How Slender Man is Revitalizing Horror Games

Released towards the end of June, “Slender” put horror-gaming back on the map for both casual and hardcore audiences alike. The low-res free downloadable PC title from Parsec Productions introduced some of the simplest mechanics available, threw them into a creepy environment and received unanimous (fear-stifled) praise across the internet.

Also, I dare you to find a creepier title screen. Rights reserved by Parsec Productions.

The premise of Slender is simple; played from a first person perspective, your character is alone in a section of woodland fenced off from the rest of the world with only a flashlight and a video-camera in the middle of the night. There are eight notes somewhere in this forestry and your only task is to find them. Once you find the first, some ominous music kicks in and you begin to be stalked by a mysterious figure in a black suit and pale featureless skin. The more notes you find, the creepier the music becomes and the faster your faceless stalker approaches. No other characters, no combat. Just find the notes and don’t let him catch you. It is terrifying.

The disturbing figure following you in Slender is a take on the popular internet myth (or ‘creepypasta’) of the “Slender Man” which was concocted as a part of a photoshop competition back in 2007. There have been countless re-tellings of the Slender Man’s exploits since, but the basis of the figure is always the same; a black suit, an abnormally tall body (perhaps even…slender?), a lack of facial features, worrisome tendencies to observe victims from a distance and anomalous reactions from electronic devices (whenever a camcorder captures Slender Man, the footage immediately turns to static and electrical noise). All other information about Slender Man is simply unknown and that’s precisely what makes him so damn creepy. Slender was hardly the first game to build on this notion, with popular sandbox building game Minecraft introducin tall black monsters called Enderman back in 2011 and Green Meteor Team submitting a 3D puzzle game featuring Slendy as the main atagonist, simply titled Slenderman [Game], to a horror competition on the gaming site 64Digits that same year.

The mystery is what makes Slender Man such a perfect vehicle for video-games. In Slender, for instance, the mechanical qualities of the character are simply that of a failure time-bomb. Rather than masking the antagonistic mechanic in personality or backstory, though, Parsec Productions merely allowed the tone of the game and the mystery of the myth to take over the players mindset and enhance the horror. It’s arguably an overly simplistic game design, but horror has always been most effective when boiled down to simple extremes and Slender is the perfect example.

However, just because Slender is a perfect example of horror gaming, doesn’t mean that it is a perfect game. Even at it’s highest graphical setting, the game is a very basic production, sporting ugly texture qualities and animations that don’t always seem to flow correctly. The game consists of only one map to experience the horror of Slender Man and although the experience of playing Slender is unnerving, it’s mechanics are worn on it’s sleeve, meaning experienced horror players have little difficulty mastering it’s sole goal within an hour or so.

For those wondering about the next Slendy game, fear not; the community over at ModDB have decided to put together their own take on the Slender Man experience with Slender: Source, a four player experience featuring multiple maps and developed with Valve’s Source Engine. Although Slender’s ace-in-the-hole is it’s sense of sheer isolation, Slender: Source seems to be approaching multiplayer with the intent to capitalize on the tremendous influx and popularity of  simultaneously terrifying and hilarious videos floating around Youtube featuring playthroughs of Slender, often including the player’s own reaction caught on camera. Perhaps the only thing a horror game can do better than provide a good scare is provide a good scare followed by a few good laughs with friends later.

You can download ‘Slender’ here, and we will have updates on ‘Slender: Source’ as they are made available.