This may come as a surprise to many of you, but I love horror! Even when I was a kid I loved watching horror movies, much to my mom's frustration, as she'd be the one who had to get me to fall asleep later.  To get my horror fix I have a 'Fright Night' once a month with my good friend and fellow horror lover, Tiffany, where we watch scary movies and play horror games to our hearts content. Margaret and Lisa tried to join us once, but never came back after we watched "The Audition." Look that film up if you dare! Now way back in 2012, Tiffany came over sans any movie and asked if we could use my computer. I thought we'd be reading creepy stories or something, but instead I was introduced to a little game called "Slender: The Eight Pages." We each took turns playing as an unfortunate soul who has to wander through a creepy forest collecting eight pages that warn you of its dangerous inhabitant, Slenderman. This antagonist is a tall, slender (duh), faceless humanoid that seems to know when and where you've collected all the pages, becoming stronger and faster with each one, and he'll stalk you until there's simply no escaping him. Seeing him in all of his suited glory, even at a distance, amongst the trees was more than enough to send a chill down your spine and send you running the other way.
Slenderman
He'll steal your soul but not before showing you insurance plans.
Even with his effectiveness as a monster, the mechanics of the game were different from what the public was used to. It was easy enough so that casual gamers could play, making it very accessible, and while most games would give you some kind of weapon or way to defend yourself this game gives you nothing but a flashlight. It's also widely believed that you play a little kid because everything in the forest seems bigger, making the player feel vulnerable and heightening their senses, so that even a pin drop could make them scream. The game was scary, fun, and engaging enough that I figured it would probably be popular, but I truly had no idea. While you could easily find Slenderman in creepypastas and memes everywhere online, before 'Eight Pages' was released, after the game's release, he truly ruled the Internet. After the success of the first game, many sequels were released, one of which really kicked off a worldwide discussion of the mythos behind Slenderman. In "Slender: The Arrival" the gameplay becomes more vast as your task is not just to collect pages, but figure out what happened to your friend, Kate. The story that unfolds isn't unlike many of the ones you can find floating around online where kids go missing, and adults who catch glimpses of him begin to go insane. It's even unclear as to whether he kills his victims, turns them into something else, or even sends them into different dimensions.

Despite just being a solid game, the main source of Slender's fame came from the video-sharing site, Youtube. Because of the games' accessibility, use of atmosphere, and occasional jump scares, it became the go-to source for amusing reactions from people who happened to record themselves while playing. Even well known 'Let's Players' like Pewdiepie and TobyTurner got in on the action and spawned hundreds, if not thousands, of copycats. Let's face it, no matter how good of a person you think you are, you know that seeing people get scared and scream is hilarious. Think I'm wrong? I've got billions upon billions of video views to back this up.
Scared People
Admit it, you could watch this all day.
After the crowning success of Slender, hundreds of other games came up out of the woodwork promising to scare the living crap out of its players. It was (and still is) a beautiful thing, really. Aspiring game designers became inspired to use gaming engines to show their craft through the horror genre. In order for any horror game to stand out it needs to use visuals, sound, game playability and story elements to be successful and immerse whomever is playing it. Only the truly talented saw there games reach the YouTube limelight and it was because they used all of the above elements in new and creative ways, but none of them were able to reach the same level of stardom or public consciousness like Slender did. That is until some genius named Scott Cawthorn used a fear every kid has known since the early 80s and made it into something that has given millions of people sleepless nights.
freddyfazbears
What kid would find this entertaining and fun???
One fateful 'Fright Night,' it was my turn to introduce Tiffany to a game: "Five Nights at Freddy's." In this game you are a security guard working the nightshift at a fictional restaurant similar to a Chuck E. Cheese or the past Circus Pizza called 'Freddy Fazbear's Pizza'. It's your first night and you get a voicemail from your boss explaining the job to you. Everything sounds normal until he mentions that the animatronic animals on the stage wander around the place at night and will stuff you into an animatronic suit filled with wires and rebar if they see you. You're fixed to the one spot at your security desk, giving you limited perspective and making it impossible to escape. Even worse, you have a limited amount of power available to you, power that controls the cameras, lights and doors that are your only protection. Each night becomes more intense as the figures become more active and new characters like 'Foxy the Pirate' and 'Golden Freddy' keep you on your toes. At the end of the week you get nothing but a pathetic paycheck and a sense of dread about coming back to work.
PictureA-are you being serious right now?!
Once again, the games' method of leaving the player practically defenseless made the game stand out only this time the player is expected to notice patterns and develop a strategy for conserving their power and staying alive all five nights. And, like "Eight Pages," the game is easy to pick up and play for anyone. One other very important thing that "Five Nights at Freddy's" and "Slender..." managed to do, was create a mythos behind their game. We learn bits of information about the backstory of the restaurant itself in the first installment of "FIve Nights at Freddy's" but in "Five Nights 2 "an intriguing, if not disturbing, backstory begins to unfold strongly suggesting child abduction and murder by a mysterious 'Purple Man'. Until the release of the 3rd game, forums and comments sections were constantly ablaze with theories and speculations over what exactly happened at Fazbear's Pizza.

FazbeargangCreating nightmare fuel since 1984.
Very recently, the third and last (possibly) part of the game trilogy was released. All of the stories were finally explained and Internet nerds everywhere pumped their fists in the air after finding out their theory was correct. But what impressed me the most was the feeling that I got after finishing the final installment. I won't spoil the ending of the game for you, but by the end you feel as though you've really just solved a decades long mystery and have brought peace to the souls of the murdered children, as silly as that seems. You're suddenly able to see the overarching story as a whole and realize just how sad and tragic it really is, but you still feel as though you've accomplished your role in the story. At that moment, I realized that I had somehow become incredibly invested and emotional over a horror game about walking animatronics. That's what made this game stand out among the others. The creator gave it a heart and soul, if you will. You're given a reason to care, and continue to care throughout the entire trilogy. This is very refreshing and a huge improvement from what the horror medium has been making in recent years. Too often it's about having tons of jump scares, being the most disturbing, or having the most gore. But all of these things in themselves are dull and uncreative and will be quickly forgotten.

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Yawn.
Hopefully, "Five Nights at Freddy's" will inspire a mess of new games and projects that take risks, push boundaries, and make us all enjoy the journey to the end. And please, for the love of God, Scott Cawthorn, keep making games!

What are your favorite horror games and what makes them stand out? What do you hope to see in the future of horror games?
For information on the games mentioned in this post, please use the links below.

Slenderman: The Eight Pages

Five Nights at Freddy's

 
 
So, "Fifty Shades of Grey" came out recently, and to no one's surprise, made ALL the money. I've seen pictures of people lined up and around the block in front of multiplexes so that they can say they've watched softcore porn in a conventional movie theater. I could say that society is corrupt, and that we all have an unhealthy obsession with sex, but then I'd just be voicing the opinion of pretty much everyone.
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Except for these people.
By the way, this is not going to be a 'Shades of Grey' post. It's not a review, because I haven't seen it and don't plan to. It's not a rant about it, because, frankly, the problems with 'Gray' are apparent (or should be) even to the massive loads of women who went to see it. But, I started noticing a lot of hate directed towards something related to the film that I really don't think deserves it.

For those of you unfamiliar with its' humble beginnings, "Fifty Shades of Grey" was originally an episodic series titled "Master Of The Universe" that was published on fan fiction websites.
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That would be interesting...
It featured characters named after Edward Cullen and Bella Swan from the oh-so-popular "Twilight" saga. But, due to too many people complaining about the sexual nature of the story, it was later removed from aforementioned websites. After the purge, the defiant author re-named the characters and re-posted it on her own website, FiftyShades.com
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Twilight already had enough problems on that front.
Soon, the author, E.L. James, developed her stories into a three-part book series and took down her content from the site in order for them to get published and become the phenomenon that we all know today.

This is actually an amazing feat if you think about it. For ANY fanfic to become a book series, let alone a movie, is very impressive, and means that James deserves some recognition for at least knowing how to market her work to the masses. Fanfic is rarely taken seriously; even before it became mainstream, other fans saw it as creepy or even an affront to the creations that they loved. To most people (both geek and otherwise), fanfic makes one think of unoriginal stories, written by someone with very little talent, who simply wants to live vicariously through the characters they write.

From personal experience, I'd have to say that the amount of bad fanfic greatly outweighs the good. When you let thousands of people have free reign on anything artistic, stupidity is bound to sprout up like weeds. You need examples of this? Well, glad you asked. One, we're talking problems with basic grammar and spelling that oftentimes, makes the story incomprehensible.  Two, there's also a general lack of knowledge by writers of how characters would act in any given situation. Three, the term 'Mary Sue.' It's a term for an original character inserted into an established group of characters from popular works of entertainment that is usually just the authors putting themselves into the story as wish fulfillment.

Fourth, and this one gets the crown, the worst thing about fanfic, is the sex scenes. Now, I'll be the first to admit that I've crushed on characters that don't really exist (made a list about it, in fact). But people, there are better and far less creepier ways to express your attraction. When you've got tags on your fanfic like 'torture', 'genderswap', 'Mpreg', 'male lactation', 'interspecies romance', and 'walmart' your story shouldn't see the light of day!
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Freud would have a field day with your fanfic. I think he's reading it here.
Believe it or not, there's also fanfics so bad that they become famous such as "My Immortal" and "Half Life: Full Consequences'"for similar reasons why films like "The Room" and "Birdemic" have such huge cult followings. They're known as 'badfics' and have become something of a meme on the internets. There are countless Tumblr pages, blogs, and websites such as "Godawful FanFiction Archive" or "Citizens Against Bad Slash" that are devoted to showcasing every horribly hilarious 'badfic' there is to find. I could and have spent hours laughing my rear end off at the unintended humor these poor authors have put their heart and soul into (Warning: Many of the posts on these websites are sexually confusing).
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Comedy...
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gold!
It's pretty clear as to why fanfiction would be a writing medium that very few people take seriously.

All of that being said; one of my dear friends, Tiffany, is an avid fanfic writer. She has accounts on most major fanfic websites and even has a pen name she's known by. She's told me many times that she writes these stories because... well, she just can't help it. She'll get to thinking about one of her favorite movies or TV shows, then her brain goes on a million tangents, and suddenly she thinks of a pretty cool story. It's not so much about whether or not someone reads it, but more about getting it out of her system, and exploring her fandom in a way she never would normally.

By the way, her stories are not like the ones I described earlier. She does what a lot of my favorite stories do, which is: Stay interesting and more importantly, stay classy! What does that mean? It means staying true to the original source material. How? Well, one way is by taking stories we all know and love and telling them through the perspectives of supporting characters. Or writing a story that quickly explores a quiet moment with a beloved protagonist. Yet another way would be to take a thread of a story that's only hinted at in the original material and expand on it until your imagination is satisfied.

Many fanfic authors consider their stories to be a compliment to the original creators. This makes sense in a way, but then we have to talk about whether or not taking someone else's intellectual property and making it your own is morally sound. Original authors have had mixed reactions to fanfic, from loving it, to outright loathing people who write it. Your own opinion may depend on whether you are open-minded, or a fan purist. I personally don't have a stance on it and getting into a debate is not something I intend to have happen on this blog. I WILL say that regardless of how professional writers feel, it's become a trend, at least in Hollywood. Look at all of the remakes, prequels, and sequels being made. They just announced that they're going to make a female version of Ghostbusters, for Pete's sake! 'Gender-bending' is a constant in the fanfic world.
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Male Ariel (c) Sakimichan. You can see more at: http://sakimichan.deviantart.com/
Ultimately, fanfic isn't for everyone. Many people are content with the original works and that's fine. But keep in mind that in every bin filled with sex-filled or grammar-botched 'badfics,' there's one gem of a story written by someone who put their heart, time, and talent into sharing it with the rest of the world. If there's one thing we should hope for in the world of fanfic, it's that THAT kind of a story gets published, and not more overrated garbage.