1999 brought with it the release of Silent Hill a massively popular and influential horror title (IGN). Though this game did not possess any disabled characters, or even disabled monsters, it laid the groundwork for one of the series’ most iconic images: the monster nurse and the evil hospital (Konami, 1999).
It is with a sense of dread that the player enters a hospital in a Silent Hill game, or any other horror game for that matter. Though Silent Hill was not the first video game to ever include a hospital, its hospitals are certainly some of the most iconic. Nurses have easily become the most well-known monster of the series. Each game has their own version of the nurse, some look like normal women, but hunched over, making grotesque noises, wielding weapons or even pregnant, while others have the bodies of busty sex-objects with bobbling, bloody, bandaged heads. When Silent Hill was adapted for film, the nurse was the only monster that was kept.
The monstrous hospital and evil staff is nothing new in fiction, however, it rose dramatically in popularity after the deinstitutionalization of the 1950s and 1960s in the United States (Erb, 45). During this time many psychiatric hospitals were exposed for having absolutely appalling conditions and treatments, forcing them to close up shop. The images published by newspapers and magazines alike were both shocking and horrifying, quickly capturing the attention of the American people. This attention spawned a handful of films taking advantage of this hot-button issue, focusing on the plights of the people mistreated by these hospitals (Erb, 50). It wasn’t until a little later that the focus of the public shifted from monstrous hospitals, to monstrous patients.
Today, the monstrous hospital is still extremely popular in video games. These images continue to strike fear into the hearts of players and viewers alike. For many, real-life hospitals are focal points of fear and are strongly associated with the negative (places of death and disease rather than places of recovery and help). The horror genre certainly delights in exploiting this fear to its utmost.