Don’t look up…just don’t look up
Released unceremoniously in 2014 as a teaser for an unnamed horror game, the “Playable Teaser,” as it would later be known, quickly became one of the most discussed gaming experiences of the year. The premise is relatively simple but undeniably creepy. A repeating hallway that changes. Radio broadcasts reporting husbands murdering their wives and children interspersed with messages seemingly directed at the player.
Each pass through the hallway built up tension. The process made you feel like you were trapped in a Hell, possibly of your own making. Then, after you get through it all, the sink baby, Lisa, the eyes staring at you in the red light, when the door finally unlocks, you find out the whole thing was a teaser for Silent Hills and that Hideo Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro were working on it. Oh, and they were trying to get Junji Ito on board too. This is one of the “if I had three wishes” kind of scenarios for that dream team.
This entire experience was simply marketing for a game, albeit a complete novella. Hideo Kojima scared the shit out of all of us and in the end gave us the greatest gift a horror game fan could ask for. Of course, we all know that Silent Hills would go on to be canceled but at the time, being given such a dreamy promise after being terrified was one of the most satisfying feelings I have experienced in my entire gaming life. A lot of folks think that loot boxes are the greatest tragedy to befall gaming this decade. For me, it’s the cancellation of Silent Hills.
After Konami canceled the project, it made the widely unpopular decision to remove the P.T. demo from the PlayStation Network. As the industry continued its push toward an all-digital future, players were given a first-hand look at the inevitable doomsday scenario such a future brings. P.T. suddenly became the most sought-after game the market and there were folks selling gladly PS4 systems on eBay with it installed for upwards of $1000.
The fallout from the P.T./Silent Hills debacle continues still today. Konami, a publisher with some of the most celebrated franchises in history, had its stock with the gaming community plummet in the aftermath. If that wasn’t bad enough, Kojima, one of the few true auteurs in the industry who had been with the company since 1986, wanted out. After a much-publicized exit from the publisher, he started Kojima Productions and, with his celebrity friends in tow, created Death Stranding.
P.T. may be gone but it’s not forgotten. You can see the influence of it in games like Allison Road and Layers of Fear. For those not interested in those “inspired by” projects, we have fans recreating the experience and releasing it on PC. Hell, in January of 2019, a fan released it with VR and controller support added. I’m not sure there’s enough money in the world to get me to go through that. The influence that P.T. had can be felt in gaming and will continue to have a profound effect on developers for years to come. While I will always wonder what could have been with Silent Hills, I am eternally grateful for what we have.
[You can read all of our Games of the Decade choices here as they arrive.]