It seems that wherever you go nowadays, you can’t help but hear about this new gaming sensation sweeping the country. A simple game, set in a gloomy, fenced off forest. A game consisting solely of the player exploring their environment in search of eight pages. So, just why is this free, down-loadable title such a success?The answer; BECAUSE IT IS AWESOME.
I too was skeptical when I first came across the first person horror game “Slender”. I had watched various people playing Slender online and couldn’t help but wonder where the fun was in a video game where you run aimlessly around a forest, hiding from a skinny guy in a suit – At first it just sounded like a mediocre teen-date simulator. What exactly is this public obsession with games that seemingly have no point or plot save for making the player soil their underwear? The good little journalist I am, I just had to find out (It wasn’t because I wanted to. What are you talking about? Purely for research purposes).
So, I got the game set up (On a friends laptop; My computer didn’t have the power to run Slender, despite the graphics being… Ahem… Shall we say basic?), and settled down to play. After taking a few seconds to figure out the controls and get my bearings, I was off, on a brand new adventure… In a dark forest… Full of identical trees… In search of some pages. Not exactly Zelda, but i’ll take it.
The first ten minutes were gravy. I took immense pleasure in looking smugly over my shoulder at onlooking friends as the pages racked up. “Alright, Slim” I remember muttering, churlishly, “Give me your best shot”.
I collect my fourth page. It read, “NO NO NO NO NO!”. More like “YES YES YES YES YES”, because I was on a roll and no horror game was going to stop me from collecting pages for a reason that I no longer remembered!
Then something caught my eye from the corner of the screen.
“What was that?” Somebody asked from behind me. “Just a glint of light from between the trees… Wait. What’s that sound?”. The sound increased in volume, the sound of a radio tuned between stations accompanied by the game screen becoming slowly fuzzier. This is fine, I tell myself. I reach the fence. It’s okay, i’ll just turn around… Everything is bright, everything is happy, it’s only a game…
That’s pretty much the last thing I remember. I regained my composure a couple of seconds later, having alerted both dogs in the house with my girlish screams, and apparently a hair away from flipping aforementioned generous friend’s laptop over in the process. I had come face to face (Well, face to no face), with the Slenderman. It scared the wits out of me, and along with that, I am now possibly scarred for life. I can no longer look at faceless mannequins in department stores quite the same way. And yet…
“Let’s do it again!”
That’s right. The first thing I wanted to do when it was over was to play again. So, returning to my earlier question, what is it in our human nature that make us love scary video games? Over the years we’ve seen Amnesia, Silent Hill, Bioshock, Condemned, each as addictive as the last. Funnily enough, the scare factor of a game seems to depend very little on the quality of graphics, or realism of storyline, but on some unknown element hidden amongst blocky textures and unbelievable plot. The trick, in my opinion, lies entirely in the atmosphere.
The atmosphere in Slender is impeccable. The music growing in urgency, the short battery life of your flash light, the way you constantly run into fences (Okay, maybe that last one was just me). If you have watched videos of Slender online and think you know what it’s all about, think again. You haven’t truly experienced the adrenaline fuelled, heart pounding joy that is Slender until you’ve played it in person with several close friends looking on and laughing at your plight.