Slender: The Game
We’ve all had that one nightmare; the one where you’re being chased something terrifying. No matter how fast you run, it’s never fast enough, and you know if you stop and look at it, it’ll get you.
Slender is that nightmare in video game form. I first played it a couple of weeks ago, and I’m not ashamed to admit that despite going in forewarned and forearmed, it terrified the living daylights out of me. Still does.
To put that in context, you have to understand it was around midday on an uncommonly sunny Scottish summer day. The windows were open and the sun was pouring in, so I quite reasonably expected to finish the game wondering what all the fuss was about. “Scary game?” I thought “Aye. Right then.” Skip forward ten or fifteen minutes, and the hair on my arms is standing on end and my heart is flailing like an epileptic at a strobe light convention.
Slender is a game based on Something Awful’s fake Slender Man myth, which was created in a thread simply titled, “Create Paranormal Images.” A few pages in, one user created the image of The Slender Man, a faceless humanoid, abnormally tall and thin, apparently wearing a black suit, white shirt and black tie. With the ability to stretch and elongate his arms at length, occasionally manifest tentacles and follow anyone anywhere without actually appearing to move, he’s a genuinely creepy creation. If you have the time and the mental fortitude, you should read through the SA thread, which has pretty much become all about The Slender Man. Just don’t expect to sleep afterwards.
Slender is an attempt to capture the essence of the Slenderman mythos in video game format, developed by Parsec Productions and free to download. It’s an incredibly sparse game, and all the more effective because of it. Played from the first-person perspective, you explore a fenced-off forest with the simple goal of collecting eight pieces of note paper. With almost no ambient light and only a flashlight to see by, there’s an immediate oppressive atmosphere at play. There’s no music, although you can hear your footsteps as you walk and run, and you’ll hear yourself panting and gasping for breath when you run too much. Which you will.
It’s possible that the sound effects in Slender are key to its ability to scare the shit out of players. With no music, you’re limited to the sounds of your footsteps, the sounds of the wind and the birds in the trees around you, and the relentless, monotonous booming sound that begins once you collect your first note page. That sound means that The Slender Man is there, somewhere. You won’t see him at first, but the simple knowledge that he’s there transforms the game utterly.Whereas before you were just looking for collectables, now you’re being hunted. Your limited field of view helps build a crushing sense of claustrophobia and paranoia. Every whisper of wind, every rustle of leaves becomes suspect, and you end up flailing around, trying to find a landmark and only ending up completely lost.
Then you see him. Standing. Waiting.
I won’t spoil what happens then, but have a look at the trailer for the game for a taster.
Slender is available for Windows and Mac, and there’s really no reason for you not to play it, given that it’s likely to take just 15 minutes of your time to play through. Assuming you don’t have a weak heart, of course.