So in the spirit of Halloween, I wanted to talk about a game that legitimately put fear in my heart and caused visceral reactions from hundreds of lets players all across youtube. And That game is the P.T. Silent Hills demo. The most interesting part about this is P.T. isn’t even a complete game, yet it still managed to be one of the most iconic experiences in video game history.
P.T. is the only game I’ve ever played that caused my heart rate to skyrocket out of fear through simple interactions such as turning a corner or opening a door. The demo is built with such an eerily thick atmosphere that it still manages to captivate the player despite its seemingly repetitive setting. An L shaped hallway, a bathroom and a door that loops to the same hallway after walking through it. The only actions available to the player is walking and a slight zoom feature used to inspect key areas of the house. Every loop has its own objective that needs to be completed before you start to see changes and new events take place. As you progress through the demo you start to run into a ghost named Lisa. Lisa is the only enemy in the game and if you’re caught you get reset to the start of the current loop via a jump scare. If your paying attention to the radio you start to hear some exposition about who she is and what exactly happened in this house. The jump scares in the demo are interesting because they aren’t just back to back scares trying to get cheap reactions out of the player. A lot of the time the game appeals to the players’ curiosity often leading them to scare themselves.
One of the scariest moments for me ever was when the radio tells you to look behind you. I don’t think there has ever been a moment in both movies and video games that caused me to feel that shook before.
Aside from the many well-placed jump-scares the deafening silence with only the sounds of your footsteps and the radio to keep you company built up an immense amount of pressure while simply exploring the game. This made it so that anytime you heard something out of the ordinary you immediately tensed up wondering if you were about to be greeted by the houses sole resident. But fear alone isn’t what made the P.T. demo as iconic as it is. If you removed the all puzzles and abstract moments it would had been just another cheap spooky walking simulator. It was the fact that it brought an entire community together in order to actually figure out what the hell was going on in this game.
Despite it only being a playable teaser the demo had a series of pretty complex puzzles that needed to be solved in order to actually beat it. For example one of the steps needed to complete the game was waiting until the clock struck midnight, then taking exactly ten steps, locating the source of the voice on the microphone, and then standing completely still until a babies laugh is heard. All while making sure Lisa doesn’t spook you. Now there’s no way I would had figured that out on my own but this is just another example of the internet working together to achieve a goal. Kojima admitted himself that he was surprised the demo had been figured out in a single day when he expected it to take at least a week. The enigmatic nature of the pt demo is what made it stand out and feel like more than just another scary game.
The P.T. demo was so well received that even the cancellation of the new silent hill game will go down as one of the most infamous game cancellations of all time. In fact, people loved this game so much you started to see a lot of clones popping up everywhere.
P.T. was so good it set a new milestone for psychological horror games. A house filled with narrow hallways, corners and plenty of jumpscares was a new formula many games would come to use. The demo spawned dozens of look-alikes and its influence is apparent in some major titles such as Resident Evil 7. Sure some people would argue that RE7 was in development before the P.T. made it to the PSN store but you can’t help but wonder why the two demos were so similar. Other P.T. inspired games include Layers Of Fear, Allison Road (which is currently stuck in development limbo), Infliction and Visage. As bountiful as these look-alikes were many of them suffered the same fate as P.T. being canceled or just never saw the light of day. People have referred to this as the P.T. curse.
I can’t fault anyone for wanting to fill the void P.T. left but it just seems almost impossible. The demo was incredibly well done and that fact that it was just a demo allows people’s imaginations to run wild thinking about what could have been.
PT was a horrifyingly special game experience that I think will go down in history as one of the most iconic horror games. The fact that it’s since been removed from the PSN store almost creates this feeling of an urban legend of a game. You had to have been there to feel it first hand and the only evidence of it ever existing are videos online and the lucky few who still have it installed on their PS4’s. For me personally, it’s one of those gaming moments I’ll never be able to forget and glad I was able to actually play it myself.