I mentioned a few minutes ago that I’d be re-posting some game-related blog content from my Game Informer blog to here. Well, here’s a good transitional post- my commentary on H. P. Lovecraft’s influence on the Silent Hill series. Enjoy!
The craft: Creative writing, regardless of its forms. Whether we’re writing books or video games, it’s important to look at ALL of the work that permeates one’s preferred medium. Scientists don’t just do experiments- they read papers and studies conducted by their peers and build off of what others have to say. As Sir Isaac Newton said, “If I have been able to see further than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.”
The inspiration: Lovecraft. For those of you who did not know of this author before now, Howard Phillips Lovecraft was an American horror writer who specialized in ‘weird fiction’ and essentially created the notion of ‘cosmic indifference’.
Cosmic indifference is the notion that existing creatures, especially those of incredible or unearthly power, do not pay us much attention or even seek to destroy us. He is most renowned for The Call of Cthulhu, in which he writes of the Ancient One, Cthulhu, a “dead god” locked beneath the ocean- this being is of such monstrous power and so terrifying that simply looking at him causes some to lose their minds. This creature was locked beneath the ocean once more, but not before several score of grown men wet their pants. Or were devoured.
(The violent, alien demi-god of the hour!)
So how does this tie into Silent Hill?
Foremost, the god of Silent Hill is said to be born in Alyssa’s womb and spent years trying to claw its way through her body. If that’s not indifference, I don’t care enough to listen to you tell me otherwise.
More generally speaking, though, no supreme being of Silent Hill cares about what happens to its inhabitants, whether human or otherwise. Pyramid Head tries to eat several random enemies, usually mannequins, before trying to kill James Sunderland. Samael/Incubus of Silent Hill pays no attention to the disciple who gets shot on its behalf, or to the little girl it apparently absorbs in order to come into being. God in Silent Hill 3 tries to eat Heather from the inside out, then essentially does the same to Claudia (though she had it coming, because seriously, who eats a blood-and-vomit-covered baby? And how the hell did she swallow it without chewing?) before trying, once again, to kill Heather. The bosses in Origins all try to kill Travis, though they are supposedly, in most cases, family- and that’s not to mention the god that appears in the last battle to kill him.
These are not gods that care about human life; they show up and wreak havoc.
Here’s more fun info on why Lovecraft is the key inspiration behind Silent Hill- HPL inspired Jacob’s Ladder, a unique, psychological thriller movie that Silent Hill borrowed several details from (though I consider this homage, not theft).
For example, in the movie, Jacob wakes up on a subway train. He gets off only to find the platform deserted, but the stairs are blocked by locked gates. He must cross the tracks to get to Bergen Street, and is almost hit by a different train filled with ghostly figures that stare at him in passing. Sound familiar?
The monsters in the film also writhe and spasm in a manner similar to those in SH.
Last but not least: Aliens. Lovecraft’s Elder Gods and Ancient Ones (EG were good guys, AO were bad, to oversimplify this genius’s vast multiverse of literature) were all ALIENS.
That’s right- these weren’t just random spiritual entities or malignant things from the shadowy corners of the Bible, but creatures from beyond the stars, hence COSMIC indifference.
This is likely why each and every Silent Hill, from number one to Downpour, has an alien ending, or at least features Aliens. That’s also why these aliens can show up, ruin everyone’s day and cause an entire town to vanish off the face of the earth. They simply don’t care about the humans.
While this doesn’t explain the dogs, I imagine they serve as a tribute to Dean Koontz, another horror/sci-fi writer, whom one of the streets in SH is named after. The same goes for Stephen King.
So remember: Read. Not only can doing so increase your intelligence, but it can inspire you to more creative ideas. Perhaps you, like me, may fall in love with books and write some for yourself!
At the very least, a book never told me, “Game over.”
The next time you pop in your favorite game, regardless of whether or not that game will take you down the misty lanes of Silent Hill, take a moment to say thank you to all the authors out there. Books were the video games of the previous generations, and those people- the ones who read- are the ones who developed the first games. Without the brilliant minds that came up with TRUE horror- the men and women who penned the first stories of madness, obsession and monsters- we wouldn’t have the awesome games we have today.
And one last thing:
“Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn”