If you’re a parent, you may not have been aware of the popularity of first-person, horror-themed game apps among tweens and teens until the news report about two Wisconsin girls, aged 12 and 13, who attempted to murder another girl. The girls, now under arrest and awaiting trial, have said they did it to please “Slender Man,” a fictional horror game app character whom the girls had come to believe was real.
While these two girls were obviously highly impressionable and may be suffering from mental or emotional problems, it’s an incident that points up the necessity for parents to keep themselves informed about the games, books, movies, TV shows and other media their kids are seeing and using.
Slender Man is a very popular app series in which the player walks/runs through various landscapes and settings to avoid being captured by the Slender Man. Slender Man is a ghostly, unnaturally tall and thin humanoid figure with no facial features who wears a suit and seems to always appear just at the edges of the player’s field of vision.
Another horror game app series that’s become very popular with tweens and teens is Five Nights at Freddy’s. In this game, the player takes on the role of nighttime security guard at a family fun center similar to Chuck E. Cheese.
As the title of the game implies, the goal is to survive five nights’ duty without being captured by the fun center’s costumed, animatronic characters, which appear to be haunted and murderous. The player monitors a bank of security cameras, and at times may have to leave the security desk to investigate a disturbance. However, the power supply is limited so the player can’t simply turn on all the lights: once the power is used up for the night, the player is doomed to be caught by the animatronic characters he can no longer see coming for him.
Probably Okay For Most Teens, Probably Not For Tweens & Under
There’s no graphic gore or violence in Slender Man (though there are blood stains in the backgrounds of some game graphics); when the player is “caught”, Slender Man’s featureless face flashes momentarily and then the screen simply fades to black. In Five Nights at Freddy’s the caught player is attacked by animatronic characters, but it’s not bloody/gory and is nothing worse than you might find in a PG-13 horror movie.
However, both of these series rely heavily on “jump” scares, where something appears suddenly, usually out of the darkness, to grab or startle the player’s character. Since that character is played in first-person Point-Of-View, it’s like the player himself is being grabbed or startled. Both series also do a very good job of creating a scary environment and creepy tone throughout.
Because of the psychological fright factor, these games are not appropriate for children who are prone to nightmares, regardless of their ages. They’re also not appropriate for kids who are very impressionable or who have a very active imagination, like those Wisconsin girls.
But for older teens who no longer believe in monsters under the bed and the like, these games can provide a harmless scare, much the same as a PG-13 horror film might.