There is a natural and universally accepted hierarchy of videogame weapons, going back, as far as shooters are concerned, at least to the original Doom and perhaps earlier — I’m using Doom as an example because I know it well and so does basically everybody else. The bottom of the hierarchy is your melee weapon, your fist with the ring with the little dagger on, then there’s your pistol, then the shotgun, then the chaingun, then the rocket launcher, plasma rifle and finally the hallowed BFG 9000. Another reason to use Doom for an example is because its keyboard shortcuts it uses for the weapons are themselves hierarchally arranged, i.e. 1 for the fists, 2 for the pistol, 3 for shotgun, etc. There is a generic journey that videogame players take through the weapons they acquire and that journey often also serves as a relfection, or literalisation, of the journey of the character and the progression of the game’s narrative — as you play, explore and surmount gradual and incremental challenges, the implied additional experience and capability that your character acquires is reflected in their increasingly strong weapon arsenal, a metaphor which purest expression is the boss fight where after defeating the boss you take their gun, like Snake swapping and upgrading his tranquiliser gun for Olga’s SOCOM pistol after their battle in Metal Gear Solid 2. In Silent Hill 2 there is a typical hierarchy of weapons — plank of wood, pistol, shotgun, the apical rifle — but their procurement and accession does not encapsulate, like it normally would, the protagonist’s gradual strengthening or improvement. On the contrary, as his guns become more powerful, James as a character seems to pass by them going down the other way, his emotional and mental condition becoming assonantly, anti-confluentially weaker and more frayed.

Whether this provides any coherent kind of commentary, on guns, masculinity or either of their presentments in videogames, is difficult to say. It’s extremely rich, Silent Hill 2, in terms of its themes and imagery, and it has a lot of — by videogame standards and beyond — lofty narrative ambitions, so you might argue that, of course, this inversion of the typical protagonist/gun symbiosis is deliberate, and there in order to Say Something. On the other hand, I don’t see Silent Hill 2 as especially interested in questions of the metatextual. It would be reductive and besides the point, I think, to read it as, in any way, a game about games — it’s much better than that. Nevertheless it’s there, this adverse correlation between James having guns and being mentally secure.

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