Twin Peaks and its influence on video games

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Twin Peaks. Its impact upon popular culture is immense, from carefully plotted, serialised storytelling to cryptic references in other television shows, movies and of course, video games. With the series’ revitalisation heading to small screens across the world later today, what better time to focus on the ways in which David Lynch and Mark Frost’s opus has made its mark upon games we know and love?

Alan Wake

For many gamers, Remedy’s Alan Wake served as an entry point into the world of Twin Peaks – this author included. I owe Remedy’s work a debt of thanks for introducing me to The Red Room and its garmonbozia-loving inhabitants.

Alan Wake wears its love of Twin Peaks unashamedly on its tweed-patched sleeve, borrowing multiple themes.

“The game is set in Bright Falls which sounds a bit like Twin Peaks. Twin Peaks is actually a big inspiration,” Remedy’s Oskari Hakkinen told The Guardian.

Bright Falls, a thirty-minute short which introduces the town and the terror Alan Wake is about to dive headlong into, is clearly a homage to Twin Peaks itself, capturing the same look and sound as the television show. It also foreshadowed the type of work Remedy itself would do in the recent Quantum Break.

“The most obvious Twin Peaks related things are naturally the location and the setting, the small town of Bright Falls in the state of Washington,” Remedy’s Sam Lake, the face of Max Payne, told Eurogamer.

“As a TV series it really was the first to focus on a quirky and creepy small town setting. That kind of a setting has since been used in many other shows, but it’s still something that hasn’t really been seen in games. Atmosphere is a very important part of any thriller, and David Lynch is brilliant when it comes to that, so any lessons we can learn from him for this game will be a big bonus.”

A small, midwestern town, idyllic viewed from the outside yet wrapped in darkness upon closer look. An unassuming diner that also serves as the epicentre of the town. A seemingly crazy old woman, clinging to her log (well, her lamp), integral to the understanding of the town’s darkest secrets. A beautiful woman, trapped inside the darkness, and the man who loves her desperately searching for a way to set her free.

Sound Designer Peter Comley, a freelancer who worked on Alan Wake on behalf of Microsoft Game Studios, says Twin Peaks was first and foremost on his mind during his own work.

“I took my first cue from Remedy’s influences, the most obvious one being Twin Peaks,” he told DesigningSound. “That in turn got me thinking about David Lynch and his use of sound in general… his seeming obsession with strange drones coming from dark places, steam radiators that seem inhabited with great menace, light bulbs that buzz like alien radio transmissions, and so forth. His focus is always on sounds that are interesting but a little ‘off’, like they are coming from some hidden side of reality just outside of our normal perceptions.

“Right away it was obvious that there was a lot of opportunity to decorate the world of Alan Wake with sounds in this kind of tradition, so I got to work collecting and creating sounds that seemed to fit that idea, while keeping in mind the specific needs of Alan Wake’s level designs and story. In addition to that I think I gave Remedy several hundred ambient loops, some of which they requested and some of which I created for them to use at their own discretion, everything from evil tornado loops to abstract tones to strange fluorescent light bulb hums… much of it inspired by early Lynch films like Blue Velvet and Eraserhead.”

The Bright Falls short is the most derivative of Twin Peaks’ soundtrack, with twangy, jazzy bass notes that accompany shots of sycamore trees.

Deadly Premonition

Alan Wake isn’t the only game that relies heavily upon Twin Peaks – Sweary65’s Deadly Premonition goes as far as placing you in the shoes of an FBI Agent investigating representations of good and evil in the White and Red Rooms, clearly parallels to Peaks’ White and Black Lodges. It, like D4, is as crazy – and perhaps, as random – as anything Lynch has created on TV or film.

Sweary65 wouldn’t directly admit it during development of the game, however.

“David Lynch’s movies are spectacular and distinctive, and I respect him as a director,” he told The Telegraph. “However, I think all creators take inspiration from many of the things we encounter day to day, so although it’s impossible to say I was not influenced at all by David Lynch, I can tell you that the creative activity that went into this game was not especially influenced by any single work.

“The unique atmosphere of this game I think comes more from what I experienced and felt during my time in the Pacific Northwest and Canada. I can say that our development staff was able to recreate this faithfully in Deadly Premonition.

This attitude seemed to relax as the years went on, with Sweary65 reaffirming how much of a Lynch fan he actually was.

“I felt just like a child learning that Santa Claus isn’t real for the first time,” he told Kotaku after learning Lynch – at the time of the conversation – had removed himself from Twin Peaks season three’s production. (Rest assured readers, Lynch changed his mind and not only wrote all of three’s episodes, but has directed them all as well).

Silent Hill and… Zelda?

There are many more games that owe a large part of their success to the zeitgeist Twin Peaks has greatly influenced: Virginia, Silent Hill 2, the recent Thimbleweed Park and even The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (the owls are not what they seem), to name a few. As we edge ever closer to the launch of Twin Peaks’ season three, it will be interesting to see how 26 years of video games have influenced Lynch’s work.

Regardless, we’re sure it will be as damn fine as a cup of coffee and slice of cherry pie served from the RR Diner.

Twin Peaks‘ third season will be available for streaming at 2.00pm AEST today, exclusive to Stan in Australia.