Broken Silence: Fan interaction

WeeklyVania, eat your heart out. reHorror, you’ve got nothing on this. Broken Silence is an article series for the Silent Hill franchise. Future titles, ideas, theories, and anything else pertaining to the foggy town will be discussed. Hopefully the psychological horror fans among you all will enjoy it. Pretend you were linked these articles by your dead wife.

The internet allows for developers and publishers to interact with fans of their videogames more than ever. When it comes to Silent Hill, developers either get praised for listening to us or attacked.

On our very own forum, we are lucky enough to have not only one person behind the latest Silent Hill game, but two. Devin Shatsky and Tomm Hulett often come by to engage us fans with either an opposing viewpoint to series changes, or address concerns. They are actively listening to our suggestions as well. The Silent Hill community caused a big enough fuss over button prompts in Downpour that the team made it a toggle option under the games’s settings. We helped something change for the better. But this begs the question: how much is too much? Should fans take advantage of developers who are vocal? Well, yes, but it all matters on how it’s done.

Despite giving us time and an open ear, some fans rather attack those behind their beloved series. The human factor completely disappears, and instead developers (creators in general) are seen as the slaves of the fanbase who must create an ideal image of what makes a “perfect” Silent Hill game. Some believe that will only happen if “Team Silent” came back. I even witnessed a forum thread that demanded that Silent Hill producer Tomm Hulett be fired.

Fan interaction can be a double edged sword. I for one am extremely pleased that I have the chance to interact with Tomm and Devin; these guys are working on my favorite series, and their concern for what us fans want is great. Although, I can only imagine the dribble that must bombard them on a daily basis. Death threats are not uncommon from a community this passionate about a series that can easily be defined as artistic. Those who resort to something so drastic should perhaps re-evaluate their priorities if a work of fiction works them up so much. There’s no question that fans shouldn’t be passionate about something they love, but that’s downright scary. This brings to mind the people who became obsessed with the world of Pandora in James Cameron’s Avatar so much so that they found their very own lives mundane and meaningless.

A close friend of mine who has a Silent Hill podcast has been under attack by rabid fans on more than one occasion, because they despise her optimistic viewpoint of upcoming titles. So have I. It’s hard to state an opinion that is willing to experience changes with an open mind without becoming “cancer” to the series. For such a mature and intelligent series, it’s depressing to see such childish drama between optimistic and pessimistic fans. Is my friend a bitch for wanting to wait and hear the Korn track before saying she dislikes it? No. Am I a c*nt for thinking the same? I hope not.

The next issue with fan interaction is when decisions made by someone higher-up are made, and those who interact with us are blamed. In this case, Korn’s opening title theme for Silent Hill: Downpour. Both Tomm and Devin know the ramifications behind including a song by a band like Korn in a Silent Hill game. It’s not hard to conclude that this was not their decision, but it’s one they will have to stand behind.

Korn, new voiceovers, and a big departure in the series (Book of Memories) are at the forefront of the backlash right now. Is it justified? To an extent I think so. Korn, although just an opening theme stuck to the main menu, was still a big “wut?” for me. Its inclusion has no affect on the actual game, but it is still an odd choice. I will go more in depth with it perhaps on another entry of this series.

I hate hearing about a cooperation being evil and doing something that equates to a big “f**k you” to fans, but is it appropriate to call shenanigans on Konami’s actions just yet?

The Silent Hill HD Collection was something fans clamored for, but now there seems to be a large outcry against the new voiceovers. Fan demand brought this project to life, and most recently an Xbox 360 version as well. To me it sounds like we’re still being heard, but disagreement has continued.

The new voiceovers don’t phase me as I see legitimate reasoning behind them -and for the most part think they will be good, but I do think the classic performances should live on in the HD Collection. For nostalgia and for the sense of a more complete package. The original tracks may have acting that is not up to par by today’s standards, but that was part of the charm. Awkward lines, whether intentional or not gave the voices a dream-like quality.

Book of Memories is an odd little thing. Many fans already see it as a blight on the series, but I personally categorize it in the same field as Silent Hill Arcade. It’s a side game that is toying with a new genre on a different venue. Even if the story is canon, the gameplay changes have no effect on the “main” series. The Playstation Vita is a mobile platform, and the style of Book of Memories seems appropriate. Silent Hill: Origins was a fantastic game, but did it feel mobile? No. It felt like a full fledged title that required dedicated time and immersion. Not something you would play while on a fifteen minute bus ride. You would miss your stop! Book of Memories appears to be better suited for a mobile platform. Playing online with friends is a part of that. Whether it’s good or not remains to be seen. Given WayForward’s track record (Boy and His Blob, LIT, and the upcoming BloodRayne: Betrayal) I wouldn’t be surprised if ended up being at least fun.

I dislike Korn as a band, but am willing to be a optimist when it comes to Silent Hill. Maybe they will do a decent track. I have high hopes for Downpour and one song can’t ruin it; bad gameplay and a predictable story will. Same goes with the HD Collection. Well, not gameplay since its a port of a game I love, but the voiceovers.

In the end, no matter what happens in the future with the series, the original games that made me fall in love with that sleepy town still exist. They’re in my home and are always ready to be played. I will be happy if the future releases can keep that love alive, and I hope they will.

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