I’m not a big fan of horror films or books most of the time, but I enjoy horror games - Alan Wake, Dead Space, ever since the original Aliens mod for Doom I’ve enjoyed the scary situations they provide and I think the difference is in a game I’m in control. Feeling afraid and facing it can be satisfying, and it avoids the whole ‘oh god don’t split up’ thing that happens so much in horror films when you just wish characters would be smart.
Slender is a different story. First of all, I’m going to spoil some elements in this post so if you haven’t played it, please do now as it won’t take more than fifteen minutes:.
This game makes me examine previous horror games I’ve played in a different light. I clearly remember playing Alan Wake in the dark and tensing up in fear as lights went out and enemies jumped at me, and I remember feeling scared, but it was a different type of scared: it was (strongly) tinged with excitement, it was more of a thrill than a horror.
The Slender Game, as my friends call it, is pure horror. You search out eight pages in a very dark forest with a weak flashlight and avoid a tall slender figure who ends the game if you get too close or if you look at him for more than an instant; the game is so simple that it calls back memories of those awful flash games that would abruptly JUMP out at you unexpectedly but it’s much more interesting than that. The inability to look at the slender man makes him so much scarier: knowing that he is out there, that he could be around any corner, needing to search out the next page but dreading moving ahead, the game makes me feel dread and despair. I feel like I’m actively fighting an urge to quit the game, like some kind of struggle not to just alt+F4 and delete the damn thing.
It’s fantastic how such a simple game can work so well. No combat, no cutscenes or text, just you in the woods and somewhere out there a tall figure who is hunting you.