of making characters seem real and relatable to the player.

Complementary Narrative Not Subverting Survival Horror

We’ve gone over all of Silent Hill’s narrative elements that subvert the survival horror of its time. We still have more complementary narrative parts that have narrative significance for Silent Hill that don’t connect to the thesis. In these sections, I will simply list each point without the transitional flow from point to point. We will continue with the cutscenes since there is plenty more to say about their character portrayal.

Cutscenes: Harry’s and Cybil’s Characters

Alley & Cafe on Map
Alley that Harry experiences

I mentioned the CGI scene of Harry lying on the booth seat and then he sits up. He’s waking up as if the previous stage or at least part of it was a dream. In part two of stage one, I talked about the nightmare states as being similar to a person’s states of consciousness. The fog/snow is the town being partially awake. The darkness is the town falling asleep. The otherworld is the town dreaming. Something to remember is that after crashing his jeep, Harry wakes up to the foggy town. Now in the cafe, Harry is waking up after appearing to die in the otherworld. As we progress with the game and the nightmare continuously cycles, Harry will wake up to the fog/snow state of the town after experiencing the otherworld. It’s like he’s experiencing different states of consciousness along with the town.

Why would he wake up in the cafe though? As we will see later in the game, Harry almost always wakes up in the same place in the fog state as he was when it transitioned from the otherworld. By looking at the map of the town, it doesn’t make logical sense for Harry to so-call die in the alley then wake up in the cafe. For one, the alleyway that Harry traversed in the first stage was much longer than what is shown on the map. Plus, Harry could not have teleported from the alley to the cafe. 

Remember when I kept saying that Harry was going down the rabbit hole in the alleyway. The alley served as an entrance to the Nightmare of Silent Hill. I’m referring to the Nightmare of Silent Hill as everything we experience in the game including the states of fog, darkness, and otherworld. Later in the game, we will see Harry enter the otherworld through an entrance that shouldn’t exist. Harry entered the otherworld of the alley through an extended alley that shouldn’t exist. Since Harry seemed to have died in an area that shouldn’t exist, he woke up to the fog state in a place that does exist: the cafe.

I keep pointing out that Harry seemingly dies at the end of the alley then wakes up in the cafe. This is the only time in the game where Harry appears to die in one place then wakes up somewhere else. When Harry dies in any part of the rest of the game, it is game over. As I said previously, Harry will wake up in the same place as he was when the town transitions from the otherworld to the fog state. Taking these points into account, the best answer I can come up with is that the alley was an entrance to the Nightmare of Silent Hill, but it acted as a corridor to the door or main entrance to the Nightmare. Harry’s appearance of dying was that door opening to the Nightmare. 

I know there are explanations outside of the game about how Harry got from the alley to the cafe. I will only take information about the game directly from the game itself unless it’s information that came from a member of the creative team of Silent Hill. Most explanations of how Harry got from the alley to the cafe are from sources that have not been confirmed by Silent Hill’s development team, Team Silent.

Cybil Meeting Harry in Cafe

Cybil’s Opening Scenes

Cybil Introducing Herself

Cybil is the character that Harry sees when he wakes up. She serves as the deuteragonist or supporting character to Harry. This is not the first time Harry or the player has seen Cybil. In the opening montage, Cybil is seen on the phone and then leaving her seat. Harry sees her on a motorcycle passing him on the way to Silent Hill, and then passes her bike abandoned on the side of the road. In her conversation with Harry in the cafe, she will explain that she is a police officer from Brahms, a neighboring town of Silent Hill. This explanation and her actions in the opening scenes reveal that she was called to investigate Silent Hill. Both Cybil and Harry have a reason to investigate the town. It’s Cybil’s duty to do so while Harry needs to find his daughter. They have a common goal. Each with their own reasons for seeing through to that goal.

We can pick out some characteristics about Harry and Cybil during their first conversation together. The first thing to observe is that both characters show concern for others before themselves. Cybil asks Harry how he’s doing and what he knows about the town. Harry asks her if she has seen his daughter, Cheryl. Then they question where the townspeople are, and what’s happening with the town. They have no words to explain their experiences. 

Their conversation demonstrates that Harry and Cybil are people with good intentions drawn to the nightmare of the town by their responsibilities. For Harry, it’s his responsibility as a father. He came to town for a vacation with his daughter. Cybil has the responsibility of a police officer, and she was ordered to investigate the town. 

Once they introduce themselves, Cybil explains herself as a police officer. She also tells Harry that communications are down. There’s no way to contact anyone outside of town. This fact could explain why Cybil was ordered to investigate Silent Hill. Brahms police could not contact the anyone in Silent Hill. Now it’s Cybil’s goal to call reinforcements to Silent Hill just like it’s Harry’s goal to find Cheryl.

Cybil does try to stop Harry from finding his daughter for she has his safety in mind. When he refuses, she gives him a handgun in her possession to make sure he has a way of defending himself, and gives him advice on using it. Keep in mind that she was willing to hand him her gun as a way of helping him. We will later see her using another gun for her own defense. As a cop, she has access to more weapons than Harry. Also remember the advice she gives him because it will play a role later in the game.

Once she leaves the cafe, the game switches to the player having control of Harry.

There are two more cutscenes in the cafe. One is to show the purpose of the radio, and the monster flying through the window. I talked about the core narrative making the player anticipate a surprise attack. This is that surprise attack. It’s shown through a cutscene because Harry responds to the radio emitting white noise, and, like the intro stage part two, the cutscene showcases Harry’s reaction to the events of the nightmare including the surprise attack.

The last cutscene is his reaction to killing the monster. One will notice that his first line after he wakes up in the cafe is “Was I dreaming?” He answers his own question after the attack. He will be questioning reality throughout the game.

Harry’s Monologue: Inner Thoughts & Refusing Player Actions

Most of Harry’s monologue comes when the player tries to get him to leave the cafe too soon. Then he comments on the radio and the save point.

If the player tries to make Harry leave the cafe before collecting anything or everything, Harry will refuse to leave telling the player to search for items before he can exit.

Attempting to leave the cafe after the monster breaks through the window, Harry again will refuse to leave forcing the player to face the monster.

Once again, Harry will not leave the cafe without a certain item. This time it’s the radio. By this point, a cutscene just showed its use on signaling when monsters are nearby, and Harry will remind the player that they shouldn’t continue into Silent Hill without it. 

If Harry examines the radio before the cutscene, however, then Harry will only comment that it is broken. It is not until after the cutscene showing that it emits white noise when a monster is close that he insists on taking it.

Here Harry gives a narrative significance to the save point. The player uses the notepad to save progress while Harry uses it to write about his experiences in Silent Hill.

Environment: Easter Eggs & Details

The environment has three easter eggs, and a couple details I’d like to point out.

In one window, there are Portishead posters. Portishead is an English band associated with several different genres of music including trip hop and experimental rock. The first thought is that Portishead’s music may have influenced Silent Hill’s music. Unfortunately, I cannot find any interview of Akira Yamaoka (Silent Hill’s sound director) stating that Portishead was one of his influences in creating music for Silent Hill. For that, I cannot confirm with 100% certainty the notion that Portishead is an influence. I will point out the instrumental similarity between Silent Hill’s main theme (played during the opening montage scenes) with Portishead’s song “Sour Times”. The idea that Portishead was an influence on Silent Hill’s music is at least a good notion.

The Study Dammit posters are a reference to Stephen King. I can confirm that King’s novels were an influence on Silent Hill. Members of Team Silent have stated the fact in interviews. The Study Dammit poster was a real poster of Stephen King while he was at the University of Maine for the university’s newspaper.

There is a Medieval Madness pinball machine in between the Study Dammit posters. I have not found anything about it having a narrative significance related to Silent Hill. It may just be an easter egg. I can say that the pinball machine was released in 1997. Two years before Silent Hill was released. It turned out to be a very successful pinball machine.

Before Attack
After Attack

The windows and blinds are intact before the monster breaks the window. Afterwards, the blinds are in disarray, and there are glass shards on the seat. It’s great to see environment details change due to events in the game.

Before Attack
After Attack

The same can be seen on the other side of the cafe where the monster actually came through the window.

Enemy: Air Screamer

This monster is known as the air screamer. It’s a demonic version of the pteranondon. It has much longer legs than a pteranondon is known to have had. The longer legs are similar to human legs. It also looks to have human-like skin. Silent Hill’s monster designer Masahiro Ito typically created monsters to look humanoid in some way. This a pre-historic reptile with features similar to humans.

The air screamer usually flies through the streets of the town, although it can sometimes be seen walking on its legs. I have yet to capture footage of it walking. It attacks Harry by flying over him and hitting him with its legs. Harry can avoid this attack by taking a sudden left or right turn before it strikes. The creature will also hover over him and bite him, which Harry can dodge by running underneath it. Harry can almost always outrun the creature with the exception of the cafe. Besides the radio, the flapping wings is a sign that the air screamer is nearby.

Of course, the air screamer along with every creature in the game has a narrative significance. It’s origin within Silent Hill’s narrative is not revealed until the end of the game.


Silent Hill’s cafe subverts the survival horror that had been established by the time of its release in 1999 by games like Resident Evil. By subverting the survival horror genre of the time, it creates it’s own survival horror in the process. The horror of the player surviving his or her real life fears. Silent Hill will continue to subvert an established component of survival horror in the next stage. The component of the next stage is exploration. Harry must explore the streets of Old Silent Hill on his search for his daughter. Harry’s exploration will be different than players are used to experiencing.

Below are mindmaps for each part of the game that we’ve gone over so far. It’s difficult to clearly see the images even when you left click to enlarge them. The best way to see them is to open them in a new tab by left clicking to enlarge the image then right click and choose open in new tab from the menu.

Core Narrative elements for intro stage parts 1 & 2
Intro Stage Parts 1 & 2 Core Narrative
Cafe Core Narrative
Intro Stage Parts 1 & 2 Complementary Narrative
Complementary Narrative elements for cafe
Cafe Complementary Narrative