How do you find out what ‘text’ is popular among the youth? I asked my daughter, a 13 year old high-schooler, ”What books do you see other kids reading at school?”
“They don’t really read anything”, was her answer. So what do they do instead of reading? ”They play ‘Slender’ …. but I don’t!!!!” Ok, now I was intrigued.
Her description was that the game began when you enter a forest with only a flash light, looking to collect eight notes without coming across the Slender Man. The goal of this game sounded simple enough and even though I was still looking for popular ‘written’ texts, I wondered if there was a story behind this game. While exploring this, I found a whole web of textual genres based around the Slender Man character without having to download the game.
The game is based on the creation of the meme ‘Slender Man’, a shadowy character, slender in appearance, sometimes dressed in a suit, sometimes showing multiple limbs. He lurks about in the forest shrouded in mist and turns people insane if they come across him. The story goes on to say that children who have nightmares about Slender Man are carried away by him the next day. The character was created for a contest at the ‘Something Awful Forums’. This game is dark and its intent is horror. It seems to validate the premise that ‘Goth’ culture is enduring.
What a great example of the production of texts within a Goth gaming culture. Here the online members have used ‘convergence’ of folklore genre, historical paintings and woodcuts from the 15th Century and even Egyptian hieroglyphics to (re)create digital evidence for their wikis, blogs, youtube and dedicated websites about the ‘Slender Man’. They have produced ‘mockumentaries’, narratives, historical academic folklore sites, forums and podcasts around the character. They ‘remix’ and ‘mash’ their research to include shadowy backgrounds and shapes in old and new photos and use historical references to people and places. The followers have also created digital media texts in which they reference sightings and personal experiences in order to keep up the continuity of his existence. The production of this digital media builds the background and credibility of the character so as to make him ‘real’, and therefore the game even more frightening. This makes these digital texts very important in promoting and engaging participants in the game.
I was fascinated by the plethora of material and quality of (some) productions of digital text by this online community. It also brings to mind Johnson’s (2005) article “Everything Bad is Good for You” in regard to the complexity and skills required for the construction of these texts. But to what end? Is it to frighten the pants off themselves!?? As Rizzo (2008) writes, ‘exhibition, shock and sensationalism become everyday events’. Participants film the reactions of players and upload these to blogs and youtubes. Students at my daughter’s school apparently also do this. Perhaps it is, that they get more enjoyment out of watching others’ reactions to the game, rather than actually playing it themselves.
If I had just ‘happened’ upon this on the internet, I would have bypassed it. But as 13 year old kids are playing it at high school and my two older (20 and 22 year old) children also know about it, I would suggest perhaps it is a hidden ‘popular Goth culture’ relying on a variety of textual features and genres that have become part of the game.
And no…I will NOT be playing the game. Look for yourself, if you dare.