Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Warning: Disturbing Content - Silent Hill

Whew, back to vidya games. It feels good man, it really does. Been playing a lot of video games lately. Not like it makes a difference I guess, but I've been playing them a lot more than usual. Going back to Marvel vs. Capcom for the arcades, to Spider-Man on PSX, Castlevania... Some off shoot PC games like I Wanna Be The Guy, which if you haven't played it, you should. Sadists would love it instantly, being mind-numbingly difficult as it is, but there's a certain addictiveness about it that keeps you coming back for more, even when it becomes so frustrating that you'd rather nail your hand to the wall.

No, there's no picture for that. I'd rather not check.

Anyway, I remember part of my childhood just getting into playing Resident Evil: Director's Cut on PSX, and being terrified of it for months. It was something I had never experienced before. The atmosphere of the old mansion was perfect, and hearing any kind of noise made me jump like a little girl. I played the sequels after adjusting, and still, every time, those games would find a way to creep the living shit out of me. Eventually, I got used to it and bested those games because FUCK YEAH I KNEW I COULD!

Fuck. Yeeeeeaaahhhhhhh.
Until I rented Silent Hill.

I wish I had known at my tender age of 9 that this game was not meant for children. It's incredibly scary, and not in a "there's a scary monster down the dark hallway hurry up and shoot it" way, but in the "what the fuck i don't even" way. I honestly don't know how to describe the fear I felt experiencing that game from start to finish. It's definitely nothing normal and not something a 9 year old should be playing.

But my mom didn't give a shit. She rented it for me and single handedly fucked me up for life. Maybe that was her plan. Maybe my mom is evil. MAYBE MY MOM IS SILENT HILL. How fucking creepy would that be?

Well, if you haven't played any of the games in the long running series, then you wouldn't know. I'll start with the first entry, and hopefully I'll retain my sanity throughout this writing. Hey, did you hear something?

Silent Hill - Playstation - 1999 - Please end this madness for Christ's sake!

Am I being too liberal with titles already? Anyway, Silent Hill marked Konami's entry into the Survival Horror realm that had long been dominated by Resident Evil, and boy did it really put it's ugly foot in the door. Resident Evil had a cheesy plot, cheesy characters, cheesy dialog... it was just cheese. As revolutionary as it was at the time, Silent Hill came and took it so many steps further.

For starters, the game doesn't use a fixed camera and pre-rendered backgrounds. It's all rendered in glorious, blocky 3D, courtesy of the Playstation's limited hardware. However, for the time the game was pretty amazing. It's one of the first games I know of to use dynamic lighting, and do it incredibly well. One minute you're in the foggy daylit streets, and the next minute you're in engulfing darkness with a flashlight illuminating the way. I CANNOT STRESS THAT ENOUGH. The atmosphere that little flashlight builds is absolutely crazy. It really makes you question what is around the next corner.

Yep. 9 years old right here.

Building to the atmosphere, we have the radio. Basically, it emits white noise when there are enemies around, but it's enough to make you stop in your tracks. It starts as a small little noise, but as you get closer to your enemy, the fucking thing starts going crazy, getting louder and louder. It's one of the reasons this game still scares the living piss out of me. If I ever saw one in real life and it started making that noise I would probably die from shock. It's just one of the mainstays of this game and one that would go on to the later games in the series.

If Resident Evil is the king of horror games, then Silent Hill surely takes the cake for psychological horror. It explored new avenues that made it stand out. Fans still theorize about the game's story, but the general consensus goes something like this:

Silent Hill has a way of summoning people to it. In this case, it happens to be Harry Mason and his adopted daughter Cheryl. While driving to Silent Hill, a girl appears in the road and causes Harry to swerve off, crashing somewhere into the town. Cheryl goes missing, and Harry sets off to find her, meeting a few characters along the way. I say summoned because, 7 years before this all takes place, um, fuck this I'll just paste the wikipedia entry:

"Harry Mason had woken up in a cafe and meets police officer named Cybil Bennet--an officer from Brahms, the next town over. Cybil Bennett and realizes that Cheryl is missing. Silent Hill is deserted and foggy, with snow falling out of season. Harry also meets Dahlia Gillespie, who gives him a charm she calls the "Flauros"; Doctor Michael Kaufmann, director of Silent Hill's Alchemilla Hospital; and nurse Lisa Garland, who worked at Alchemilla.

Harry encounters a symbol marked throughout Silent Hill; Dahlia tells him that the girl from the road is a demon spreading the symbol, and urges him to stop her to prevent the darkness spreading with the symbol, and thereby save his daughter. Harry later encounters Cybil, who is possessed and attacks him. The player may be able to save her if they retrieved a particular item earlier, but if not they are forced to kill her or die.

The girl appears again, and is put under Dahlia's control by the Flauros. Dahlia arrives and explains that she manipulated Harry into trapping it, since only he could approach it. It is a phantasm of her daughter Alessa, who possesses vast supernatural powers. Harry awakens in a logicless void known officially only as "nowhere". He encounters Lisa, who realizes she is dead and begins bleeding; Harry flees, horrified. Her diary reveals that she nursed Alessa during a secret forced hospitalization of the latter in Alchemilla.

Harry soon finds Dahlia along with the apparition of Cheryl and Alessa, charred. Seven years earlier, Dahlia had conducted a ritual that impregnated Alessa with the cult's deity through immolation; Alessa survived because her status as the deity's "vessel" rendered her immortal. Alessa's resistance to the ritual caused her soul to be bisected, preventing the birth. One half of her soul went to baby Cheryl, whom Harry and his wife had adopted. Dahlia then cast a spell that would draw it back to Alessa. Sensing Cheryl's return, Alessa manifested the symbols in the town to prevent the birth. During the endings in which Cybil survives, Dahlia reveals these symbols to be repellent. With Alessa's plan thwarted and her soul rejoined, the deity is revived and possesses her."
...Did you get all that? Can we agree that Silent Hill goes much farther than Resident Evil ever has? And guess what?! The game has 5 endings depending on what you do. While Silent Hill certainly doesn't please in the voice acting category, it still does it much better than other games at the time did. All the characters sound the way they should; Harry being the "everyman", he sounds like it. He's clumsy, he's soft-spoken, and he says "Huh?" a lot. The more devious characters, again, sound perfect for their roles. It's a pretty well-crafted game for a first release.

But damn is it fucking twisted. There is gore, and lots of it. Silent Hill takes gore to a new level. When the world changes and goes to what fans call the "Otherworld" is when the game really shines. Walls turn to rusty, bloody, fecal (?), fleshy counter-parts of their regular forms. The floors change to rusted steel chain link fencing, or something else that isn't right. Here's a video of it, happening at only 5 minutes into the game!

You will also notice the music, if you want to call it that. It's more of an ambient rhythm. Sometimes you will have music, but most of the time it's either silence (hur hur hur) or some kind of heart-pounding, disturbing... ambiance. I don't really know how to explain it. All I know is it freaks me the fuck out. It took me until I was about 17 years old to play this game from start to finish because of all of this shit. It just fits together in a nice visceral package. It has to be played and experienced. It begs you to play it.

If you can handle that sort of thing.
Silent Hill 2 - Playstation 2, Xbox  - 2001 - Turn the mind fucks up to 11.

A Spinal Tap reference in this kind of post? How dare me! Anyway, released 2 years later on the much more powerful Playstation 2, Silent Hill 2 returned to once again scare the living fuck out of gamers worldwide. Except the Japanese. Nothing scares the Japanese. They probably play Silent Hill 2 when the family is all there, like a little bonding moment.

Silent Hill 2 doesn't continue the first. If we were to piece the games in chronological order, you wouldn't be able to. The first and third games go together loosely, and the second and fourth games go together loosely. THE SERIES ARE IT'S OWN MINDFUCK. Anyway, Silent Hill 2 stars James Sunderland as he travels to Silent Hill to find his dead wife Mary. Sounds pretty sketchy already doesn't it? Well, that's for you to find out as you play along.

Silent Hill 2 is a classic. It's even better than the first one. Not only are the graphics much improved to make the experience that much more real, but it's story is much better. You'll meet a new cast of characters this time around, and they all have their own issues that go much deeper than the first game. For example, the first person you meet is a girl named Angela. She seems pretty shy and a little afraid at first, and explains she's there to find her parents.

Why is this relevant to you? Because you find out that her father raped and abused her numerous times. There's even an enemy that hints towards this. And the place you fight this enemy?

Those holes? Yeah, a metal rod goes in and out of them. Notice the fleshy textures of the walls and floor. That's just a little taste of what you can expect from Silent Hill 2. It's that fucked up and it doesn't hesitate to let you know.

And lets not forget Pyramid Head, the game's villain. If ever there was a fucked up design for a monster, this one certainly takes the cake:

Wait a second, do I really need a picture? Everyone knows who he is! Even if you haven't played this game or watched that shitty movie. He's the ultimate punisher. He wields the biggest knife I've ever seen. He's just plain creepy. Oh, and he rapes a monster. Yeeeeaaaahhhhhhhh........

Graphically, the game is gorgeous. The locales this time around are much more sinister. The sound department did a great job in making you jump out of your seat as well. Here's what you can expect from this game. Little moments like that fill this game, and are bound to make you uneasy, or just frighten you to death.

The music is also something to behold. Silent Hill 2 is widely recognized for it's soundtrack, which is just excellent. You'll find some eerie tunes as you explore a hospital, a hotel, and an apartment building, and all of them are so unsettling that you'll want to escape as fast as possible.

All in all, from the atmosphere, the locales, the characters, and the best graphics yet, Silent Hill 2 marks the go-to title if you want to mess with your own head. It also has 5 endings that fans have argued about, and still do to this day. Just reading about the theories behind them is interesting and extremely disturbing in itself. A must for any gamer. It's that damn good. Also, it has a side scenario which adds to the story, and it's pretty interesting too.

Being one of my favorite franchises, Silent Hill still manages to make me uneasy. Just having me explain this to you doesn't do it justice; you need to play these games and find out for yourself. Think of creepypastas you've read, or whatever thing that scares you the most. Silent Hill evokes that feeling and does it so well. Just talking about it is making me uneasy here in my dark, quiet, empty house....

I just heard that noise again....

I'll be talking about more Silent Hill in the future. Don't worry, I'll cover three and four, as well as the newer ones!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

3 Things I Hate About The Restaurant Business

This post doesn't even need all this text really. Anyone could just read the title and figure it all out. Restaurants suck to work in. It's a fact. However, they are awesome to be fat in, and spend money. Chinese restaurants are great bang for your buck.

In more ways than one.
You can spend about 15 bucks and eat until you're fatter than fat, until they start asking you to work there to be Buddha. Then you might want to consider a different career path than eating like a slob.

If they offer you an actual job, by all means take it if you absolutely have to. Otherwise, I don't recommend it. In any restaurant for that matter. AT ALL.

This is funnier if you are a chef.
Not every restaurant is bad. Chain restaurants are much more stable and steady. I work in a little family owned restaurant and these are 3 reasons I dread it sometimes.

3. Your boss is usually an asshole.

You could argue this about every job, but in the restaurant business this is usually what you deal with, especially in little mom and pop joints. Not only do their moods swing on a dime, but they are also always looking to save as many as possible. (C WAT I DID THER??)

For example, my boss would insist on paying me under the table, because fuck waiting for payday. Sure it's convenient because you get your money now, but not when he fucks you for some of it. If you work 5 hours for $7.25, you should make about $36. Not if he fucks you over. I've been shorted as much as $30, which I might have well have just worked for free.

Its overcooked! You're fired!
I'm not saying every boss is like this, but in the places I've worked in, that's how they roll. They care more about saving a couple bucks by selling 3 year old hotdogs (true story by the way) than buying new ones. Or by sorting through rotten long hot peppers and saving any good parts of it, then serving them to customers (also a true story).

Is that not fucking horrifying? I could go on and on but I'd be typing here all day and I can only waste my awesome talents on you people sparingly. Not that I would ever run out, but I don't want to take the chances.

2. Your customers are usually assholes too!

Wow! Everybody is an asshole! Well, again, like the boss thing, customers can be incredibly rude for what I believe is the stupidest reason. It's like when they walk into the place they get this assumption that because we are waiting on your every demand that it gives them reason to act like they are your master or something.

Fuck that. That's not what that means, in any way, shape, or form. Yes, we are here to serve you a nice dinner. That does not mean we are robots that you can bark orders at.

I asked for a white zinfandel. YOU HAD ONE JOB.
Yet, there seems to be this ignorance barrier as soon as that asshole comes in. "Oh, were in a restaurant. These people serve for a living, so might as well treat them like servants." It's people like that that should work just one week in the restaurant business and see how it is to deal with asshole fuck head pricks.

The worst thing about these types of customers is that they often leave you nothing after the bill is payed. If you wait tables for a living, then you know that tips are your fucking life bread. Your actual pay rate might as well get donated to starving children because it's jack shit compared to making tips. So say you serve 10 asshole customers out of 40 and all 10 leave you a shitty tip. Congratulations, you've made almost nothing and worked your ass off to please a stranger who could care less.

And the best part? You have to split those tips. If you work with 3 other wait staff, you can dwindle that money right down. It really doesn't seem like a big deal, but the contrast between a good night and a bad experience is so great it borders on morbid depression. If you add to that the horrible days business is slow, you have a really shitty job.

1. There is no room for growth.

There's a slight room for growth, but it's nothing too contrasting. For example I used to wash dishes and finally I worked my way up to head chef. Oh, yeah, I forgot the part where I did both at the same time for $7 an hour by myself with no training.

Basically, my boss thought we would be slow, so he got rid of the dishwasher and told me I could handle both jobs at the same time. Let's get one thing straight here: I'm now in charge of a full dining room, which could easily fill up faster than you can work. I have to keep track of a broad range of inventory, and wash every dish that comes back.

For someone like me to start that fast cooking and having that much more responsibility than "wash this dish, put it away" it's pretty fucking daunting. I'm also 1 of 2 people who's had to do that at my work. That's the only growth you get. There is no management position. You can do dishes, bus tables, wait, or cook. Each pay exceptionally shitty, especially in mom and pop joints like my work, and each have their own headaches.

Also, be prepared to do a lot of things out of your job description. As a dishwasher for 2 years, I also helped prep a bunch of shit you don't even realize. It's cool to some extent because you get to learn a lot of new things, but in the end you don't get anything for it. So what you prepped food and desserts for a party of 150 people. So what you got it down like the back of your hand. You don't get any credit! The boss does, even when he didn't do a damn thing. The best part is the whole time you were making it happen  he was ordering you around like you've never done it before.

This happens regularly where I work. Say we serve a party and they want for example, chicken, sausage and peppers, and pasta on a buffet. I can do that all day long like it's nothing. Does that mean I get to do it and ensure it goes the way I want? Not at all. Every little fucking detail, right down to boiling the fucking pasta will be OKAYED by my boss first.

"Make sure that pasta goes in the water in about a half hour, because the party is eating at 5." NO FUCKING SHIT. It makes me feel like a retard, like I'm incapable of handling my job, and it happens all the time.

THIS. Someone out there shares this exact pain...
It's probably more personal angst than anything, but these are my reasons I hate the restaurant business. Don't get me wrong, I love cooking and I'm glad I got to learn it as a trade, but there's better places to use it. At least I have a job I guess...

I hope my boss doesn't know how to read a blog.