I remember the summer it came out in 2012. The end of June was approaching and the stories of Slender Man were really starting to catch on as they were being spread around internet forums. Then a game appeared one day, with little context as to what was to be expected. As the game booted up it recommended to turn off the lights and stick some headphones in. With the darkness of the room now surrounding me and my curtains and blinds pulled tight the only thing in the room was the glow of the old computer monitor.
There I am, standing in the woods with nothing but a dying flashlight. The sounds of an earie and empty woods float through the headphones. As I begin walking I can hear the crunching sound of the leaves and forest below my feet. Signaling I am most definitely alone out here and forging my own path. Then the flashlight shines across something in the distance. A distant white thing pinned to a tree. As I approach, I can tell it’s a note with a child’s drawing and strange text, “Leave me Alone”, “Always Watches No Eyes”, “Can’t Run”.
The second you discover the first note the whole mood changes. The sounds, feelings, etc. You know you are no longer alone in the forest. That’s where the game really starts to take off. Now you are out trying to hunt the eight pages down knowing you are being watched and tracked. You have to enter these park bathrooms at one point where there is only one way in, and coming out you might just be met with something standing in the door waiting for you.
Each of the parks different locations provides places where you have to face fears. I remember playing with friends and each of us had places that creeped us out. You had to take turns knowing that Slender Man might be right around the corner.
So, what makes this game stand out to me so much? The simplicity of the mechanics is one thing. You can’t fight, you aren’t smashing keyboard and mouse buttons to switch items and try and combo off. You are just walking around with a flashlight in the dark. All of your senses are focused on this one objective, and they are all being triggered that danger is close. You can’t get distracted by multiple problems or enemies.
I’ve played some great horror games, and not dissing any of them. But they just don’t do what Slender: The Eight Pages did. The simplicity is what had so many people running back for more. Sure, games have come a long way in graphics and resolution. Zombie horror games filled with blood splatter in 4K quality have a place in the horror genre. But the power of imagination will always outweigh advanced graphics. In horror imagination is extremely important and this game left a lot of that to the player. What’s chasing you in the woods, what happens if it finds you, and what happens if you make the wrong turn? The game doesn’t tell you this and leaves it up for you to figure out.
There’s a few things you do figure out early on, and each one of these things is working together to make you feel even more trapped, more stuck, and more helpless. Giving you more fear.
- You are closed in a park with no way to escape.
- You are only given a flashlight.
- The goal is to find eight notes without dying.
- You can only run a little bit before running out of breath.
- If you and Slender Man look at each other for to long you’ll go insane.
Slender Man History
Like all great internet stories back in the day, they originated on forums. Slender Man is no different. Back in 2009 this thread from Something Awful popped up. It was a bit of a photoshop contest where people were adding all types of creepy images. However, “Slender Man” stood out. A user posted the above picture with just a distant tall creature in the back of a playground. The backstory, the pictures, they all felt real. Like it was something that could actually exist, and was just close enough to being human it made it feel familiar.
With the internet being able to spread things around quickly the story caught on over time. People knew the Slender Man story. Going out at night your friends would tease that they saw Slender Man, white morph suits with a blazer were becoming Halloween costumes, and kids at school were sharing the story like it was a ghost story at a campfire. It was catching on and becoming popular. The game was able to capitalize on this new story as it was emerging into pop culture.
When Slender came out (now called Slender: The Eight Pages) it fueled the hype of Slender Man. The story eventually caught enough attention to get more games developed, movies, and many more stories. I would say this game really helped create the fuel needed to hype up Slender Man to become the urban legend he is today.
When it comes down to it I think Slender: The Eight Pages hit screens at just the right time. A little luck helped take it far. People were waiting for a good horror game as there hadn’t been anything with a good creepy factor and jump scare in awhile. Amnesia hype had calmed down and people were ready for the next thing. Slender Man was that next creepy story that was just waiting to be told through more then just a couple photoshopped images.
Maybe it was just my age and group of friends, but this was one of those games I will always remember. Flickering the lights in the room or brushing something up against a focused player to watch them jump out the chair was just to much fun. It was a simple game that fully submersed you in the story for a few minutes. And EVERYONE played it. It was one of those games the people in my circles all knew and had a story about.
While there have been many horror games that look visually better and run smoother, Slender: The Eight Pages will always have a place in my heart. I would argue strongly that it is one of my favorite horror games.