Silent Hill 2 is pretty damn creepy, but nothing prepared me for a possible new discovery in the game’s opening cinematic.
A little over a week ago, an interesting image was posted to the Silent Hill subreddit. By brightening a screenshot of the iconic mirror scene in Silent Hill 2’s intro, the original poster said, they uncovered a secret that had escaped discovery for almost two decades: James is staring out from the game world at the player themselves rather than just having a brief moment of introspection. The picture quickly proliferated across websites like ResetEra and Twitter, spurring additional sleuths to mess around with Photoshop in search of a definitive answer.
As is often the case, there were passionate arguments on both sides of the debate. The most compelling piece of evidence was provided by ResetEra poster Joqu, who used a high-definition promotional image of the scene in question to produce a shot where it almost definitely appears as if James is staring at the player.
That said, this isn’t an entirely interpretive work of art. Silent Hill 2—and, more specifically, its cinematics—were made by someone with a vision. There’s something to be said for the death of the author, but James can’t both be looking at himself and breaking the fourth wall. He has to be looking somewhere, and the only people who would have a definitive answer to this question would be the folks who worked on the game.
Fans desperate for a conclusion to this saga quickly latched onto Silent Hill 2 art director Masahiro Ito via Twitter, and while his answer was non-committal, it was also dismissive of the idea that James was looking anywhere but at himself for story reasons.
There was a glimmer of hope for those looking for something deeper out of the scene, however, when Ito deferred to CGI director Takayoshi Sato as the one person who would know for sure. Sato, he explained, sculpted James’ skin for these 3D cinematics, making him a definitive source for an answer to the mystery. Kotaku contacted Sato several times over the last week for his insight, but we’ve yet to hear back from the veteran designer, perhaps because he’s taking a well-earned vacation after acting as visual producer on Paper Mario: The Origami King.
And so, the mystery remains. Is James simply struggling with his inner demons, as many of us assumed of the scene for close to 20 years, or is there a deeper meaning behind his gaze? Without official word from the creators, it’s up to fans to come to their own conclusions.
Maybe that’s for the best! Some of the coolest video game moments can come from returning to a classic game and reexamining how its gameplay feels from a modern perspective. Why not do the same with narratives? There are certainly worse candidates for that kind of treatment than Silent Hill 2. In any case, this is a nice moment for hardcore fans of the survival-horror game to litigate the old debates for this compelling video game all over again.