Posted By Austin Yorski about 7 months, 2 weeks ago
Silent Hill may be the franchise by which all other horror video games are judged, but it’s been nearly a decade since the last indisputably great entry in the series. Enter independent developer Jasper Byrne. Byrne, also known as Superflat Games, released a Silent Hill 2 de-make called Soundless Mountain II to enthusiastic reception, but that wasn’t enough. He embarked on an original project tentatively titled Amnesia, which became a massive undertaking that almost eerily mirrored the obsessions of its protagonist. After several art shifts, a few gameplay overhauls, a development hiatus, and a name change, Lone Survivor was loosed upon the world.
It may be the best Silent Hill game of the last decade.
Note: Ending spoilers follow.
On the surface, Lone Survivor is a game about a man trying to escape a monster-infested city. However, there is clearly more going on under the surface. Let’s start with the obvious question: Is there one definite “right” interpretation of the game, or is it something that you meant to leave somewhat ambiguous?
Byrne: I do have my ‘right’ interpretation of the game. Every detail was planned out based around it, and the story was worked out ahead of making the game. I tried to make every tiny detail in the game back up this interpretation, but the nature of these things is that parts of it will read differently to other people and they may form their own interpretation, which may be equally as valid! Of course, some of the interpretation only exists in my head or is only gently implied in the game, so it’s totally up to the player what to make of their own experience.
A lot of my personal analysis of the narrative hinges on a newspaper clipping you can find in the game mentioning a bus bombing. Is it safe to say that the events of the game can be seen as an afterlife or some sort of “Jacob’s Ladder” purgatory for the protagonist? How much does the threat of terrorism or the current fears about biological warfare play into the subtext of the game?
Byrne: I don’t think I could answer whether that is the ‘correct’ reading, but it’s great that you picked up on this! Of course, the newspaper articles aren’t there by coincidence, it’s just that maybe they don’t relate to the main character specifically?
The concept of war is important to the game, but it isn’t the theme. Also I don’t mind saying that the monsters are not an allegory for biological warfare. I think that territory has been covered quite well by things like Resident Evil and the movies that inspired it.
Whatever did happen, it was the same for all endings, but the way the protagonist coped with what happened (and really his character) are up to the player to decide.
I might have tipped my hand with the last question, but what’s the significance of the player character’s face mask? What about the blue and green pills? Combined with the hospital at the end, there seems to be a very clear medicine/sickness motif running throughout the experience.
Byrne: The game is about the player’s health in some ways. Physical and mental. The drugs have dual meanings for me, on the one hand, they’re drugs (not necessarily recreational, but possibly), and on the other, they represent something quite different – a clue might be that the endings are tied to the colours of the pills.
You is definitely somewhat obsessed by the process of death, disease and decay, so it’s probably not surprising that many of his visions relate to this. As to where the obsession began, that is maybe the key to unlocking my personal interpretation.
Throughout the game the main character runs into a vast array of strange and interesting characters. Can you explain the way that each functions within the symbolic framework of the narrative?
Byrne: I think to explain this would give too much away! I can say that the two characters featured in the dreams are conjured by You, so in some way they must be a part of him. The girl is the mystery the game presents, we never really see her or hear her properly – for her in particular it was important that she always felt just beyond his reach. I guess the most important thing is that we have to remember that You is in some way generating this world, and that should go some way to explaining how the characters relate to him (I created them with this in mind.)
The monsters that threaten you throughout the game are zombie-esque, but clearly unique. What can you tell us about their symbolism? How about specific monsters like “Daddy,” “Mother,” and “The Writhing Thing”?
Byrne: I think they key to understanding this is that all hallucinations in the game relate to one event. When you can picture what the event was, it should make a kind of sense.