Deconstruction of "Slender: The Eight Pages"
You may have seen him briefly out of the corner of you eye. A tall and thin man in a black suit, but there's something wrong with him. His arms are much too long for his body, and his fingernails are elongated into what can only be described as claws. And his face! You can't make out what his face looks like... if he has a face at all.
I'd like to comfort you by telling you not to worry and you're just seeing things, but I know better.
The Slender Man chose you.
I'm sorry it had to be you.
Who is the Slender Man?
The Slender Man, sometimes just called Slender, is an incredibly tall and thin man that stalks people by remaining hidden just barely inside their peripheral vision and only fully appearing right before taking his victims away without a trace. the victims don't always disappear. Sometimes they're found mutilated or with missing organs. Sometimes he never kills his victims, instead preferring to slowly torture them over the course of many years eventually causing them to go insane.
Fortunately this character is entirely fictional... I hope.
Slender is an anthropomorphic entity constructed from deeply-rooted fears buried in the backs of our brains. There is a commonly-shared fear of humanoid entities that don't look exactly like humans (e.g. cyborgs, the disfigured, mutants). In normal society this is a bit unsettling, however given the right atmospheric circumstances it can be downright terrifying.
This creature of fakelore was initially created on June 10, 2009 in the Something Awful Forum by a user known as "Victor Surge". Like any moderately interesting idea it spread like wildfire through the internet, getting stranger and stranger as it proliferated.
A similar creature known as "The Silence" exists in the Doctor Who universe, which makes you forget you ever saw it as soon as you stop looking at it. This is also dressed in a black suit with almost a completely featureless face.
What About the Game?
Slender: The Eight Pages was first released in June 2012 for Microsoft Windows and Apple OS X. It's listed as a survival horror game, and is a pretty small download for broadband users (62 MB).
I had seen the reaction videos circulating around YouTube, seeing grown men whimper and cry as they begged for the nightmare to end. I enjoy scaring myself for some reason, and this looked like a fun little way to pass the time.
It was a quiet Thursday night. I was going to be alone in the house for a few hours and felt like doing something stupid. So I turned off all the lights in the house, fired up the game, and put my headphones on.
The goal of the game is to collect eight pages that are scattered about what appears to be a dilapidated summer camp in the middle of the woods. The game never explains why you have to do this, but it's apparent that your life depends on it. You're armed only with a flashlight, which gets weaker the longer you use it. You're most likely overweight, because you can't run for more than ten feet without getting out of breath.
Almost from the start I began to feel a growing sense of dread as I scoured the site for the missing pages, getting worse with each page collected. I realized that there was a large difference between watching someone else play this creepy game and playing it yourself.
Then I saw the Slender Man for the first time, and a shiver ran down my spine.
I had to run!
With every step I struggled to put as much distance as possible from this menacing well-dressed demon, however I knew that with every page found I was one step closer to my demise.
A terrible knot began to twist and turn in my stomach.
I knew that this was just a game, and there was nothing that could hurt me, but my body didn't seem to believe it.
I wanted this nightmare to end!
I thought of running to the Slender Man just to end it all, however my sense of survival kicked in and forced me to endure this torture as long as possible.
I didn't last long.
I only got five pages before I finally saw the static-filled screen of doom.
I vowed never again to play this game. Of course I broke that vow the very next day when I foolishly started the game back up again (I'm a glutton for punishment). However, this time it was going to be during the day, using speakers instead of headphones, and in a well-lit room.
Once again the sense of dread and anxiety came back almost immediately. It wasn't as strong as it was the night before, however it was still present.
Now this was rather baffling since I'm usually on top of things with all manner of fictional horror. I can watch just about any horror movie with no ill effects. I can casually stroll through a haunted house without batting an eye. I can play other survival horror games with nary a twitch.
What was it that got me all worked up with this ridiculously simple game?
I decided to test something out.
I turned the speakers off and... the anxiety was gone.
Apparently the spooky audio played a large part in the fear factor of the game. Of course the lack of audio severely limited my survival in the game as I was now missing the subtle audio cues to tip me off that the Slender Man was very close by. It also didn't help that I was watching a darkened screen while sitting in a well-lit room.
It's possible that the nice people at Parsec Productions, which I think was just Mark J. Hadley at the time, may have used infrasound. Infrasound is sound that is at a lower frequency than the human ear can detect (20 Hz). It is generally thought that using this low frequency audio can produce a sense of fear and uneasiness in humans, however the scientific evidence is still a bit fuzzy on that.
It's also possible that Mr. Hadley just knows how to put a good scary scene together.
So What's the Verdict?
This game is a rather terrifying survival horror game, which seems to accomplish the task quite well, so you're probably wondering why I only gave it three stars. Frankly, after a few rounds the gameplay gets a little old and repetitive. Granted, this is an experimental game designed purely to wet the lips of potential publishers.
If you're interested in playing Slender: The Eight Pages, and you don't have a heart condition, you can find a free download on Parsec Production's website in the link below.
They're soon releasing a retail version of the game with updated graphics, longer gameplay, and an actual story. While the game looks impressive I doubt I'm going to partake in this new version for the sole fact that the original game disturbed me quite a bit... okay I'll probably cave-in and buy the accursed thing and then kick myself for giving myself a heart attack.