Manipulation and Argument 101


This tweet could easily sum up 2014 for me.

As I’m closing in on 30 years old, I’m learning many things about myself. One of which is that I’ve spent the majority of my life as a very trusting person. That sounds like a humble brag, but I assure you nothing has caused me more pain and suffering than this naivety. My insistence in believing that everyone really means well, despite the hurt they’ve caused, has tripped me more times than I’d like to admit.

During my time on social media I’ve observed arguments regarding controversies in gaming culture. Specifically, I have noticed a consistent tactic within the waning “gamergate” community. That theme is simple, but utterly destroys any hope of either side communicating effectively. And it’s a tactic I have finally come to understand now, at 29 years old. Finally.

Willful ignorance. Saying you do not understand the problem when you do. Stating subjective opinions as solid facts. And lastly, intentionally misusing and misunderstanding words or concepts.

This may come off at first at harmless stupidity, but I assure you it’s intentional. Here’s an example:

“Anita Sarkeesian is largely ignored by gamers.” is a lie. A complete and boldface lie. One a gamergater attempted to sell me just yesterday. But perhaps more infuriating is that it’s one that so easily proven wrong. So why? Why try to sell me a load of bullshit I could easily prove wrong? And how could someone believe something so clearly inaccurate? This type of thing spins my head- as it’s tailor made to do exactly that. The answer is of course they don’t really think that at all. It’s a tactic, a game play. Made to create an environment where their opponent feels off kilter, even crazy.

Another:

“Do you have any evidence that I’m a misogynist?” Misogyny is an abstract concept. Save for a screencap of a forum wherein they’ve stated, “Hooo boy do I love bein’ a misogynist!” there’s no way to provide “evidence”. Mainly because that’s not how evidence works. They’re demanding you provide evidence for something as if one could find their business card, Mr. Grade A. Jackass – Misogynist.

But surely the young teens and 20-somethings remaining in this dissipating group aren’t smart enough to manipulate people, right? But that’s part of the deception too. You don’t need to be a mental juggernaut to manipulate people. My first inclination is to assure myself, and you, that people may not even be aware that they’re doing it. When someone grows up in a home where manipulation is rampant, they internalize that these head games are a perfectly acceptable way to communicate.

But what I’ve finally learned this year is this: People who manipulate you always know that they’re manipulating you. Always.

Anything you say, no matter how clear your terms, will be misunderstood- on purpose.

They will misuse words like censorship- on purpose.

They will misinterpretation your values and points- it’s all on purpose.

It’s meant to wear you down. To spin you around until your too dizzy and exhausted to fight back. It’s the game that abusers play with their victims. Confronting them with their behavior will only lead to more manipulation and lying because that’s the only way they know how to interact with people. The only winning move is not to play.

It’s amazing to me how these events came into my life in the exact right time, to show me how people will lie directly to your face. It showed me that sometimes, often in fact, people are not as well meaning as they seem. It’s been an incredibly painful thing to realize, but very necessary. Like the last threads of my childhood innocence have come undone and fluttered away in the wind.

In gamergate’s quest for “ethics in journalism” it’s all about control. Controlling the narrative, controlling who is and who is not a “real gamer” control, control, control. And at the end of it all they smile right at you and say they’re a liberal atheist. It’s insanity inducing. And it’s that way on purpose.

Why dating “guy gamers” turned out to be a bad idea


Sure, it seems fun at first.

Mostly because it’s comfortable. Every night is like a pajama sleep over that ends in sex. That’s the American Dream. That’s before spending every night in playing League of Legends or Assassin’s Creed gets really, really boring.

I dated a lot of men who considered themselves “gamers”. Why? Low self esteem, mostly. I knew a lot about games and enjoyed playing them. And that interest was a “hook”. Something that men could relate to and feel comfortable talking about. I didn’t feel like my personality and looks alone was enough to generate any real interest (and as a teen I was probably right). My focus was being good enough for them with no question as to whether they were good enough for me.

Now obviously this is all based on my personal experience and my friends. There are always exceptions. However, if you feel you’re the exception to any of this, just feel content in that. I don’t need to hear about it and honestly if you can’t control your impulse to convince me that you’re the special-special than you’re probably exactly the type of guy I’m talking about.  Consider this constructive criticism from the opposite sex. So here are a few observations about dating “guy gamers”…

They lack real world motivation.

I have found that most of the gamers I dated did little else but game exclusively. They were not well rounded people with different interests. Cooking, sports, politics (unless it’s about gaming), art, fashion, music (unless it’s video game remixes), travel, are not as interesting to them as the latest DLC on Steam.  Most of the men I dated never went to college for anything unless they attempted to do something in games. But all attempts fail, inevitably. Everything is too hard, too complicated, they work too much or sleep too little. Excuses abound.

This becomes a problem when you want to go out and do real world things. Take a walk, go dancing, go to the library, go to the beach it’s all just too much effort for a gamer boyfriend. I hope you have a really tight-knit circle of friends because you’ll be seeing them a lot while your boyfriends at home raiding.

They don’t take care of themselves.

You may have a varying level of interest in your health and appearance, but in my experience guy gamers just don’t bother. I’m not saying they’re unhygienic, but they’ve had that gigantic t-shirt since high school. Cargo shorts, socks with holes in them, the dreaded trench coat of Doom. You have to beg them to get a hair cut or just shave every now and again. Try not to swoon ladies. Sure, you can’t judge a book by it’s cover but do try to make an effort, lads. It shows us you give at least [1] fuck.

Not to mention their health. They may be your scruffy, Aladdin-esque street rat today. But a lifetime of sitting on their butts and a junk food diet is going to wreak havoc on their bodies in the next 10 years. This isn’t a dig on bigger men as they’re sometimes the most loving and supportive. But add bad skin, greasy hair, breathing problems, and uncontrollable sweating into the mix and…yeah. It’s not cute.

They don’t take any interest in real world issues.

This one is self explanatory. Politics of any kind is unknown to them unless it’s relevant to gaming. They may have read a lot as a kid, but rarely do now. They don’t do much of anything anymore. So once you’ve exhausted the latest gaming news you’re left to contemplate if everyone else’s boyfriend is this boring.

They all say they want to make/write/animate games but never do.

God, this. What does a person who takes no interest in anything except games plan on doing with their lives? Why making games of course. Except the reality is game development is fucking hard, expensive and lacking a lot of the glamour they think it will bring them. Here’s a tip, unless he’s in the actually programming and development phase of the game by the time you’ve met him- he’s probably just a dreamer. The older you both are, the more true that statement rings. Don’t get pulled into his fantasy about how he’s going to eventually hit the big time. Odds are he probably wont make it past drawing concept art.

They’re way more sexist than they think they are.

Strap in, kiddies.

This is a common problem with men raised on a steady diet of “save the princess” story lines. If he labels himself a “gamer” he probably considers himself part of an exclusive, insular community. Of men. Not you, you’re not actually part of that. He’ll say you are- but not treat you that way. Actions > words. Unless he actively addresses the treatment of women in  gamer culture in conversation, there’s a good chance he’s on other side of the fence. The other side being so impossibly self centered he’d never take those complaints seriously.

This usually manifests in one of two ways:

1. ) He’ll put you up on a pedestal. It feels nice at first, getting treated like a princess. Until you realize he’s got you set up to fail. To him you’re like a glorious hot chick trophy to be paraded out to his friends, “AND she plays games” he’ll say in the same tone one might say, “AND it has a cup holder”. Enjoy holding in all your farts for the remainder of your relationship. When you inevitably exhaust yourself trying to keep up he’ll sputter a vague complaint about how, “you’ve changed”. He can’t put his finger on what it is, but the magic is gone. And so goes that relationship.

2.) The other and more common one is he’ll expect you to be “just one of the guys”. This means you need to be covertly female. You need to play games like his friends, eat like his friends, talk like his friends all while balancing being casual and hot. You need to be sexy while also dressing in a way that doesn’t indicate that you’re trying too hard. You need to be bold and swear like a sailor but never EVER call him out on anything in front of his friends. Be attractive, but don’t take too long getting ready or you’ll give yourself away.

And most importantly never ever ever align yourself with other women in gaming. Do not talk about Anita Sarkeesian. Do not complain about the way women are designed in games, always except that the amount of harassment you get online is normal and understandable considering how super sexy you are. Consider it a compliment and shut up.

If you do complain, get ready for a circle jerk of men (including your boyfriend)  interrogating on every detail that will end in you giving up and them laughing the whole thing off.  I know, right? Where do I sign up!?

They think they’re the hero.

What I took away from my experience of dating guy gamers is a consistent theme of being “the special”. He wont say it, he wont even imply it- because the protagonist never does. It has more to do with the way he reacts to situations. It’s as if playing the hero of so many different stories has imprinted this idea of their super specialness. He’s waiting for the adventure of his life to drop into his lap, for someone to swing through a window and tell him only he can fight the alien invaders that are about to conquer Earth.

Or perhaps he’s just so afraid of real world challenges that it’s easier to immerse himself in a world that’s set up to accommodate him. It doesn’t really matter because overall the result is the same for you: a crappy, self-centered boyfriend who treats you like an NPC in his adventure.

It’s not all their fault.

I would love for it to just be that gamers make shitty boyfriends, the end. Easy peesy. But no, we as women play a role in why these types of relationships suck so much. In my case it was because I came into it with such low self-esteem I was incapable of calling them out on any of it. Not that my ex boyfriends would have responded well to that, but not everyone is so lacking in self awareness.

The takeaway here is that it’s okay to have expectations of your boyfriend. Some guys just don’t put forth any effort and you’re not being mean when that doesn’t impress you. It’s doesn’t make you “high maintenance” or “shallow”. Because a lot of gamers subscribe to the idea that you should love them for exactly who they are. Not taking into the account that normal people are driven to grow and evolve- not stagnate on a couch. So the next time you’re on a date and the guy says he’s a gamer, it’s important to remember what all comes with that. Learn from my mistakes, ladies. It’s okay to dump a loser.

Amazing Princess Sarah Game Review


I previously reviewed a game by Haruneko Games, Akane the Kunoichi. I gave it high praise despite it’s unfortunately sexually objectifying cover art. Amazing Princess Sarah is their latest release.  I’d also like to take a moment to thank the developer for reaching out to me about my criticism,

“Hi, I’m Giovanni Simotti – the one-man-band behind Haruneko 🙂

Thank you very much for the article – your point of view about the game is very interesting, and I especially enjoyed when you talked about Akane as if she was a “live” person, even if there are no dialogues inside the game: her “behaviour” is something I put a lot of care on, and knowing that it “hit the mark” is really an achievement for me.
About the look of Akane on the cover: her non-so-practical look is a small tribute to two of the most famous kunoichi from the history of the videogames – a mix of Mai Shiranui (Fatal Fury / King of Fighters), with a bit of Ibuki (Street Fighter 3/4).
Really there was no attempt to suggest the game would feature sexual or suggestive content inside. Screenshots are pretty clear about it.

However, you’re not the only one who objected about her look on the cover (someone even got offended somehow), so it’s something I’m definetely addressing with my upcoming platform game, Amazing Princess Sarah: I’ve thrown out of the window the cover I made (a few days of work “lost”), contacted a (much better than me) external artist, and let him draw a new cover, “safer” than Akane’s one (and a lot safer than Sarah’s older one, – which can still be seen on my website).”

Pro tip, developers: do more of this. Less “waaah ladies are too hard to render” and more listening to the people you’re systematically under representing.

Amazing Princess Sarah is a classic platformer with enemies you fight by swordplay and hurling furniture. You delve deep into a maze of rooms full of ghouls and goblins in search of your father, King Whatshisname.

The plot is summed up beautifully, as in Akane, without any dialogue: Scary lady stole my dad, git her. I’m not sure I can stop gushing about how much I enjoy this role reversal.  I love being able to play a princess while also saving the kingdom. For all the AAA gaming industry touts their smallest achievements in gender equality, they do not do this. You don’t get to be the pretty princess while also kicking ass, it’s just something the fuckers can’t wrap their mind around. Lucky for us, the indie community has our back.

From the beginning you can tell that Amazing Princess Sarah is heavily influenced by Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. That’s fine by me, frankly, I love SOTN. One of the only things that disappointed me about that game was the rumor that you could complete it a special way to play as Maria Renard was just that: a rumor.  ASP gives me a dark, Gothic castle on a stormy night where I can fight skeletons and all manner of ghouls while also having lady parts. Huzzah! It also has a beautiful soundtrack that really helps set the atmosphere of the gameplay.

The gameplay is also classic in that it’s pretty difficult. I’ve clearly gone soft, numbed by a generation of games that pat me on the ass and tell me I’m special. It took me a several days to get past the first level (playing casually), but when I finally beat it I felt a rush of achievement few newer games can match.

However, the game isn’t perfect. But since I’m now confident the developer is an adult who can handle my teensy crtis, I will happily lay them out…

There are a few things in the game that take a dramatic shift in tone. The game itself is one of high fantasy: Gothic castles, icy caves, monsters and mayhem. Yet the menu and intertitles are very modern looking.  Same for the first boss at the end of the Luxury Castle. You’re plugging along in this dark, spooky castle and then…

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Whoa… like… where did that come from? Props for originality though. The fight is challenging and fun, it’s just a minor clash in atmosphere that rubs me the wrong way.  I’ve also  previously wrote about why cover art is so important, which is why I’m very pleased to see the changes from the original Amazing Princess Sarah cover art:

 

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APS_DCWJ_800x600 Revised Artwork for Amazing Princess Sarah

That being said, the original problem I had with the art is still there- just toned down. I think this is a case of the developer sending the original artwork to a professional and asking them to “make it better”. Which they did, the art is beautiful and I would love to see this artist used again. However this paints a portrait of Princess Sarah as an extremely sexual object.

I’m no stranger to the manga art style. I know that over-sexualization is so rampant that it’s easy to overlook the issue entirely. So let me make what I’m saying very clear: her breast are bigger than her head, shinier than her eyes, and exposed in a way that would make it impossible to fight.  And while this seems like a very easy route to male gamers hearts, it actually has the opposite effect. William Usher of One Angry Gamer wrote of Amazing Princess Sarah: 

“I tell you the honest truth, I think the only reason this game pulls in any sort of traffic at all is because of that box art poster. That bombastic bedizen plastered around the protagonist’s buxom body is probably the cause for all the clicks; but I’ll reserve judgment because it just might be for all the amazing gameplay mechanics people were interested in, eh?”

Amazing Princess Sarah is a very fun, well programmed platformer that is unintentionally selling itself short. Because the sexual objectification of the main character sends a very clear message: this is all we’ve got. Smaller games often rely on this tactic to pull in gamer’s attention because they’re not confident in that the game can survive on it’s own merits. But Amazing Princess Sarah CAN survive on it’s own merits.

If I were to speak directly to the developer, and other devs in his position, I would say this: You have real talent.  Female gamers are eager to play any games that don’t treat their women like Playboy models. You have a chance to sweep in and start offering a new type of experience while the AAA game companies are still befuddled and dragging their feet like spoiled children.

In an industry that is stagnant beyond belief the last thing you want to do is fit in.

Conclusion: 4 out of 5 throwing chairs.  I highly recommend Amazing Princess Sarah and eagerly await the anything else by Haruneko Games. And if you want girl gamers to welcome your game with open arms: less boob physics, more hair physics.

 

EvilQuest – Retro-style RPG Done Right


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A recent harvest of new indie game demos from XBOX Live introduced me to EvilQuest byChaosoft. The artwork for the game and screenshots made me suspicious it was another RPG Maker catastrophe. But don’t be fooled. I’ll admit the game caught me off guard, it’s not just fun, the story line is also compelling.

The big draw for EvilQuest is that you play as the villain, Galvis. At first this might seem a bit hokey, but keep going. Although Galvis is undeniably a monstrous psychopath, the game introduces a level of moral ambiguity that I didn’t expect. This is all complimented by hilariously over-the-top dialogue that actually manages to endear the player to Galvis and his incredible douchebaggery.  

As for gameplay, EvilQuest feels similar to Legend of Zelda. The player controls Galvis as he searches the world for the Chaos Axe that’s been scattered to different parts of the world. The world feels expansive and diverse despite having a limited tile set. I have to say I really underestimated how interested I would be in an RPG that looked so simplistic. But I found myself ignoring my triple A games to play EvilQuest. And this is only Chaosoft’s second game EVER. That’s impressive.

The game took only about five hours to beat over the course of two days. But it was five very satisfying hours. One major reason is that EvilQuest has no grinding. The player levels up at a steady pace and the entire world scales to match that. There are no tedious fetch quests that bloat the main story line and pad the running time. I thought this would feel overly simplistic but it was actually refreshing.

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 Really the only drawback are the graphics, which are basic. We had a good laugh at the soldiers who from certain angles look like giant dongs. But what it lacks in glamor it makes up for by being genuinely fun. And eventually the look of the game really grew on me. The sprites are simple, but many are lovingly crafted, I especially liked the dragon’s hand drawn fire blasts. Overall EvilQuest feels like it was made with a lot of care and a passion for gaming.

VERDICT: EvilQuest looks dated, but it’s amazeballs. Can’t wait for EvilQuest 2.

Check out Chaosoft’s website here.

Alex the Badass – Creation of a Superhero


Standing only 5’5, our heroine is unassuming. She, let’s call her Alex, works as a maid cleaning the homes of the excessively rich. Yes, a maid. And no, not that kind of maid. None of that faffing about in french aprons. We’re talking a modern cleaning lady in knee pads and latex gloves. The job is demeaning and the pay is shit. But at night- at night she fights crime. On a goddamn motorcycle. Oh and she knows Krav Maga. Yeah, sweet. Alex is confident and snarky, but also hotheaded. We’ll make her hair fire engine red to really drive that point home. So she’ll have to wear the helmet when she fights so know one can know her identity.

 

So at night she roams the streets of… uh Portland? Yeah. Portland is weird, no one would blink and eye at a short girl on a motorcycle with a stun baton. Oh she has a stun baton by the way. The retractable kind so she can whip it out like wich-chaa. And then beat the shit out of criminals. But she doesn’t kill them because she doesn’t do that. She has a strict code of ethics because someone has to now that Superman is killing people.

 

Her outfit is utilitarian. So of course a badass motorcycle jacket, pants, and boots. Not sexy heeled boots, like Doc Martens. Who the Hell would want to try and fight crime in heels? That’s just stupid. Oh and she wasn’t raped. Ever. It’s never a thing. She might stop a rapist or two, but it never happens to her. Because God, why would I ever want to talk about rape in my escapist action fantasy? That shit is real enough.

 

So she fights crime, but if she’s such a badass why not become a police officer and earn slightly more than she does scrubbing floors? That’s a good question, is it because the police are corrupt and evil? No, because that’s played out and lame. People put their lives on the line every day and we repay them by shitting all over them in our media because you got that speeding ticket that one time. Maybe she failed the psych exam or something. I don’t know, we’ll figure that out later.

 

Oh- and her love interest is adorbes! She’s a librarian so big glasses, oversized Cosby sweaters, leggings and cute boots. She can have heels if she wants because she’s not fighting crime. Her name is Lisa. She’s shy and nerdy, but super smart and knows a shit ton about history which will come in handy a lot. Lisa leaves the library late at night and gets mugged, but then Alex is all like wich-cha and kicks the muggers ass. Of course at first Alex can’t accept she loves her because of her horrible fear of intimacy. I don’t mean sex, I mean in the way of trusting others and letting people into your comfort zone. She sucks at that. Don’t worry, they’ll make out eventually.

 

You know what we need? Some foil. A character who is in stark contrast to Alex to help distinguish her character. Let’s make him a cop. But not a dick cop, we’ve been over this. He’ll be calm, pragmatic and believe in the law. We’ll call him Wade. Wade will try and stop her at first. But after she brings down the kingpin of that human trafficking ring, well, he has a change of heart. After all, thanks to a lot of legal bribes the douche would have gotten off scott free. Maybe there is a place in the world for vigilante justice. Eventually he starts helping her and arrests a bunch of the people she beat the crap out of too.

 

Alex will struggle with her sense of right and wrong, whether she’s doing more harm than good and explore her own flawed nature. She’ll also have lots of cool conversations with Wade about justice and stuff. Yeah, sweet.

Silent Hill – Fan Interpretation and Theory


SPOILER WARNING: If you haven’t played Silent Hill this post will not make any sense and will most likely be very boring. Frankly I’m not sure why you clicked on it. Spoilers, y’all.

 Silent Hill- why is it so popular and why do people spend unhealthy amounts of time theorizing about things that we’re never part of the original games? Sometimes I feel silly writing about the subtle nuances of a video game universe… then I remember I’m on the internet.  All systems GO! 

There are fans who like to focus more on the cult aspects of the story, whereas as others see the cult as a symptom of a larger issue. I fall into the latter category. In fact, I actually prefer to ignore the cult business as much as possible as I really felt Silent Hill didn’t hit it’s stride until Silent Hill 2. A game in which the cult is mercifully absent. So here is my interpretation of Silent Hill- don’t like it? Get your own damn website.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall…

There are allusions in the series of a nebulous force that pervades the area. This indicates that Silent Hill isn’t in and of itself evil by nature. But only a place of unprecedented psychic energy…

Native Americans conduct mysterious and religious rituals here. The land is valued as a sacred place to the Natives. They revered the town as “The Place of the Silent Spirits”. The land is known as a holy place and seems to possess a mysterious power. – The Book of Memories.

The idea that the Native Americans practiced rituals there also supports the theory of it being a more neutral power. Like a base that one must add intention to in order to render it good or evil. Further history includes the Natives being removed from the area for white European settlement. And this is where things start to go a little batshit. The area is repopulated with a culture completely ignorant of the town’s abilities.

[I’d like to note: I sense some stereotyping about the corrupted Europeans that usurp the good and altruistic natives that of course never ever did anything wrong and are totally peace-loving tree spirits crapola. But that gets into privilege, white guilt, and other topics entirely.]

One of the reasons Silent Hill is such a powerful idea is because it’s very old and represents something intrinsically frightening to just about everyone on Earth. Namely, Judgement. Entering Silent Hill is like looking into a mirror that shows you your true self in agonizing detail. You are set on the scales of judgement and must face all your inner demons brought to life. But I would argue that this not a sentient entity, but a reaction to a stimuli. James is a murderer, but he also hates himself for it. He’s drawn to the town because he knows on some subconscious level the town will make him face what he has done. It will make him suffer because he feels it’s what he deserves. Angela Orosco even says so implicitly.

Silent Hill was inspired heavily by the 1990 movie Jacob’s Ladder which involved a man coming to terms with his fate. This particular quote from the film is very telling,

The only thing that burns in Hell is the part of you that won’t let go of life, your memories, your attachments. They burn them all away. But they’re not punishing you”, he said. “They’re freeing your soul. So, if you’re frightened of dying and… you’re holding on, you’ll see devils tearing your life away. – Jacob’s Ladder

Although it’s not exact, there are a lot of parallels between the two narratives. Both men are hiding from some truth they refuse to face. And an outside power forces them to face their demons who manifest themselves physically. We also see that relatively innocent characters are left alone and don’t experience the violent nature of the town. Case in point: Laura. Laura is… well, she’s a brat. But she too young to feel guilty about it. Laura is consistently confused by James and Eddie’s concern over her wandering around alone. Because she doesn’t experience any of the town’s judgement. It’s as if the negative emotions of those dealing with severe guilt serves as a bee sting to Silent Hill, and the surge of violent psychic energy is a form of anaphylaxis. The area swells with power depending on the particular “poison” that’s been introduced.

The idea that the power is neutral is a little problematic. This point on it’s own would infer that someone who is just and righteous might step into Silent Hill and it would suddenly be raining teddy bears and kittens. That’s not what I’m saying. It may be that the presence of the evil cult has permanently tainted the town’s energy, that the once neutral force is too heavy with the stench of sacrifice and sin to ever be used for good ever again. It could be that the town is highly conductive to negative energy and not so much to others. But I think the most important thing to remember is that the details don’t really matter. The town is only a symbol, a means to an end to make the protagonist face themselves head on.

In conclusion, Silent Hill is cool and I don’t know how to end things.

Silent Hill Audio Project looking for short stories


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I’m producing an audio project this October called Tales from the Hill, an audio project similar to Snap Judgement in tone, each short story will be put to music composed specifically for the project by the talented Kevin Vitz-Wong and foley by Diana Federighi. The idea is to have four non canonical stories, all original focusing on the experiences of people in or around Silent Hill. Two of four of these stories have already been written and we’re looking for two more. It should be able to be narrated, including music intro and outro, in under fifteen minutes. All writers retain full distribution rights to their contribution to the project. Are you scary enough? Contact me at magdelen2501 [at] gmail [dot] com.

P.S – Stories about sexy nurses need not apply. Pyramid Head is debatable.