As the home state of bestselling thriller writers Stephen King and Tess Gerritsen, Maine has become something of a pop culture phenomenon — a go-to setting for writers and filmmakers looking for an enchanting, rural and mysterious place for spooky stories.
Author Paul Doiron, I think, said it best when he told me: “People are fascinated by wild, dramatic places, and Maine has everything you want in a suspense story: fogbound islands, impenetrable forests, remote villages where everyone seems to be keeping a dark secret. The mystique is real, and readers looking for escapism don’t care whether the image lines up with the latest crime statistics.”
Despite the explosion of video games into a much more cinematic genre of entertainment — and the abundance of games in the horror/thriller category the state seems to be known for — Maine is still relatively uncharted territory in the worlds of XBox and PlayStation.
Here are six occasions where Maine locations may have been included in popular video game stories, and since they are all fictional, what real-life places they may have been based on.
This post originally went up with just four examples, but in the wonder that is the Internet, readers across social media helped flesh it out a bit more, coming up with at least two good video game locations I missed the first time around.
Is your hometown among these video game inspirations?
6. Rockport City — from the world of “Need for Speed”
In the “Need for Speed” games, players drive hot rods around a city accomplishing fringe missions and street racing — if you’ve seen any of “The Fast & The Furious” movies, it’s sort of like those.
The Rockport City that serves as the muscle car playground in 2005’s “Need for Speed: Most Wanted” (which was the subject of a reboot in 2012) is clearly more built-up than the Rockport of Maine, but as one reader pointed out, the names used in the game can’t be coincidental.
Within the Rockport City map of “Most Wanted” are places like “Camden Beach” and “Gray Point.” And while the game’s Rockport City is a much larger city than anything we have in Maine, there are some rural outskirts that draw to mind smaller New England communities.
5. Kingsmouth, Maine — from the world of “The Secret World”
Since this post first went up, some astute readers (see comments below) also pointed out another fictional Maine video game town I missed: Kingsmouth.
“The Secret World” is what they call a MMORPG in video game parlance — a “massively multiplayer online role-playing game.” Simply put, it’s a game that thousands of players from around the world can play together online, taking on different personas and moving around a common world.
In this 2012 cult favorite from Funcom, players must choose which of three shadowy societies to be an agent for: The Illuminati, the Templars or the Dragons.
One of the playable locations in the world of “The Secret World” is Kingsmouth, described as a town on the northeastern portion of the fictional Solomon Island, itself off the coast of northeastern Maine.
If I had to find similarities between Kingsmouth and a real Maine town, I might choose Bar Harbor — on the northeastern portion of Mount Desert Island, off the coast of northeastern Maine.
Both towns are also near mountains. Kingsmouth is bordered by Blue Mountain, while Bar Harbor is close to Cadillac Mountain. Both are tourist towns that have played host to major power brokers — the Rockefeller and Astor families were among the influential people in American history to frequent Mount Desert Island.
Kingsmouth was written to be founded by an English settler in 1667, while Bar Harbor wasn’t settled by Europeans until nearly a century later. But maybe the video game’s old 1796 Wayfarer Tavern, which plays an important role in the story, is a subtle nod to Bar Harbor’s incorporation as a town that year.
4. Caliban Cove, Maine — from the world of “Resident Evil”
Caliban Cove is the one location on this list you couldn’t visit in an actual video game, unfortunately. “Resident Evil: Caliban Cove” is a 1998 novel that was written to take place between the events of the first and second games in the wildly popular and influential “Resident Evil” series.
In the book, the character Rebecca Chambers — a SWAT-type police officer who had been trapped in a zombie-infested mansion in the Midwest in the inaugural video game — learns that the nefarious Umbrella Corp. has been dabbling with a volatile zombie-virus at a secret facility in Maine.
Which Maine town may have been the inspiration for Caliban Cove? It’s hard to say. Caliban Cove seems to feature a mash-up of stereotypical Maine features — a lighthouse, rocky coast, shipwreck, etc. Could it be a mix of Bucksport and Castine?
The rocky cliffs in the book draw to mind those at Acadia National Park, which were used to great effect in the psychological 2010 Hollywood thriller “Shutter Island,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
3. Davenport Homestead — from the world of “Assassin’s Creed”
The “Assassin’s Creed” series of video games features a modern character who uses a machine to send his conscience back in time and let him live out the adventures of his ancestors, who were all naturally members of an order of assassins.
“Assassin’s Creed III” takes place during the American Revolution, before the U.S. became an independent country — and certainly before Maine became a state therein. But some people believe the Davenport Homestead featured as main character Connor Kenway’s training ground was located in what today would be Maine.
The maps drawn up for “Assassin’s Creed III” aren’t intended to be perfect matches for the geography of the area, but some theorize — based on the alignment of the rivers and the proximity to Boston — the Davenport Homestead of the video game would be right around what is today Kittery or Berwick.
(It’s worth noting that the Davenport Homestead is most often associated with the Rockport, Massachusetts, area, but the Maine theory has merit.)
“Assassin’s Creed III” was published by Ubisoft in 2012. Gamers can also return to the Davenport Homestead in the subsequently released “Assassin’s Creed: Rogue.”
2. The Lighthouse — from the world of “Bioshock: Infinite”
While Caliban Cove never appeared in an actual game and the intended site of the Davenport Homestead is debated, this is an undisputed, in-game Maine location.
At the beginning of 2013’s “Bioshock: Infinite” from Irrational Games, main character and detective Booker DeWitt is rowed out to an island lighthouse off the coast of Maine, where he’s to begin his search for a mysterious, missing girl. The lighthouse surprises DeWitt by revealing a hidden rocket to the hidden, floating city of Columbia, and the time- and reality-bending adventure takes off from there.
Like with Caliban Cove, it’s tough to say which lighthouse the game developers used as inspiration. But in the game, it’s depicted as a stocky lighthouse sitting on a postage stamp of an island — not much room for anything more than the lighthouse itself.
It’s also within rowboat distance from shore. To me, the most similar thing in reality might be the 1855 Pond Island Light at the mouth of the Kennebec River.
1. Silent Hill, Maine — from the world of “Silent Hill”
The “Silent Hill” series is the only one to fully embrace Maine for all it’s worth, choosing the state for its primary setting and giving the fictional location titular honors as well.
(Although I should probably point out that, when Hollywood adapted “Silent Hill” stories for the big screen in 2006 and 2012, the eponymous town was relocated to West Virginia.)
The first video game installment was released for PlayStation in 1999 by Konami, and has been followed by eight subsequent games, nearly all of which have featured characters whose searches for lost loved ones has led them to the enigmatic town of Silent Hill. Once there, the heroes uncover an evil cult known as the Order and must fight through demonic warriors the bad guys conjured up.
The fictional Silent Hill began as a lakeside prison colony of sorts before evolving into a tourist retreat. The best bet for Silent Hill’s real-life equivalent? Probably the Thomaston area, which has the 19th century prison-town history and is now a tourist destination, although the town is on the ocean, not a lake.
Also, the Gillespie House, which plays an important role in the video game series and is located on the outskirts of the fictional Silent Hill, was based on the real-life Olson House in Cushing, just south of Thomaston.
Now Thomaston just needs a macabre amusement park…