I followed the advice: play Slender at midnight wearing headphones. The psychologically troubling atmosphere and sheer tension my friends described was enough to excite anyone who thinks of the original Silent Hill as one of his favourite games.
I take a second to prepare myself, and I play, only to find a disappointly tame experience. Why?
The mythos behind such a character is terrifying. A tall individual in a suit with a featureless face, who has a nasty history of abducting and killing children (the short version of a long forum-built myth). Of course, plenty more interpretations of Slender Man exist, giving him tentacles, the ability to cause memory loss, paranoia, insomnia, coughing fits (nicknamed “slendersickness”), and teleportation powers. But the core idea that plays on the general consensus' fears of child vulnerability like a harp is always present.
That, however, is not the case with the more recent indie game adaptation. Granted, full appreciation for the creation of an atmosphere: more the creepy-esque 'walking around the woods at night' feeling rather than something with true fear instilled. The ominously minimal soundtrack that gradually builds the element of rush, the visually limited torch aids to the blindness of the situation, and a welcome addition of 'random' to the whereabouts of Slender Man on the map aid the experience for most.
However, an entire premise based upon a golden rule of 'not turning around' is one of little substance to me. It's only catching the player off-guard, utilised with loud sounds and misdirection. Simply put, it isn't actually scary. More an exercise of surprise than a piece of actual horror gaming.
So what happens now? This reminded me of a particular horror game, gazing back to 1996.
Resident Evil presented a game of horror that was to disrupt what had gone before with a satisfying dose of tense action never found before. But as quick as this was to achieve the many 'Game of The Year' accolades, the wool was removed from the eyes of those who had enjoyed the formulaic jump scares, as the world was introduced to Silent Hill.
Do not get me wrong, Resi is a fantastic game in its own right; but as Konami's survival horror effort introduced more psychologically scary through its finer subtleties, it brought a better horror game to the table. Not the most recent titles though, I am only counting SH 1,2 and 3 in this comparison.
This, to me, was an example of one game introducing the formula, and another perfecting it (at the time). Slender has introduced this formula, which people clearly seem to identify with and one that I can see promise in. Now we just need someone to perfect it. Please?
'Newspeak' is a weekly column written by the Editor-in-chief of New Rising Media. It is also the scarily ambiguous language used in Orwell's 'Nineteen Eighty-Four.' No real reason for this coincidence, so don't assume the worst of said writing and language ability based upon this choice of name.
I am the Founder and Editor-in-chief of New Rising Media. You can follow me on Twitter @MrJasonEngland.