[The PS2 is now officially discontinued! We wanted to give this mighty system a proper farewell so we’re dedicating an entire week to it.]
I realized I loved games when I played Pokemon (Red) for the first time on the Gameboy. I cried because of a video game when I played Cave Story. Silent Hill 2 was my first game into the series and it marked a transition in me as a gamer. Before, I wouldn’t call myself a gamer. Casual enthusiast or someone who plays because he’s bored. The game took that person, ran him through the grinder of its industrial nightmare and spat him out bloodied and with a new appreciation for the medium.
I was in high school when I first played Silent Hill 2. I can’t specifically recall how I ended up with a copy of the game seeing as though I was still too young to purchase M-Rated games for myself. Still, it was the winter holidays and I had the house all to myself. I plugged in my PS2 and inserted the game. The supposed grail of psychological horror, the venerable Silent Hill 2 and I would be playing it all by myself at night. I was excited.
I’m looking for my wife.
I couldn’t get over how good it looked. By now the next gen was well under way but it still floored me just how great the game felt to look at, if that makes any sense. The fog was damp, the ground was muddy, the way the boots probably sank into that muck with each step. Secondly was how long that path to the town was. Seriously, how far would I have to go down to get to my destination? Later I would find out that the answer was much further than I ever would have imagined possible. I would meet someone, Angela, on the way to the town. What a strange girl. Static? How I would come to love and loathe that grating sound. And then I see that armless creature for the first time and I pause the game.
There was a hole here. It’s gone now.
Oh my god what is with this town?! That limping monster sometimes crawls? That’s like the grossest shit ever! Luckily the steel pipe is like…if God blessed a pipe or something. Wandering around town became far more stressful after finding out that there things hiding in the fog that could hurt me. The apartment where probably the most shocking scene in all of gaming occurs? Not only that but it’s littered with little clues and symbolism. The corpse found in the armchair? James reaching into crevices with blatant disregard for his wellbeing? Bellmer’s creepy dolls? The apartment was a claustrophobic nightmare and again, only the tip of that iceberg.
I hate hospitals, I hate needles, I hate you, and I hate myself.
Maria was a shock but honestly a pleasant surprise. Pleasant in that I wasn’t alone anymore. I mean yeah I’ve been meeting people left and right, Angela (again), Eddie (ew), Laura (brat). The hospital was probably where things were the worst. I was forcing myself to continue on and only wished I had the unnervingly steely resolve of the protagonist. He kept going deeper and deeper into this nightmare with some sort of reckless abandon. I didn’t know if he cared for his safety anymore, or the whole time I started playing for that matter. If I thought the apartment was bad then the fact that I was in a hospital only made it worse. Same narrow corridors, same constant blaring of static, and the horrible industrial apparatus all came down on me to the point where I wanted to quit. Maria also slid down the helpful scale really quickly with her disappearing, reappearing, and sudden unsettling aura. By the end though the hospital tore down James as the town had torn down me and I think we both steeled ourselves for the worse.
Further down the rabbit hole. The rabbit is probably a monster.
Left? Right? Down? I didn’t question anything anymore at this point. I was too tired and emotionally drained from dealing with the stress of this game. I’m pretty sure the game reignited my fear of the dark. Go down again? Sure why not. Oh look it’s the Pyramid, guess I’m going to turn back. There’s a grave with my name. Down again? Why I’d be delighted to. Oh look it’s Angela again! Oh…oh. Well I’ll leave you to deal with that then. Hey look it’s Eddie! Et tu Brutus? It’s fine, it’s either you or me anyways and I’m too busy looking for my wife to deal with you. I think it was at this point I sort of deluded myself into thinking there would be happiness waiting for me at the game. I wonder if that’s what James thought also? Why else would I, or he I guess, keep going if there wasn’t love at the end of this journey?
And then suddenly…
a video tape that changes everything.
How does the defendant plead? Guilty.
By now James is bloodied. I’m on the verge of tears. I can’t find Mary, Maria, Etc. I’ve seen hell and it’s squishy, grey, and bleeds if I hit it enough times. I’m so tired and just really want this to end. Not because I’ve given up, but because the game had been prodding my psyche the entire time. How far would you be willing to go to save someone? How much danger are you willing to put yourself in? Are you lonely? Are you ashamed? How strong are you?
I don’t know, but I’m begging you to leave me alone.
In my restless dreams.
I did it though. I beat the game without dying once. Why? Because I didn’t want to die. Ever. Not in the game, not by anything in the game that could. I wouldn’t let it because I felt like I would never want to play the game again after seeing a game over screen. James started off to me as a robotic protagonist who just did what he was supposed to. But as I went deeper and deeper into his story, it grew into that of salvation from the poisonous swamp of his life. It was an experience, it was a journey, it was bloodletting.
Rest in peace Playstation 2, I almost threw you out the window.