Spine-chilling creepy-pasta game creator Mark J. Hadley talks to Steven Balbirnie about his game Slender
It’s the middle of the night and you’re alone in a dark forest carrying nothing more than a flashlight; after walking around for a while you find a note pinned to a tree, scrawled on it are the words “Always watches. No eyes.” All of a sudden you get the feeling that there’s someone behind you. You know you shouldn’t turn around but you just have to.
Welcome to Slender, a free-to-play horror game from Parsec Productions. Slender has exploded across the internet with YouTube alone inundated with reaction videos to this tense horror. The game’s developer, Mark J. Hadley has been surprised by how his creation has become such a viral hit; “Honestly, it feels very strange having the game get a lot of attention like this. On one hand, I think it’s great that people are enjoying it, but on the other hand, now I’m obligated to finish it as best as I possibly can. I’m trying to approach this carefully and not let it become too overwhelming.”
Slender is very much a product of modern influences; its antagonist, the Slender Man, having originated on an internet forum, before becoming a meme. Hadley explains that his reasons for drawing upon the Slender Man mythos were because “I liked the general idea of the character, and I had recently been watching a lot of Marble Hornets (a video series on YouTube based after the Slender Man), so I felt like I wanted to try making a game with him. A lot of Marble Hornets’ influence is seen in Slender.”
When asked about other influences, Hadley replies that “I got inspiration from games like Amnesia: The Dark Descent, which puts the player in a helpless situation. I like the idea of not being able to fight back, because it adds more dread and makes even the stretches of time where nothing is happening feel scary.”
The game itself is quite straightforward, lasting roughly ten minutes, the player must collect eight scattered notes while evading the ever-present threat of the sinister Slender Man. Despite this simplicity Slender is a truly terrifying experience; this is due to several reasons according to Hadley, not least the game’s unpredictable nature; “I include a lot of random elements in the game; the Slender Man’s movement appearances are not scripted and are extremely difficult to predict.”
As in all horror, regardless of the medium, other important elements are pacing and atmosphere, as Hadley explains; “I didn’t want to have the jump scares be the primary element of scaring the player; I feel that if you don’t have a good amount of suspense before the jump scare, it becomes worthless. As I’ve told many people, startling is not the same as scaring. Lastly, the audio in general plays a strong part; ambient sounds are there to draw you in, and while music normally provides a lot of atmosphere as well, I kept the music somewhat minimalist so that it wouldn’t draw your attention away from the game itself.”
With Slender riding high on a wave of publicity, Otwo asks Hadley what plans he has for the future of Parsec Productions. “I would like first of all to get some help from more professional game programmers and artists to make a more professional version of Slender. People have also mentioned that they want to see multiplayer in the game; while I do not believe it would fit with Slender’s ‘one person alone in the woods’ setting, I wouldn’t mind developing a new game from scratch specifically targeted as a multiplayer game (though I would make it a unique setting, not with the Slender Man again).” Whatever Hadley decides to do next, he can rest assured that he has contributed an integral chapter to the ongoing Slender Man story, and terrified people all over the world in the process.
If you haven’t played Slender yet you can download it for free from http://www.parsecproductions.net/slender/