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It's dark. The sound of leaves crunch beneath your every step as you search for eight pages spread throughout the forest you found yourself in. You are armed with only a flashlight to defend yourself against a tall, lengthy figure cloaked by the night sky who's stalking your every move. This is the setting and plot of Slender, a free indie developed horror,survival-style game from Parsec Productions.
Slender has recently broke out as a runaway hit with the indie community and has gotten quite a bit of attention in the past couple of months. There is a specifically prominent question that rises to the surface when you introduce someone to this game: Where does the idea of the Slender Man come from? The answer comes in the form on an internet urban legend that originated on a website called creepypasta.com. The basic story is about a tall man with a featureless face in a suit who has taken a liking to stalking children. Now, when I say tall I mean lanky and over 10 feet tall. It's pretty damn creepy. The legend became an internet phenomena inspiring many doctored photos and alleged personal experience with the Slender Man. The potential for a great horror game is obvious.
It's an interesting story and makes for a great free game to play for a few minutes if you feel like you need a quick jolt of terror before turning in for the night or want to watch a friend soil their undies. More interesting, however, than the subject matter is how well it was accepted in the gaming community, especially YouTube “Let's Play” makers. If you search on YouTube for Slender you'll come up with loads of videos containing people trying to complete the game (collect all 8 pages), people making their friends play, and others just recording themselves getting scared out of their minds and having a blast while doing it.
There are a lot of parallels to be made here with games like Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Penumbra. All three games are horror-based with almost no way to defend yourself. You are nothing but a set-piece in a lot of ways as the story of the game unfolds before and around you. What is it about minimalistic horror games that we like so much? I suppose it shares a lot of the same reasons as to why we enjoy horror movies so much. If you've ever noticed that the games you find at the top of personal favorites list all share a similar quality, you're closer to the reason than you may realize. We connect to what we know, what we can relate to, and to what makes us feel extremes in life. A simplified version of that notion is to simply say that great games are tied to memories and emotions. Fear is exhilarating and exhilaration makes us feel alive in a lot of ways. The unfortunate problem is that fear is usually tied to danger so we avoid it at all costs. Games like Slender, however, allow us to simulate a dangerous experience in a masterful way by feeling actual horror without putting ourselves in any danger.
Games like this deserve applause. If you're feeling brave then I implore you to give Slender a download and try it out for yourself. Turn off the lights, put on the headphones, and experience a free indie game that will change the way you feel about horror games.