Scary Games for Kids (Creepy!) [2010s]

Before Tiktok, before Fortnite, before anything else that our our Generation Z siblings got super into that is hard for me to understand, came the rise of scary games.

It’s not that I don’t understand horror video games or creepypastas for anything like that. It’s just that the culture surrounding them, the fandom and shipping and overall obsession, baffles me completely.

Scary games for kids, which absolutely exploded throughout the 2010s, are really the first true evidence of a generational gap between Millennial and Generation Z, and I don’t think it has been explored nearly enough so far.

Creepypasta

First, right at the start of the decade, came the game Slender and the creepypasta Ben Drowned. Both of them were based on internet concepts that had proliferated throughout the 00s—Slenderman from the Marble Hornets series and Ben Drowned from various 4chan “lost episode” creepypastas—but they finally came into mainstream in the early 2010s, for reasons I honestly don’t quite follow. I think I’m too old for it all.

Slender is a bit easier to follow. People watched Let’s Players, back when that was a new concept, get really scared by the game, and so they played it themselves. And since the game was free, that meant anyone could play it really easily. Good on Mark J. Hadley for making such a successful game. Ben Drowned, on the other hand, was a pretty creepy fake video game experience related to a popular game, but it didn’t exist as any sort of interactive experience (at the time); it was just a story. How that one broke out so far is beyond me.

scary game zelda ben drowned
scary marble hornets fandom

After these two, everything just kept going and going, with scary games becoming so popular that entire Youtuber careers have been based around playing whatever obscure horror thing pops up next.

But something happened that marked a massive shift, and kind of sudden from what I recall: it became… cute?

Scary Games and Kids

Scary games became popular with kids. Like, really, REALLY popular. Everywhere you looked on internet spaces for teens (and younger kids pretending to be teens), you saw it. Wattpad, Youtube, Amino Apps, Tumblr… There was so much horror fandomry. And it turned into something very different than anyone could have expected.

Of course, Japan had been churning out this type of creepy, dark, spooky stuff for a long while. In the 00s specifically, we had tons of SUPER SCARY creepy animes like Future Diary, Higurashi, Another, and more. A lot of those types of shows became even more popular once the 10s rolled around, and I suspect they had a very large influence on the development of scary games throughout the 10s.

scary anime

They were made for teens to be creepy renditions of what was normally considered cute at the time. And that philosophy carried right over to the scary games tradition to come in the West!

scary games fnaf

Five Nights at Freddy’s is the big one; it absolutely exploded out of nowhere and became a franchise so big they planned a movie adaptation at one point. It helped that the creator cranked out entry after entry to milk it to oblivion and hook the “game theory” types, but this series hit hard and attracted young’uns in droves.

Not too long after, the onslaught truly began, and it hasn’t slowed down since.

Scary Games: The Decade

scary games baldi

I could list scary games and creepy games that became popular with kids all day. You had Sonic.EXE (and all other .EXE things to follow); you had Baldi’s Basics and Bendy and the Ink Machine; you had Doki Doki Literature Club and Hello Neighbor… Even Undertale itself had a heavy impact thanks to its cute-yet-scary factor.

scary games undertale

I’d even lump stuff like Homestuck and Gravity Falls in here as well, even if they aren’t games. Because at least from my searches, these pop up in the same circles where stuff like “DON’T CALL JEFF THE KILLER AT 3AM” proliferates. But it’s definitely video games that dominate in the horror category.

Kids just eat scary games up! And I don’t get it!

scary games youtube

It’s something so far away from my personal experiences… And yet, I feel obligated to mention it, because how important a slice of fandom history it has become in the 2010s.

Generation Z has fully embraced a love for creepy media that is still safe enough to get cute fanart. And it’s something that most Millennials simply won’t understand, I think.

Why do young teens develop crushes on fictional murderers? Why do they want a Yandere in their life? I don’t know! And I accept that.

scary games doki doki

One More Scary Game

As an addendum, there is something I kinda like in the realm of horror game stuff, and that’s the Petscop video series about a fake Playstation game:

I’ve never watched enough of it and paid enough attention to know the scary parts, but I really love the art style, so at least there’s that.

I also adore the surrealist satirical creepypasta stylings that Arcane Kids give their games, especially their version of Bubsy 3D. Unsettling for humor’s sake.

Sadly, these attempts, despite millions of views/players, do not appear to have ever taken root for younger audiences. Fitting, probably.

scary wattpad

More internet culture articles here! I recommend the article on Super Mario Bros. Z. Fandom is weird!

Also, I have a bunch of extra images I saved for this article that didn’t appear in the article proper, so I am dumping them below…

scary games jeff
scary anime
scary games funny
scary games crossover
scary games baldi
scary games baldi
hello neighbor
bendy
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anime watermark

The Internet is Not Permanent [2010s]

They say what you post will last forever, but it’s not true: the internet is not permanent.

It’s weird when I think back to the fact that a large portion of my youth has been erased. Only scattered archive.org snapshots and faded memories remain.

Well, I understand that for generations past, this is pretty normal stuff. You grow up. Your life changes. Then there isn’t much frame of reference for your younger years except when you meet people who lived it too. But it’s all the opposite of what they said back when the internet age first started: everything you posted was supposed to be an everlasting marker that you’d live to regret.

We’ve already seen Millennial politicians like Jon Ossoff and Beto O’Rourke have their youths exposed on the campaign trail thanks to the internet, so the maxim seems to prove true as long as there’s paid sleuths out there on the trail. But for everyone else? It’s not so easy, and depending on where you frequented your time as a kid, it could be next to impossible. As for me…

The Internet is Not Permanent

I’ve spent so much of my time on internet forums that I can’t count the number of posts I’ve made over the past fifteen years on the internet. Even now, where forums are a relic of the past, if a website has a forum, I tend to end up browsing idly. It’s a curse.

It’s also the main culprit behind my teenage years fading into the ether.

The Nintendo City forums were my home base for the internet, the main site I used every single day for all of middle school and half of high school. Fifteen thousand posts or more… and then in 2011 it was shut down, never to reemerge.

I also used a site called Megabots.net with an internet friend called Gamemanner1234 or something like that. It was a replacement for Nintendo City due to forum drama, and also hosted fun webcomics. The site went down around 2009 or 2010 and I have not a clue where anyone from that site went. Every other Nintendo City-adjacent site disappeared, as well.

As you may know, I was a prolific sprite comic maker when I was in middle and high school. But you probably don’t know that I lost basically everything after two hard drive crashes, one in 2008 and another in 2013. The CDs and floppy drives (seriously) where I had stuff backed up did not prove enough, so most of my work is lost… except what’s already posted to the internet. But image hosting sites are slowly dying, too. Tinypic was deleted. Photobucket is a husk of a website, and Smackjeeves, where most of my remaining comics are hosted, is teetering on the edge.

That’s just my early teenage years, though.

Later On

I eventually found my way into the Homestuck fandom, where the forums were the central hub of activity for all fans. That one got taken down in 2016 after a big hack. It’s better preserved than the others, but I can’t imagine it’s got most of the thousands of posts I made in my years there.

Even my very odd usage of Miiverse as a bored college student is gone now except for archive websites. And holy crap, Nintendo is the king of destroying stuff I liked when I was young— The Wii, Wii U, and 3DS have had almost all their online services shut down, never to return. (RIP Swapnote.)

Newgrounds still exists, but Flash support is ending on most browsers soon. Most of the movies and games I enjoyed will no longer exist in their original form (until there is a Flash emulator, I guess). My favorite Youtube Poops and romantic anime AMVs were all erased from Youtube after the copyright overlords took over.

Basically every forum I used, every flash game I played, every image I hosted, is gone now, or soon will be.

What, Then?

It’a probably okay, but it hurts me as an obsessive archivist to see so much of my past erased, even if a lot of it is cringe-worthy teenage histrionics. Milennials were the first generation to have the majority of their life on the internet. And thus, the first generation to see their cultural memories simply wiped out unexpectedly.

Sure, we have more records of our past than ever before. Past generations will surely be jealous of all that. But our media is gone.

Unlike my teenage years of the late 00s and early 10s, my early childhood is mostly intact. All the Nintendo 64 games and VHS tapes are still around. Even the absolute most obscure failed cartoon pilot can be easily viewed on Youtube today. I can still read the books I liked just like any other moment.

There’s tons of lost media from the 90s and even more in the 80s, 70s, and beyond, but it feels like so much of what I experienced as a child has been very well-preserved.

But as far as my teenage years go, there’s massive gaps that may never be recovered.

So far I feel like people who have grown up since the advent of social media may not be facing this just yet. Social media like Facebook and Twitter and Instagram have all kept their archives strong for well over a decade with no sign of massive data losses to come. But as with everything on the internet, I can’t imagine that lasting forever. Because nothing is as permanent as it seems on the world wide web.

Want to read more 2010s Retrospectives? I talk about how the late 00s affected my life in the 10s in this post here, and I also reflect on my internet past disappearing in this Netflix-related post.

YOLO, Shutter Shades, and Rapid Pop Culture Shifts [2012]

Man… pop culture has changed a lot since the YOLO Swag days.

LMFAO was a big deal. Shutter shades actually existed. Jersey Shore was a big deal.

American culture was, for a brief period, transfixed strongly on the obnoxious spray tan Miami beach white rapper excess aesthetic. It was the most ridiculous period ever.

Or was it?

Was this whole cultural period ever embraced with any true sincerity? Or was it all done with a sense of irony and silliness?

Continue reading “YOLO, Shutter Shades, and Rapid Pop Culture Shifts [2012]”

The Poison of Easy Research – My First Smartphone [2011]

I received my first smartphone in July of 2011. Everything changed.

My family had just received a large windfall of money from the government, so I got a top-of-the-line LG Revolution (it was pretty bad) and got a hand-me-down car after I passed my driver’s test shortly afterwards. In just a couple weeks’ time, my whole life had changed. But only in retrospect do I realize that.

It’s flabbergasting to think that, ten years ago, smartphones were not actually that popular yet, and the technology was still in its infancy with slow 3G speeds and clunky apps. My first experience with a smartphone blew me away. The touchscreen responded fluidly; websites loaded in mobile form most of the time and when they didn’t it was easy to zoom and fix; there were so many arcade-y games, all for free! I could message friends instantly on the go without typing for ten minutes to get a 15-word sentence.

What mattered most to me, though, was the fact that I could look up anything I wanted, wherever I wanted. The world’s encyclopedias encapsulated in a small square that fit in my pocket.

Really, here in 2020 it feels like a different era. When have I ever been without the ability to access almost any information or contact almost any person? Aside from intentionally avoiding the internet, the only other time I’ve felt this way was a month in Japan as an exchange student, where public wi-fi was rare and I didn’t get a hotspot until later.

But back in 2011, it opened my eyes to a brand-new life I only thought possible in science fiction movies.

Continue reading “The Poison of Easy Research – My First Smartphone [2011]”

McKay’s, Cheap DVDs, and My Path to Becoming a Film Lover [2013-2015]

For decades of my life, Mckay’s (also known as McKay Used Books & CDs) was my home away from home. The best spot in all of Chattanooga, Tennessee.

It looks like recently they finally added that ‘s to the name after years of everyone mistakenly adding the ‘s anyway. Wow, massive change by the people really is possible.

For as long as I can remember, the bulk of my entertainment goods came from this store, a place that sells books, comics, video games, music, board games, figurines, and practically everything you can think of that qualifies as vaguely nerdy. The vast majority of my books came from either McKay’s or the Scholastic Book Fair, and it was mostly the former anyway.

First, It Was Video Games

Continue reading “McKay’s, Cheap DVDs, and My Path to Becoming a Film Lover [2013-2015]”

Walt: In Memory of My 1987 Oldsmobile [2013-2018]

This post is dedicated to Walt, my second car. (A 1987 Cutlass Ciera Oldsmobile, if you wanted to know.)

The History of Walt: My Oldsmobile

My first car was some 2001 Nissan Spectra or something like that. Nothing special, just a very old car with a billion miles on it and the kind of thing a poor kid gets when they get their license and the family really needs them to be able to run errands.

But after a couple years, it was clear that we didn’t have enough vehicles at home. My grandfather had a van to use, my mother had a car to use, and I had a car to use, but my father bounced between vehicles and didn’t end up having one for a while.

This led to Walt.

A 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera in the year 2013…

Continue reading “Walt: In Memory of My 1987 Oldsmobile [2013-2018]”

One Year of 2010s Retrospectives

It’s been an entire year since I first started the 2010s Retrospectives Series. There’s already been nearly 70 different posts in that time, covering topics as varied as my teenage histrionics, to queer representation in media, to the web fiction community, to Jeb! Bush, to bizarre internet urban legends.

I hope you’ve enjoyed them so far!

I certainly didn’t expect for the series to last as long as it did. But I kept getting more and more ideas for posts, and I wanted to share my reflections with the world. We sure did a lot of stuff in the 2010s, and I think shining a spotlight on all of it will help us chart a new path through the 2020s.

Of course, 2020 in particular has been… a very climactic year… and there will be a lot of pieces to pick up. With pop culture decimated, our political system ruined, and a global pandemic, things will absolutely change. And that’s why I think reflecting back on these pre-2020 times is more important than ever.

Even though my 2010s Retrospectives don’t bring in very many readers, I still want to write a few more big posts. I want to create a patchwork of memories that help paint a picture of the entire decade. Maybe that sounds a bit hokey and over-ambitious, but I want to try!

My new goal is to finish by December 31st. Maybe a few stragglers will pop up in 2021, but hopefully this will wrap up soon.

So, stick around a bit longer, and subscribe by e-mail, and I’ll make sure to keep writing. There’s bound to be a few more good blogs in here somewhere!

(Also, there’s only a week before election day in the United States. If you’re an American, please vote!!!!)

The Ever-Present Life of the Monogatari Series [2009-2019]

Okay, including the Monogatari series in my 2010s Retrospectives is kinda cheating, since the books started in 2006 and the anime started in 2009. But it was a phenomenal success that shaped the entire anime industry throughout the 2010s. And it’s worth mentioning when we look back at the decade. It was REALLY influential!

The premise of the entire series is simple: Characters’ mental illnesses manifest in supernatural form. And each story plays like a weird teen mystery novel.

Simple, but ripe for a billion entries in this extremely long series.

(Extremely long and extremely strange to follow through: Use this reading/viewing order to make sure you don’t miss anything!)

Continue reading “The Ever-Present Life of the Monogatari Series [2009-2019]”

Content Creators I Stopped Following [2010s]

There are a lot of web content creators I used to follow. Back when I was younger and had more time to devote to passively keeping up with internet celebrities and pop culture websites and all of that. With declining free time and increasing standards, there are several places and people I followed quite regularly that I’ve completely abandoned over the last ten years.

Here’s a few of them, and you might notice a common theme…

Continue reading “Content Creators I Stopped Following [2010s]”

Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Alita Battle Angel [2019]

Alita: Battle Angel rules.

It’s a great movie! The story is ridiculously silly and moves along at an exhausting pace as it attempts to cram twelve TV episodes’ worth of content into two hours. The world is gorgeous and textured, while the action sequences are top-notch. And Alita herself is one of my favorite action movie protagonists in a long time! It may be hard to keep up with sometimes, but Alita is absolutely worth your time.

The movie ended up losing money at the box office, but it performed at a best-case scenario for a February release for a non-franchise film. $400 million worldwide isn’t good enough for a film that cost $175 million to produce, but it’s a success story nonetheless.

The movie is re-releasing in U.S. theaters very soon, on October 30th, and I really hope you’ll go watch or rewatch it. It’s a great film for the big screen and every extra ticket sold will help its legacy.

However…

The internet doesn’t let us have nice things anymore. We can’t just have a good movie that tries its best and gets remembered fondly.

Continue reading “Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Alita Battle Angel [2019]”