In August last year I wrote about Town of Light, an adventure game that takes place within an abandoned Italian mental hospital: Ospedale Psichiatrico di Volterra. Town of Light isn't a horror game. It explores Italy's deplorable treatment of the mentally ill through the eyes of a former patient returning to the what's left of the ruined facility.
As you walk its halls a narrator tells you about the purpose of the rooms and instruments you find. There are books and medical diagrams littering the walls and floor, each of which can be inspected closer, revealing snippets of the stories of patients who spent decades locked up inside.
I've since been able to travel out to Volterra to visit the abandoned hospital myself. It was a genuinely eerie experience walking the halls of a building that had been so accurately recreated in the game. It was a particularly misty morning and the path up to the hospital was wreathed in fog, making it seem like a scene straight out of Silent Hill:
One of the walls had the message "To the paedophiles of Volterra, we know who you are" sprayed across one of the outer walls:
Having walked the halls of the hospital for hours in demos of Town of Light, it was eerie to walk through a place I'd never physically visited while knowing exactly where I was.
Below, for instance, is the room where they used to keep the patients' post. It would be sorted and stored in great shelving units made up of tiny boxes. Sometimes letters would sit for years unopened if a patient didn't have the privileges to receive their mail:
This was the corridor that led to the ward for agitated patients. It was also where the equipment for electroconvulsive therapy was housed:
Something that doesn't make its way into the game that is seriously creepy to come across is the way some of the windows had been locked from the inside with bike locks and bent bars:
And someone has broken in over the years with a bucket of red paint and dressed up some rooms as though they were a scene from a horror movie:
What stood out was how almost every room of the old hospital is covered in graffiti:
Down in the basement someone's created stencils that cover the cavernous walls of the hospital's kitchens:
Where people didn't have paint they've smeared drawings of sprawling trees over the tiles in the bathrooms with the palms of their hands:
A lot of this graffiti finds its way into the finished game, recreated on the virtual walls just as it appears in the real building.
I'll have my thoughts on Town of Light and an interview with someone who used to work there going up in the next few days but I just wanted to show how spectacular a setting for a game Ospedale Psichiatrico di Volterra is.