P.T. was more than just a demo. Can we be clear about that from the outset? It was more than a demo.
Here is a list of things that P.T. was: terrifying, innovative, heart-wrenching, sombre, brutal, clever, insightful, frustrating as fuck, gorgeous, one-of-a-kind, self-reflexive, self-sustaining.
Here’s a list of thing that P.T. wasn’t: a small sub-section of a grander video game. A demo in the traditional sense.
Calling P.T. a ‘demo’? It’s almost insulting, at the very least it’s a trivialisation of everything that was exciting and new about one of the most unique experiences of 2014. P.T. was one of my favourite games of 2014.
The most depressing part of Konami’s decision to remove P.T. from the PlayStation Store isn’t the subsequent cancellation of Silent Hills – that game was nothing but a name and a few vague ideas at this point– it’s the removal of P.T. itself. It suggests that this creative, innovative experience was nothing more than promotion for a video game that no longer exists. Therefore it is now useless. It is trash to be discarded.
This piece of art. This interesting ‘object’ that was once free to be played, discussed, debated – it will soon be completely gone. It will be lost. Because there’s no longer anything to sell. That is truly, properly depressing.
P.T. was free. It was free. Why can’t it just keep being free? Why can’t P.T. just sit there as a prestige piece – as a reminder that Konami are capable of creating interesting video game experiences? Why does it need a commercial reason to exist? It’s already been made, the money has already been spent. Why are people being denied of this experience?
Perhaps there is a good reason. Perhaps it’s some sort of licensing issue, perhaps it’s the monetary cost of actually being on the PlayStation Store, perhaps it’s something else entirely but, this is a bizarre tragedy. We’re losing one of the best games currently available on the PlayStation because it no longer serves a commercial purpose.
It’s a real peek behind the curtains. For all the talk of bringing unique experiences to gamers, for all the talk of games as an art form, at the publishing level it isn’t enough that a game simply doesn’t lose money – it has to actively serve a commercial purpose or it gets thrown in the bin. That makes me extremely sad.
A demo is a demo. A pre-selected level, a vertical slice of gameplay. P.T. was a game in and of itself. Something that could have only fit into specific, unique container. Because it was technically ‘promotional’ P.T. had the production values of a ‘AAA’ experience in something that was ‘short’ and free.
And conversely, because it was ‘free’, it had the freedom to be this weird, disconcerting thing. It had the freedom to be completely unique, to be this literal, structural re-enactment of the gameplay ‘loop’. To be dark, to be insane. To be completely unlike anything that had ever existed. The circumstances of its creation allowed for this one-of-a-kind experience and now that’s gone — completely evaporated — because it no longer has the ability to sell something.
That is complete bullshit. It subverts how subversive P.T. is, or more accurately was. It makes a mockery of it.
P.T. was more than just a demo, right? Once upon a time I could have said those words with complete confidence. Now it’s overwhelmingly clear.
In the end P.T. was just a demo. A demo for a commercial product. Nothing more. And now it’s gone.