The Slender Man Effect

With the recent release of Slender: The Arrival, the ‘sequel’ to the worldwide phenomenon that was Slender: The Eight Pages, players can dive back into the gaming experience which has inspired numerous clones, inspired many upcoming titles and has become a worldwide phenomenon, with the faceless, lanky, suited up man becoming synonymous with horror.

Why is this so? How did a character such as Slender, become such an icon and one that people fear? Why is it that many recent and upcoming horror games seem to have looked to Slender as the blueprints to follow? Why is the mythos of Slender so big and varied? And why is it that we’ll only see a rise in these kind of characters and games? If I don’t fall prey to Slender before I’m able to finish this article, these questions will try to be answered.

Slender Man Artwork 1

Maybe some questions were never meant to be answered…

Origins

Slender began as the result of a photoshop contest on the Something Awful forums, which began on the 8th of June 2009. The aim of this contest was to photoshop ordinary looking photos into disturbing and creepy ones, then pass them off as authentic to paranormal sites.  Two days later, a user by the name of Victor Surge unknowingly gave birth to a future phenomenon. Slender Man was born.

Two pictures were uploaded each with there own fabricated accounts, which still to this day, if you think of the pages and countless mythos that has been written, all share similarities with the original work. This normally follows writing which never fully references Slender, simply implying his existence, concerning disappearances and his stalking of his ‘victims’ bringing forth a very strong sense of paranoia. Below are the first two original photos with their accounts;

“We didn’t want to go, we didn’t want to kill them, but its persistent silence and outstretched arms horrified and comforted us at the same time…” – 1983, photographer unknown, presumed dead.

“We didn’t want to go, we didn’t want to kill them, but its persistent silence and outstretched arms horrified and comforted us at the same time…” – 1983, photographer unknown, presumed dead.

One of two recovered photographs from the Stirling City Library blaze. Notable for being taken the day which fourteen children vanished and for what is referred to as “The Slender Man”. Deformities cited as film defects by officials. Fire at library occurred one week later. Actual photograph confiscated as evidence. – 1986, photographer: Mary Thomas, missing since June 13th, 1986.

One of two recovered photographs from the Stirling City Library blaze. Notable for being taken the day which fourteen children vanished and for what is referred to as “The Slender Man”. Deformities cited as film defects by officials. Fire at library occurred one week later. Actual photograph confiscated as evidence. – 1986, photographer: Mary Thomas, missing since June 13th, 1986.

This soon developed into people coming up with stories themselves concerning Slender Man, a being nobody understands what he truly is and his motives. Due to the minimal information surrounding Slender, a great mythos has been easily developed, people enabled by the fact that any theories and speculation on Slender cannot be classified under right or wrong, if anything they add more to the mythos and will develop over time, so is the mystery surrounding the character which everyone embraces and doesn’t try to explain deeply, as is the case with most other video game horror characters or monsters.

Some examples of the mythos developing and becoming basis for future entertainment on Slender, involve the origin of the character being in Germany, originating from (fabricated) folklore that concerned a boogeyman called Der GroBmann. Slender also used to be designed, especially the early fan art as having also tentacles which has died down now to his present design or the fact that he can control people’s minds. Other theories such as how and why he hunts people down develop over time across the many blogs, forum threads and youtube videos, the most famous of which is Marble Hornets, which has since earned the youtubers invitations to write for Slender: The Arrival as well as a movie adaption from the director of Bad Teacher that will commence filming this spring.

But without trying to spoil the mythos too much, the inspiration of the character has possibly been linked to an adventure game series titled Chyzo Mythos, in which one of the main villains shares many similarities with Slender, such as the height, a blank face and although not a suit, similar looking clothes.

Slender Effect 02

So Slender started to grow, with more and more people throughout the web starting to stumble upon or read on the Slender mythos but to make that leap that would enable Slender to break it through to the top of horror and internet, Slender Man would have to wait patiently like no time before, for three years. Then on the 26th June 2012, quite at first as he as always done, Slender (later with the added subtitle The Eight Pages) came onto the scene.

He could be right behind you, right now...

He could be right behind you, right now…

The Arrival

So during a summers day last year, me and my brother stumbled upon a horror game that had been released on the 26th of June. At the time the popularity and awareness hadn’t fully taken off, though many were starting to take note of this game and spreading the word around.

So we quickly download the file and that night we began to play Slender. So simple was the game on the surface, I mean all we had to do was venture through a forest and find eight pages before this Slender Man found us and we were confident with a flashlight and stamina this game would probably be entertaining though nothing much more. So we clicked play and we were plunged into the forest.

Slender Effect 02

:O

And we were terrified.

The darkness, the instrumentals only kicking in after you pick up the first page which steadily grew in intensity, the intense atmosphere that made you want the game to finish as quickly as possible, the landmarks which made the hairs on the back of our necks stand on end (who never cursed having to venture inside the dreaded bathrooms?) as well as Slender’s following animation (for those of you unfamilar with this, click here.) And of course the lanky man who at the mere sight of him had us panicking and run as fast and far away from him as we could, as the camera and sound started playing static.

So we realised after just how different this game was after playing it, for whereas a lot of games either had you confronting the enemy or running away from multiple monsters, this game had no explanation at all just simply stay away from Slender. The premise worked and soon after a snowball effect started as people started posting reactions on Youtube, started doing playthroughs and people were instantly hooked as that summer for gamers, you’d had to have been living under a rock not to have heard about this new game.

I think the fact that once you found out that this whole experience and game was nothing more than a demo, created by the readily available Unity engine and due to the creator at the time not able to produce a full title, made many gamers and developers realise something. That the route taken by Slender was something many of them could do, such minimal play if executed correctly could work to terrify people and draw them to download your game.

So soon after a wave of Slender Man clones started to flood the internet, where the games revolved around one pursuer and having to retrieve certain items, with game such as White Noise, Stalked, Haunt, The Wanderer, My Diary, Erie, 7th Street, Forest  and though some of these titles were good, others were downright bad.

The static that consumes your vision and audio distortion remain sacred in games that follow the Slender mechanics.

The static that consumes your vision and audio distortion remain sacred in games that follow the Slender mechanics.

Now there was a risk the whole Slender would burn out and though there are still many upcoming titles clearly inspired by Slender, they’re aiming to move away from these clones, developing their own mythos around a whole new character or/and trying to diversify gameplay so it isn’t only collecting a certain amount of objects. And thus a new sub-genre of gaming horror was definitely brought to life; the Stalker. Having one entity, unbeatable, who for reasons unknown will pursue you until you finish an objective.

So Slender has brought an unexpected impact onto the horror market along with influecning games many games with its ominous character, which will inspire many more in the future and be what many people refer to when creating their horror games. You ask why? Click on page 2 to descend deeper into the world of Slender…

Once he chooses his victim, he will forever follow them until...the inevitable...

Once he chooses his victim, he will forever follow them until…the inevitable happens…

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