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A Look Back: Slender
We’re approaching Halloween, the time of the year when scaring the soul out of your friends is finally socially acceptable. In the spirit of this demonic ole’ season, I wanted to look back at one of recent memory’s most nauseating games — Slender.
You’re probably familiar with the title, but if not, I’ll briefly fill you in. The game revolves around finding eight pages in an eerily desolate forest. The catch? There’s a serial madman chasing you around, vying for your blood at every turn. To make matters worse, you march around with basically no music easing your inner tension, while your murder-hungry nemesis lurks out of view in the shadows. Without a map to direct your steps, you feel impending doom slowly penetrate your conscience with every second that passes. And because the game is set in the first person, you feel more immersed inside this world full of trepidation and angst.
My first time observing the game was with a group of friends huddled around a computer. I’d never heard of Slender before, so I wasn’t privy to its grotesque exploits. After all, I’m the type of person who’s usually numb to horror movies — I barely flinched during Paranormal Activity and The Grudge struck me more as abstract video art than nightmarish wormhole.
But this — THIS — was completely different.
As a friend of mine boots up the game and begins to play, I feel a peculiarly uncomfortable level of calm. Quickly, I realize that the game’s opening phase is designed to pseudo-hypnotize the player; there are no NPC’s to talk to, no nagging minions to clobber, and the world is open world and intuitive. Then, like sand slowly dripping into one end of an hourglass, my calm begins to slowly submit to a prevailing sense of the worst kind of fear: the fear of the unknown.
As time lingers, my mind begins to unravel. It’s like when little kids cower under their covers because they fear the monsters in their heads live underneath their beds. Until your parents clarify that those monsters don’t exist, your thoughts conjure up the worst. What makes this situation worse is that you progress through the game semi-rapidly. Each page acquired brings false assurance that the end you loathe will never come.
By the middle act, I find myself listlessly entranced by the action (or lack thereof ) on the screen. My friend begins to prod around the scenery, encountering vague clues that offer little helpful context. As he meanders around a network of abandoned ruins, the screen starts to cut out. As the field of vision becomes drastically impaired, I catch glimpses of a thin deviant of a man. With no face. It reminds me of a psychopath killer that haunts you in a nightmare, wantonly crafted faceless because of the abstract nature of dreaming.
My friend veers away from that “thing.” The screen still shudders in-and-out. I’m at the stage where I can almost sense the blood-curdling screams patiently waiting for release in the back of our throats. Yet we’re still moving — moving and grooving, moving and groo….
Curtains. Right at the crest of our newfound relief, we turn the camera again, only to be face-to-(no)face with the Slender Man himself. For a prolonged second, I anticipated him brandishing a knife and butchering our internal organs. Instead, the camera fizzles out, and the game ends with goosebumps slithering down our arms. Never. Again.
If you are faint of heart, I’d recommend treating this game like a horcrux or a ouija board, straying as far away as humanly possible. For the rest of you out there, give the game a try. Trust me. If you can last a few minutes inside Slender’s twisted playground, your coworkers’ ghoulish party costumes or any of those horror movie reruns on TV are going to feel like child’s play.