Survival horror Summer Camp is now Friday the 13th: The Game

Gun Media’s Slasher Vol. 1: Summer Camp was Friday the 13th in everything but name. A survival horror set in a teen-counseled summer camp called Camp Forrest Green (a wink to Friday the 13th Part VI) stalked by a psychotic killer, it couldn’t scream Voorhees louder, which is exactly how its creators envisioned it. “We grew up worshipping Friday the 13th,” Ronnie Hobbs, Co-Founder and Producer at Gun, told GamesRadar+ in a recent interview. “You can only wait so long for the video game industry to create something you’ve always wanted to play… so that was definitely an internal driving force.”

That part of Summer Camp’s story is familiar: fans of a beloved work put their hearts and funds into creating a spiritual successor to it, scrubbed of names and anything with a hard copyright, filling a gap they see in the original. Usually, the story ends there. But Summer Camp’s tale has a twist that, for its creators, is equal parts astounding and terrifying.

“We never dreamed the F13 team would catch wind of the project and reach out to us,” said Hobbs. “But that’s exactly what happened.” After Summer Camp was first announced in late 2014, Sean Cunningham, creator of Friday the 13th and fan of the young project, approached the Gun team with a deal to die for. “Cunningham loved what we were doing, and after dozens of phone calls over the course of two months, he surprisingly offered us the F13 video game license,” said Hobbs. “Sean’s a brilliant man, so he definitely wanted to get to know us and not make a snap judgment before gifting us this license. Lucky for us, he loved what we were doing.” And so Summer Camp has become what it always wanted to be: Friday the 13th: The Game.

By and large, the basic concept of the game hasn’t changed: it’ll still be an asymmetrical horror title, where a group of player-controlled counselors try to escape a psychopathic killer. What has changed, however, is that the pressure to get everything right is on. “Friday the 13th is everywhere really, and there are millions of fans that are up on it all,” said Randy Greenback, Executive Producer on the new title. “That love for the franchise that the fans have, it carries a lot of weight with us.”

Naturally, making sure that everything about the game feels authentically Friday means a lot of extra time and focus on detail, increasing the scope of the project (and the workload for developers) several times virtually overnight. “The scope increase really comes down to all the extra content that we need to account for from the history of the entire franchise across multiple mediums, and needing to represent it all in the most accurate ways possible,” said Greenback. “We’re pouring through the films frame by frame, studying the camp and cabin layouts, and we’re watching behind the scenes footage all the time to nail the details fans expect.”

Not only does becoming an official licensed product add several times as much scrutiny to the project and create much greater consequences if it fails (as Greenback puts it, the opportunity to “wing it” on things like location design and character construction are out the window), but this particular interpretation brings it own unique set of challenges too. Here we have a game where players really have a chance to outsmart an archetypal masked serial killer (who is fully human and therefore not mentally hampered by the limits of coding), as most slasher fans expect they can after a myriad movie viewings. That part of the game has to be spot on, or everything about the experience is going to fall apart. Plus, given the struggles faced by asymmetrical games when it comes to player balance (like the tragically fated Evolve), the folks at Gun aren’t allowing themselves much room for error.

That’s a big burden to take on just for a name change, and ultimately, it would probably be easier to stick with the original, looser Summer Camp idea. But the folks at Gun Media aren’t look for easy – when an opportunity to work on the series that inspired them in the first place knocked at their door (however ominously), saying no never crossed their minds. “You have to remember, both myself and [Co-Creator] Wes Keltner grew up idolizing Friday the 13th,” says Hobbs. “For Sean Cunningham to personally reach out and validate our work on Summer Camp was the highest honor to us…Friday the 13th is absolutely unique, and no game up this point has truly captured the basic essence of the films – one killer versus multiple victims. I know Sean Cunningham personally always wanted to create another Friday the 13th game, but the lack of a unique idea and technology shortcomings ultimately delayed that…I think it was perfect timing.” As frightening as the possibility of failure would be to anyone in the Gun team’s position, and as far as the drop might be, their passion for the product means that there really is no choice. Just like in any good horror movie, they have to at least make a run for it.

Now it seems, the team’s most daunting challenge is getting the money the project needs. “Unfortunately, just because we have the license doesn’t necessarily mean bags of money came with it,” said Hobbs. “The video game license is separate from the film rights, which explains why we haven’t seen a F13 video game since 1989. So that’s where Kickstarter comes in.” That Kickstarter is now officially open for business, and will run until November 13th.

Though the fundraiser that could determine Friday the 13th: The Game’s future is just getting underway, this group of Voorhees fanatics knows that you never slow down or look back, and are “firing on all cylinders” according to Greenbeck. Plus, they know the most important rule of any and all things horror: stick together. “With Kickstarter, we’re all in this together now. The fans, the devs, and the talent from the films. Trust us… it’s an honor to be making this game. We fear fucking it up because we respect the IP, the original creators, and the fans. It’s a healthy fear, and it’s driving us to give our all every day. Jason is unleashed now, we’re all having a blast in the playtests and we can’t wait to show off gameplay down the road.” I think I might be as excited as I am terrified.

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