2016
05.06

From Playboy.com

It was a cold, dark, stormy November night in the heart of the city, days after Halloween. My friend and I were taking shelter at my place, freezing rain beating down on the windowpanes and tree branches casting spidery shadows across the living room, the wind howling like a lone wolf. A late-night beer and Wii U session proved a reliable distraction from the weather, as did one of our chats about the gaming industry. Nothing heavy or particularly insightful – usually just discussing how the last boss in EarthBound is actually a foetus or seeing who can do the best impression of the ubiquitous merchant from Resident Evil 4. That’s about as cultured as we get.

My most recent acquisition had been the latest in the Project Zero (Fatal Frame) series, Maiden Of Black Water. I was only a couple of chapters in, but already knew my friend would love it – we had, after all, shared an odd fascination with the game’s real-life inspiration, Aokigahara, for a few years.

This Japanese forest at the base of Mt Fuji is an infamous suicide spot for lonely souls and there’s thought to be a number of bodies within its dense, inescapable foliage at any given time. The game’s fictionalised counterpart, Mt Hikami, is much the same, and we gasped, jumped and laughed our way through it. Within a maze of trees, we were suddenly surrounded by persistent, shrieking spirits. A few flashes of the Camera Obscura fended them off momentarily, but as we made our escape, what we’d unwittingly find around one corner would freak us out more than any spiteful spectre.

It was a tent. Abandoned and decaying, it sat inconspicuously between the trees, an indecisive note lying in its awning.

We slowly turned to look at each other, wide-eyed and open-mouthed, before our synchronised “FUUUUCK!” filled the room. In a short Vice documentary we had watched years before, the exact same scene had been discovered in Aokigahara by geologist Azusa Hayano. That’s when the true realism of Maiden Of Black Water hit – just how much inspiration had been drawn from the suicide forest, an infamous part of Japan’s bloody past? Continue reading on Playboy…

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