I’m not a big horror movie buff. I get squeamish at the sight of blood. Gory movies give me nightmares. For example, the 1982 version of The Thing gave me nightmares for weeks with its obscene creature designs (especially the horrific spider head mutant thing). For some reason I can’t fathom though, I love horror games. Maybe it’s because I can deal with the tension differently in a game world or maybe I feel like the sensation is more “fun” applied in that context. For whatever reason, I love games like Resident Evil, Clock Tower, Eternal Darkness, and Fatal Frame.
This is also why I decided to download the free indie game Slender.
Those not familiar with background of the “Slender Man myth” can check it out at the game’s fan site here. It also includes links to download the game. The story behind the character was originally conceived on the SomethingAwful website forums, created in a thread titled “Create Paranormal Images.” Like his name suggests, the Slender Man is a lanky, inhumanly tall person. He is dressed all in black and has a menacing presence, even without doing anything. For reasons unexplained, the Slender Man is compelled to kidnap children with his long, outstretched arms. That description alone put me on edge.
Created with the Unity engine, Slender is something of an experiment for horror games. It’s also quite effective. Dropping you off in fog-shrouded woods with no explanation at all doesn’t seem like the best set up for a narrative, but it works better than I imagined. The objective is simple: find eight notes scattered around. Each note contains a scribbled clue about the enigmatic Slender Man, often detailing unnerving facts like “Has no eyes. Always watching.” To build an effective piece of horror fiction, you have to make the audience feel connected to the experience. There has to be some way of upsetting the audience, whether it’s by killing off a character (shock value, gore, etc) or establishing an unsettling or creepy atmosphere (usually punctuated with tense scenes, appropriate use of silence, etc). You do not know who the main character of the game is, nor does it really matter. It could be you.
All that matters is that you find the notes, explore the woods, and avoid the Slender Man. As a monster, he is far more imposing than you may believe. Even without doing anything, he is a menacing presence. The game is free, so I don’t have much hesitation is suggesting that you check out the game. It’s short, but memorable. I wouldn’t say it’s an excellent game and I wouldn’t place it alongside horror classics like Eternal Darkness, but it’s an interesting experiment in the way scary games are made and experienced.
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