I find myself in a dark forest with nothing to light my way except for the flashlight in my hand. All I'm told is that I need to “find the 8 pages”. No more. No less. With this in mind, and with nothing to lose, I start walking forward, timidly at first. I seem to be alone, yet... I feel like I'm already being watched. I see a large boulder looming in the distance and, relieved at the thought of seeing something other than just trees and darkness, I start walking towards the boulder. It doesn't take long before I'm already sprinting, somehow knowing that there must be something important about this boulder. Sure enough, once I get close enough to it, I see a lone piece of paper attached to the wrong. No, not just a piece of paper... A “page”. For a moment, I find myself staring at the crude drawings on the paper... There is a tree... A faceless figure... And one word written in sharp letters: FOLLOWS. I grab the page and boom. A sound in the distance. A pounding... I am no longer alone. Have you ever played a game that actually scared you? Have you ever played a game that left you feeling paranoid for minutes, hours, even days after you last played it? Have you ever played a game that made you uneasy about looking behind yourself? I have... And even as I write this, I feel as if there are eyes on me... This past summer, there has been a small indie game making the rounds across the internet. As if it were a forbidden video tape in a horror movie, the game seemingly appeared out of nowhere and has relied on word-of-mouth to spread. This game is known as Slender: The Eight Pages.
Like the title itself, the gameplay in Slenderis simplistic yet effective. You have very little you can actually do in the game. In essence, you can walk, sprint, look around, and turn your flashlight on and off. That's pretty much it... Well, actually, there's one more thing you can do and that is pick up a piece of paper or, if you will, a “page”. Finding and collecting these 8 pages is your main goal in the game but, in doing so, you start to gain the attention of a mythical being known as Slenderman. Like the game itself, Slenderman is a rather simplistic creation yet he manages to be one of the most memorable figments of horror created during the last decade or so at least.
It is public knowledge at this point that Slenderman was created on the Something Awful forums a few years ago in a contest to see who could create the best paranormal-themed photo. One used named Victor Surge created a couple of black and white photos of children. The photos were noteworthy because of the tall and thin looking entity in the background of each of them. The entity, dubbed Slenderman, appears to be wearing a black suit and his face is a featureless and blank canvas of white. Since the creation of the character, several rumors about the entity have emerged but the key features about him include his tentacle-like appendages and his fascination with children. Horrifically enough, he is most fascinated with those children that are fascinated with him... It is said that the more you speak about Slenderman, the more interested he becomes in you... Furthermore, many children have been said to experience dreams about Slenderman leading up to their disappearance. All in all, though, perhaps the most horrific thing about Slenderman is just how he keeps appearing in photos of children, lurking in the background... It is this feature of Slenderman that becomes prominent in the game, Slender.
Slender is a game about paranoia. By starting you off in a dark forest without any explanation, you already begin with a sense of unease. There is no music and barely any sound except for the crunching of the ground as you walk across it. Once you find one of the first pages, however, you start to hear more sounds... And, if you look in the right direction, you might even see a tall and thin figure staring at you from amongst the trees. Most games are about empowerment but this game is about making you feel as helpless as possible because you literally can not fight back against Slenderman. If he gets to you, it's over. However, the interesting thing about this is Slenderman neveractually moves if you're looking at him. He only moves when you don't see him... However, at the same time, if you stare at him for too long, he can kill you that way as well. In essence, the game becomes about resisting the urge to turn around to see if he's there while also forcing yourself to do it every now and then. There's a delicate balance to it and it's a big part of what makes the game so damn scary to begin with.Slender is an achievement and perhaps even more so because it was created by one guy, Mark J. Hadley. On a technical level, the graphics can't compete with the higher profile releases but this isn't an issue with Slender. Like most great horror film directors, Hadley seems to know that what scares you the most isn't what you see but it's what you don't see. Slenderbuilds tension better and faster than most games and thus makes it one of the best horror games I've ever played (and I've played quite a lot of them). However, perhaps the best part about this game is that it is absolutely free to play so you really have no excuse not to try it for yourself. Well, unless you're too scared...
The game can be found here: http://slendergame.com/download.php . Try it for yourself and then feel free to come back here and post about your experiences in the comments section. How many pages can you collect (for the record, my best attempt is still only 4 pages...)?