Recently lots and lots of youtube videos about creepy ARGs, analog horror and spooky games. I started watching SAO with my friend as a guilty pleasure/so bad its good watching and we have been having fun laughing together at silly writing. At the same time, I realize that this anime isn't as bad as I remember and I've been maybe a bit too harsh on it in the past.
I really like the form of ARG and analog horror, I find it incredibly comfy despite the dark subject matter. I often watch the series itself then I will watch a video explaining it to check if I missed any details or secrets I wouldn't be able to find otherwise (Like alternate accounts of creators where they post pictures and other stuff).
I really like White Stag Education, because my favourite Analog Horror series is Gemini Home Entertainment, and White Stag feels REALLY inspired by GHE. The style is incredibly similar, and although it uses a lot of generic tropes that started with GHE, I think it uses it very well and in some ways even more subtly than GHE did.
GHE uses a lot of "Video that starts as normal but quickly turns into creepy at third or fourth position", but while GHE was a bit more on the nose with it, White Stag still uses that trope but a bit more subtly? In GHE the footage would distort and become weird to the point where it is obvious that the work tries to creep you out. But in White Stag, this also does happen, but in a way that feels more realistic to something produced in the world of the series.
There is a moment where the first video gives us an acronym SAFE, which is supposed to keep us safe while hiking.
S stands for "Stay on the trails" and introduces the idea of "false trails", there is a moment where music cuts out while the video warns us that we will not return if we go on a false trail. The "YOU WILL NOT RETURN" is shown without music and in red writing. But afterwards, the video goes back to normal. This felt to me less as if the video was trying to shock me in some way, but as if the in-universe creators of the video were trying their best to make sure that we get the point. It didn't feel like some outside force was trying to make the video overly spooky, rather as if it was super important and they meant to give us a strong warning. Later on F turns to "Fear the forest" but it's also treated in a way as a safety tip rather something that was intentionaly made to be creepy.
I really like that about the series and think more analog horror series should do that. It really helps the immersion whenever they don't put their focus on shock value (even though the later videos still do it to some extent, but that's fine, it's a good trope) but on making the videos terrifying simply due to them feeling realistic in the world, and the implications of them being scary in themselves.
We don't need constant random jumpscares of spooky faces appearing whenever something creepy is supposed to happen like in FNAF VHS or the videos suddenly getting creepy and distorted. (White Stag did the jumpscare thing only once now) The implications can be scary on their own.
Still I love this medium and I want to see more interesting analog horror. If White Stag goes on to do more cool stuff it might become my favourite in stead of Gemini, or at least get close.