If rumours and leaks are to be believed, it would appear that a new Silent Hill game is in the works, and it might even be set in the UK. As someone who appreciates a good bit of British representation in wider gaming media, it’d be great to see a horror series as iconic as Silent Hill tackle the UK in some form, but the more I think about it, the more I have the perfect candidate in mind: my hometown of Skelmersdale.
No doubt most who are reading this have had their eyes glaze over at the mention of Skelmersdale, so a history lesson is in order. Originally a small mining town, Skelmersdale became the first town to be expanded as part of the UK’s second wave of New Towns. Skelmersdale, or Skem to the locals, was expanded in order to help ease the population overspill that was plaguing Liverpool in the 1950 and 1960s.
Despite the development and influx of a new population from Liverpool, Skem has never really felt like a bustling hub of activity. It’s a small town, spread wide with very little to see and do, aside from marvel at the amount of roundabouts there are. Seriously, there’s loads. With no hospital, no train station and a modest at best shopping centre, Skelmersdale has the distinction of being both modern yet almost isolated. Big shopping trips or days out are always away from Skem, never inside of it.
From aesthetics alone, there’s a host of reasons why Skelmersdale would make for a great Silent Hill setting, or even just for any horror game. For starters, the town boasts a lot of abstract artistic sculptures, so with the right tweaking, those could easily become part of a more sinister plot. I’m not saying Skelmersdale is where the Marker from Dead Space is currently located, but I’m not not saying that either, you know?
The large, open dual carriageways and fields that separate the different neighbourhoods would be perfect for some of that trademark Silent Hill fog, while the various labyrinthine housing estates would be perfect for some close range scares. Who knows what’s hiding around every corner? Usually in Skem, it’s someone in a hoodie looking to start something, so just swap that with a monster and you’re golden.
Still, aesthetics alone aren’t enough reason why Skem could be an ideal horror game setting, as the history of the town could also play a huge role. Anyone clued up on the history of Skelmersdale will likely tell you about ADF conspiracy theories that apparently affect the town to this day. According to the theory, professor Nathaniel Butler of the Mind Reader program plonked an Aspirational Dispersion Field into an abandoned mineshaft. The field is said to emit a low-level hum across Skelmersdale as part of a government plot designed to sap the residents of their aspirations and keep them docile.
While the theory is obviously a load of bollocks (though it’s my excuse from now on for when work just isn’t going well for me), it’s as tied to the history of the town as roundabouts and some scally saying “yer ma” when you walk past. A theory like that can easily be turned into a horror plot about the field warping either residents or their perceptions to create some terrifying gameplay. It might be a bit of a departure from Silent Hill, but there’s something to work with there.
On top of that, Skelmersdale was once seen as a spiritual nexus for the Transcendental Meditation community. In the early 1980s, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi helped found a TM community within Skelmersdale that would become known as the “European Sidhaland”, and while the community isn’t quite so prolific in Skelmersdale these days, remnants of it still exist, like the Maharishi School, or The Golden Dome.
Transcendental Meditation likely isn’t going to be the central figure of a Silent Hill plot, but the story of how they moved into Skelmersdale could form the foundation of a religious or secular horror video game story, as the town is overtaken by a cult-like presence. Maybe they’re trying to summon demons and make sacrifices. It’s all stuff that the Silent Hill series has done before, only now you’d be able to hear it with a Scouse accent.
In reality, if a Silent Hill game is set in the UK, it’s likely that it’ll take place in some sort of fictional hodgepodge of the country instead of an actual place, which is fine. Still, there’s architecture, atmosphere and stories to be found within the history of Skelmersdale that would make it a perfect candidate for a Silent Hill game setting. It wasn’t quite foretold by gyromancy, but having Silent Hill set in a small English town like Skelmersdale would be incredible to see.
Do it, Konami, you big wimps.
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