Slender and its Influence on YouTube Horror

Back in 2009, Something Awful user Eric Knudsen created the creepypasta character Slender Man via a competition in which users had to create “paranormal images” using Photoshop. He added a tall, thin, faceless man to some black and white pictures of children and added snippets of text suggesting their abduction and death.

Now, Slender Man has spawned a (very bad) movie and many, many video games and stories. I’d like to focus on the game Slender: The Eight Pages, an indie horror game based on the Slender Man story. The premise is simple: you are stranded in a forest at night, and you have to collect all eight notes whilst avoiding being caught by the Slender Man.

As you collect the notes, the Slender Man appears more often, and when he enters the player’s vision he is accompanied by a loud slamming noise and static which grows in intensity if the player is caught, which also causes a game over.

Slender could be considered one of the most popular horror games of all time despite its low production value and status as an indie game. Back in 2012, Pewdiepie– at the time the most popular YouTuber on the platform, and without a doubt the most popular gaming channel– started a Let’s Play series of the title, and his over the top reactions to the game’s jump scares went viral, with the first video in the series garnering over 13 million views.

The title’s first-person viewpoint and chase sequences could be related to games with much larger budgets such as Alien: Isolation, with games such as Amnesia: The Dark Descent being comparable in their viral nature.

Although The Eight Pages had a sequel and various similar titles released, the Five Nights at Freddy’s series is more notable in recent years. Jump scares in this series have gone similarly viral to Slender’s, but it has been said in the past that the FNAF series was essentially bait for these sorts of videos to be made. Regardless, the series is incredibly successful, with four titles being released in 2014 and 2015 alone, and an eighth title being set to release for the PS5 sometime in 2021.

What do you think about games like Slender and Five Nights at Freddy’s? Are they just bait for viral videos? Have you played them?


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Jack Oxford

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October 2021
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