The only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.
During his first Inaugural Address, Franklin D. Roosevelt uttered these prominent words, words meant to empower and encourage those to not let fear cripple them. However, like many things, it is easier said than done.
Evil has a face but, fear? Fear has nothing more than a title and when it comes to video games, the title of true fear is undoubtedly Slender and all the games that follow.
Now, do not be discouraged from continuing with this article simply because you expected titles such as P.T, Outlast or even F.E.A.R. True, these games indeed are scary but in what sense? The answer is; a sense that we as gamers believe and accept certain qualities as scary. Haunted houses, crazed maniacs, gruesome figures and acts of violence are just a few of the typical horror tropes that “make” a scary game however, Slender is an exception.
The game hardly falls under these tropes begging for a completely different measuring. For the purpose of proving Slender and other Slender titles as the world’s scariest game, I will be measuring it by its realism, believable absurdity, real world influence and the cult like following it possesses.
We as humans tend to fear what we don’t understand but too we fear the most practical of things. We fear the probable.
Slender Man didn’t pop up out of the blue, let alone from the sole creative genius of Eric Knudsen. The tale of Slender Man has been around for years. It is an urban legend that apparently originates from a Something Awful user by the name of Victor Surge. However, at the same time there are those that say the legend existed in countries all over the world long before Surge’s participation.
The modernized legend is a simple one; a tall faceless man donning a black suit lurking in the woods with a preference for children. An evil being. A much dated version of the legend however, paints Slender Man (not named until 2009) as a figure that fits into many national legends such as Germany and Romanian folklore with the name of Der Grossman. There are even lore’s that depict Slender Man as a benevolent creature who only seeks to save you from a painful death by taking you to the under world early on.
Is it possible that several countries could take one story and twist it to fit their cultural views? Of course.
The realistic nature of this character also comes from the believable (if only some) manipulated photos to not only support the urban legend but give the game a foundation on which to start from.
Urban legend aside, the game also implies two very real topics. Those two topics are murder and pedophilia. Slender is largely associated with preying on children but it is so subtle that gamers barely consider pedophilic implications. The topic of murder is also very subtle, for when the player is found, their camera cuts out to white noise as Slender Man’s face comes into view. Whether as a parent or a person with morals, to know such implications are there is fairly frightening.
A Believable Level of the Absurd
While the need for absurdity may contradict the need of realism, I strongly believe that the game also needs a level of fantasy. Think about it; when you were a child you readily believed tales of monsters under your bed and in your closet. Have you ever come across a monster in your life before? Chances are no yet, you believed it.
Deeply believing things we know aren’t real is a great way to bring the unreal to life and invoke paranoia. We undermined our subconscious to the point we go to bed thinking about something possibly happening though we know it is impossible.
So what makes Slender both realistic yet fantastical? Answer; the premise of the story. Slender the Eight Pages may give gamers a very realistic task of collecting eight pieces of paper but honestly, who in their right mind would actually go out into the woods in the middle of the night to collect drawings? This is what is absurd, but once again the task is physically believable.
The goal of this game is held higher by the gamer over the irrational nature of venturing into the hunting grounds of a faceless creature.
Effects the Real World
The Devil made me do it.
Games are commonly blamed for encouraging and instigating violence, however typically such violence isn’t directly caused by one specific game. Slender Man both the legend and game are sadly the exception.
On May 31, 2014, two 12-year-old girls in Waukesha, Wisconsin lured a fellow friend into the woods and stabbed her 19 times with the sole purpose of proving themselves to Slender Man.
While there is no proof that the girls played any of the Slender games ironically, the real Slender Man story is one of two friends obsessed with the idea of Slender Man. Though there is no plot to murder anyone or intentionally becoming his proxies, Slender the Arrival does feature missing former friend Kate as a proxy who in the end does wind up murdering her friend Lauren.
Games of all genres are no strangers to fan bases. That being said, there isn’t a fan base and community like the Slender fan base. The game and legend both owe a lot to the community that consistently adds more to the internet’s fascination with the faceless monster. He even has his own song.
Slender Man is in the realm of Bloody Mary and Candy Man, both with horrific connotations and nothing to shake a stick at.
Fearing the Unkonwn…and the Known
The true face of evil is faceless and what we fear remains the same; the unknown.
Slender and the titles that follow are an anomaly in the terms of horror clichés. There are no haunting grounds, jumpscares or gore filled scenes, just realism mixed with all too believable absurdities, an Internet documented origin that is enough to lead the most innocent of beings to commit acts of violence and an online community that is the heartbeat of Slender Man.
Yes, Slender is not the most terrifying game but, it brings with it a legitimate fear. A fear invoked by believing in something we have no definitive answer if it is real or not. A fear that this game and the legend can drive people to violence.
He is a modern-day boogeyman that is not so modern. A faceless shadow that some see outside of their computer screens. A thing we know yet do not know.
Out of all the horror games both recent and past, Slender is by far the scariest game in the world.