Having always been attracted to the darker and more macabre side of history, as well as the world in general, it has been a common occurrence in my life to find myself awake at some ungodly hour of the night (or even morning) on ‘that’ part of the internet. You know, that place of dark stories and even darker CSS schemes. Populated by other anonymous souls all chiming in with various stories of terror and dread, amongst these tales few have related to videogames and it is a few of these that I am going to relate today. So buckle up and remember, there isn’t anything behind you…
Our first tale, one of the most well known and documented creepy locales in a game is the abandoned area under Karazhan in World of Warcraft. Still accessible today through glitching the unused crypts are an often visited reminder that the world of Warcraft might have once been a dark place.
Upon entering the crypt, you find yourself in a plain-looking room called ‘The Well of the Forgotten. To the far left of this room is the well of its namesake. Clearly inspired by the French Oubliette from the 14th century onwards, the oubliette (from the root oublier – to forget) was a dungeon accessible only from a hatch in the floor that lead into a room where prisoners were left to rot, simply forgotten.
The only way to continue on your journey is to jump down, the hole is too dark to see an end but naturally, being the ever intrepid adventurer, you take the plunge only to find your fall has been broken… by bones, and not your own.
The most famous room lies further through the labyrinthine structure, soon you will come to a flooded stairwell, the only way forward is down into the deep. Behold, the Upside-Down Sinners, bloated corpses chained and floating towards the surface they will never reach.
The most common speculation surrounding this area is that it was abandoned by the developers for fear of the gruesome nature pushing the game past a European 12+ rating. The fact that it is still there however, even after Cataclysm, which provided a more than ample opportunity to remove it, remains unanswered.
Our next tale takes us back to 1981. Somewhere in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon, mysterious arcade games called Polybius begun to appear. Developed by Sinneslochen (slightly incorrect german for sense-extinguishing), the game was known to cause symptoms from dizziness to amnesia and, according to some, suicidal tendencies.
The game was addictive. Queues formed and fights broke out over who was next in line to play. Arcades were visited by ‘men in black’, which lead many to believe that this was a test run for military hardware.
The game used a combination of what was at the time cutting edge graphics (vector graphics) and raster graphics and from rumours, incorporated many elements of optical illusion and psychedelia. Another common explanation for the game is that the cabinets were an early trial run of the Atari game Tempest, which had been known to trigger people with photosensitive epilepsy early in development.
Numerous re-creations of the game can be found on youtube as well as a downloadable ROM and box art on the Sinneslochen website.
Finally, a story of a mysterious Pokémon cartridge known only as Black, before the actual Pokémon Black for DS, a hacked copy of Pokémon Red with its own fairly unique features.
The game featured a fourth starter pokémon called Ghost. It used the sprite of the ghost pokémon found in Lavender Town before finding the Silph Scope, yet it was none of the known ghost type pokémon. It had only one move, curse.
When used, Curse caused the screen to cut black and a screech was heard. Upon returning to the battle, the pokémon was gone in addition to the slot it occupied on the trainer being empty. The implication being that you killed their pokémon. However, this is not the end. Upon beating the trainer and receiving your monetary reward, you were put into battle again with the option to run or use curse. If you use curse the game once again cuts to black before returning to the world, yet instead of the trainer you just fought there would only be a tombstone.
Of course, this insta-kill move made the game very easy and players raced through the game and quickly found their way to the Elite Four. Upon beating the Elite Four and seeing your pokémon enter the hall of fame, the screen cuts to black once more and says ‘Years later…’. You are in Lavender Town with your normal trainer sprite changed out for an old man, you have no Pokémon and the world is completely empty and devoid of NPCs. You can go back to Pallet Town and as soon as you go back to the very start, the game cuts to all the pokémon and trainers you used Curse on.
After this morbid montage, you too are put into a battle with Ghost, your only option, Struggle, hurts you whilst Ghost does nothing. Eventually Ghost will use Curse and the screen cuts to black indefinitely, forcing you to restart the game. However, upon reaching the menu you may only start a new game, with your save wiped to probably confer the death of your character.
There we have it, three tales of terror to keep you awake at night. True or false, there is no denying the unease felt by reading of these tales and if you didn’t feel that then you are clearly one hardy individual (or I suck at writing, I hope it’s the former though).
Until next time dear readers, muahahaha.