Slender: The Eight Pages versus Haunt. Who will win? Slenderman or Slenderman?
Horror is a concept which is difficult to define even among those who have written or presented horror their entire lives. John Carpenter said there are two types of horror stories. In one, a group of people are sitting around a campfire at night. A wiseman looks up from the flames and explains to them all that there is a great beast in the wilds. To survive, to be safe, they must best it. In the other, that same group of people are sitting at that same campfire. That same wiseman looks up from the flames and explains to them all that there is a great beast within themselves. To survive, to be safe, they must look within and best it.
Clive Barker also has two horror stories. In the first, the monster which everyone fears is alone. This is an objective universe which man rules, and that one monster is the aberration, the deviation from the status quo. It must be destroyed for man to re-establish supremacy over his domain. In the second horror story, the monster is a gateway. In discovering it, learning about it in detail, we learn that the world is not as it seems. What we know about the world is the merest fraction of a truth which extends into the darkness forever, and as we learn more we are pulled into that darkness. This is subjective horror.
What can be agreed on is that horror is slow. It must be given time to build, to form with aching suspense before your eyes and in your mind, so that the fullest implications of what you are experiencing can envelope you and tighten every muscle and send every nerve tingling with trace amounts of fear.
Doing this in an interactive medium like a video game is difficult. In a story, the survivors follow a linear form of logic which is made to look more random or hectic than it really is. In a game, the developer cannot account for all the ways a player might react in a given situation, and instead it is the player who must think like the developer rather than vice-versa.
Slender: The Eight Pages, while an independent free-to-play game, has gained significant notoriety as a horror game hitting well above its weight class since its release in June 2012. For those unfamiliar with the backstory, it draws upon the manmade myth of Slenderman, a pale, faceless creature in a black suit with tentacles that hunts, stalks, and kills children in woodland areas for its own ineffable purposes. The myth was generated in 2009 to the accompaniment of a series of chilling videos supposedly taken of teens and by teens who were being stalked over a period of months before finally disappearing without a trace.
The mystery, choice of prey, and sheer otherness of Slenderman calls to fears of the dark. It is essentially a modern day boogeyman which we can all understand but fail to overcome the chill down the spine engendered by thoughts of it.
In Slender: The Eight Pages, you are alone in the woods at night. You must navigate the forest and obtain eight pages before Slenderman can catch you. You have with you a rechargeable flashlight and can run, though your running is limited by your stamina bar. Using the flashlight attracts Slenderman in the first place, but it will also keep him from charging you at close range. With each page you collect, he chases you with greater intensity until, at the very last page, you must move at a dead sprint to keep ahead of him.
Because the mythos of Slenderman is not copyrighted, other developers are busy producing games similar to Slender: The Eight Pages. Haunt is the most prominent of those currently playable. Let’s see how they measure up.
- Goal: Tied. In The Eight Pages you are looking for eight pages placed randomly throughout the map while avoiding Slenderman. In Haunt you’re looking for twelve pages placed randomly throughout the map while avoiding Slenderman.
- Graphics: Point for Haunt. In The Eight Pages, the moon dimly illuminates the sky, the surrounding trees are nearly identical, Slenderman himself is angular and sometimes pixelated, your character’s arms are boxy, and the grass you run on is flat. In Haunt, the sky moves, it sometimes rains, the terrain is more varied, there are lots of different types of plants and trees, and everything presented is much more crisp.