The Slender Man game takes place in a virtual world of darkly forbidding, spooky places. For most players it’s just entertainment, but some go off the deep end.
Deep in the virtual realms of the Internet, a chilling figure lurks. Perhaps you’ve encountered him. With his featureless face, elongated limbs (and sometimes tentacles), and a penchant for haunting the shadows, the Slender Man has captured the imagination of millions of gamers around the world. And a few of those people may not have been able to distinguish between reality and fantasy.
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A Meme Leads to a Creepy Legend and an Immersive Game
Created by Eric “Victor Surge” Knudsen as a photoshopped image in 2009, the Slender Man quickly gained traction as a viral web meme, inspiring a plethora of stories, art, and a series of video games. In the game, players must navigate creepy locations, such as dark forests or abandoned locations, while avoiding the elusive Slender Man, who is said to warp reality and induce fear in those who encounter him.
But as the popularity of the Slender Man game has grown (along with other Internet obsessions such as The Elevator Game and The Backrooms), there have been a few disturbing cases of real-life crimes associated with its mythos. While the Slender Man game is primarily intended as a form of entertainment, the game’s immersive atmosphere, with its minimalist graphics and ambient sounds, can create an intense and unsettling experience. Some players have reported experiencing psychological distress after playing the game, including nightmares, anxiety, and paranoia.
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Has the Slender Man Myth Prompted Real Crimes?
More disturbingly, a handful of violent incidents may have been prompted by the Slender Man, with individuals claiming that the game or the lore surrounding it influenced their actions. Perhaps the most notable case occurred in 2014, when two young girls in Waukesha, Wisconsin, lured a classmate into a wooded area and stabbed her multiple times, claiming they were trying to mollify the Slender Man. Fortunately, the victim survived. But the incident brought attention to the game’s potential impact on vulnerable individuals – and may even have inspired other attacks.
Within weeks of the Wisconsin case, according to ABC News, a man in Las Vegas who had often dressed up in a Slender Man costume was accused by police of murdering two of their fellow officers before killing his wife and committing suicide. And also around the same time, a Hamilton County, Ohio, woman who had been attacked with a knife by her daughter blamed the incident on the Slender Man myth, saying her daughter had been obsessed by it and was even dressed like the character at the time of the attack.
Although they are rare, these incidents suggest to some that the game’s blurring of the distinction between real and unreal can have serious consequences. Some experts argue that various factors may contribute, such as preexisting mental health conditions, susceptibility to suggestion, and personal circumstances. Others say the risks are overblown and that the Slender Man legend is no more dangerous than stories of vampires and zombies.
So, is there anything to worry about? Maybe not. After all, it’s been years since there have been any widely reported incidents related to Slender Man. But still, you’d be wise to keep your eyes wide open and your head on straight when venturing into the darker realms of the Internet.