Author Archive
Digital
Legends
Narrative

Purge the Legendary Pokemon

1:

The Pokemon video game franchise has a long history of fan-circulated legends and hoaxes. One such hoax was created during the 4th Generation of Pokemon games, utilizing Pokemon Diamond for Nintendo DS. A false pokemon named Purge, whose graphics did not resemble anything close to any other Pokemon found in the game, was featured in a number of videos on Youtube. These videos purported the existence of Purge as well as building on the lore of how to obtain it.

2:

The Informant was an avid Pokemon player in primary school, as was her twin brother. The two would watch a large number of videos on Youtube about secret/fake Pokemon and try to use their instructions in order to unlock the secret Pokemon for their selves. The Informant said that she and her brother also talked to other children on the playground about these hoaxes (as though they were not hoaxes). One such way that they discussed how to obtain Purge was to “evolve a Bidoof in a specific way on some particular route, and you have to be holding a specific item”. She identified Purge as being the Fake Pokemon that she was the most invested in.

3:

This tradition in particular is founded in Internet Culture because of the nature of sharing screen recordings of the supposed gameplay. Doctored screenshots and gameplay footage being shared across epistemic groups have the ability to spread like wildfire, and the members of those groups are supposedly people who deeply enjoy the popularity they receive from the group that they belong to (in this case, the fanbase of the Pokemon video game franchise). When the informant was voraciously consuming this sort of content, she was still in primary school and had enough free time to spend hours on investigating digital legends.

Digital
Legends
Narrative

紅衣小女孩 | Red-Shirted Girl in the Mountain

1:

When people travel through the mountains (台中風動石, a mountain whose name the Informant tells me loosely translates to “Wind Moving Rock”), they will sometimes see a little girl dressed in red. If she begins to follow you, “bad things happen”. The Informant goes on to suggest “maybe the girl will possess you”, and explains that “you have to say other people’s names or you will be possessed until you die”.

2:

The little girl is believed to be a “Mountain Spirit” which has transferred their self into a little girl, wearing red. One family, between 1999 and 2000, went up to this mountain and recorded videos of their family walking through the trail in a line. When they reviewed the footage, they saw that there was a girl in the line of family members who was not a part of their family. She stands out because of the red she is wearing. One of the family members ended up dying afterwards, and the video was given to a TV Station in order to broadcast it. The Informant stated that “some people say that it’s maybe because the resolution of the video is too low” and implied that the presence of the girl was just a visual aberration due to the VHS-era technology it had been recorded on.

The story was made into a movie in 2015 called “The Tag-Along”.

3:

The elements of Nature Spirits being mixed with technology (VHS cameras, potentially capturing the existence of such a spirit) is interesting in that it creates a mystical story related to the cultural heritage and geographic identity of Taiwan that can still be recorded and distributed via the then-40-year-old infrastructure of television stations.

Proverbs

Religious Proverb

1:

“A person without religion is like a dog without a bone.”

2:

The informant was told this proverb by his great-grandmother, who also believed that dogs did not go to Heaven because they did not have souls.

3:

This seems to be a highly-religious proverb in that it extolls the human need for religion. Dogs are known to deeply enjoy bones, and be far happier when chewing on one. As such, this proverb is implying that people are happier when they have religion than when they do not have religion.

Folk Beliefs
Legends

Gravity Hill Near Echo Mountain

1:

A “Gravity Hill” is a popular occurrence across California: a hill with a downward slope that, due to its surroundings, appears to be an upward slope. Because of this, cars are able to slowly roll down the hill and appear as though they are being pulled uphill. It has been said that at one such hill near Echo Mountain, if you cover the back of your car in powder and leave it for some amount of time and come back, you will find small childrens’ handprints left behind in the powder on your car.

2:

The informant began by talking about Echo Mountain and the lore surrounding it, of which much is distressing and and some is true. The Jet Propulsion Lab nearby had, she insisted she had confirmed, employed “some bigwig” who was also the leader of a satanic cult. Anything that follows, she acted as though was pure speculation.

In some of the camping trails in Altadena, the satanic cult which the bigwig led would meet and perform animal sacrifices. Somewhere nearby there was a mansion at the base of one of the Altadena Camping Trails which was supposedly the hose to local KKK meetings. It is near this mansion, “on the same street”, that the gravity hill is.

3:

A gravity hill on its own doesn’t require much explanation, as it is simply an optical illusion. The added element of “invisible children are pushing your car” is what interested me the most about this urban legend. I think the intention is to imply that the children are ghosts, which would line up with the number of uncomfortable stories floating around about the area in which the gravity hill can be found. This would be very easy to disprove, so I think it probably exists more as a joke which stemmed from the reputation of the area.

Childhood
Customs
Material

Fairy Houses

1:

Wherever there are open spaces in trees, such as stumps or open knots, a “Fairy House” can be built. Fairy Houses are collections of leaves, rocks, twigs, crystals, beads, and anything else that can be fashioned into things resembling furniture and treasure. The goal of these assemblages is to attract fairyfolk into one’s local park or garden.

2:

While the informant was in elementary school in Pasadena, CA, children would go outside into a playground area for lunch. While outside, children were informed by teachers of the idea of “Fairy Houses” as well as how to build them. When she went home and asked her parents about these structures , they confirmed and reinforced what she had been taught on the playground. While interviewing this informant, one of our mutual friends overheard this story and chimed in to confirm that she had also participated in this tradition in Mississippi. The informant went on to explain that the Fairy Houses would often only last for 1-3 days, her theory was that students from other lunch periods may have gone around dismantling them.

3:

This tradition seems to me to promote creativity as well as exploration in children. As opposed to climbing trees, which could potentially harm the trees, the building of Fairy Houses does not appear to do any harm to the tree or stump. The construction of furniture and collection of enticing objects, like crystals or beads, also feels similar to the way that young girls learn to arrange home decor using doll houses. It instills from an early age that shiny, colorful things are desirable.

Digital
Game

Don’t Drink and Drive

1:

This drinking game is played using any game from the Mario Kart franchise. A race is setup that contains only human players, no computer players. All players begin with a full drink (most frequently a glass bottle of beer). Before a player crosses the finish line of the race, their drink must be completely finished. The main obstacle to this, however, is that players may only drink while they are pulled over to the side of the road and completely stopped-in-place.

2:

The informant has played this game with friends in the past. He says that there are two main strategies that people tend to employ, either chugging the entire drink at the beginning of the race, or chugging the entire drink at the end of the race. He believes that stopping to drink more than once during a race would lead to too much wasted time over the course of the entire race.

3:

Mario Kart has been a staple of Nintendo game consoles for decades, and it makes sense that college kids would mix a party game they grew up with and had a “muscle-memory” sort of ability to play it with alcohol. The colorful graphics and clear iconography of Mario Kart are pleasant and readable, which are also highly important to someone who is more-than-buzzed. Because Mario Kart also famously “rubberbands” players who are falling behind by giving them powerful items, the game is rewarding and fun to players who are playing poorly as well as players who are playing well.

Digital
Game

Drunkey Ball

1:

This is a drinking game that is played at parties around USC utilizing a gamecube game, Super Monkeyball 2. All players take an individual turn trying to complete a level (Super Monkeyball 2 is a game about a monkey inside of a perfectly spherical ball rolling across perilous surfaces with the constant risk of falling off. It is up to the player to rotate the stage, causing the Monkey to move). If a player falls off the stage, they are required to take a “small drink”. If someone completes a stage with more than half of the time remaining (this normally means 30 seconds remaining of an original 60 seconds) then all other players have to take a “large drink”. The game can theoretically continue on until all players complete the final stage, but more frequently the players sooner run out of alcohol or become too drunk to continue.

2:

The game is played and taught by the informant, though it is unclear who originally started it. The informant played Super Monkeyball 2, along with other multiplayer gamecube games, with his sisters while growing up, and as such is quite skilled at the game even while drunk. He brought the game to at least two parties in order to play Drunkey Ball with friends who are as equally enthusiastic about it as he is.

3:

It makes a lot of sense to me for this fast-paced multiplayer game, especially with its emphasis on turn-based play and reaction-based challenges, for Super Monkeyball 2 to be adapted into a drinking game. It also makes particular sense in the context of the parties that they are played at, often hosted by IMGD (Interactive Media Game Development) students in USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. This group of people tends to promote weird, old games like these, and supports their being played at parties.

Festival

Alawatchakeema

1.

Every year at the informant’s summer camp:

Alawatchakeema and his family would supposedly travel all the way across the great lakes to New York. There was a big ceremony, a fire was lit in the center of the camp. People would come out of the forest representing the spirits of the earth, fire, wind, and water. One would zipline down from the trees to create the illusion that he was flying.

To figure out where Big Al was, the whole camp would have to chant his full name in a low rumble. The head of camp would then tell you where Big Al was spotted.

Once Alawatchakeema got there, he selected kids for challenges. The challenges were: no talking, no eating, sleeping under the stars, and the triple whammy (all three).

Each of the challenges lasted for 1 Day.

2.

The informant was inducted into this tradition at one of his childhood summer camps, and one year was chosen for the “sleeping under the stars” challenge, which he expressed was meant for “kids who spent a lot of time inside”. He went on to inform me that the tradition is no longer being practiced because of the realization that it was insensitive towards Native American cultures.

3.

This sounds to me like a high-energy event which the entire camp could participate in, either as an actor or a viewer, and build a community around. The challenges are very interesting to me because they are both a rite of passage (the informant expressed that he looks back very fondly on his experience of Sleeping Under the Stars) and a call-out of any negative behavior that the camper may be displaying.

Legends
Narrative

Pocono Devil

1:

There was a kid in the mountains whose mom buried him alive. He came back to life as a demon, the Pocono Devil, with glowing red eyes. If you are out at night and see the Pocono Devil, you can’t break eye contact or else he’ll drag you into the woods and bury you alive. You have to maintain eye contact and back away from it.

2:

At the informant’s summer-camp was a tree known as “The Ten-Year Tree”. After attending the camp for 10 years (a combined time as both camper and counselor) you would get your name etched onto a small brass plate and have that affixed onto the tree. There was one such plate, a small rusted one, that said “The Pocono Devil”.

He was told that the house of the child who had become the Pocono Devil was about a mile away from camp so he now haunts those woods and the camp.

3:

This seems like a highly-effective tool to keep young campers from sneaking around during the night, when there may be dangerous animals lurking around. The Pocono Devil also gives the campers a piece of common lore to build a community around.

Game

Gotcha

1:

For over a decade at the Informant’s Vancouver Island high-school, a folk game would be organized known as “Gotcha”. It is highly similar to the widely-played game “Assassin” where all players are given a “target” which they must discreetly tag with a clothes pin. In order to sign up for Gotcha, a player must pay $20 into a communal pot. The winner at the end of the game gets to keep the money from the pot, resulting in a not-small chunk of change.

The Informant stated that the rules of the game would be updated every year, as someone new was typically organizing it. After he graduated, he said that the rules were updated to include “If you are tagged, you can strip naked in order to save yourself”. After successfully tagging your target, they are removed from the game and you inherit their target.

2:

The Informant played Gotcha as a Grade 12 and the experience was generally not unusual compared to previous years. He was, however, informed about the stripping-based rules that were added after his graduation, and was able to speak to some of the issues surrounding it. The parents and school systems, he said, had been highly concerned over the possibility of students taking pictures of the stripped-nude students and sharing the pictures on social media. The Informant also implied that students get very serious about this game, to the point that “some people don’t even leave their house for like a week”.

3:

The monetary incentive of the game is huge, especially for children who are still in high school, and the original game of Assassin is often played without any incentive besides the game’s inherent fun. Upon combining these two things, I think that the students who participate in Gotcha are willfully entering into a hyper-immersive game with the potential to turn $20 into substantially more (a feeling akin to gambling, but where the outcome has a positive correlation to your own skill and strategic proficiency). The addition of stripping as a sort of “do-over” could be taken to mean that the game designers wanted the players to have more chances to claim the pot if they were serious enough to do it, or it could also be viewed as an excuse to get classmates to willingly strip.

Annotation:

This article states that the pot for a game of Gotcha can get up to $2,000. In addition, it appears that students may also pay $20 instead of stripping nude, and can only re-enter the game twice.

https://www.nsnews.com/news/north-vancouver-students-schools-clash-over-gotcha-game-1.19654016

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