This article does NOT contain spoilers for Silent Hill 2, but if you plan on playing it, I strongly recommend going in completely blind.
I recently beat Silent Hill 2 and learned a lot about game design. The natural feeling from many game developers is to do everything in their power to make sure players understand what is happening. However, Silent Hill 2 does the opposite.
Don’t Tell The Player What Is Happening
Silent Hill 2 deliberately doesn’t explain everything that is going on, leaving players to the task of deciphering what is going on. Recently, fewer games have recognized the benefit of when the player can actually get more enjoyment when information is not clear.
I feel that modern game design typically feels the need to explain everything that is going on. However, I actually found myself enjoying Silent Hill 2 more when I didn’t completely understand what was going on.
The basic plot is easy to follow, but the metaphors are left to interpretation. Speculating what things meant, what characters represented, or just making theories was by far my most enjoyable part of the game.
At times, I thought James was losing his sanity and imagining everything, had the “disease”, or was dead and exploring the different circles of hell.
I also thought certain characters represented deadly sins. Eddie represented gluttony, Maria represented lust, and Laura represented pride. I enjoyed watching their behavior and trying to figure out what it represented if anything.
Enjoyment From The Unknown
If the game had simply said: “Maria represents X and Y”, I wouldn’t have had the enjoyment of making my own theories and finding evidence for each. The ending I got doesn’t confirm or deny any of these theories so I can still think of more.
If there is a canon meaning for everything, I don’t want to know it. I’d prefer to be able to think of more theories or continue finding evidence to support my own.
I really hope more games consider the benefit of not telling the player everything and look to Silent Hill 2 for design ideas, I’d really love to have a similar experience in more games.