The Death of Gaming Urban Legends

How the Internet has made it difficult for games to contain secrets.

By Anthony Pershkin. Posted 05/21/2014 09:00 3 Comments     ShareThis

Back in the NES days, I never had enough pocket money to buy games on my own. Sometimes my father helped me with purchases at our local games store, but he was a busy man and not very supportive of my “childish” hobby. In the end, the only available option I had to get new stuff was to borrow games from my neighbors who, fortunately enough, also happened to be big gamers. Anthony Jr. was about nine years old back then and they were five years older. Compared to my neighbors, I was just a stupid little kid who believed everything he was being told. Naturally, this led to them telling me all sorts of crazy stories, like that there is a third playable character in Contra or a machine gun in The Legend of Zelda. Looking back, they certainly were not very creative with their lies. Some of the stories they took from gaming magazines, and those were actual urban legends. I still remember the day I had finally learned the truth about how blowing into the cartridge actually damages it. That one blew Anthony Jr.’s mind (no pun intended).

A lot has changed since those innocent days of not knowing anything. The industry has expanded immensely and the Internet has changed the flow of information. Back in the old days, it was extremely difficult to bring together the whole of gaming culture. Various gaming magazines tried their best, but in the end, gamers were still separate elements of one giant structure. The most common source of information was another human being. Like a game of “broken phone,” urban legends were constantly changing from person to person, depending on how well the first person heard the story and so forth. Gaming magazines covered some of them, but the majority were left entirely to your imagination. Gamers had no way of knowing what was true and what wasn’t, so all that mattered was your ability to believe and a sense of adventure.

Nowadays, urban legends in their purest form are mostly extinct due to our never-ending ability to do research with the help of the Internet. Interactions between all elements of gaming are much easier now. Both developers and gamers have become more vocal. Thanks to such services like Twitter, there is an actual dialog between the two groups. And some developers find it perfectly normal to share some of their games’ secrets with the masses. Besides that, like I already mentioned, the industry evolved into something more complex and serious. So, even the interviews with development teams have become more common, and just more elaborate and in-depth, focusing on many different subjects. There are even Internet shows that are dedicated exclusively to analyzing various gaming mysteries.

Of course, urban legends are not gone completely. Like the industry itself, they evolved into something else. We recently covered the phenomenon of creepypastas. Some of them are scary, some of them are unintentionally hilarious, and some of them go on to become games. I’m sure everybody has heard of a fancy-dressed creeper known as Slender Man. Two very popular PC horror games starring this character are actually based on various creepypasta stories. There are also a lot of creepypastas revolving around cursed versions of classic games like Super Mario World. My favorite of these is The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask’s Ben Drowned story, which, like the other creepypastas, would’ve worked so much better back in the N64 days. Seeing it now, it is painfully obvious that Ben Drowned is completely fake, but if I’d heard about this story years ago, I would’ve lost a good night’s sleep for a long time.

The other form urban legends now take on is retro game interpretations. The aforementioned Majora’s Mask is quite a mysterious game on its own, but fans decided to take things a little bit farther with the “Link is dead” theory. It takes a look at how various events and names of locations in the game all hint towardsone bone-chilling conclusion: Majora’s Mask is a story of Link accepting death. I have to say this theory fascinates me to this day, because of how everything in it actually makes sense in the context of the game.

Times are constantly changing and some things are destined to be left behind. Urban legends in their original form are mostly gone, but some parts of them still continues to exist. The Internet is an enormous step forward. It gave us a lot of great things, but it also took away some of our sense of wonder and mystery. I can’t say I miss those days very much, but sometimes I think that, perhaps, ignorance is bliss indeed.

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