Shattered Restless Rooms: Remembering Silent Hill

Silent Hills PT

In my restless dreams, I see that town. Silent Hill. We used to go there often. Well, I’m waiting for you there now.

The Silent Hill series was a crazy important influence in my life. Actually, that’s an understatement. I first played Silent Hill 2 not long after my dad took me to a Robert McKee seminar on horror. This was, if I recall correctly, a few months before I left for college, and watching McKee celebrate the tropes of the genre, culminating in a scene-by-scene analysis of Ridley Scott’s Alien (my first time watching it, and none too soon), primed me to have my mind blown by that game’s oppressive, surreal melancholy. Up until that point, I’d played around with humor, absurdism, and science fiction, but that confluence of events led me to realize that horror—specifically, surreal or metaphysical horror—is my genre.

It also helped me form the first principles of my theory of interactive storytelling: that the emotional, the psychological, the internal are all exploded outward, transformed into environments to be explored; that key moments should never be shown to the player when they can be experienced, so that the player becomes complicit in the protagonist’s journey. A few other games—Fatal FrameRule of RoseShadow of the Colossus—helped finesse and cement this theory, but Silent Hill snuck in there first. It also introduced me to David Lynch, to Jacob’s Ladder, to Mark Z. Danielewski, and to many others.

I’ve come to accept the fact that Silent Hill is dead—not just dead but, in series-appropriate fashion, reanimated and debased and paraded and tormented and killed again. But I’m still grateful for what it gave me.

In the spirit of that gratitude, I authored a series of pieces for Entropy called Biography of a Place. In form, they’re all over the place: some function like reviews, while others focus on a specific element of character development or symbolism, based on what grabbed me about the game and the mood I was in at the time of writing. Where I’ve said the least, I trust the games to speak for themselves.

I’m all alone there now. Waiting for you.

Silent Hill: Biography of a Place

Silent Hill 2: Biography of a Place

Silent Hill 3: Biography of a Place

Silent Hill 4: Biography of a Place

Biography of a Place: Silent Hill (the movie)

Silent Hill Homecoming: Biography of a Place

Silent Hill Origins: Biography of a Place

Silent Hill Downpour: Biography of a Place

Silent Hill Shattered Memories: Biography of a Place

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On Games and Gaminess

I haven’t done an actual career-related update for a while, and with several recent and upcoming articles on Entropy that I’m immoderately proud of, I figured, oh, what the hell. For writing!

Entropy is “A new website featuring literary and related non-literary content.” It’s been going strong for, oh, three weeks now, and I couldn’t be happier with the community that I’m now a part of (as a contributing editor for the site). I’ve made the acquaintance of some awesome writers who share many of my interests, and even though I don’t get to read the e-magazine as often or as thoroughly as I’d like, I can tell from what I do read that I’m in the middle of a network of great writers and thinkers.

But enough of the mushy stuff. Here’s what I’ve been doing for Entropy so far:

My first post, on March 21, was an interview with John Clowdus of Small Box Games. A small, independent card game publisher who has stayed small and independent, I really admire John’s work both as a publisher and a designer. His games tend to be small and quick but full of tense decision-making, not to mention gorgeous to look at.

On April 5, for International Tabletop Day, I wrote about  the Allure of Allegory; or, a Case for Cardboard, in which I argue passionately for a medium that I didn’t even know existed, in any serious, modern form, 2 years ago: board games.

On April 7, Janice Lee posted a piece titled Interface Culture: On Narrative & Video Games, which features a few citations from one of my previously published articles on the Black Clock blog. It’s a great, reader-friendly tying-together of modern thinking around the medium of electronic games.

And today, on April 9, I published When Play Isn’t Fun Anymore: On Games and Discomfort. It was originally three separate essays until I realized that they were all talking about the same thing: games that manage to work in spite, or because, of failing at being “fun.”

I also edited Mike Molitch-Hou’s Why-To Like Poetry and last Sunday’s list of Top 3 Unfinished Books. In the next few days, I’ll be posting Part 1 of a discussion I participated in, talking around the subject of video games and aesthetics, and there’s much more on the way, including more interviews, reviews and…wait for it…session reports!


A Very Busy Season

Elves aren’t the only small, humanoid creatures that are all a-bustle this holiday season. Yours truly (more hobbit than elf, to be honest) has also been a busy bee-ver (a strange concept for a hybrid animal, but I don’t really give a dam). Let’s pick out some of this month’s highlights:

My retrospective review of Tomorrow Corporation’s Little Inferno went live on HTMLGIANT this morning. If you haven’t had a chance to play the game, it’s currently on sale in a variety of digital marketplaces, including the pay-as-you-wish Humble Bundle, so your excuse for not trying one of indie gaming’s most blistering satires is undeniably insufficient.

In case you missed it, this is my second HTMLGIANT review of the month. The first was of Daniel S. Muehlmeier’s art object/board game CENTERPIECE, the subject of a failed and widely mocked Kickstarter project. I’m not sure why the campaign failed, to be honest; I was hooked from the moment I first clicked on the video (it has certain mesmeric qualities). Though the Kickstarter failed, you can still order copies of Daniel’s game on ebay.

You might remember that last month, my wife Heather started her own blog, JUMPSCARES, chronicling our late-night delves into Netflix’s horror library. Well, she was kind enough to let me write a guest post in review of Satan’s Little Helper, a cheeky indie horror comedy she refused to touch. She’s also got a review up, as of a few days ago, of Pontypool, a surprise hit suggested to us by Netflix Max. You should really check it out (the film and the review).

Finally, I haven’t given up on my Sexy WIPs…just slowed down the pace a bit. If you’ve been following this blog, you will already have seen the first two installments of Fatal Purr, my overproduced animatronic horror stage musical, written during my and Heather’s honeymoon. There’s also a little Xmas surprise coming at the end of the month. And I’ve added some licensing information to the About page, since I am now officially publishing my own creative content on the blog…basically, feel free to share, reblog, retweet, or remix anything you find here, as long as you link back to The Year is Yesterday and you don’t make money off of it (to obtain permission for commercial use, feel free to contact me personally).

So as you can see, I’ve been working hard this…oh crap, it’s only 2 days until Christmas?! OMGBRB

Postscript: My newest roundup of Kickstarter projects for NerdSpan just went live as well. Check it out!


Giants Prehistoric and Postmodern, Killer Gramophones, and cetera

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How do you know you’ve hit the big leagues? I don’t know, maybe when there are fucking giants involved? At least that’s how I feel when, all breathless and with a gut full of lepidopterans, I find one of my articles published on the awesomely cool HTMLGIANT. It’s a bit of a review, a bit of a criticism, and a bit of a confession, all centered around the question: how far can we possibly push storytelling in video games? Is there a point where we become limited, not by the technology or the medium, but by the personalities of the players themselves? Do those players (myself included) actually want the kinds of stories they keep clamoring for? Find out–well, one person’s heartfelt take, at least–in Mass Effect and the Self-Imposed Strictures of Interactive Storytelling.

My wife of 10 years, Heather Campbell, has begun tapping into her own writerly spirit with jumpscares, a WordPress blog dedicated to the horrific gems buried in the Netflix instant streaming catalog. I couldn’t think of a better calling for somebody who spends as much time on Netflix as we do (she’s as mad about movies as I am goofy for games), and she plans to update it with weekly reviews and other features. To date, jumpscares has covered three streaming delights: the off-the-wall Twin Peaks pilot episode, the surreal psychological horror of YELLOWBRICKROAD, and the quirky cult slasher flick with a too-strong moral compass, Sleepaway Camp 2. She’s also finally hopped aboard the Twitter train (follow her @lurking_horrors).

I continue to preside over the Geek Haven, a.k.a. Kickstarter’s projects in the game-o-sphere, with a monthly, curated view of what I see as the best of the best. This month, that included the insanely overfunded Night in the Woods, for which I didn’t see the appeal until I clicked on the video myself. It also includes Dino Run 2, a dream project that, if it doesn’t hit its funding goal, will make me cry dinosaurian tears; Touch Board, a very cool tech project with real-world gaming applications; and more of my usual mix of electronic and tabletop games. Check out November’s Geek Haven: Dark Woods, Paleolithic Paths and Gaming Paint.

and some microfiction for you:

My old professor tended a garden of nocturnal daylilies. He was a peculiar sort: every evening, he retired into his night-garden, recited Shakespeare by the blue light of the mosquito lamp.

His garden was something of a legend among students. He offered guided tours, without appointment, on weekends, but by morning the blooms were already beginning to close. Only four students had witnessed the flowers in their full splendor, inhaled their moony fragrance, but they were strangely reticent about the how they had come upon the professor’s garden at night. A heavy price was whispered.

I became the fifth.


Healthy Living Slasher Dream Squashtacular!

Lots of goodness to report this week. First, I report on the latest Kickstarter happenings in the Geek Haven Halloween Squashtacular, courtesy of NerdSpan.com. Pretty Princesses, autoscaling guns and a new Rebuild, oh my!

If there’s one demographic that knows how to get into the spirit of Halloween, it’s gamers. Every year during the month of October, there’s at least one spooky little gaming treat to get us all into the mood. In 2010 it was Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare; in 2011, we got Infamous: Festival of Blood; 2012 gave us Hotline Miami (hey, at least it has masks); and 2013′s big Halloween release is…Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag? Well, I suppose there’s a skull and crossbones. At least in the Geek Haven, there are plenty of witches, alien abduction, zombies and games of dress-up to look forward to…as well as some games that, if they aren’t quite in the spirit of the season, are no less deserving of your attention because of it.

Next up, we bring you breaking news from the Reality(tm) front. The Reality Institute, curated by Reality(tm) connoisseur Michael Molitch-Hou, has uncovered a slimming new slice of the real with The Healthy Imperative. What happens when a BodyConscious mother gets fed up with all the outdated mores of American society, with its laws and CPS agents? Find out in this extended rant/blog post discovered exclusively by yours truly, Byron Alexander Campbell.

It was supposed to be the year of healthy living.

I know that as soon as I post this update, I’m going to get roughly 7 million responses from my BodyWatch Inner Circle (luv ya!) saying, “LaJoindRa, you make that same resolution EVERY NEW YEARS EVE!!!!”! Lol, I know! ;) [j/k, I luv u guys] But you know what, this year was going to be really special. ❤ Lol, it’s so depressing and disappointing I don’t even want to talk about it. :”’( But I know some of you guys (u kno who u are!!) love a good BackSliding story. Can’t disappoint my loyal fans. ;p

Now if you’re reading this, you’re in my Inner Circle [can’t let the plebs see me in a moment of weakness loljk], so you know I’ve always been a BodyConscious person. It started when I was 12 years old and my Daddy took me to get my first vag-plasty. I wasn’t naive enough that I didn’t know what it was for (thanks, Mom xxxooo), but I guess I never thought about needing to get it done myself, even though I’d sat in for Mom’s rejuves once or twice by that age. But then again, she’d had me! [lol ;p] Any vag would need a little refreshment after that. You only need to look at my ankle molding pics to guess that, even as a girl, that girl [me ;) ] got legs!!!!!!!

In case you missed it, all 5 acts of my high school-era horror screenplay, Dark Ascension, are up as of earlier this morning. Read the entire thing in one sitting…if you’re brave enough. Few men (or women) can handle THIS MUCH overt symbolism.

And finally, I leave you with this wonderful piece of microfiction from Heather Campbell, titled “Slasher Dream”:

I had a dream that the killer was inside the house, so we had to live in the garage.


You’re Not My Mom

You’re not the boss of me. I can review a game I’ve already reviewed if I wanna.

See?

http://www.nerdspan.com/boss-monster-card-game-review/

So naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah


Vacation Advice

Make a stir fry, take it on a picnic…to MARS, throw it at a dragon, board a riverboat, watch the boat sink, go a little crazy, eat your vegetables.

http://www.nerdspan.com/geek-haven-balanced-diets-sinking-ships-and-new-frontiers/