Buying a second-hand Playstation 4 was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever done. I already owned a (brand new) Playstation 4 prior to purchasing the second-hand PS4. I bought the second console with the full intent of sharing the gaming experience with my family back in my hometown. The previous owner told me he still had some downloaded installed because he wanted me to test the unit first. Excited, I hooked up my second PS4 to my TV and was greeted with a list of games that I wasn’t familiar with. There was Infamous Second Son, Guilty Gear Xrd, and a mysterious game with just a tree and two letters to describe itself.
I tested PT knowing nothing about the game. The menu was an ominous black with a very simplistic the font. No fancy animations could be seen and no indication of what the game was about could be gleaned from the controls. After making the necessary changes to the settings, everything turned black. Having not played any console game since the PS2, I was thrown off-guard by the colour scheme, the weird sound chimes in the menu, and the weird cranial MRI scan to serve as a brightness gauge. It already started making me feel a bit uneasy.
My TV wasn’t that great, but it can bombard my room with the sounds it generated. Imagine my surprise for the opening scene when I heard the sound of someone choking on his / her own phlegm. I told myself, oh dear, this could be a horror game.
I was so pumped.
That darkness covering the entire room. That lone light shining on that lone door. That door. It was definitely telling me to go ahead and open it. It’s very reminiscent of the Resident Evil games. Pretty much every horror game I know invest so much detail for frickin’ doors. And yet one is presented in front of me, inviting me to open it and see what’s on the other side.
Again, I was surprised. It’s a narrow hallway, generously lit by the bright lamps from its walls. As I walk further down the hallway, I can see broken things scattered on the floor. I was curious, I was intent to know more about the story. Like I said, I never played much games from the current gen (I was only able to play Arkham Knight and The Last of Us that time) but even with the grainy textures, it’s not that hard to get immersed into the atmosphere being built within that hallway. Curiosity peaks further with the sight of three more doors as I turn that now infamous corner. Two of them can’t be opened. I kept asking why, while I see one lone door leading to the basement. Heading to that basement, there was a boom of audio coming out from my right. Audio was so well-designed I really thought my alarm-clock-con-radio-of-a-speaker device just suddenly turned on. Needless today, I was spooked. It was like crack for horror game lovers.
Great Spooks Start From Small Beginnings
I can’t believe that something as small as PT, unbeknownst to me at that time, can be such a phenomenon, it will keep people buzzing to this day. That infamous hallway – brimming with character, horror, and mystery – has been one of my fondest gaming memories. The 3D audio booming from my TV, that sense of dread every time you have to turn that corner, that weird glitch that made you think you just broke your PS4. It was a full-packaged game, that only cycled through that same hallway. But most importantly, it gave horror games more character. That horrors do happen in real life through mischief, infidelity and violence.
Beyond the fantasies of ghosts, premonitions, and unending hallways, PT showed us what horror games lacked these days: the character of fear. That fear isn’t just emotion, and that like any character found in books or in games, it has its origins, its development, and eventually its becoming.
And through these nuances, we see bigger pictures of what we have been avoiding in real life: being terminated from a job, the fear of losing intimacy, the loss of a loved one. Horror has never been grounded and so relateable, I was actually left wanting for more. And of course, through a guide, like many other fans of the game, I was able to unlock what this small game really conceals.
The game is a Playable Teaser for an upcoming game by Hideo Kojima and Guillermo del Toro, and it’s called Silent Hills.
Secrets and Misleads
Hideo Kojima is always known for his marketing tactics, always living by his motto, “Betray Your Audience.” This is the very same advice he gave to Jordan Vogt-Roberts, who is now pitted to direct a movie adaptation of his (Kojima’s) magnum opus, the Metal Gear Solid franchise. It seems like the case wasn’t only applicable to Kojima’s fans, though.
(Warning: The following accounts are based from rumors heard / read from certain personalities surrounding PT’s development, and could be purely speculative)
During the development of Metal Gear Solid V, the Silent Hill team is slowly getting disbanded, while Silent Hill franchise owner Konami employed the help of other developers to build their new Silent Hill games. It was this time when Kojima took interest in reviving the franchise. He spoke to the board about his intent to reboot the franchise, but to no avail, with the board thinking that it will be useless spending for a dying franchise. Seemingly unfazed, Kojima sought help from “self-declared Otaku” and friend Guillermo del Toro to build a prototype that would take the world by storm, and finally convince Konami’s management to push through with the project.
He used Metal Gear Solid V’s resources in order to sneak in development of said prototype, masquerading the entire project as if a secret content within the game. This is very reminiscent of Kojima’s weird dream sequence from Metal Gear Solid 3, turning the stealth game on its head and making it a violent hack and slash.
As development finally concluded, Kojima needed a mislead to allow the announcement to a wider audience, thus the creation of fake developer 7780s Studio and the announcement of the free-to-download demo of PT. Announced at Gamescom on August, 2014, PT has since become a gaming phenomenon that no one ever saw coming.
The Storm Before the Storm
Tons of content creators have picked up the demo, following mainstream gaming media to also pick up the story. Kojima thought that the puzzles in the game would take months before it gets resolved. He was in fact surprised that someone could solve the puzzles in just mere 3 days, by a Twitch streamer named SoapyWarpig. You can see her full playthrough of her game below but I earmarked the video so you could immediately see the actual secret reveal:
Since then, the game took the world by storm, and everyone from PewDiePie to Gamespot has been trying to unlock the game’s secret. At that time, no one still knew how to surgically trigger the Silent Hills cinematic reveal (and even up to this point, the solutions found online are still hit-and-miss).
As for what happened within the board meetings in Konami, no one actually knows, but from that fateful day in Gamescom 2014 up to April 2015, we were promised a new Silent Hills game, and we all thought it’s gonna be bonkers-awesome.
The Horrors That Followed
Little did we know that tensions grew bigger from within Konami. We will never know what caused the rift between Kojima and Konami, but as we understand Japanese work culture, no one messes with the bigwigs. The creation of PT was a blatant display of disobedience, and for me, it felt like it put Konami in a position of forced-compliance to building the next Silent Hill game. As the release date of Metal Gear Solid V looms, so was the pressure for Konami to go back to back with releasing games from their two biggest game franchises.
Ultimately, Konami decided to cancel Silent Hills on April 29, 2015, and that future downloads of the Playable Teaser will cease by May 2015.
Obviously, fans of Hideo Kojima and the Silent Hill franchise were disgruntled, to put it lightly. Petitions to bring back development of Silent Hills was made, while everyone who was able to download the game held tightly to their consoles, albeit letting go of them for a fortune. To date, there is no legitimate way to download PT from Sony’s Playstation Network, making PS4 units with the game in it prized and auctioned for crazy sums.
But beyond the chaos of cancellations and crazy eBay auctions were the broken hearts who thought horror games are making a great comeback. That horror games will be great again, despite the recent offerings of genre giants like Capcom’s Resident Evil and EA’s Dead Space franchises.
The Real Horror
Nowadays, big publishers and developers are still hostages of a fear. The fear that developing horror games will never be as lucrative as it was before. Capcom did attempt a back-to-the-roots approach with Resident Evil 7, but with only 4 million copies sold to date, one would wonder if Capcom will invest in developing a game as critically-acclaimed as Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. We, at Game Ako, also wonder whether horror masterpieces will soon be expected to exclusively come out from independent developers, with Allison Road almost being canceled, while recent indie titles Layers of Fear and Outlast 2 missing critical marks and commercial expectations.
Halloween is coming, and we get it. Not all people enjoy the experience of being spooked, nor everyone share the passion for horror games. Even though PT tried to resuscitate the dying genre, it was still all for naught. But we are still hopeful, that developers will be brave enough to make games that specialize in this now-niche genre. And that new gamers will be willing to take the ride on this horror train that we sorely, sorely miss.