Playable Teaser, Kojima, and an Accidental Haunting of Genre

Curator's Note

Hideo Kojima’s impact on digital gaming extends even to his lost projects. Playable Teaser, better known as P.T., was released on the PS4 Store on August 12, 2014 and permanently deleted less than a year later. The game is a short, looping walk through of a series of hallways and connected rooms of suburban gothic home. With each loop through the halls, the world of P.T. becomes increasingly haunted and surreal. Much like its gameplay, P.T. has left a spectral mark on game design.

P.T.’s critical and cult success is the result of it being at the intersection of a few leylines. The teaser was connected to a larger project, Kojima’s entry into the Silent Hill franchise featuring horror maestro Guillermo del Toro. It also came at the public and volatile split between Kojima and Konami. Since, there have been a few high profile fan remakes including Qismar’s remake and Radius Gordello’s Unreal P.T. Both of these remakes were taken down shortly after launch. 

We are haunted by P.T. These fan remakes and the heavily inspired titles such Allison Road (Far From Home, 2015), Visage (SadSquare Studio, 2018), and September 1999 (98DEMAKE, 2018), represent a collective struggle with a lost, ludic future in the ever shrinking pool of “playable” copies of the original P.T.

The enigmatic haunting in P.T. prefigured the game’s real world existence. Alison Road, September 1999, and Visage are not visions of a world denied, they are possessions. P.T.—a game about a haunting with no certain ending or beginning—rattles through our collective game design psyche like the very ghosts it set out to haunt us with. P.T. started out as an innovative marketing ploy for a forthcoming Kojima title, but through accident and corporate spite, became a hauntological genre in and of itself.

The death of Silent Hills and the exorcism of P.T. has left us wandering down corridors, attempting to understand this fragmentary specter.


You are totally right -- P.T. is indeed a haunting presence that, in more than a way, has possessed those games (them more than the various striaghtforward homemade remakes of it --- and don't forget RE7, which, however, had a more complex history of course). It always struck me as funny that the monologue at the end of P.T. foresaw all this somehow, when the voice says something like "I will coming back, and I'll bring my new toys with me." What a great way to describe the spirit of P.T. coming back via the numerous projects it inspired/possessed, from fan-made to the more professional ones.

Futhermore, the association of P.T. with haunting is really spot on, and not only because of its own ghastly content, but because of its production history that eventually made it some sort of missing center not only within Kojima's work, but also in the saga of Silent Hill (and probably even in the genre of survival horror). Our psyches and these games - everything points toward something that does not really exist, or not in the terms that it should, given the importance it has.

For what matters, however, the exorcism of P.T., before being terminated, went a little beyond P.T. itself, and it involved Silent Hills itself - have you seen this clip? And one should also consider Junji Ito's involvment in the Silent Hills project. I mention these because initially I never understood the need to differentiate P.T. from Silent Hills... but then I came across these info and I saw it: now I think that we are haunted by both of them, but in different ways. But until Konami puts a new spin on the Silent Hill saga, we will likely never realize how much really haunted by Silent Hills we are.

That's a great comment, Gianni. For me, Survival Horror is the ludic manifestation of the hauntological. Survival Horror, more so than other genres I would argue, has this desire to return to something "true" or "essential" at its core. While other genres of video games are happy racing onward and iterating, Survival Horror keeps digging through its own past for something that isn't there. Resident Evils 6 and 7 were both pushed as attempts to recapture the "lost" essence of the first RE which was an attempt at translating the spirit of games like Sweet Home and Alone in the Dark. The lost Silent Hills was hyped as a return to form for a series that, like RE, had "lost" something of itself in the wake of movie franchises and spin-off games.

I think you are absolutely right that P.T. foresaw the loss of Silent Hills, even if not intentionally. I split the two along those lines. P.T. was the harbinger foretelling the arrival of a Silent Hills that never came. It’s part of what would have been Silent Hills, like the test footage, interviews, and other media that usually comes before a AAA title launch, but P.T. is also the only part of Silent Hills we will ever get to play. So, in a sense, it is Silent Hills.

Hey Ashley, 

I totally see what you mean here, P.T. really has been a phenomenon with surprising affects. My piece sees P.T. in a similar way that you and Gianni (comment above) seem to, but I am glad yours addresses the playable remakes and P.T.-likes that have been developed, because those are really special. I was a big fan of September 1999 for how it stands as a clear descendent from P.Tvisually, and structurally. I find it curious that the look of P.T. has been reproduced so much, what with its hyper HD video look, plain hallways, hardwood floors, cramped space inside a family home -- not a traditionally horrific look (I always imagined I was participating in a property management's cutting-edge VR home tour program, which just happened to be seriously haunted). Games like September 1999 and Kitty Horrorshow's ANATOMY  lift some of those visual touches, but they also play with structure in intriguing and unconventional ways -- just as P.T. did. September 1999 has its short duration, ANATOMY has its abrupt closures and loops, and P.T. was obscure and looping and never ending. Why crib P.T.'s hallway, instead of the looping structure is what I'm curious about. That these structural experiments are occurring in horror games is also noteworthy and may have something to do with the strange effectiveness of these three games, keeping things vitally unpredictable. 

What do you think will be the enduring legacy of P.T., Ashley? Its mythology, visuals, something more ludic? Thanks for writing this interesting piece! (Also, First Person Scholar ran a piece on P.T. and Resident Evil 7 and hauntology that I am sure you will find interesting, check it out.)




Thanks for the link! I will have to check that out.

As far as the legacy goes, I think we can already see it. Besides the directly inspired games and the fan remakes, we also have RE7 as a game clearly given direction by the success of P.T. For a more long term view, I think we just have to wait and see, but I would think a movement away from the stop 'n' pop of RE 4 and 5 and more towards the surreal and haunting feels apt given what we've already seen in these other games.

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