In 2012 the indie-video game release Slender: The Eight Pages became an instant hit and cult classic. This simple video game tasks players to walks around a dark forest collecting eight pages all while avoiding the monstrous Slender Man who is always getting closer. The game is a tense horror experience that delivers an atmosphere and game play that is dripping with fear. With a little adaptation, this video game can be brought to life. Churches tend to have a building layout that is ideal for playing this game. I have over fifteen years of experience in youth ministry, and this is easily the most popular youth group game I have ever led. It is also a game that serves as a perfect experiential illustration for leading a discussion on fear.
How to Play
Ideally this is a game that will be played over the entire church and it will be played in the dark. This game is best with nine to twenty students. Before the game begins, care should be taken to prep the building. Things like vases on end tables should be moved, as should folding chairs that people might trip over. If there are any areas that will be off limits such as storage closets, A/V areas, baptismal area, or other sensitive areas of the church it should be locked or clearly marked as off limits.
Next within the areas of the church that the game will be played eight pieces of paper should be hidden. These pieces of paper need to be clearly labeled with a one through eight. They should be hidden in plain sight but not too obvious. Under pews, behind doors, and in dark corners are good places to put the paper. One room in the church, preferably a room that is not centrally located, should be designated as the starting room. This is the only room where the lights should remain on.
The final aspect of preparation is a leader or volunteer needs to be Slender Man. It is strongly recommended this person be a leader and adult as opposed to a student. The person playing Slender Man should have a costume clearly designating them as such. We tend to use a grim reaper costume robe, but any costume that is black and stands out as someone to avoid is recommended. The person playing Slender Man should begin the game hiding somewhere in the church.
All of the students playing the game should begin in the starting room. Their goal is to find the eight pages throughout the church and return them to the starting room. If they do this then they win. If at any point in the game Slender Man tags them, then they are eliminated from the game. Anyone who is eliminated must go back to the starting room and wait for the game to end. Before the game begins, adult leaders should also explain the boundaries of the game. Once everyone understands how to play they are released from the starting room to go and find the eight pages.
The key to the game’s success is dependent upon the person playing Slender Man. The goal of Slender Man is not to win by eliminating the students. The goal of Slender Man is to scare. The person playing Slender Man should hide around corners or sneak up behind people to tag them. When spotted Slender Man should not always chase the students down, but sometimes should. In this way the students will never quite be sure how much danger of losing they are in.
Slowly but surely, students should be eliminated as a few pages are found. Rarely do we play the game to completion, and we tend to end the game after a time of twenty to thirty minutes. At this point a half to two thirds of the students should have been eliminated. We often allow time to play two or three times.
Much like a scary movie or a haunted house, one of the reasons why this game is so appealing to students is because it allows them to experience fear, tension, and being scared in a safe environment. The students are in no real danger, but since they do not want to be eliminated the prospect of slender man being around the dark corner does create real feelings of fear. This makes the game the perfect experience to set up a biblical based discussion about fear.
First, the game should be debriefed and the students should be allowed to express the ways they found the game scary or the ways they were frightened. Often this becomes a great time of storytelling as the students tell how “Slender Man” caught them. This can then lead to a much deeper discussion of what people are afraid of, and students can be challenged to define what fear is. Out of this discussion it should come out that fear is our assumption of the worst given space to exist, it is our doubts given voice, and it is the complete victory of the unknown.
With fear defined, the leaders should turn to what the scripture says about fear. Specifically the bible states: “Do not be afraid.” This phrase appears in the bible time and time again. Students can be given scriptures to look up such as Isaiah 41:10, Psalm 27:1, 1 John 4:18, and John 14:27.
It should be asked of the students why the bible has such large emphasis on not being afraid. As part of this discussion it should be pointed out that faith is the opposite of fear. Faith defeats fear because faith is being certain of what we hope for, fear is being certain of uncertainty. Faith defeats fear because faith is based in trusting God, fear is based in trusting nothing. Faith defeats fear because faith is based in confidence, fear is based in doubt.
To conclude this time of discussion it should be pointed that in the end we should not give ourselves over to fear because God is with us. If your group uses worship music then the contemporary worship song “Whom Shall I Fear” makes for a great closing.