the artistry and psychology of gaming

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Top 12 Games of All Times, According to Nazifpour

Top 12 Games of All Times, According to Nazifpour

Well each gamer has a list of greatest games of his/her lives, and I thought I could use this opportunity to publish my own personal list. I decided that there has to be two conditions for every game to be on my list. Firstly, it must be a great game, and secondly, a game that I enjoyed a lot. The list would be different a lot if I didn’t have those conditions. Bioshock, Final Fantasy VII and Shadow of Colossus are for example great games that I would put in an objective list of the greatest games of all times, but I personally didn’t enjoy as much as the games below. On the other hand there are games like Oni, Tekken, and the entire Mario series that I love a lot but I don’t think their artistic merit warrants inclusion on this list. Plus, I have written about these games before, and I have used my previous writings in this list as well. Therefore I look at this somehow as my own “best hits” collection as well.

With this in mind, read on.

#12: Planescape: Torment


Planescape: Torment. An AD&D RPG game, is a cult classic masterpiece which is a true example of why video games are no inferior to literature or cinema. Mainly story driven- battle is less important. The story is about a hero called The Nameless One. He is an immortal. He has died and reincarnated many times but has forgotten about his past lives, he can’t even remember his own name. Now he has to travel through the tormented planes and reclaim his memories.

Existentialism is hard to explain in such a short piece. It’s very complex, it doesn’t have a rally slogan like other schools, and the individual philosophers such as Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche or Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and Simone de Beauvoir, and artists such as Dostoevsky, Herman Hesse and Kafka differ a lot. Existentialism is an attitude, rather than a system of organized ideas, it’s lifestyle. You have to get acquainted with it. There many great introductory texts about them. Unlike many other schools of philosophy, Existentialism can directly affect you and make your life better. But here I’d like to mention one seminal work by Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus. He compares the situation of humanity to Sisyphus. He had disobeyed gods, and therefore he was condemned to spend eternity in an absurd punishment: everyday he had to push a boulder up to the top of a mountain but the boulder would roll down again. His situation was absurd, and so is ours. We live in a godless universe. (notice that by godless Camus doesn’t mean only god as in the creator, but any external source of meaning- Likewise when Nietzsche says “God is dead” he doesn’t mean “Yahweh had a heart attack”, he means “every transcendental reference is dead). So our life is absurd and meaningless. What should we do? Commit suicide? Camus’ answer is no. We have to revolt. We rebel against the world, and the struggle itself makes us happy. “The struggle itself…is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

The Nameless One is trapped in an absurd situation. As we play on with the game we think deeply about what it means to have an identity, to belong, even on what constitutes the “self”, and there’s no ultimate answer to this question. The gods of Sigil are dead. There’s no meaning, and everything is absurd. But we realize that the Nameless One is achieving personal redemption by his very struggle and fight to create meaning out of the absurd situation he’s trapped in. This game is clearly an Existentialist game, and it’s a masterpiece. Play it if you haven’t.

#11: Fallout Series


I am putting all of them in one entry because although the gameplay of the 3rd game and New Vegas differs quite radically from the first and the second game I couldn’t find one which stands out and my point applies to all of them. Now, there are many, MANY video games dealing with the issue of war. But this particular series represent this serious subject-matter in a serious way. And it is one of the very few series that does that. To most video games, war is not a serious political subject matter to be analyzed or handled artistically. To them, war is an opportunity to kill lots and lots of people. Well, war IS such a thing, but more than that. Also, those games are not anti-war. They glorify the war. Or at least they glorify one particular side of the war. (American side). In that sense, they might be excellent games, but the only top 10 they deserve to be is “Top 10 Games That Insult Humanity by Glorifying Mass Murder”.

But not a Fallout. These 4 games show all faces of the war, and treat it seriously as a subject-matter. Everywhere you go, you see destruction, suffering, poverty, and sadness. You walk amid the ruins, and every person you meet is affected by war, for the worse. There’s anarchy. And people who meddle into more wars are only bringing more suffering.

In Fallout: New Vegas, there’s a war between NCR (New California Republic, a nation which closely resembles today America), and Legion, (a tyrannical blood-thirsty state). Although this war is inevitable, and one side is actually preferred, there’s no glorification, we’re aware that how NCR actions leave negative effects.

Therefore the games are a close analysis and honest portrayal of war. Therefore, naturally, they’re anti-war. And they’re a strong critic of our ugly desire to go to war. The games also parody human nature. “War. War never changes.” This is the sentence repeated in each game. There’s always governments going in for benefits and power, feeding lies into ignorant masses and then there’s murder, suffering, loss, and pain.

#10: Killer7

Now this is a game which didn’t sell well, and that’s only natural: the story, the gameplay, and the graphics of the game are radically revolutionary and avant-garde. The game might be considered underrated if you consider the mainstream gamers; those who only play Call of Duty or other games which are made solely to sell. But you shouldn’t: the game is a very intellectual piece of art and you can’t expect it to appeal to the average gamer. Such games, if successful, become cult classics, and Killer7 did.

Goichi Suda is the David Lynch of video gaming: he creates deep art which is violent, disturbing, and plays with forms and styles of gaming. He has two masterpieces, none released in America which are truly underrated: Flower, Sun, and Rain, and Michigan: Report from Hell. These games are so great that no one thought they might appeal to the Western audience. But the release of Killer7 showed they’re wrong. Although the game (naturally) received mixed reviews, you have to keep in mind that all the gaming magazines and sites are reviewers and not real critics, so it’s natural that this game was beyond the understanding of most of them. Again, you have to determine the greatness of this game by its cult status. It has a great following, and garnered a high amount of respect for Goichi, and it made No More Heroes possible. No More Heroes was released to complete commercial and critical success, and if it wasn’t for Killer7, this wouldn’t be possible.

This game is also the most artistic example of incorporating dissociative identity disorder (DID) into the games. In this game the playable character suffers from DID and this serves as a tool to make the game intentionally confusing: Who’s the dominant personality? Are the final scenes true? Was it all a dream? The game uses a psychological disorder the way I think it should be used: as a way to convey more serious questions. When you play as the DID hero of the game you question the nature of truth, politics, and history. This game uses DID to send strong philosophical and social as well as psychological messages. It’s truly a brave and artistic game.

#9: Vagrant Story

Vagrant Story is a fundamentally sad game. Its main theme is loneliness. Loneliness is a fairly common theme in literature and cinema as well, especially in connection to great but antisocial characters. One of such characters is Ashley Riot from Vagrant Story. Even his name sounds like a rebel, and conveys his loneliness in the face of his adversaries.

This game is another great masterpiece by the team which created the greatest RPG of all times (Final Fantasy Tactics). You have to investigate the link between a cult leader and a Duke. Upon your arrival the Duke is killed and you are blamed with murder. A synopsis like this can’t show the real worth of the story of this game. There are many cliche games and movies which revolve around a person wrongly blamed for a crime. But the real point is, this is in fact the ending of the game, not its beginning. That’s important because the usual plot is wrongly-blamed, struggles, shows innocence. But in this game that’s the climax, the result of your actions is to be forver blamed for crimes you didn’t commit. This is loneliness. This game makes you feel how would it be to go against the whole world alone.

Many elements are put in the game to emphasize that. This is one of the very few RPGs where you have no interaction with NPCs, you have no teammates, there are even no shops. You have no true allies, you’re on your own. The main story is called “story of the wanderer”, and he truly is a wanderer: A person with no home, which makes him alone. Even the name of the game dubs him as a vagrant. So here he is: he seems to be a classic hero, but he’s intrinsically lonelier, sadder. The game takes the classic archetype of lone hero, understates the “hero” part, emphasized the “lone” part.

The end is vague: he disappears into the night, no one hears of him anymore. At the end, he so lonely that he also leaves us, the gamers, behind to embark on his true journey.

#8: Dragon Age: Origins

I’ve been a fan of BioWare for a long time. This company has developed some of the best Western RPGs out there. However, their undying masterpiece and their greatest game is undoubtedly Dragon Age: Origins. The game is a D&D Forgotten Realms Campaign, set in the fictional universe of Ferelden. The gameplay might add nothing to the traditional gameplay of Western RPGs, but it’s flawless and great at the same time. So, although not innovative in anyway, the game completely rises to the standards of its predecessors. You control a group of characters with different classes. Each time you can have up to 4 members in your party. The characters are varied, and you can develop them freely. The game also gives you a free hand in combat, letting you choose from many methods to play the game. The difficulty of the gameplay is also fairly balanced. But none of the BioWare games (or most Western RPGs for that matter), are gameplay-driven, but are story-driven. Although the gameplay of Dragon Age: Origins is flawless and good, what makes it a true masterpiece is the great story and nothing else.

First of all, let’s begin with the fact that the game gets rid of the shallow and arbitrary morality system and doesn’t label the gamer “good” or “bad”. However, your actions and decisions hugely affect the game, and change the course of the story. In a way, the game seems to present your choices as more pragmatic than moral, since you should think of how these actions will affect your progress. However, the game remains completely moral. How? The story is so engaging, so deep and you feel yourself so involved in the events that you feel obliged to try and find the more moral path. This is enough to show why this game is such a masterpiece. The game attaches no moral string to you and yet you’re always preoccupied with morality. A very bold move, which is only possible with a very great story. The story is also very deep. It deals with multiple issues. It deals deeply with religion and politics. The developers portray all different sides with depth and therefore the game can be interpreted from multiple perspectives. Although the game takes place in a fictional universe it’s completely relevant to our time and place. The game seems to take place in medieval time but it can only be developed by a person with a 21st century mentality. However, this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have the charm of a medieval romance. One must also point to the meticulous attention paid to the minute details. Fully detailed mythology, fully detailed history, geography, political system, all fantastic and realistic at the same time.

But none of this would be half enchanting if the characters of the game were one dimensional and half-assed. They’re not. Each character is deep, real, and they all have personal quests which deal with their pasts. Their dialogues are written greatly, you can easily empathize with them, you grow to love them, and worry for their future. They all have their own personal worldview and taste. But have no doubt who’s the greatest character of them all. Morrigan is one of the finest and greatest achievements in video game history. She’s evil and good, charming and frightening, deep, loveable and detestable. She’s the deepest character of the row, presenting what’s mysterious and dark and at the same time desirable in a woman. She’s the most human of the characters. She’s also the most unique.

#7: Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos

Most gamers know this series by MMORPG which came after and became a world-wide sensation, World of Warcraft. The game became so big that there’s even a South Park episode about it. Although this game set the stage for that great game, it’s equally great in its own right. Gemaplay is the perfect strategy. Great for playing with friends or alone. But that’s not the greatest thing about the game. The greatest thing is the story. The story is an epic. It’s grand in style and subject matter. And it’s meaningful. If you compare it with the legendary Lord of the Rings novels, you haven’t been wrong.

The theme of the game is the evils of power. Power can corrupt. That’s a true statement. And since power can corrupt the best people, we’ve turned to democracy as a means to limit the power of government. That’s the political aspect of issue, but if you look at it, there’s also a moral aspect involved. I’ve been a very good person, a great person even. But I’ve also had an uncontrollable lust for power, and therefore, I’ve committed crimes and have spoiled myself to reach power. That’s the touching story of a person with a lust for power which destroys him. It happens in real life and in literature. Two of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies, Macbeth and Richard III, and all great tragedies of his contemporary Christopher Marlowe, are about this theme. I’d like to mention a manga series as well. Berserk, which is to me the greatest manga ever, deals with the same issue. In this game we’re introduced to Arthas. He’s the prince of his land, and he sets out to protect his land from the attack of the undead. But soon he turns from a hero to a vile villain. First he mass murders the innocent population of a whole city and then he’s tempted by the undead to join them. He does so, and murders his father the king and his tutor. Why? For power. His lust for power turn him into a real beast. This game is a true epic tragedy. The narration is elevated writing, and the events are great and effective. This game is truly one of the greatest games ever made, with a great moral story.

#6: Max Payne

Tell me, what makes Max Payne a great game? Apart from its fantastic gameplay which set the standard for future shooting games? Its deep story? What makes its story so deep? The plot seems straightforward enough. A cop’s wife, child and friend are killed in the crossfire of a fight among smugglers of a special kind of drug, he traces it to the very core and he kills them all. What’s special about this?

The society is always present at the background of this game. The revenge plot is only a chocolate cover, the cake, is one of the strongest social critiques of all times. This is really a great achievement. Max moves from one place to another shooting enemies after enemies and does nothing else, and yet, the game manages to narrate its powerful social criticism. Because, look around you; what you see around is a sick society. A sick society with sick products such as crime, prostitution, poverty, corruption.

Max starts his journey at the lowest part of society: an underground station full of homeless killers and addicts, a cheap hotel for the criminals, and then to the big time mafia. In the third part he attacks the respected parts of society: the police, and the corporations, and finally he also finds the hand of government in the whole mess. The game is so cruel: it equates the whole society, from the bottom to the top, as if we’re all infected by corruption alike. As the game goes on, a huge storm of snow paralyzes the city. I’ve no doubt that this storm is symbolic. We’re paralyzed, we’re attacked. Drugs, sex and consumerism are that snow, lies and corruption are the storm. And just like any snow, which falls on every roof, we’re all guilty.

The revenge plot is only a chocolate cover, the cake, is one of the strongest social critiques of all times. This is really a great achievement. Max moves from one place to another shooting enemies after enemies and does nothing else, and yet, the game manages to narrate its powerful social criticism. Because, look around you; what you see around is a sick society. A sick society with sick products such as crime, prostitution, poverty, corruption. Max starts his journey at the lowest part of society: an underground station full of homeless killers and addicts, a cheap hotel for the criminals, and then to the big time mafia. In the third part he attacks the respected parts of society: the police, and the corporations, and finally he also finds the hand of government in the whole mess. The game is so cruel: it equates the whole society, from the bottom to the top, as if we’re all infected by corruption alike. As the game goes on, a huge storm of snow paralyzes the city. I’ve no doubt that this storm is symbolic. We’re paralyzed, we’re attacked. Drugs, sex and consumerism are that snow, lies and corruption are the storm. And just like any snow, which falls on every roof, we’re all guilty.

But what stands against the social background of the game is Max himself. A pessimistic dark hero, who stands against the odds, who stands for what’s right. He’s the Philip Marlowe of video game. He’s believable, realistic, deep, angry, sad, and yet gives us hope with his actions. A true hero, one of the greatest characters of all times. Max fits the tragic Noir hero archetype perfectly. He is a moral, yet depressed hero, whose heroic actions are violent. He’s a lone man against the odds. Max has a poetic sense of describing his actions. He does not believe his actions are heroic and he believes he should be punished for his actions. He’s pessimistic, and his dark humor is very morbid, in the original Max Payne he tends to make jokes even in the face of danger. The society is always present at the background of this game.

#5: Silent Hill: Shattered Memories

The most underrated game ever made. I have always been openly a fan of this series, and I’m shocked how this pure masterpiece didn’t get enough attention. Almost all people, even fans, acted as if a very normal spin-off and it was a sort of “meh” and then moved on. Let me enlighten you: Shattered Memories is when a video game goes beyond the boundaries of a normal work and challenges the very borders of a medium and art in general and stands not on the top of its genre, but a little bit outside it.

This game is the most obviously psychological one of the series. It happens in a psychiatrist office, and you have to answer to the questions of the doctor, and then proceed to play a level. These levels are the remake- or the rereading- of the events of the first game. The game warns you at the very beginning that it collects data based on what you do and will reshape the game to create your personal nightmare. The game warns you that “this game plays you as much as you play it”.

By taking this bold step, the game dismantles the traditional definition of the gamer, and does so more effectively than any other media before. There has been a long time since literature and cinema have tried to leave parts of the story blank to fill it with reader. There has always been attempts to kick the audience from its passive role into an active one- and this game has now defied the borders. You, as the gamer, are the main subject of the game. Not because the game drastically changes based on how you play it- no, that would be meaningless. To me, every second of the game is meticulously worked, and a game that really changes based on the gaming of the gamer can never achieve greatness.

The game plays you by always making you self-conscious. The magical miracle this game is, it keeps two opposing things in art together. First, it involves you in the story it narrates. Second, it keeps its distance. This paradoxical constant involvement-alienation, makes you lose yourself deep in the story, but always resume to yourself and ask yourself, “what about me?” “Am I doing the the right thing?” The game plays you by making you self-aware. This game is no escapist fun, it’s a wake-up call.

The game narrates the events of the first Silent Hill. This is also a genius move. The fans of the series know this story pretty well. And now this game boldly dismantles it. It changes the roles. Reverses good and evil. Redefines. Why should you manipulate an accepted, standard story that everybody loves? Because that’s what gives this game is powerful voice. The game wages its war against dogma and fixed answers by not only making you question yourself- but also your past knowledge of events, your ideas, your memories. Nothing is as it appears.

The game puts psychology under its feet to climb higher. Add to this the great, miraculous execution of every moment and event in the game. I have a dear friend who says: “Art must end somewhere”, whenever he sees a really great work of art, and is yet again surprised. Call me an exaggerating fanboy if you will, but I sincerely believe if art ends somewhere, this game is near that somewhere.

#4: Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

How many games have you played that, after hundreds of hours of play, you still discover new things which will let you experience them in quite a new way? How long are video games today? How many different paths do they make available? Because in this way, no other game is quite like Skyrim. Because as the wise reviewer of GameSpy puts it Skyrim is more than a game. When you buy a game like Skyrim you’re choosing a new lifestyle, as if you’ve married. It’ll sink your hours in like a part-time job, it’ll hook you up like an addictive drug, and it will make your life sweeter like a new lovely girlfriend. It’s more than a game, or maybe, it’s the culmination of what a video game can be. I find two radically paradoxical descriptions to be completely accurate about Skyrim. On one hand, you may argue that this is not merely a video game. This is life. If they took you to a fantasy novel and left you, this would be your life. It covers all aspects of life great and small. From great things such as suppressing or supporting a revolution, learning an ancient magical force, becoming a legendary thief, assassin, soldier, or magician, or maybe turning into a werewolf or a vampire, to small things life smithing, cooking, collecting butterflies. It seems that this game pushes the very boundaries of what a video game can achieve. On the other hand, it’s a great video game. It’s a game which (to use MotherKojiro’s favorite catchphrase) remembers it’s a video game. It’s interactive, and to the most radical point possible. It’s your dream world. Your story. Your hero. Play it as you will. Nothing will stop or guide you. This is not an interactive movie like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. It’s a video game. And it’s a great one.

What makes Skyrim so fun, so great, and so enjoyable? There are two things. First is the universe it creates and lets you live your fantasy adventure, and second, it’s how seamlessly the game is accessible and fun and yet tactical and in-depth.

Firstly, and this is something it shares with Deus Ex, this game really lets you play it the way you intend. It’s not as evident as Deus Ex, because the stealthy way doesn’t really work as you must fight at times. But how you fight? How do you like to fight? And what do you want to be strong in? The game is completely open-ended in that regards. The new two-hand system also lets you mix any two weapons or spells or both with each other, and you find yourself experimenting with more and more ways to fight, never getting bored. Do you like swords, spells, or archery? Would you like to attack or block? Your character is your handiwork, and you can shape her in anyway you like. This is going to be YOUR heroic journey. Of course, this feature exists in many games (all the good RPG games) and it’s the second merit which makes this game a miracle of game design.

Most games are either action and non-tactical or non-action and tactical. You’re either mashing buttons (albeit in a combo frenzy) or you’re playing chess (only more complicated). Each style has its merits and weaknesses. Action makes the game exciting, breathless, and makes you feel powerful and badass. But it’s also thoughtless and brutish. Tactic, on the other hand, makes you think and contemplate and design a strategy, while it might also be hard and less exciting. Now, can a game have both? Can it be action and tactical? Yes, Skyrim! Just like Oblivion and Fallout 3 before it, Bethesda has managed to create a style which captures both merits.

So Skyrim is not only a great game, the best game of 2011. In 2011 many great masterpieces were released (more than any other year, I believe). But yet the title easily goes to Skyrim because it’s more than a masterpiece: it pushes the boundaries of what we call a video game, it expands and redefines the whole medium. It’s a historical cornerstone.

#3: Final Fantasy Tactics

This game is one of the much deeper, much more complex video games, it’s one of the rarest events in gaming history. It’s certainly the best Final Fantasy which has been made- and easily one of the top games ever created. You could write a book about this game. It’s a miracle which gives away new meanings as you come back to it. Final Fantasy Tactics takes place in a medieval kingdom called Ivalice. The plot follows Ramza Beoulve, a noble cadet who’s caught- against his will- in midst of a military conflict between two noble families for the crown called The Lion War. As the story goes on, he allies himself with many characters and discovers that there’s a sinister conspiracy behind this war.

There are many different characters in the game. All of these characters are deep and they have their own personal philosophies of their own. I could put this game in the political list- but it’s not mainly political. The game is not mainly about plots and corruption and power plays, but about the clash of ideas. If you let me compare this game to another game, Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, they both are similar in that they both represent many different ideologies which clash. Both of them refuse to take sides. I’ve read many different interpretations of this game, and all seem to think one character is favored. But this is not the case. The game itself is disinterested. The game stands aside and lets the plausible characters take the stage and present their case at its best.

Which takes us to the difference between these games: the varied ideologies in this game are not simple and crude, but sophisticated and deep. They all have their advantages and disadvantages, and although none of them are complete, all of them are true in one aspect, and from a specific perspective. So if I’m forced to choose one specific attitude for the game it’s pluralistic: the game embraces all differences and accepts that we all have a share of truth. Ramza Beoulve is a free spirited heretic, his free-thinking attitude is symbolized in him being a mercenary- belonging to no creed, just a man of himself. Delita Hyral, another major character, is a commoner who has turned into a hero, and his ideas clearly represent those of a democrat. There are also many supporting characters who represent social Darwinism, aristocracy, etc. There are tons of characters and tons of ideas.

In short, if they ever asked you why video games are as important as literature or cinema, bring one reason: Final Fantasy Tactics.

#2: Metal Gear Solid Series

I think we can consider the whole series one game, because they have one story. A game we can basically call a political analogy. Of course, the series are much more than that. There’s love, epic, a quest for identity, a lone hero, all are present. But at the background the political landscape lies. The game targets every possible subject-matter. It’s about the different faces of war, ugly faces and heroic faces. It’s about corrupt governments and conspiracies. It’s about the tragedy of our times, but at the same time, the epic of the individual struggle.

To me, the theme of this long story is the most touching, important subject we can discuss while talking about politics. The theme is this: Politics, as a dirty game, versus the individual. The characters of the series never cease to be individuals. They’re never the generic good-guy or bad-guy. They’re real people with real histories beside them. But what is important, they’re all defined in relation to their political context.

In the first game, the character of Sniper Wolf is an example: she was a Kurdish girl who witnessed her family’s mass murder. She has become a blood-thirsty assassin in her turn. The same can be said about most villains. The Dead Cell of the second game, the Cobra Unit of the third, the Beauty and the Beast of the fourth, they all have horrific backgrounds and they all come from troubled countries: Romania, Russia, etc.

The game honestly shows the horrific effects of war, conflict, and political conspiracies on the lives of innocent people, who in turn have the potential to turn into monsters themselves. For this, the series are anti-war at heart, and a loud critic of the politics of our wounded time. But that’s not all. The series are also a hymn to heroes. Snake and others become heroes by refusing to fight the dirty war. They fight their own wars. They stand up against the system. They let out their “rage against the machine”. In short, they maintain their individuality in the face of an oppressive, collective, victimizing system. Snake is a hero not because he’s so cool at fighting and killing. He’s a hero because he remains loyal to his ideals, to his dreams.

Listen to the long speech of Boss at the end of the third game, or Snake’s at the end of the second one. Then you will see what I mean.

If someone, later in the history, wants to know of the plights and hopes of our troubled years, it’s enough if they download all Metal Gears (they will be free then, and it will take a few minutes to download them all), run them on their ancient consoles emulator, and say: “So this is the late 20th and early 21st century. How sad…. yet, how serene.”

#1: Silent Hill 3

There are many things which make Silent Hill series great in general, but I think the third one is the best of them in all aspects. The game is the greatest game of all times.

All the games in the series are truly scary because they make use of the most effective way of scaring the gamer . The horror is usually associated with the extraordinary, super natural, weird. But what if the game creators blur the line between ordinary and extraordinary, and turn the familiar objects into threats? What if we don’t associate fear with the unknown- for the unknown is inherently scary- but with the known? What if known and unknown have become one? What if we merge natural and super natural? This is achieved when two condition are met: Firstly, the natural and familiar are manipulated subtle to indicate there’s something wrong and scary about them. It might be some blood, a weird movement, or a general sense of suspense about them. Secondly, by making the supernatural (e.g. monsters) symbols of the familiar. Therefore the game is really about a commonplace subject we all can relate to, but hides that subject behind a veil of horror. This is scarier, because the game becomes the nightmare of the gamer, and a personal nightmare at that. It’s more disturbing because the gamer can connect to it on a personal level and it scars the gamer deep into his/her subconscious. The gamer cannot take refuge in the reality because reality has become the horror. And this is more artistic because the game is now a great commentary on the psychological and philosophical aspects of our lives.

All the games in the series are psychological, so is this one, but in a different way. In Silent Hill 2 and Shattered Memories we are watching the reality from a distorted mind, therefore these games are more psychological. However, the question is back with a vengeance in Silent Hill 3. Heather is a normal girl who undergoes normal crises- as I’ve said before, I think this game is about adolescence, and is full of rape and abortion symbolism. However, we see how Heather’s precision manipulates the real world. The line is blurred again, but this time subtly, so subtly that most gamers don’t recognize that when they play the game. Instead of being openly symbolic the game hides its symbolism under a facade of a simple scary tale, and therefore it’s deeper and more philosophical- because it’s closer to reality, and yet it questions it.

There’s a newspaper in a metro station which talks about how a person fell under the train and died. When you go to the spot where he was killed, his ghost comes and pushes you on the rails, and you have a short time to run before being squashed by the train. Normal scary games stuff, eh? No. If you fail to notice and read the newspaper, the ghost won’t appear. It won’t appear if Heather doesn’t know about it beforehand. What does that tell you? The game is full of such scenes.

I know that his one would be controversial, because the symbolism of the game is very subtle and, even possibly, subconscious. You may play the game multiple time and not notice them. But the game is much more powerful than the average survival horror, and this is the main reason- there’s more to it. We can relate to it on a personal level. Of course, there are some great articles about the game, but the general consensus on the game is that it’s not as deep and philosophical as other games. The main reason behind the misunderstanding is the fact that the game (on surface) tells a very generic, straight forward story. In Silent Hill 2 the symbolism and the deeper meaning of the game was emphasized during the game, and everyone could see that there should be a subliminal story under the scary stuff. The story was confusing, and the ending was clear. Not this game. The game ends happily, (in your first playthrough at least), the characters act normally. More importantly, the second game was a stand-alone game, but the third game is a sequel. All this has caused Silent Hill 3 to be the least artistically analyzed game of the series. You have to look deeper. Like all the games in the series, the monsters are symbolic, and represent the psychological feelings of the protagonists. In addition to that, like the second game, the notes and documents scattered around the game are meaningful, and you have to read them. You can stop Heather to comment on any object in the game, and these comments help build her character. At the very end, this game is about the troubles of a young teenage girl going through her psychological problems, narrated as a horror game. The symbolism is mysterious, dark, and vague. The game might be about unwanted pregnancy and abortion, or simply about puberty, or both.

In most games which deal with the topic of evil religions with the exception of Dragon Age, all the actions were made by religious people but not because they were religious. But this game goes deeper, and targets the very heart of religions. The main villain is Claudia Woolf. She thinks that reviving their gods will bring paradise to the world and will make everyone happy, and since this end is holy and justified, every means is also justified. She is selfless, and she knows she won’t make it to heaven because of her evil deeds, she only wishes for the happiness of others. If you look at her, she embodies the religious ideals: she’s humble, selfless, charitable, and chaste. And yet she’s a horrifying monster. She does every crime imaginable, and she’s scary, depressed and deprived of real humanity. Steven Weinberg once said: “Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it, you’d have good people doing good things and evil people doing bad things, but for good people to do bad things, it takes religion.” This is the main argument which Silent Hill 3 also brings up. We realize that both Claudia of the third game and Walter of the fourth game are the victims of a religion: they’re both indoctrinated, tortured and finally deprived of their sanity because of the religiosity of their environment. Think about it this way: If Claudia wasn’t religious, would she be a bad person? No. Claudia is not evil in spite of her faith or she doesn’t happen to be religious and evil at the same time, she’s evil because of her religion. And this is scary because in no other Silent Hill the Order is so similar to the world’s today religions. This game is the single most antitheistic game of all times.

And I would select Heather as the greatest female character of all time, because this game is entirely based on her psychological state and this game is a masterpiece. If we continue our theme of female leads, she’s the ultimate high a character writer can achieve. She’s a polyphonic character who reconciles the paradoxes. She’s a teenager, who turns to an adult. She’s a traumatized girl who preserves her sense of humor. She’s a sexy girl who dresses clumsily. She’s human, more than most video game characters will ever be. From her appearance her greatness begins. By looking at her hair you can say that she has dyed her hair. This is a detail mostly missed by other video games. (I can’t think of any actually). It makes her more similar to a real girl, plus it reflects her dual identity. Her body is not sexualized but it’s very attractive, and her legs are visible. Yet upon close up you can see freckles and similar flaws, making her at the same time sexy and human. It’s important to note while originally she wore jeans, and had a much more conventional appearance, it was later changed to what it is now. Heather’s personality is that of a genuine realistic teenager. She’s “normal, carefree girl who loves to shop”, also moody short-tempered, sarcastic, and humorous. She also has a great love for her father. She’s compassionate, merciful, and very courageous and brave. The fact that she rapidly gets used to the horrors of the game and develops a strong resolve sets her apart from other Silent Hill heroes. She’s human and a hero. To me this game is ultimately a coming of age story. We see a young teenage girl fighting monsters and facing horrors, through them overcoming her insecurity and horrors. And yet, ultimately, she doesn’t even develop in the conventional sense. She remains a jolly whiny teenager. She never becomes a “hero”. She simply grows up. As I played the game I felt I knew her, and sometimes I think to myself what is she doing now. To me, she’s not a simple hero in a game I played. She’s a real person I knew and loved for a long time. If this is not the greatest thing a writer can hope for I don’t know what is.

Conclusion

So that’s it! I really hope other writers on the site write a similar list as well. David “DDJ” has written one, and I can’t seem to find it for the life of me. Anyway, I encourage all my fellow writers to write one.

5 Comments

  1. well … but i think when you didn’t play none of multiplayer of game in your life you are not a complete gamer … if you played multiplayer of kz3 or lpb2 i’m sure that your idea were changed about these games … good luck …
    my list of best games :
    1.rayman origins
    2.killzone 3
    3.resistance 3
    4.dirt 3
    5.batman arkham city
    6.uncharted 3
    7.la.noire
    8.gran turismo 5
    9.battle field 3
    10.King Arthur II – Dead Legions

    • Author knows what he is talking about while your is just pathetic to say the least.

    • You call that a list?

      When did you start gaming? 3 years ago?

  2. Next 12 games please!

    By the way, there are three games that are on my list too: Max Payne, WarCraft III, and Planescape.

  3. Flower, Sun, and Rain got a DS port which actually DID get brought over to America.

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