Kojima’s ‘P.T.’ is More Advertising Gimmick Than Good Horror Game

“Playable Teaser” is what P.T. stands for, and it’s not a demo or a game. It’s a marketing gimmick. This is important to keep in mind.

The teaser appeared in the Playstation Network Store for Playstation 4 owners this week during Gamescom, with little information about what it actually was. Players find themselves in a first-person horror scenario when they boot it up, and then wander through an endlessly repeating hallway filled with creepy noises, lots of shadows, and ghosts, as they attempt to solve oblique puzzles.

At first, P.T. is a scary little piece of a horror game, and looks pretty great on the PS4. It all takes place in a small hallway that includes several doors that can’t be opened, leaving only a single path. As you walk down the stairs to what appears to be a basement and move through the door there — the only one that will open — you find yourself back at the beginning of the hallway. And soon it seems as though you’ll be walking this loop forever, as a radio plays a news report about a man who murdered his wife and children.

Clearly, this is your little corner of Hell (my interpretation of P.T. takes it as Hell in the literal sense), and things only escalate from there.

The key to P.T. is recognizing when things in your looping existence change. At first the tweaks are small, but they quickly become visions of figures, spooky open doors that were once closed, and other oppressive additions. It becomes apparent that you are not alone in this cursed place, and what’s more, it seems something is keeping you here, punishing you.

All of this is great.

Soon the door to the bathroom comes open and you start to get tidbits of what might have happened here (and for which, one assumes, you are being punished): there’s a creepy peephole in the bathroom wall; what looks like a premature fetus lies in the sink, crying; a ghost in a nightgown that goes intensely crimson over her womb appears and disappears. Later, a refrigerator hangs from the ceiling and pours blood onto the floor; in the next loop, it shakes with the screams of a child, as if locked inside.

It becomes apparent that you are not alone in this cursed place, and what’s more, it seems something is keeping you here, punishing you.

It’s a scene of intense, fantastic, Silent Hill-ish awfulness, and slowly it seems to come together. But the design of P.T. is a bit suspect; it’s easy to get trapped in the bathroom because you haven’t looked at the right thing that triggers your release, for example. Later, you’ll run around an endless, red-lit version of the hallway until you realize what’s different about those twists and turns, and advance the game further.

Mysteries in and of themselves are not really a problem — they can be frustrating if you miss the solutions, but I just got done talking about how I like that games such as Gods Will Be Watching and Alien: Isolation don’t hold players’ hands and show them exactly what to do. (As an aside, though, at least those games tell you how their systems work, which is more than can be said for P.T.) My trouble with P.T.’s mysteries isn’t that they’re hard — it’s that they’re specifically designed to drive viral marketing rather than actual content or gameplay.

This becomes apparent when you solve enough of the game and reach its final section. Here, you wander the same hallway with a flashlight, searching for clues to proceed. You’re occasionally accosted by creepy sound effects and it seems the ghost is vaguely haunting you. Through some combination of elements not yet determined, you can make it to the ending that shows a teaser trailer revealing this was all about Silent Hills, Hideo Kojima’s upcoming title being made in collaboration with director Guillermo del Toro.

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18 Comments on Kojima’s ‘P.T.’ is More Advertising Gimmick Than Good Horror Game

Really?

On August 15, 2014 at 4:05 pm

Yeah that was the point, to advertise another game. Good job Sherlock.

Harboldt

On August 15, 2014 at 4:11 pm

Well… this IS just a teaser to another game. This article is almost like criticizing a video game trailer for being advertisive.

Phil Hornshaw

On August 15, 2014 at 4:33 pm

Yeah, but it’s not a trailer. It was a teaser that was meant to generate viral buzz, and what annoys me about it is that it feels like it’s deliberately designed badly in order to be hard to figure out. Kojima said he expected it to take people a week to solve — meaning he originally wanted us all to go “gee what is it” for a week before realizing it was for Silent Hills. Meanwhile, the solution is so oblique that people are just leaving their machines on and walking away, coming back a few hours later to find the puzzle solved itself. That’s sort of dumb.

My point is that if PT was a legitimate piece of content or a true demo, or even a teaser that didn’t feel quite so manipulative or tedious, I’d be fine with it. But it feels like too much gimmick and not enough substance to me.

John

On August 15, 2014 at 5:07 pm

I thought it was a clever way to advertise the game. I liked that only a few people figured out the solution, no matter how random or illogical it was. Plus it was really great to watch somebody’s reaction when they finished it.

AxΣtwin

On August 15, 2014 at 11:01 pm

I think this takes what other games like Slender, Amnesia and Outbreak do and instead of being a “weak imitator” actually does it better. Where as, those other games focus on jumpscares, then running and hiding this game forces you to stand there and endure it. Players have so many defense mechanisms that will take them out of a game and not have to pay too much attention just so they don’t get startled by a possible jumpscare. Thats what most of those games are, they’re not scary, they are extremely startling and the fact that people can’t differentiate between the two shows exactly why many don’t understand what makes P.T. legitimately scary. But I got off point, P.T. forces you to pay attention at times when you really don’t want to. And I think that’s brilliant. You can’t run away, you HAVE to stand there and watch or listen.

On the other hand I get the frustration. However, the game was designed to force players to go online for help. We were supposed to build a guide in real time. We were supposed to put all the pieces of a puzzle together to see how it all fits and then go back to the game and solve it thanks to the help of other people. On one hand that’s kinda cool. On the other…..

This raises my biggest concern about the main game. Due to the title and the nature of the puzzle solving in P.Tm, what if they’re taking a Dark Souls approach? No, not in the sense that you’ll be able to invade people’s worlds. But more in the sense that other players will show up as phantoms, you can see what they’re doing and at certain points you have to help them and they have to help you. If you’re one of those people right now going “omg that sounds so awesome” STOP! NO! This is our chance to take a preemptive stand against forcing online elements into a game that NEEDS to remain a singleplayer experience.

Dan

On August 18, 2014 at 2:54 pm

If this was a $1 indie game I guarantee you that you would be IN LOVE with it. Which was, by the way, sort of the joke Kojima was going for by releasing it as an anonymous puzzle and obscuring the reveal. You are letting your broader opinions about the video game industry and how it markets content compromise your judgment.

For Free dollars and zero cents, I expect to get about 5 minutes of entertainment out of a game. This was terrifying and intriguing for 10, plus it makes me incredibly excited for the full game. Huge win for everybody. If you played a free game teaser for hours and conclude it’s “tedium”, I’m not sure you can put that on the game.

Gamefrontsucks

On August 18, 2014 at 3:18 pm

this is a ing pathetic article. why are you even writing about games. you’re criticizing a teaser for what purpose? Kojima is god tier.

Phil Hornshaw

On August 18, 2014 at 3:21 pm

@Dan

If Kojima’s name wasn’t on it, would you even care? “Free” isn’t much of an excuse. All advertising is free. Except you’re tricked into investing your time. Let’s be clear, if this was just content — the first, say, two-thirds of the demo — I wouldn’t much care beyond the fact that it’s kind of dull. It’s the ARG viral marketing nonsense that irritates.

AxΣtwin

On August 19, 2014 at 1:13 am

Except, Dan is right Phil. The only way the hype for this game could be any higher is if it WERE an indie developed game. Because if there is one thing the herd of shee…..sorry the gaming community love more than anything else, it’s indie “horror” (I use that term loosely) games with an over-reliance on loud jump scares, little to no subtlety, while you wander around aimlessly in the dark what practically no idea what you’re doing or why you’re doing it.

This will sound way more negatively than I intend, but you’re being a bit of a hipster here. Take a step back with me and let’s look at the bigger picture. What do nearly all developers/publishers do at gaming conventions when it comes to new games? They reveal it through a short teaser trailer and/or a tech demo. Players themselves won’t get their hands on any sort of demo until shortly before the game releases. All of the hype and publicity comes directly from the media. So here we have Kojima not only doing the big convention reveal but also putting something in the hands of the consumer right away. Now, yes people were not supposed to figure out what it was right away. Which to me says he wanted people to go crazy over this demo based on the demo itself, not because his name was attached to it.

Here you are calling it a “gimmicky publicity stunt”. Holding this demo up to full release titles like Slender, and Outlast and Amnesia going “these full games are better because the demo is just there to advertise the game”. Which leaves those of us reading the article thinking “duh? That’s what a demo is for. A demo is a playable advertisement”. If you honestly hold games I mentioned earlier up as the pinnacle of what a good horror game should be like. Then, like I said earlier, you clearly do not understand good horror……at all.

It's Shafs

On August 19, 2014 at 9:57 am

Yo Phil, had to comment on this only because I think this was a pretty well thought out gimmick. I think you must consider Silent Hill’s recent history in games to kind of get why they probably did what they did with P.T. To me, Konami hasn’t really produced a solid Silent Hill game that captured the original story type or horror that the first few games did. Origins was okay and Downpour to me was like a love letter to the original fans gameplay wise, but the story was lacking. And don’t even get me started on Homecoming or Book of Memories. I think it would be safe to say that outside of the hardcore base of Silent Hill Fans (which probably isn’t a lot now), if someone heard that another Silent Hill game was coming out, very few people would care or take notice. With that being said, I think Konami knew this and they wanted to introduce the game in a new, ambiguous way so perhaps more people would take notice. And what better way than to ride the indie horror craze and do a free playable teaser with no “real” names attached. Then on top of it, making it a really hard teaser to finish by yourself so that people would go online posting or looking for answers on how to finish it or on what this was, then generating buzz because of it. Then when the curtain was pulled back everyone took notice and was like, “Holy cr#p!! Kojima/Del Toro/Silent Hill game? Ok, you had my interest, now you have my attention.” Some people may not care for one of those three nouns I just mentioned, but you have to admit it got your attention and possibly got you excited to see more. This is where they have succeeded. To me I believe it’s a waste to bash something that is meant to be a free advertisement or game that’s made to generate buzz. Brilliant marketing campaign if you ask me. Yes, it was a frustrating game to finish, but you have to also take into account that most of the world can’t devout hours into a game in one sitting, or having to complete it so they can write a walkthrough on their website. Also you have to take into account how hard some puzzles have been in previous Silent Hills and how vague some of the clues they left were (or if there really was one).

Dan

On August 19, 2014 at 8:12 pm

Personally, no I wouldn’t care except that Kojima (and del Toro to a lesser extent) is involved. But that’s because I don’t particularly like indie horror games, and Kojima is a master and the director of the greatest video game franchise of all time.

I just don’t get your obsession with the way the game was “marketed”. Does a game that gets full page banner ads on IGN on the day it is announced annoy you more or less than this? To me, it shouldn’t matter. I thought the content of PT was super solid, and I’m net positive on the way Kojima chose to reveal it. Listening to his livestream at Gamescon where he talks about it, it sounds pretty innocent at worst and pretty visionary at best. He wanted the player to experience the game without any pretense of “this was made by Kojima” or “this is silent hill”, probably the first time in 15 years that gamers could come at something he worked on without that pretense. That’s about as contrary to the normal approach to launch marketing as you can get. Kudos to him if you ask me.

Dan

On August 20, 2014 at 8:49 pm

But I guess you have something of a penchant for dismissing games once you find out Kojima is involved: http://www.gamefront.com/yup-the-phantom-pain-is-metal-gear-solid-v/

“Yeah, forget all those cool new ideas, because it’s actually a Metal Gear game.” – Phil Hornshaw

At least you are consistent!
:P

Phil Hornshaw

On August 21, 2014 at 10:12 am

@Dan

Ooooooookay. Let’s stop and have a talk here. This is not about being pals with Kojima or not. He’s not my buddy, nor is he yours, and I’ve enjoyed his work in the past, but I dislike his gimmicks-in-place-of-actually-letting-cool-games-speak-for-themselves attitude.

Allow me to offer a totally unnecessary pedigree of how I’ve enjoyed past Kojima things even though I shouldn’t have to prove whether I like his other work because my criticisms are still valid:

I’ve played a huge amount of the Metal Gear series and enjoyed most of it, despite the fact that Metal Gear is full of nonsense. MGS 3 remains one of my favorite games and might have the best ending a game has ever seen, period, ever. But I fell out of Metal Gear with MGS 4. It didn’t hold my attention with its lengthy cutscenes talking about things that didn’t really feel like they mattered, I felt like the story was inscrutable, and honestly I’m tired of the many millions of retcons to change Big Boss. I liked it a helluva lot better when Big Boss ended up being a villain. He had convictions. The events of MGS 3 made a great deal of sense in the context of the original Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2.

Anyway, the overall point is, I don’t hate Kojima but yeah, I was much more excited about Phantom Pain when it looked to be a new IP full of cool ideas, rather than just more MGS. Making it a Metal Gear game means it’s weighed down with all of the series’ baggage, its trappings, its weaknesses.

I’m excited for Kojima’s take on *Silent Hills*. But that doesn’t mean I have to like PT, or his insistence on marketing gimmicks to make headlines. PT is full of weak design as an experience, and it doesn’t matter if it has Kojima’s name on it or not. I dislike it as a piece of advertising and as a piece of horror — I think it’s ineffective, manipulative, and most of all, a weak and tedious experience. I hope Silent Hills is great — and I hope it’s not like PT.

Dan

On August 22, 2014 at 8:24 am

Well if Kojima’s not my buddy, I want him to return all those Christmas cards I’ve been sending every year!

Phil Hornshaw

On August 22, 2014 at 8:57 am

@Dan

He must really enjoy them if they haven’t been coming back to you.

AxΣtwin

On August 22, 2014 at 10:26 am

@ Phil – “but I dislike his gimmicks-in-place-of-actually-letting-cool-games-speak-for-themselves attitude.”

But that’s the ENTIRE purpose of P.T. It was supposed to let the game speak for itself BEFORE people found out what it really was or who was involved. If it weren’t for the fact that the voice recognition on the Playstation is a piece of garbage, it probably WOULD have taken players a week or more to really figure out the game. Kojima’s name doesn’t show up until after you finish the demo. The entire marketing for this game has been entirely word of mouth via youtube and journalist based. It’s not like the Konami or Kojima PR team is working overtime here. So I have to disagree with your assessment that the marketing is gimmicky to make headlines.

Phil Hornshaw

On August 22, 2014 at 10:36 am

@Axetwin

One: Not calling it a gimmick to make headlines. It is a gimmick. This is not me being sensational.

Two: PT can be something great and accomplish what it set out to do AND NOT BE A GIMMICK. It’s completely possible. Hell, Kojima could have still have made the whole thing a surprise reveal and STILL not made it a gimmick. But he had to slip in the ARG nonsense. He chose to undercut the thing’s design in favor of thrusting a fake mystery in people’s faces. And it annoys me that players’ excitement for games gets co-opted to shill for Kojima. The whole thing hinges on players working really hard to uncover an ad.

I like PT, and I even like it as a clever bit of advertising, but I also think it takes advantage of players and fans. I also think people going nuts over how great it is need to play more horror games. Because it’s not that great, and in addition to being not that great, I think it’s fundamentally designed to kinda take advantage of players. That bugs me.

Maxwell

On September 4, 2014 at 5:23 pm

what a bull article. not a legitimate piece of content? how can you write favorably about among the sleep while complaining about PT

im not even a fanboy here, i’m a much bigger fan of del toro than i am kojima but this was one of the most captivating, mysterious and fresh experiences i’ve had. it felt like you might actually be experiencing things in a different way than other people.