Silent Hill Ascension Could be the Next Step in Horror Gaming… Assuming Konami Doesn’t Botch It

Ule Lopez
Silent Hill: Ascension

Let's talk about Silent Hill: Ascension, one of the games announced during the franchise revival stream a couple of weeks ago. Silent Hill: Ascension is a new project that aims to be an "interactive video streaming experience" from Montreal-based Dead by Daylight developer Behaviour Interactive with art direction by J.J. Abrams' Bad Robot Games.

The hype that was driven behind this series is not to be underestimated either, as it has been stated that this project will "shape the Silent Hill canon." Is this a good thing? Of course, it is! Because that means that Konami is willing to essentially start experimenting with new things again, allowing people to experience horror in new ways that will make them shake in their boots.

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Perhaps I am naive, but I believe that the people working on this project understand what Silent Hill is and, more importantly, what the fanbase wants from it. Horror has always been an evolving medium. What scared us back then may not be so scary for us nowadays. And no, I don't believe it's a one-and-done deal, as I can very easily return to games like Silent Hill 3 and still be spooked by some of its more disturbing sequences.

Silent Hill: Ascension seems like an ARG project in which millions of people will essentially follow clues and watch as the story unfolds. Producer Jacob Navok described the project as a collaborative project shaped by the people playing it. As he said: "There is no reset button. The decisions that you make mean life or death in the story. It's your chance to shape Silent Hill canon, forever."

As someone who has participated in ARG projects before, such as when I covered Waking Titan and ECKVAnet, I have to say that this could be an innovative and fresh way to shape the future of horror gaming. More often than not, ARG projects like this tend to give me a sense of dread while I watch the latest update.

It's hard to describe, but it feels scary not knowing what's going to happen next as you uncover more clues while participating in an ARG. It could either be a positive development in which you proceed to solve the next clue, or it could be a turning point where an antagonist reveals themselves and defaces everything you were used to seeing.

The biggest fear that horror can exploit is the fear of the unknown, and this project has the opportunity to bring this very feeling to light. Not just individually as the players but also as a collective because only the game masters will know where the story will go and how it will all end.

And it's certainly no coincidence that the person in charge of the game is J.J. Abrams. You know, the Cloverfield guy? The reason why everyone got so fascinated with ARG additions to a lot of projects before they were released. The man has gone on record stating that games are better at telling a story in many ways before, and I believe this ARG will prove that.

The development team has stated to have a clear understanding that creatures in the franchise are manifested projections from the darkest depths of the main characters' minds. As such, the creatures the audience will face will be manifestations of the characters' past lives and traumas taking form and tormenting the main characters as the audience is left making choices that could result in the death of the cast.

We also can't ignore the other team working on Silent Hill Ascension: Genvid, a company that has developed an interactive live streaming SDK used to power narrative experiences like Rival Peak. Genvid's streaming technology for Massive Interactive Live Events (MILEs) allows users access to the live experience.

As Dennis Dyack put it in his interview with us, Genvid's streaming technology allows for the implementation of fully integrated interfaces and complete overlays in the UI where you're not just typing in chat. You're literally there. You have an interface with your mouse where you're doing these things and playing far beyond what you can find on your usual Twitch integration.

Here's a simple video explaining how it all works.

Of course, Genvid's relevance is just as important as that of J.J. Abrams and Bad Robot, as their live-streaming SDK can become the backbone of an experience we've never seen in horror before. One that can essentially scare its users as they seek answers and figure out the next step in Silent Hill Ascension.

Another company that worked alongside Genvid to make Rival Peak was dj2 Entertainment. This company majorly works on live-action elements, but you can also see some of their work in the recently released Sonic the Hedgehog films and other upcoming adaptations such as It Takes Two.

Plenty of capable people are behind this project, delivering on multiple areas that we've never seen before and making them work together to bring an evolution in horror experiences. An effort like this is certainly welcome, as the gaming industry could use new storytelling methods to bring refreshing experiences.

While I eagerly await the results of Silent Hill: Ascension whenever that releases, I also have some reservations about the upcoming project that cannot be ignored. Unfortunately, the first of the red flags is associated with the company that produces the IP: Konami.

Konami has earned enough of a bad reputation around them with their latest choices regarding NFTs, tone-deaf game projects, and other ventures. While this could be the chance for the company to start things off in a new franchise future, a single corporate decision can kill the project and all its positive aspects. And yes, we've seen this before.

This is why the second part of the title is there. I'm certain the project will be successful if Konami allows Bad Robot and the other companies working on Silent Hill: Ascension to work their magic without looking to add some dumb incentive to make profits.

Another thing that will, unfortunately, be a problem for some is the way it can potentially be a "once in a lifetime" opportunity that, while probably still being available for archiving, will not have the same impact for people who have essentially missed out on the ARG. It's one thing to discover an ARG after it happened, but it's another way more fulfilling thing to be part of it as it's happening.

I, for one, am looking forward to more experimental projects like this. New ways to evolve horror as a medium as we continue to provide players with new experiences. This is how P.T. became so popular, after all. It wasn't because it was a teaser but rather because it had an air of mystery that compelled people to solve it and then get excited about the upcoming reveal.

Suppose Konami and the companies associated with Silent Hill: Ascension understand this. In that case, we could see a new revolution in horror that would not only make players become part of the story but also be horrified by it as it evolves. But we'll have to see what happens next year before passing judgment.

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