the artistry and psychology of gaming


Slender: The Eight Pages

Slender: The Eight Pages

Welcome to Gaming on the House; don’t look down and and mind your step! Each week, we’ll be climbing the rooftops of the gaming industry to seek out great experiences that everyone can track down and play, and the best part is they’ll all be free! That’s right; FREE! Gratis. Comp’d. Unbound. Unrestricted. Zero-down. On the House!… we talk about free games here, is my point.

Many may be surprised at how many fantastic games are really out there that everyone can legally enjoy with no monetary commitment. Taking together all the flash and browser games, freeware downloads from the independent scene, speed programming archives, free-to-play business modules, and even promotional re-releases from big name publishers, there’s a never ending supply of great games new and old waiting to be played, and it’s our goal to play them all! So, if you’re strapped for cash or just waiting around for that next big release to hit retail, why not give these games a try? After all, they’re free; what have you got to lose!

The festival of Samhain is upon us, I hope you’ve taken the time to carve your turnips! As we continue on towards the “darker half” of this year, this month, Gaming on the House will be carving our own lanterns in remembrance of a few projects that honor the guising, the bogeys, and the arcane divination associated with the impending annual habitudes, lest we be caught puling like a beggar at Hallowmas.

That’s a fancy way of saying we’re talking about horror games all October.

Slender: The Eight Pages

Adding a subtitle cost the game $20

Genre: First Person Evasion
Link to Game:
Game Info: Demon spawn of Something Awful, first released in June 2012 by Parsec Productions as Slender; current version (0.9.7) released in September 2012.

For this review, I’m not going to bother with restating the “Slender Man” origins and mythos that has spawned countless artworks, videos, creepypastas, and internet obsessions since it began in 2009. The reason for this is that while Slender‘s attachment to the meme is both well thought out and implemented, it has little to do with the game’s quality, or an understanding of the actions required within. If you are familiar with the meme, then you will find plenty to like, but if not, the game may still be worth your time. For the uninitiated, it may appear that Slender has all the trappings of an “inside baseball” sort of experience, however those that make the jump into the game’s forest without first familiarizing themselves with the lore will soon find that you don’t need to understand who (or what) is chasing you to realize that it’s probably time to run.

Within Slender, you are dropped inside a fenced-in forest at night with only a camera and a flashlight at your disposal, tasked with tracking down 8 mysterious pages (spread across the map, and randomized with each playthrough). Controls are minimal, you can turn the light on and off, walk around, zoom in and out, and sprint for a limited time. Your initial steps in the forest may seem somewhat boring, as it may take a while to find any points of interest, and you’re only subject to the normal sounds of the night; crickets, perhaps an occasional wolf, and your own footsteps. All of that changes once you locate and pick up your first page, when you begin to hear the loud footsteps of your aggressor, the Slender Man, who has now been let loose on the map.

If you’d prefer playing the game without knowing exactly what to expect, then it’s probably best if you stop reading now. The game takes about 10 minutes to play, and despite its limited gameplay, it still provides a thrilling experience with it’s shocking sounds and visuals. As I said before, it’s worth a shot even if you don’t know the mythos. The rest of this article will be discussing how, and more to the point, why the game works.

Ironically, the new face of horror has no face at all!

Slender is a bit different than most games where the player is being pursued by an aggressive force. Unlike Clock Tower‘s Scissorman who taunts the player’s psyche with a game of hide and seek, or Berzerk‘s Evil Otto, who relentlessly pushes the player to keep moving, The Slender Man remains motionless on screen, and can’t be seen chasing after you. Instead, his appearances in the game are algorhythmic, spawning in available locations near the player, typically out of initial sight. This allows Slender the ability to appear unexpectedly, and even overtake the player on occassion (leading to several tense realizations that you were actually running towards him at some points). His movement is actually most similar to Dr. Watson in the PC game Sherlock Holmes: Nemesis (which used the mechanic as a cheap substitute for a walking animation), only Slender Man is far more sinister. The mere sight of him is a drain on your character’s sanity to which if he remains on screen for too long, or if he remains too close to your character’s position, your game is over. That means, that when you see the Slender Man, you are required to turn and run. The fact that this should be your first instinct anyway only adds to the dramatics.

By the way, if you stand still, back to a wall, thinking that if you don’t turn your head you’ll never see the Slender Man, he will eventually spawn right in front of you. I tried it, hoping it would happen, and was still startled when it actually did.

Upon picking up the first page, the initial spawn radius between the Slender Man and the player is fairly long, however as the player picks up more pages, that radius is reduced, leading to more frequent Slender Man sightings. Significantly adding to the escalation of terror within the game is the audio, which gets louder and more terrifying with every odd numbered page collected. Certain Slender Man sightings (I’m not entirely sure if this is prompted by proximity, or by how much of the Slender Man appears on screen) are also coupled with loud audio eruptions which help enforce the intended jump scare. In addition to your character’s sanity/health meter, there are also a few more hidden meters that work against the player; the maximum distance your character can run without becoming winded will go down if overused, and your flashlight will dim over time. All in all, there’s a lot working against you when trying to pick up those 8 stupid pages, and it effectively works to keep you moving for the realization that your time and full abilities are limited.

This won’t end well

Even the world itself proves disorienting, which further encourages the Slender Man Encounters. With continued play, players learn to treat rounding corners with caution, and throughout the woods and with each of the points of interest (natural and man-made structures where pages are likely to be found) you will need to turn the camera quite a bit, risking a chance encounter with the Slender Man in the process. The most diabolical of these is the building area, where suddenly instead of loose trees, you are surrounded by walls, with three or four hard directional turns and dead ends, each one having the potential for a close-proximity sighting. Actual studies have also shown how people tend to walk through the woods in unintended circles without any sunlight to guide them, and this phenomenon manages to present itself here as well; several times I found myself appearing at an area I had thought I just left, and when I tried to reorient myself, guess who was there waiting.

With such a minimal character moveset and game concept, it’s impressive just how well Slender is able to hold one’s attention. To summarize, the game is really nothing more than an advanced version of that schoolyard game where someone makes a circle with their thumb and index finger, and tries to get you to look at it; the difference being instead of getting a punch in the arm, you get psychological trauma from a hellspawn demon with no face and a tacky suit. Through a successful combination of setting, audio, and a bit of applied mathematics, the game is designed to elicit sudden physical and psychological reactions from the player that are both intended and required to continue on, which is perhaps why the game has found an audience on Youtube for a few fantastic player reaction videos. At first glance, Slender is an oddly terrifying experience like few others, but even after many attempts, and a deeper understanding of what to expect, Slender may still surprise you.

One Comment

  1. In my experience after you pick up the fifth page he’s ALWAYS behind you and turning back means instant death.

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