Video Games as Art

The debate regarding video games as art rages on, and with both the hardcore gamer and the hardcore artist arguing their side, I am here to argue for the former. Please note that I am also an artist (although, foremost a gamer), perhaps not an accomplished one – and certainly not one who has ever had their art hung in a gallery, but an artist nonetheless. After having read this article I decided to stage a retaliation article, of sorts. Not to attack or demean, but to argue my own points regarding this issue, especially as a budding games designer.

I take fault with this article for several reasons, not least quoting papers that are nearly 200 years old. 200 years ago society was much different to the society we now find ourselves in, and with societal progression comes redefinition and change. After all, why classify games as non-artistic based in the philosophy of peoples who had no idea of what video games even are? But this is besides the point.

The debate surrounding video games as art is an ever-swirling mass of toing and froing from both sides, and the arguments are complicated and ever-going on. To begin with we should find a definition of art.
Art:
The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture,…: “the art of the Renaissance”
Works produced by such skill and imagination.
Synonyms for art include craft, skill, science and workmanship.
So, in the simplest terms, video games would then be considered as art – they are expressions of human creative skill and are the product of imagination. They also require craft, skill and science to create: they take years to write, develop, and produce. However, to look for a more defined concept of what art is would widen, and deepen, the argument for video games as art. 

Image

I would also argue that art is interpreted through user interaction and integration – how an audience may view a piece, much art is open to interpretation and brings into play wider themes. There is art regarding sexuality, feminism, politics and philosophy and it takes many, many forms, not just a painting. Writing, poetry, even now visual cinema are all considered viable art forms. In this case, video games would again be consider an art if you were to take these aspects into play – video games are the ultimate interactive art form, as you take on an avatar and guide them through whichever scenarios take place within the narrative. Video games too, bring into play politics, philosophy and many other wide-reaching themes; games such as Fallout tackle war, and the standout phrase of that series is “War. War never changes.”  This isn’t even a modern development- in the mid-nineties, Final Fantasy was tackling themes of war and human slavery in their epic RPG Final Fantasy VI and in the late 90s, survival horror was born in the form of Silent Hill which tackled mature themes such as bullying, social alienation, and religion. These may, initially, not be considered artistic themes but these themes have been tackled in literature, painting, and cinema for decades, years even. Whilst they may not themselves, specifically, be artistic themes, the fact that they appear within an art piece is enough to define them as such.

Image

So, in the basest terms of what the generalised definitions of art are, you could in this case, consider a video game a form of art. I would, however, like to back up my argument and put forward several other arguments, and considerations, not just personal opinions. For example, video games are not a simplistic process, simply putting words into a computer to form a finished product. Months, if not years, of writing, developing, and designing will go into a game before it is a finished product. This includes writing, scoring, developmental designing and a whole host of other aspects which produce a finished product that could, in itself be considered an art-form.

Indeed, many video games are in themselves comprised of many different art forms, put together into a larger art form. Concept art is much like the art you may find in a gallery, and is eventually animated and put into a game in the form of characters, settings, and scenarios. The music of a game has long since changed from chiptune to include full orchestral scores – such as BioShock and Shadow of the Colossus. Then of course there are cutscene and full motion videos, which in themselves seek to emulate cinema and often do.  As is evident, there are many aspects that go towards putting a game together and not only this, these individual elements are often considered an artform in themselves – so why is it that video games carry such stigma? Personally I believe it is to do with the old stereotypes and the personal stigma many people hold towards gamers.

Image

A piece of concept art from Final Fantasy XII.

One of the foremost arguments against video games being classified as art is that games such as The Sims exist. This, in itself, shows ignorance to what video games are – The Sims are, infact, one of the most successful franchises, yes. But they are not the only example of a successful game franchise – BioShock, Fallout, Devil May Cry, Final Fantasy and Mass Effect are all examples of well-made video games, well-received by critics and audiences alike, that encompass many more adult themes. In this, the stereotype of the teenage boy sat alone in his bedroom playing video games is far from accurate –it may have been accurate 10, 20 years ago but these gamers grew up and with their ageing, so their tastes too developed. An ageing audience requires games more suited to their demographic, just as comics in the 80s became an adult market, so to have video games now become a more grown-up market. By including games such as The Sims and Call of Duty, many people arguing against video games as art are infact manipulating their audience and perpetuating old stereotypes as to what games are. They not only ignore that the industry has evolved and produced some stunning works of art, but neglect to mention the wider range of video games in the first place. I am a firm believer in the fact that one cannot argue against something without being fully aware of both sides – and by neglecting to even learn of video games, some people face a downfall.

Now, onto some of the very games themselves. I may hear you ask just what games could be considered art – why, I have mentioned several of them on this blog alone. Silent Hill and Shadow of the Colossus are two such games which contain adult themes, open to interpretation, and beautifully put together. But there are many such games besides that could be considered art. Perhaps my favourite here is Okami, a game based in Japanese folklore and telling the tale of a Japanese god, Amaterasu. She is the Mother of All, God of the Sun, and in the game you seek out to banish evil from the land- and in doing so, much of the game’s beautiful scenery comes to life. What sets this game out from the rest is that the art style emulates traditional Japanese brush art, so the entire world is literally put forward as a painting. This brings into play an interesting dynamic, wherein you “paint” the world; you in a sense become an artist, shaping the world for the better, around you. Not only is the art in Okami beautiful but the score, too, and the adherence to traditional mythology and wide themes such as environmentalism, love, and heroism.

Image

And another game, BioShock, encompasses wide philosophical and societal themes, with a dash of politics. It takes place in Rapture, a city under the sea overseen by Andrew Ryan (a nod to Ayn Rand, whose objectivist themes are recurrent throughout the game) a dictator who wanted to get away from the government, and rule, to create his own land where people were free to do what they liked. However, things did not go as planned, and Rapture fell – you follow the wishes of a man named Atlas, trying to save his family, and escape Rapture. The game encompasses so many wide themes that to go into it requires its own blog post, but the themes in the game are not only adult, but bring into play an interesting dynamic when a certain act comes to pass. Do not read the following paragraph if you do not wish to have the game spoiled for you.

Within the game, the question of “what makes man a man” and free will come into play frequently – it is man’s free will that let Rapture fall, but was also the catalyst for the creation of a great city in the first place. Throughout the entire game the phrase “Would You Kindly” is repeated by Atlas, as he asks you to do certain things. You control the faceless protagonist under the guise of free will – you as a player are committing these acts off of your own back. Or are you? About half way through the game it is revealed your character has no free will, and the phrase “would you kindly” is a trigger to control you. Not only is your avatar within the game actually being controlled, but the player, as an extension of you, is also being controlled. You thought you were playing the game on your terms. You weren’t. The game itself manipulates you.

Image

It is themes such as these that bring into play the wider question of video games as art. Not only do some games include themes of politics, philosophy, and art – such as BioShock and Mass Effect, but some games seek to emulate cinema –such as Resident Evil. Other games tackle issues of love and morality, such as Final Fantasy, and finally some games such as Shadow of the Colossus and Okami are simply artistic in their design, execution, and presentation.

Whatever your viewpoint on this very issue, you cannot deny that video games are becoming more prominent, more developed, and are certainly leaning towards artistic direction moreso than at any other time.

Just so everyone is aware:

I can and will post whenever possible but I have coursework deadlines looming, so in the meantime, I will be working moreso on those than this blog. But keep your eyes peeled, I have several posts coming up:

  • Video Games as art
  • Video games vs cinema
  • BioShock thematic analysis
  • Indie Games thematic analysis (in one big post because each is small)

Thank you all for bearing with me!

– Jay

A Selection of Exceptional Flash Games

Flash games were once regarded as the scourge of the internet – entertaining only to twelve year olds who enjoyed repetitive gameplay and terrible graphics, but over the past few years the status of flash games has changed and they are swiftly becoming a force to be reckoned with. Many new developers choose to first invest in flash, publishing their games on online sites like Newgrounds, and in the process producing gorgeous, and innovative, games. Many games could be considered art in their own right, with emotive plotlines, simplistic controls, and an open-ended ambiguity like no other.

So why the changing status of flash? Could it be the relative ease of use, universal appeal, or versatility of the programme? Or the higher status in which many flash games are held; several have, in recent years, been adapted into full console games, such as Alien Hominid and Fancy Pants Man. Many people now give flash the respect it deserves, and within reason, flash is producing some utterly gorgeous games. Many flash programmers have instant access to platforms with which to promote their work, and many flash programmers, whilst maybe not professional programmers, show innovative promise in their games.

Here I will showcase several highlights, and personal favourites, that everyone should play.  There will be separate games for a 5-minute break, a longer play, and games that may require days to finish. All are played in-browser, with no need for downloads, and are of course free so are suitable for the oldest computer, or the budget gamer.

5 Minute Break Games
These are games you can finish in 5 minutes, be it at a spare moment, or during a coffee break. Although, some are puzzles which may take you slightly longer.

The Majesty of Colours
In this game, you play as a monster, and the story unfolds with delightful simplicity. There are multiple endings depending upon your actions, and the game itself well warrants several playthroughs just for the experience.
ImmorTall
In this game, you again, play as a monster – this time an Alien. You watch it grow up, protecting a family from the horrific war going on around them, through to a heart-breaking finale. The music and simple plot are gorgeous.
I Wish I Were the Moon
Another game with multiple endings, here you play as a boy with a camera. You can only take one shot in order to capture the “essence” of the plot, and each shot yields a different  ending, and a different story.
Colour My  […]
Heart
World
Dreams
In this series you play as a man getting back to his love, through a monochrome world which you can bring to life with strategically-placed clicks upon certain spots. Scored with a beautiful piano track, these simple games have a powerful message.
Alice is Dead

2
3
Note: The content of these games is NSFW and may be disturbing to some. In this game you play as the White Rabbit, and swiftly uncover a plot against your life. A delightful point-and-click spin on the traditional Wonderland lore, with many twists and engaging puzzles.

Lunchbreak Games
Games that can be finished within 40 minutes.
Coma
In this game you solve puzzles in order to navigate a strange landscape. Abstract graphics, interesting gameplay and an intriguing conclusion only add to the ambiguity of this title.
Apples in a Tree
In this game you walk through the levels, in order to collect apples. Gorgeous graphics and atmosphere contribute to the eerie gothic atmosphere.
In Company of Myself
Playing as a Hermit reminiscing upon his life, past mistakes, and love, this puzzle-platformer introduces an interesting dynamic in the “double” hermit dynamic. A emotive game with a plot that unfolds beautifully.
Take A Walk
A rhythm game in which a daydreamer’s dreams are manipulated through music, featuring gorgeous graphics, music, and simple controls.
Loved
This game poses the question of love, and how far one would go to attain it. The player is abused throughout, but all is not as it seems.
Raptus
Note: This game is NSFW and may contain content disturbing to some.
More an interactive novel than flash game, this story poses the question of interactivity and unfolds through a tragic plot.
Distance
A game about long distance relationships.
Anika’s Odyssey
A delightful, artistic puzzle game in which you play as Anita, on her quest to retrieve her toy rabbit. Filled with delightful creatures and simple puzzles.

Longer Plays
Games that may take a couple of hours to complete.

E7
You play as an alien ship in a strange land, traversing the landscape to look for an alternate fuel source.

The Infinite Ocean
A game that poses the question of artificial intelligence and self-awareness, featuring a HAL-esque computer system.

The Illusionist’s Dream
An illusionist dreams of his past life, transforming into several animals along the way to complete puzzles.

William and Sly
You play as a fox, exploring a landscape in order to solve the mystery of the teleport stones. A gorgeous atmosphere, graphics, and soundtrack contribute to this calming experience.

William and Sly 2 
The sequel to William and Sly, this game deepens the experience of the first.

If you play these, let me know what you think. If you have any suggestions, ditto! I may include several more similar lists as the time goes on.

Thematic Analysis of Shadow of the Colossus

Shadow of the Colossus is a game at the forefront of the debate as to whether video games are truly an art form, due to the experience, themes, and overall feel of the game. In the guise of an action-puzzle-adventure-RPG, Shadow of the Colossus creates much food for thought in this debate. The main argument for this is that the game itself includes a wide array of themes, and depends itself upon a large amount of audience speculation – many questions are left unanswered, deliberately, to provoke thought, much like art itself. Created by Team Ico as the spiritual successor to another of their games, Ico, Shadow of the Colossus is a truly beautiful game.

Of the many themes featured within the game, all are open to speculation and impossible to fully answer – the themes of rebirth, death, love and futility are all touched upon, even to the point where the audience themselves are drawn into the game’s events. This, of course, deepens the emotional impact of the storyline, although the lines between the interactivity of the game and the futility of certain scenes are frequently blurred. The player must act upon the selfish wishes of the avatar, Wanda, despite their better judgment – and, even, begin to justify just what he commits.

Image

Shadow of the Colossus poses as a traditional fairytale – the stoic hero must rescue the beautiful maiden, and the maiden herself, Mono, is the epitome of innocence. Killed for something she cannot control, clad in a white dress, surrounded by doves and soft white light, she is the literal embodiment of innocence within the game, directly juxtaposed to a cruel, injust world around her. The cruelty of the world- where she is killed in cold blood, where Wanda himself kills in cold blood, and eventually dies, is softened by her presence. Wanda, the hero, rarely speaks, and though he is presented as the hero even he eventually becomes corrupt (throughout the game his appearance becomes slowly more monstrous as his humanity is eroded) and acts in increasingly selfish ways. Mono is the only one to stay pure and innocent throughout the entire game. Wanda’s eventual demise is his fault and it is here the theme of love comes into play, along with the theme of futility as a narrative device. The futility becomes apparent for the player, who will inevitably notice Wanda’s degrading physical state, which is used as foreshadowing for the tragic culmination of events.

Wanda’s love for Mono leads him on an epic quest, but also leads him to break several of the laws of mortals, a fact re-iterated by the God Dormin, and in doing so, by the end of the game he is merely being punished for his sins. Wanda had the choice to walk away, but he instead chooses to cling on to his love, refusing to let her die – if he had let go, he could have walked away with his pride, his life, and much more besides. Here the theme of undying love comes into play, another traditional fairytale archetype. However, much more like the darker, older fairytales, Shadow of the Colossus, though seemingly innocent, is in fact quite a dark, cynical tale. The hero of the tale could have chosen to let go and move on, but instead he sacrifices his freedom and his life in order to protect, and cherish, the one he loves. There is no stereotypical “happy ending” for them, for the end; although in a sense, the ending is bittersweet. Although Wanda is reincarnated as a horned baby, Mono brings him up, and thus they can never truly be together. In trying to save her and rekindle their romance, he forsakes their own relationship. His refusal to let go sacrifices not only his life, but the romance he was trying to save – instead of preserving his memories and moving on, he goes out and presumably upon his reincarnation, has forgotten entirely about their romance.  The events of the game are also needlessly cruel, and suggest, perhaps, that revenge never pays – in a sense Wanda is avenging the death of his love, as well as trying to bring her back.

We start the game with Wanda entering the temple, and engaging the God Dormin, who awakens and offers Wanda an immense task in a trade-off for the life of his lover. The price for his wish?  He must kill 16 Colossi (that’s giants to you and me), dotted throughout the land, in order to bring her back. The majority of these colossi are gentle, lumbering (and sometimes slumbering) throughout the land, until they are roused by Wanda, and thoughtlessly slaughtered. Some act in self-defence, but others simply walk around whilst the player scales, then kills them. Their deaths are not kind. The player is compliant in this, ultimately the one who causes Wanda to act as he does, as the player controls him.

In many ways, Wanda is the villain of this game, and this is not realised till the penultimate scenes, in which the Shaman divulges several facts. Dormin, the God who Wanda answers to during the events of this game, is an evil being, manipulating Wanda for his own gain (each Colossi is a segment of his soul) – namely his own resurrection. Wanda himself flaunted the rules of his tribe, stealing their sacred sword, and breaching the seal to this “cursed land” he finds himself in. Adding to this the fact that he slaughters these individual colossi, essentially bringing extinction upon a unique species, and he isn’t as innocent as initially considered. Furthermore, he breaks one of the most sacred rules of Mortals: he brings back the dead. Clearly, though you as a player sympathise with him, he is not the hero of our story, but rather an antihero. This subverts many of the themes present within many popular fairytale stories, and furthermore, presents an interesting moral dilemma for the audience.

Image

It is we who control him throughout, we who kill the Colossi, essentially setting into motion the events of the game and the ending. Yet we had no choice – there is no alternative, we are manipulated by the events of the story and in doing so, the story draws its audience in and creates an engaging, and emotional, narrative. The killings of the Colossi themselves are not pleasant – they roar in pain, shake their bodies and huge plumes of blood gush out of the wounds. We feel sorry for the Colossi as we are killing them, in a way, perhaps, that we do not feel sorry for Wanda. This, in itself, is another form of emotional manipulation for the audience, and shirks the trend of many RPGs, wherein the player character slaughters creatures without much thought. We, instead, are put in an uncomfortable position, feeling empathy for the very creatures we are killing, as opposed to the player character, whose plight we are serving. This adds weight to their deaths, their sacrifices and adds to the realism and narration of the entire game. The Colossi are brought to life, just as the land Wanda finds himself in is brought to life by weather, animals, and a realistic topography.

Wanda himself suffers from very little characterisation – he is never shown emotive. Even when his horse, his sole companion for the entire game, dies (well not really, but we don’t know this at the time), he does not shed a tear. As a protagonist, he is relatively unemotional, and you feel distant and disconnected from him as a result, which, again, creates more empathy for the Colossi. However, this could be turned on its head. Of the noises that Wanda does emit throughout the events of the game, they are all pained grunts – he trips and stumbles when walking, gasps when he climbs, and cries out when struck. This brings the immense task that he is subjecting himself to, to the forefront of the player’s mind, and indeed, the suffering he must have gone through to act upon these wishes.

Image

Image

Image

The land of Shadow of the Colossus is as varied as one would come to expect, comprised of deserts, lakes, and small pockets of greenery. This not only brings the world to life, presenting it as realistic, but encourages exploration and increases the isolation felt by the player. The land eclipses Wanda, and his steed Agro, and often the player will find themselves lost. This as a device is implemented not only to increase the isolation, and the desolate appeal of the land, but also to shirk the trend of traditional linear RPGs wherein the destination is immediately apparent. Alongside this, it brings to mind the idea that Wanda isn’t seeking out these Colossi, but hunting them – they are tucked away, hidden, in lost civilisations and caves, atop mountains and at the bottom of dried up lakes. Wanda is not seeking them out; he does not encounter them unless he searches high and low. He is the predator, not these immense beasts. The size of the beasts is juxtaposed by their gentile demeanour, whereas Wanda is small, and violent. The land itself is also breathtakingly beautiful, and painstakingly realistic – a small beach, found only after traversing a cliff, has wind that blows the water and sand about. A forest has pockets where the sun breaks through the canopy, and water is murky, and mysterious. The landscapes themselves are presented as a part of the game – the Colossi are often hidden by the landscape, or even comprise of the landscape itself. Everything in the game eclipses Wanda, evoking the thought of just how against-the-odds his quest really is, and just how futile everything could indeed be. Everything is against Wanda – his tribe, the land, the Colossi, even, eventually, the creature he thought was his ally.

It is here the theme of futility comes into play, and there are several aspects of this present within the game:

  • The player is futile to resist Wanda’s quest as there is no alternative. This is presented in various ways – the clear setting of the scenario, of which there is no escape; the way in which Wanda dies every time he defeats a Colossi and several “interactive” cutscenes, present later within the game.
  • Wanda’s futility in his quest. Faced with invincible odds, he is destined to fail, and in many respects he does.

The story is set into motion quickly, and Dormin wastes no words telling Wanda just what he wants, and the immensity of the task at hand. The player simply listens to his wishes, and obeys, seeking out and killing their first Colossi within the first ten minutes of gameplay. After killing the Colossi, Wanda can run about for a short amount of time, but inevitably, he is killed. Wanda cannot escape this, the tentacle-like appendages that emerge from the Colossi upon defeat hunt down and mercilessly kill Wanda, just as he hunts down and kills the Colossi. It is futile to escape, as the player will inevitably try to do the first few times this occurs – midway through the game, the player may well give up, allowing the tentacles to pierce Wanda without running away. This brings into play the futility of Wanda’s quest, the sheer size of his sacrifice. This, as a device, also allows for the player to be brought back to the Temple where he begins his quest each time, without more needless exploration of the landscape. The player is also a partner in crime to this futility – they control Wanda, it is they who slaughter the beast, yet they have no choice. This draws them into the narrative, and upon their viewing of the deaths of countless creatures, they observe the reactions from a first-hand view. This interactivity is backed up by how the player must hold down R1 (a shoulder button) to cling on for dear life each time Wanda stabs a beast – they shake the corresponding body part, and to avoid falling off, Wanda must hold on, through the player’s interaction.

Image

Of the many interactive cutscenes in the game one of the most poignant occurs at the end of the game. Wanda is dead, after having killed the final Colossi, and Dormin possesses his body to bring themself back to life (their identity is obscure- they speak with both female and male voices). Dormin then acts out revenge on the tribe that trapped him there, chasing them slowly, and smashing down. There is no tutorial for the controls, the player is left to themselves to discover how to move, and buttons that once did one thing may do another, or not respond in the slightest. Furthermore, this subversion of the games events; namely that Wanda, who spent an entire game killing the Colossi, is now the physical embodiment of all of them, is an example of dramatic irony. When controlling the Colossi, the player becomes aware of just how heavy, slow, and difficult it is to control them – whilst they may assume they will have power, they do not. Dormin is slow, each step takes controlled effort – in excess of 15 seconds for each – and his movements are painfully emphasised. This acts to put the player in the position of the Colossi, and again, creates empathy for them rather than Wanda, who slaughters these cumbersome beasts.

The following cutscene grants the player control of Wanda once more, for the final, interactive cutscene in which Wanda, now alive again, struggles in vain to run towards Mono, who has now awoken. She is brought back to life, but Wanda, now the physical embodiment of the beasts he slaughtered – pale-skinned, with horns – is unable to get to her. The player can attempt to get to her, running against the gale that blows Wanda towards his fate: a portal in a pool created by the very sword he killed the Colossi with, again, dramatic irony. But, the gale is too strong, and Wanda will never reach her. He stumbles, catches himself on bits of stone and uneven pathway, and hurls himself against the force, but never reaches her. This scene is much more emotional than a simple scene where one sits back and watches, because the player is brought into the scene and truly feels the pain, the need, of the character. This interactivity, this futility, makes the cutscene one of the most powerful, and for once the character feels sorry for Wanda, as he sacrifices himself for the love of his life.

Of course, Wanda does not die, but is reborn- just as Dormin was reborn in the Colossi, he is reborn in the guise of a child with horns. And Mono takes him up, through to a small Eden where they can live in peace, Agro is revealed to have survived and joins them there. In a sense, the events of the game end on a happy note. But, they are still alone, they are still unable to be together, and in that sense, nothing has changed, and Wanda’s sacrifice was for nothing. This is the final example of dramatic irony, the last futile blow in the entire game. Despite everything, nothing has changed, Wanda still finds himself in the same position as he did at the start of the game.

Silent Hill 2 Thematic Analysis

The Silent Hill games are notorious for their broad range of psychological themes, present mostly in the presentation of the monsters, which changes from game to game. In the original, the monsters are indicative of a little girl’s fears; in 2, they present the sexual frustrations of the main character; and in 3, they again, represent fears, albeit in a different form entirely. The latter is, of course, linked with the original Silent Hill. In addition to this, the concept of the Fog and Otherworld present interesting thematic material – and how an entire town can be haunted, the literal embodiment of evil. Another question posed in the series is that of the following: is Silent Hill even real or are the monsters you are killing real people, the events within all part of some delusion? The theories surrounding the games themselves are based largely on audience interpretation, and multiple themes come into play in several of the games. Silent Hill practically established the survival horror genre as we know it today, and though the vastly more popular Resident Evil may have paved the way, none is so imitated as Silent Hill.

The lore and mythology of Silent Hill itself is long and convoluted, and a strange mix of Western and Eastern mythology, the child of a Global society where cultures blend into one another. Though the setting of the games is the titular Silent Hill, a stereotypical American town akin to those you may view in films, the lore is much different. Much like the similar franchise, Fatal Frame, Silent Hill features strange monsters inspired by Eastern lore and myths – specifically those of the Yurei, a vengeful spirit that remains in situe long after its death. Whilst Fatal Frame features ghosts, the entire town of Silent Hill has been tainted by Alessa Gillespie, who draws characters into the town, and indeed the entire town itself is often viewed as the embodiment of evil. Alessa Gillespie’s portrayal in the video games – that of a gaunt, long-haired young woman, is the embodiment of the Japanese Yurei, as seen in The Grudge, The Ring, and many other J-Horrors. This mixture of American culture and Japanese horror creates a hybridised horror genre and draws from plot devices, and archetypes, from both. And although many of the themes covered in Silent Hill, those of loss and love, are universal motifs, they are done in a distinctly different manner to the archetypes of American horror. The consequence of this is that it brings further fear into the game, as audiences are lulled to a false sense of security by the familiarity of the setting, which is then turned on its head by the strangeness of the horror and the ambiguity of the scenarios. The fact that there is no one answer to the questions Silent Hill evokes brings further unease to an audience used to straight-cut endings and explanations at every turn.

Perhaps the most obscure of the games is Silent Hill 2, which features many obtuse and strange characters and monsters, as well as a meandering plot and as such, the entire game may well be viewed differently by different audiences. Many theories abound as to the meanings behind monsters, the actions of characters, and this openness to interpretation is what hooked audiences in the first place.  Of the many characters, monsters, and settings present within the series, 2 does not continue the storyline of the original, bringing an entirely different set of characters to the table. Indeed, several aspects of Silent Hill 2 go entirely against the canon present in the original instalment. Whilst the original instalment suggested that the entire reason Silent Hill was tainted was because of the actions of a cult, and their abuse of a particular child, the child herself is not present in Silent Hill 2 in any form, and whilst evidence of the cult is present, the plot distances itself from the original. This puts doubt upon the entire narrative, which twinned with the fact that the player character is the embodiment of unreliable narrator, in turn puts doubt upon the entire story.

Image

The presence of evil in the original is justified, and explained, through the presence of Alessa, but she is nowhere to be seen in 2. This creates doubt for the player character, especially considering how James is later presented – is the entire game a hallucination on his part, a delusion? This, twinned with multiple ambiguous endings, makes Silent Hill 2 one of the best instalments in the series, to date.

The protagonist of the game – James Sunderland – and his development as a character throughout the narrative presents much food for thought. We first encounter James in a dingy bathroom, surveying his reflection and contemplating the situation he finds himself in, lost, and very alone; he is even somewhat faceless, obscured in shadow. This as an initial presentation is interesting, as he is at this point, intimidating to look at – glowering at himself, he is presented as damaged, alone, an everyman. The themes of self-reflection, and discovering one’s true self are recurrent in this game, and the series as a whole as every character has ventured to Silent Hill and eventually uncovers something about themselves that they had previously hidden, some repressed memory. The mirror itself could be an apt metaphor for self-reflection, as James looks at himself, yet still hides away from the truth; the James in the mirror is very different from the James we come to discover throughout the game.

James himself is not portrayed as an unreliable narrator right from the very beginning, but there are vague allusions to this present right at the very start. A letter from his dead wife, which eventually fades as the game goes on, is first read here – James even doubts himself, asking himself why he is in Silent Hill, calling himself crazy. The presence of mystery pills, and his insistence that he must go to Silent Hill despite the road being blocked off further allude to his rapidly eroding sanity. He is desperate.  The subsequent fading of the letter throughout the narrative further puts into doubt his real intentions, as does the eventual revelation that his wife died three days ago, not three years ago as is stated by him, and at James’ very hand. Could the three years James means really be the three years of Mary’s illness, and she was really dead to him long ago, the statement a justification of a murderer?

Although his actions at the start of the game may not be narrated by someone completely unreliable at this stage, his actions, the actions of us, the players, can be put into question as the game progresses. He slowly becomes more unreliable, and other characters within the game become more aware of this as the time goes by. Other characters are present both to add to the ambiguity, and to contribute to the narrative devices, making things clearly evident for the audience.  James is of course a murderer, but that is not something Eddie, who accuses James of being “just as bad”, knows at this point. Neither does the audience, for that matter, so this cutscene is also a narrative device. The ambiguity of the statement puts doubt in the audiences’ mind as to the real status of the “monsters”, especially considering that there are dead human bodies littered throughout Silent Hill. Is James killing monsters, or people? The human cries the monsters emit upon being slaughtered further puts this doubt into the audiences’ mind – and this point is raised by a character in a later instalment. Vincent later says, in Silent Hill 3, in response to Heather’s inquiries about the monsters she has seen, “they look like monsters to you?” This in turn puts doubt upon the sanity of every character within the Silent Hill series.

James becomes steadily more unreliable as the game progresses – Mary’s letter disappears, as does his photograph of her. This further emphasises that the monsters he encounters may be the start of an elaborate break down, or worse, real people he has killed. This status as an unreliable narrator further hits home the point that James is not as innocent as he appears, nor as sane. In turn, this puts the events of the game into question as the time goes by – they become less believable, more strange, more ambiguous, and the game becomes less real, more delusion, as time goes by. Of course, this is only a possible reading.

Image

The idea that the monsters of the game are a hallucination are further emphasised by the presence of dead bodies, all clad in James’ own clothing. James is viewing himself dead, or perhaps, wishing himself dead – this links in with the perceived canon ending, wherein he throws himself into the lake after discovering the truth. A different reading to this could be that one of those bodies is James himself, and he is indeed in a form of purgatory – the presence of religious paraphernalia, in the form of cult objects, backs this up. Several characters exist to antagonise James – Laura frequently teases him and Maria the physical double of Mary also taunts him. Silent Hill, as an entire town, and with the presence of an alternate reality, is a form of punishment for evil sinners – calling them in to punish them.

The alternate reality in question, the ambiguously named “Otherworld”, is full of grotesque imagery, of walls made from skin, bodies strung up in torment, and lots of violent, harsh imagery – such as barbed wire and death is a constant in this world. The presence of the Otherworld is often thought to present the warped dimension that the original residents of Silent Hill are trapped in, as punishment for their treatment of Alessa. This is revealed in the first game, and this idea carries through into subsequent sequels. The idea that the Otherworld is now open, tormenting sinners regardless of their connection to Silent Hill, appears in several sequels. The fact that the Otherworld is full of hellish imagery, and symbolism, backs up the allusion that James is undergoing a form of divine punishment, albeit punishment from the Gods of Silent Hill.

Several other characters in the narrative are also portrayed as insane as the game progresses, so there is the alternate reading that Silent Hill itself turns people mad – the only person saved from this is Laura. Laura is a little girl, the very embodiment of innocence: blonde, blue-eyed, tricked into thinking Mary is still alive, and seemingly unable to see the monsters. Only she escapes by the end of the game (in the canon ending). Indeed, the monsters are different to each character; whilst James sees nurses in low-cut tops that emit womanly cries as he hits them, Angela sees burning fires [also a form of hellish iconography] and embodiments of her father’s sexual abuse. Eddie doesn’t like to talk about what he sees. This further emphasises the point that maybe Silent Hill is a type of purgatory for the characters, their punishment for the evil deeds they committed, before they are all eventually killed. They are all, after all, murderers.  The presence of Pyramid Head, a strange and cruel monster who antagonises James throughout, is again testament to this. It would appear that none of the characters within Silent Hill 2 are mentally stable, and all of them equally unreliable. There is no reliable narrator present within the narrative, the entire game is a construct based around unreliable narration and no character can really be trusted, so the events of the entire game are questionable.

The monsters within the game are equally horrific, represent different things to different character and often have something to say about their mental state. The monsters present within Silent Hill 2 are all based around the mindset of the main character, but only because we as the audience see things from their perspective. James sees many monsters that could be construed as sexual [from mannequins made of legs, to nurses in low-cut tops], to represent his sexual frustration and lack of satisfaction during the months leading up to his wife’s death. Later on, when he is sucked into Angela’s delusion, he witnesses her fears – the monster represents her father’s rape of her. There is no one clear-cut form of Silent Hill; it gives different versions of monsters for each character. We can only elaborate upon what other character see.

Image

Perhaps the most interesting monster within the narrative is Pyramid Head, who never directly harms James, only monsters around him. He is portrayed as a large, hulking, angular monster, the very embodiment of violence. One of his first appearances within the game is during a scene in the apartment block – he stands at the end of the corridor, just out of reach, observing James, and from here on, represents James’ judgment. Perhaps James himself incurs Pyramid Head’s wrath, through his relentless guilt regarding Mary’s death. Pyramid Head is thought by many to represent an executioner; clad in a blood-stained apron, wielding a great knife, sent to punish James for his crimes. Indeed, the monsters do not stop harassing James till he accepts that he killed his wife.

The first interaction with Pyramid Head is shown through a grotesque cut scene in which he kills and possibly sexually assaults two “female” monsters, whilst James, a voyeur to this scene, watches. Just as the audience watches the scenario of the game unfold, at this point, James too becomes a voyeur. From here, he attacks James several times, but never kills him, choosing only to kill Maria several times, Maria who is the physical double of Mary, but also the exact opposite. Her death is violent, he pierces her through the heart with his large sword (which could be construed by some as a metaphor for sexual assault), whereas Mary’s death was relatively peaceful; she is smothered with a pillow. Maria acts as the exact juxtaposition to Mary’s constant presence throughout – sexually available to James, healthy, forthcoming, and physically present, and her death too, serves as juxtaposition.  The fact that Mary is resurrected, only to be killed again, several times throughout the narrative further intensifies the helplessness James feels, and his inability to protect those he cares about from things that harm them. Mary’s presence could itself be indicative of the punishment James feels he deserves, as in a way he is seeing his wife (or a lookalike, anyway) being murdered over and over.

Image

There are various themes present within Silent Hill 2; one of the most prominent of these is the loneliness present throughout the entire narrative. Although Silent Hill was once a tourist resort, it is now closed down, desolate, and lonely. James, once so full of life and love for his wife, is now alone- he ventures into Silent Hill alone, and though he meets characters along the way, remains alone for the majority of the game. Of the companionship he receives, it is very brief, and culminates in history “repeating itself” in a sense, as he is forced to witness the murder of his wife’s body-double time and time again. The other characters in Silent Hill are also alone. Angela’s parents are dead, Eddie has no friends, and Laura only serves to torment James. One of the first truly engulfing, and lonely, moments of Silent Hill is right at the start, where James runs through the forest, which overshadows and eclipses him. He runs for what seems like hours, right through to the town of Silent Hill; shops boarded up, a place of happiness reduced to a ghost-town. Silent Hill is a literal ghost town – filled with ghosts, and isolated in solitude. This loneliness is prominent throughout the entire game, and often James finds himself in the dark, the literal representation of his madness and solitude. The fog also alludes to the feeling, evoking a sense of claustrophobia, and isolation. It is clear that James will not receive help nor support in the town, and several of the characters work against him, fearful of him.

The theme of rebirth, whilst recurrent throughout the series, is relatively untouched during this instalment. Although in a sense, Mary is reborn through Maria, there is very little else of this theme present in the entire narration – the closest we come to this theme is during the penultimate scenes, where James battles either Mary or Maria, in the form of an angry, vengeful spirit. However, the theme of grief is touched upon more in Silent Hill 2, as it is grief that drives James to Silent Hill initially, grief that eventually drives him to suicide. Grief is also what drove the other characters to Silent Hill. Guilt is also further touched upon, as guilt is prominent throughout as another key motivation for the actions of the characters. Guilt is the reason James is so intent upon uncovering the truth, the reason Pyramid Head relentlessly pursues him, and again, a reason as to why he kills himself.

The canonical ending, in which James kills himself after learning of his murderous side, comes as a shock to the audience. It seems no character within the narrative is safe from the wrath of Silent Hill, which eventually drives all to death. This adds to the sombre tone of the game, and as the full content of the letter is revealed to the audience only as James dies, heightens the emotional impact of the scene. James is revealed to have hidden the truth from himself, and in a heartfelt apology, his wife wrote him one last letter before she died. The emotional connection with James, his questionable motives for killing his wife, and the subsequent emotional “big reveal” only emphasises the grief, as we the audience have bonded with the character we controlled. That he has killed himself (in a possible ending), is made all the more horrific due to the emotional connection we bore with him.

Silent Hill 2 Scene Analysis

Silent Hill is perhaps one of Konami’s most lucrative franchises, ironic considering that it was created by a team who were going to be booted out of Konami, yet created one of the most emotional, and interesting, video games to come out of the survival horror genre. It was one of the first games to invest in an emotional storyline where the audience felt connected with the characters, rather than sole emphasis upon plot. Open to multiple interpretations, and genuinely scary, although recent installments have dwindled in success and quality, the original four or five games are as beautiful as any art. Silent Hill 2 is perhaps their most popular installment, and tells the story of James Sunderland, who travels to the eponymous town to find his dead wife, and, in typical Silent Hill fashion, uncovers a lot more.

As many of the cutscenes are short, I will here analyse several opening cutscenes. This FMA (full-motion video, a type of video game cutscene, generally of a higher quality than in-game cutscenes) was also known as the teaser trailer for the game Silent Hill 2. The non-diegetic soundtrack is “Promise”, a song on the game’s soundtrack, recorded specifically for this introductory video. The purpose of the video is to introduce the scenario and main characters – namely James and Maria – to the audience, along with introducing monsters, and several other background characters to draw and advertise the game.

Image

The first shot shows Maria, sitting behind bars, from a mid-shot. This automatically puts the audience in James’ position- it is a form of direct address, and she clearly knows something about the character she is addressing. Furthermore, her relaxed posture and revealing clothing suggest that we as an audience are familiar with her, which deepens the emotional connection to the narrative. The personal touch to her speech, and the information she relays also furthers the connection. Her speech introduces us to the ambiguity of her character; she resembles Mary, James’ dead wife, and speaks of their shared memories together before revealing that she is not all that she seems. This theme is recurrent throughout the entire game, and so introduces the audience to this concept, as well as acting as a hook. Emphasis is put upon her manner of speaking to deepen the impact and emphasis and so there is a lack of soundtrack at this point. The scene then swiftly jump-cuts to James’ reaction to this, again from a mid-shot, that is also shown over Maria’s shoulder. This is a common technique used to simulate conversation. This also serves to assert Maria’s dominance over the conversation, as even when she is not talking, she takes up most of the frame. James is simply confused.

Image

During the penultimate exchange in this scene, the camera slowly zooms in on Maria, showing her reaction in greater detail, and again putting emphasis upon her – there is no over-the-shoulder shot here. This establishes her as the important character within this exchange, as well as the one in control of the situation. James has no control, he is bemused, confused, and so the conventions that would be used here (over the shoulder shot) are instead flaunted. This final exchange also establishes the main scenario of the game, making it familiar to the audience and introducing them to the main plot. Through this conversation we learn that Maria looks like Mary, a person close to James, and the plot of the game is set into motion to familiarise it with an audience. James’ final statement: “aren’t you Maria?” is emphasised through the use of a close-up shot, showing how upset he is by all of this, and establishing him as the addressee, and main character of the game. This has the dual impact of introducing the scenario, as it is clear he is searching for someone.

The colour scheme used within this scene is very dull, and the filters used on-screen give a grimy, foggy feeling to the entire shot. The only colours to stand out are the top Maria wears, which is red, simultaneously putting emphasis upon her lustful tendencies, and impulsive nature. James, on the other hand, is dressed in very dull clothing that blends into the background of the scene and asserts his everyman nature.

Image

This shot then fades through to fog, an important aspect to Silent Hill, before revealing the name of the game. Following on from this, there is a zoom-out, to a mid-shot, to establish the scene and again, the colours used here are very dull. From there, there is a fluid shot, full of movement, of an incredibly ambiguous item – this again would act as a hook for the audience, who will be drawn in by the narrative, and the appeal of wanting answers. This scene is repeated several times throughout, increasing the suspense. From there, there is a shot of a hospital bed, establishing one of the key themes of the game; Mary’s hospitalisation. This shot is sepia in tone, and this is done both to evoke a sense of nostalgia, and as an emphasis upon the dull palette and grimy detail of the game. Hospitals are also a horror archetype, establishing the genre for a new audience.

Image

Image

Throughout these scenes, there is a filter similar to that of a hand-video recorder present. This is included both to simulate home-made footage (which is intrinsically linked to the plot) and to create an amateurish feel, and thus, a more personal feel. As the audience, you could almost have recorded this yourself. The next scene, that of an actual home video, establishes the game’s lore for the new audience; “this whole area used to be a sacred place”, as well as establishing that Mary, mentioned previously, is sick. This scene is shot in place and white, to create a sense of bleakness and depression, as well as to simulate real home recordings. The entire shot is intercut with shadowy footage of James carrying someone, possibly a body, to an unknown location, creating dramatic suspense and further reinforcing the horror aspect.

There are several other shots of Maria, displaying key plots within the game –the first meeting and the argument – which further introduces her character, as well as linking her to that of Mary and inferring that Mary is dead. Interestingly enough, the only characters emphasised within the opening portion of the video are female, displaying, perhaps, James’ issue with women. This scene then cuts to show the supporting characters, Angela, Eddie and Laura; following on from this are several scenes inferring that supporting characters may well be mentally unstable, with similar dark tone, a sudden change from the dull colours previously shown. The colours during this scene are incredibly dark, the faces obscured, which again establishes the genre as horror, by introducing a traditional horror archetype – darkness.

By the end of the trailer, the video has come full circle, showing Maria, once more, and further establishing her flirtatious ways with a close up shot, fully displaying her intentions to James. All the main characters have been established, as has the setting and scenario of the game.

The Bathroom Scene can be viewed here.

Image

Image

This first scene establishes James as the main character, showing him as pensive and reflective – both literally, and metaphorically, as he looks at himself in the mirror and then sighs remorsefully, whilst asking himself a question. The music at this point, obviously non-diegetic, is strange, and surreal, just as the filters overlayed in the scene do not feel realistic. The scene jumps from close-up to mid-shot, arcing over from a Dutch angle to fully set the camera straight for a moment. This is done to emphasise the confusion of the scene, how lost James feels, and also to portray the bathroom – it is shown as dirty, littered, and this establishes the scene of Silent Hill to an audience familiar with it. By the end of this scene it has once again moved on to a Dutch angle and the camera has panned across a full arc. At this point James addresses himself, asking himself a key question: “Mary, could you really be in this town?” His confusion is mirrored in the angles used during this shot, which are deliberate in that they are used to portray confusion. The constant movement of the cameras emulates this, as it is disorientating and confusing for the audience.

At this point, control is given momentarily over to the player, so that they can get used to the controls and move James out of the bathroom, and into the car-park, setting off another cutscene.

The Car Park scene can be viewed here.

Image

This cutscene begins with James, mid-shot, showing him stood alone. This scene emphasises how alone he is, and how alone he feels, and eventually zooms out to create an establishing shot of the town of Silent Hill, and more importantly, Toluca Lake, which is James’ first destination. This also acts to show that James has come here alone, whilst he ruminates on the letter that drove him there. The aforementioned letter is read out, in non-diegetic (or possibly diegetic, if James is thinking about his wife’s voice) by Mary, who is never seen. This creates a connection with Mary as a character, as though you do not interact with her, you have now heard her voice, and personal dreams, creating a more human and emotional character. You can instantly connect with her. This scene also portrays how desolate, and alone, Silent Hill is, and how alone James is. He stands alone in Silent Hill, thinking about his wife, which links back to the first scene wherein he wonders about her whereabouts. At this point the soundtrack, also non-diegetic, changes from surreal to emotional – the music, once synthesised, is now a string instrument, an instrument traditionally associated with sadness.

Untitled

 

The entire shot that follows is an extreme long shot, portraying James as small, insignificant, swamped by both the town, and his emotions. It is here that he sets the scene, establishing the basic motives, and location of where he currently is. This is done to make it obvious to the audience as to where they are, and what they are doing, and is clearly a form of goal-setting. Furthermore, the internal dialogue the audience can hear (in which James is talking to himself) creates an emotional connection with James, as his grief is witnessed for the first time. This grief is emphasised with the use of a stereotypically “sad” instrument, along with an internal monologue where he thinks things over and reveals personal information, creates empathy for him. James’ grief, after losing a loved one, is something all can empathise with, and at this point he is a sympathetic character. The audiences’ emotions are manipulated by the scene itself. At this point, the town is not scary, but sad and desolate, reflecting back in James’ emotions – the town is, to an extent, an extension of him, and when he later loses his mind, the town becomes more horrific.

After this the character once again gains control and begins guiding James on his journey, encountering the first of the supporting characters along the way, and creating a vague sense of unease through the gameplay.

Soul Reaver Introductory Scene Analysis

The entire video can be found here.

Image

This scene begins with an establishing shot that sets the scene, for an area of the game that will become key to the entire series – the Pillars. This acts as a link to both the previous, and future, titles in the series and familiarises both old and new audiences with the idea of the pillars. Furthermore, they loom over the the characters within the narrative, evoking the ideas of power and domination; the pillars dominate and control the characters throughout the narrative and so this brings the idea to the forefront of the audiences’ mind.

The colour palette used in this scene also serves to further set the scene, with earthen colours and a toned-down palette that link in with the historical, and dirty, settings of the game. The use of symbols, and pseudo-sigils, also links into the fantasy setting and introduces the audience to the hybridised genre – horror and fantasy, and by including themes familiar to fantasy audiences – a medieval setting, and magic, the risk of audience alienation is minimised.

Image

After this, the shot moves from long-shot to close up of the main antagonist (protagonist of the previous game). The shot moves slowly to a close up, tracking past several minor characters without showing their faces – showing that they are faceless, nameless, slaves to the antagonist. This, contrasts with Raziel’s introduction, showing immediately his face, and establishing him as the narrator, and hero, of this game.
Kain’s portrayal, and first introduction in the game shows him sat atop a throne of his own making – exuding power, dominance, surrounded by his minions, this is echoed in the narration, and the ominous “Kain is deified”. This is also ironic, considering the later revelation that Kain is not in control, and is, infact, a puppet to the very pillars he makes his throne. This is an example of dramatic irony, a narrative device, and introduces a key aspect to Kain’s character – that he is arrogant and egotistical. The shock of seeing Kain – who was previously good or at least neutral, as the antagonist; brooding, dark and evil, also introduces the audience to his anti-hero status. The low-angle shot also further emphasises the power Kain exudes, even putting the audience in the submissive position. This draws them into the narrative, and again emphasises the power Kain exudes.

Image

Raziel’s introduction is done in the guise of a tracking shot, at first from behind, concealing his identity, before jump-cutting across to his face. As the audience is aware, he is a vampire, but is portrayed as very different to the general vampires the audience is accustomed to. This subversion presents itself in the animalistic, and strong, appearance of all the vampires which further sets this fantasy world apart from others, deliberately distancing itself from cliche tropes. Raziel is shown as confident, and strong, which of course are attributes soon stripped from him. At the start of this narration he is very similar to Kain – arrogant, and self assured – but this soon changes, as he becomes almost the literal opposite of Kain, a good against Kain’s harsh. His militaristic apparel further introduces the audience to the world of the game and the power of the vampire clan.

The camera tracks Raziel from the front as he walks, bringing motion to the scene, and drawing the audience into the narrative – they are following the scene, as if they are within the narrative. This again cuts to a scene with Kain in it, done to show his reaction to Raziel’s presence. The narration at this point also shows how disillusioned the vampire clan has become with their power: “over time we had become less human, and more divine” and this further emphasises the power Kain exudes, sat at his throne. The narration at this point further adds to the scene and history, introducing the audience to what has happened since the previous installment, familiarising them with the setting and environment.

Image

This next scene shifts the power from Kain to Raziel, and shows him as he has described – powerful, god-like – although his presentation, akin to more demon than god, asserts the vampires as beings of evil, destruction. And, although Raziel kneels, it is clearly him in power during this scene. He has overtaken Kain, and though he kneels in submission, his wings show he has grown more powerful. This scene sets into motion the events of the entire game, the event that sets Raziel off on his quest. The scene jump-cuts to Kain’s reaction, and anger, at this revelation, for the benefit of the audience. And though Kain was shown pleased at Raziel’s appearance, this quickly subsides and the audience realises how cruel Kain has become, once he rips the very wings from Raziel’s back. The narration at this point becomes much more personal for Raziel; the scene-setting has finished, now he is recounting what happened to set him off on this quest. His dialogue becomes bitter and angry, filled with hatred towards Kain – where there was previously praise, and descriptions of how powerful he was, there is vitriolic speech, spat out with anger.  By the end of the scene, the power is once again restored to Kain, as Raziel lies at his feet in agony whilst Kain stands over him, powerful once more.

Image

This next scene begins with another establishing shot, showing the world of Nosgoth, emphasis upon the old setting and landscape that the audience will soon be exploring. The camera then arcs across to display what happens next. In this particular shot, Kain has shunned Raziel, displaying Kain’s reaction, and his apathy towards Raziel. This scene also serves to establish another key area in Nosgoth, the realm Raziel later returns to, and the bright colours used in this scene contrast to the dull, ethereal colours used during the rest of the cutscene. This emphasises the importance of the area, and the magic present within.
The switch from non-diegetic narration (which isn’t heard by the characters in this particular scene, and is used as a means for narration), to diegetic speech (which is heard and sets into motion the events of the scene) – in which Kain resigns Raziel to his fate – brings realism to the scene. It also shows how resentful Kain has become, how paranoid he is about losing his fate and asserts his status as antagonist of this installment. This is the first time we hear Kain speak within the entire game. The entire latter part of this shot is presented from an over-the-shoulder perspective, we see Kain’s reaction to the entire scene, and this shot is used to assert his power. He has power over this scene, and he is manipulating it, shown by his presence in a thirds shot – he dominates the screen, we focus on his reactions. Raziel’s fate is merely in the background, an afterthought. This is a metaphor for the way Kain now regards Raziel, as something from his past, not of importance.

The following scene is filled with bright colours, and surreal, swirling, formless, animation. This contrasts to the very serious, angled architecture featured previously within this scene. The camera follows Raziel on his fall downward, portraying his transformation from strong military leader to wraith. The entire scene is obscured and horrific, described in his narration, leaving much of the actual process to the audiences’ mind, only seeking to heighten the horror of the actual scene. When Raziel emerges the image is a stark juxtaposition to his initial portrayal. He is no longer strong, but skeletal. No longer pale, and gaunt, but blue, a direct contrast to his white skin previously. This shows that his physical appearance has changed, as has his outlook on life – both are intrinsically linked – and is a metaphor for his rebirth as an entirely different being. Raziel’s appearance in this film also adheres more to horror tropes, he is skeletal, almost a zombie. This acts to establish the horror aspect of the game.

Image

This final shot ends with the ominous “Raziel, you are worthy”, which serves to establish another key character within the narrative – the Cthulhu-esque Elder God. And, just as Kain is dominated over by “his” pillars, Raziel is dominated over by the shaded Elder God. Looking up at it, from another low-angle shot, further emphasises the dominance of the Elder God over his fate, though, again, he does not yet know it.

The scene closes with a zoom-out, then a fade to black to ease the cut into a different scene.