USC Digital Folklore Archives / Digital
Digital
Game
general
Legends

The Uncle Who Works at Nintendo

Background: My informant was a young 23-year old adult who was born and raised in Las Vegas. He grew up playing many games on the internet including those on Newgrounds and talking with communities online. He currently professionally translates Japanese visual novels and manga.

Performance Context: According to my  informant, he learned about the story from someone who had mentioned to him the game over the internet. The friend has linked to them the game and from there they had come to play the game and subsequently learn the original story of “The Uncle Who Works at Nintendo” story.

Main Piece: The game is a text-based horror game using Twine, an interactive narrative game engine, with various images and sound during parts of the game adventure. The game, although authored work, is a derivative form of the original idea of the childhood fable of “My uncle who works at Nintendo”. My informant told me about how the original fable goes that in the early 90s, children playing the popular video game Pokemon would find themselves competing for attention in their small social groups. It was a common conception for younger children to claim that they had certain  advantages in the game because they had “an uncle who works at Nintendo”. An example of this was famously the indication that the child had access to the legendary Pokemon, Mew, because of their connection to Nintendo. Back on the original versions of the game, only those that had attended Nintendo Events could attain the fabled Mew and these events largely, if not exclusively, occurred in Japan, making their acquisition in America near impossible. The only other way to attain the legendary Mew was to use a GameShark, a common game-hacking application, to cheat the game into using the appropriately-titled “Mew Glitch” to obtain the Mew. According to my informant, children would use this as a means to show dominance and pride over other children and establish “coolness” in their friend groups. They would do so by pretending that they had obtained their Mew from a their so-called mysterious Uncle, despite the reality that they had merely cheated to get it. The game is a form of this folktale in game format, wherein a supernatural ghost story is told. In the game, you play as a middle school child in the 90s staying over at your friend’s house, when you hear that his uncle is coming over. It is a horror game where this strange entity known as the uncle is on his way and by the end of certain endings of the game, he arrives, and the game ends, implying that he almost quote on quote gets you. And that he always will.

The final ending of the game proves to be truly revealing as the game informs the player of a constant cycle that exists throughout this game each time you play it, and that the way to truly end the game is to leave it altogether. In the sixth and final ending of the game, the idea is shown that the uncle should be abandoned, and the child, your friend, can be saved. In the author’s note for the game, revealed only upon completing the game, the author waxes romantic on the current state of the game industry and how in some ways, saving your friend is a metaphor for the salvation of the industry by finding those within the community and having them repent for their self-applied attachment to the label of “gamer”. In the end, the game is about what being a gamer meant in the past, a prideful label meant to denigrate and obfuscate others and their voices though the use of games as power fantasy. The way forward, instead, is to work to let go of these attachments to the “gamer identity” and instead work against what the structures of exclusion and emotional manipulation that games have in the past allowed and encouraged.

My informant found this very profound and important to him as a long-time gamer who often found that he related and learned about the world a lot from video games. It was more so even because he had played it during a time including recent events such as the media incident called GamerGate, a controversial media event whereupon so-called “gamers” vilified and gave death threats to a small populace of anti-patriarchal women writers, developers and social activists. To him, it was somewhat introspective as a means to reflect on what it meant to be a gamer to him, and how the game industry sometimes excludes by patriarchal design women, minorities and other voices. Nowadays, he thinks people think of “gamers” as “everyone” now, rather than the small subset of young males in the 90s. He says that perhaps this is him being optimistic about the future, but who knows.

My Thoughts: I think it is interesting because as a game developer, this idea of using games and the power of games in order to manipulate and pull the rug over people is very dangerous. I don’t know that I quite agree with the author, but I agree with my informant that we can hope for a better future in which women and minority voices are free to be expressed. In a way, this game is a bit personal because of this as a minority game designer. This is a game that my informant highly recommends and that I played after him telling me about it. It is a short game that does take a couple hours to completely beat, but it is very interesting. If the game is too long, the author has also made his notes, which are supposed to be unlocked after beating the game, available online to be read. I will link these below.

The Game: https://jayisgames.com/games/the-uncle/

Author’s Notes: http://correlatedcontents.com/misc/UWWFN/UncleNotes.html

Digital
Game
Legends
Narrative

Slender Man

Background: My informant was a young American male. He is a game design student studying at the University of Southern California and currently works as a VR Design Intern at Gadget-Bot.

Performance Context: According to my informant, he came to learn the story through viral media. Enough people had talked about it on platforms such as YouTube that he grew interested and looked into the story himself.

Main Piece: In 2009, a comedy website called Something Awful launched a Photoshop contest to create the “biggest creepy pasta”. Creepy pasta is a internet term for scary short-form horror tales that originate and spread on the internet. As part of this contest, some people photoshopped an original creature into some old photographs from a newspaper. The newspaper articles make reference to several children who have disappeared or vanished. My informant says that this is so that the creature could be passed of as even more real. Because of the use of the newspapers, people of the internet started to believe in this creature who became known as Slender Man, for his tall, skinny figure.

Slender Man has now become a legend about this mysterious creature with tentacles who comes, preys and steal children. He is a tall, slender figure with no hair, no face, and white skin. He is often depicted wearing a suit, appearing almost like a man in a morph suit with a business suit over that. Nobody knows why he does so as the origin comes only from photographs. Because people believed in the story so much as real, it spread as a viral internet phenomenon. Also, as a result, people began discussing ways to commercialize and spread the idea of Slender Man. Movies, games, short stories were produced en masse to explain this creature and his behaviors. One of the most famous of these is Slender: The 8 Pages, a horror game that became very popular on the internet through the game platform Steam. Sequels to the games and short films have also been produced and there are “even talks of a full-length feature film”. According to my informant, these derivative works are all a part of a large movement to “cash in” on the idea of this character. To them, they believe he was became so popular not just because people believed he was real, but also because to teh creature’s believers, how genuine and original he seemed. They said it was refreshing to see a story where the character seemed not only frightening, but also “genuinely original”. My informant says that people come up with myths all the time, but that a genuine modern myth that isn’t a rehash or remix of something else was interesting and made it all the more real.

My Thoughts: I think it is interesting because it not only comes across the originality of ideas, but also the canonization and commercialization of these stories as products. To tell stories not only encourages the spread of those stories, but also the ways in which those that hear it want to capitalize and market that story in one or many forms. The way the story was turned from a photograph that had been photo shopped into all sorts of other media suggests that not only is the story can be spread in any or all formats, but that it can also be warped and changed to suit those need and strengths of those mediums. That the story itself has no need for origin as long as it retains the sense of originality and outside of that scope, can be warped to become whatever it needs to be to those that wish to indulge in that media. I think it’s interesting to ponder whether the original form of a story is necessary or perhaps that it might be just a stepping stone for the true potential of a story to deliver an experience to its viewers. It’s a sort of idea that suggests that mutation is inherently a part of the story and that variation should be encouraged rather than discouraged, unlike some other stories that we suggest should have a “proper”, “authentic” or “original form.

Digital
Initiations
Legends
Narrative

Bongcheong-Dong Ghost

Background: My informant was a young Filipino girl who was born and raised in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. She currently is a student at the University of Minnesota studying Double B.A. Global Studies and Cultural Studies.

Performance Context: According to my informant, the story was told to her by her two friends who are of Chinese and Vietnamese descent. However, she claims that it is a fairly common and famous online example of Korean comics on the internet, especially in horror circles.

Main Piece: The story is based on the 2002 suicide of a woman in South Korea. It is a comic that tells a ghost story supposedly based on true stories about the ghost of this woman who haunts an apartment complex in Bongcheong-Dong. According to the informant and the comic, the woman supposedly killed herself because she was being separated from her daughter due to divorce. In the story, a young girl is on her way home as she heads to the apartment complex. Along the way she encounters a strange otherworldly woman whose joints seem “twisted every way”. The woman demands that the girl tell her where her “baby” is, upon which the girl, too scared to know what else to do, points a random direction to send the woman. The woman then goes off in the direction that the girl points. The girl tries to run away at this point, but soonafter hears a scream from the direction of the woman, having discovered that nothing was in that direction. The woman quickly rushes the girl, and the girl awakens to find out that her neighbors found her passed out.

The comic is interwoven with two jump scares and sound in order to complete the experience.

To the informant, she wonders whether this story is really based on true stories. It seems to be derivative, but according to her, the story was made for a contest. This puts into question the authenticity of the stories origin and whether or not it had actually come from oral traditions. The suicide is supposedly real, and the rumors of the spirit seem to be true, but if they were not, it would not be hard for my informant to believe.

My informant is mainly interested in the story because of how it is meant to be spread to others as a sort of game. It is a viral comic that you want to show your friends because then you can watch as they are horrified as well. It is a sort of bonding that is made by spreading the story. In some ways, the story works in the same regard as many oral campfire traditions in uniting and making connection with others through the oral act of storytelling.

My Thoughts: I think it is interesting because of the reasons that the informant explicitly stated. Storytelling is generally regarded as a form of communication and there is no reason that the discourse of that story cannot also be a way to communicate with others. The horror of the comic serves as a sort of initiation to a inner circle of those that have experienced it versus those that have not and whom can be spread to. There is a special bond formed through the esoteric knowledge of the experience.

Digital
Legends
Narrative

Russian Sleep Experiment

Background: My informant was a American who has lived across the country and has learned a lot of stories about other people through her travels.She is currently a student at the University of Southern California studying game design.

Main Piece: The Russian Sleep Experiment is a story about how they were trying to figure out in a perhaps-WWII era the effects of sleep deprevation on their soldiers. They put a group of soldiers in a room with a porthole. Then, they poured in gas that keeps them awake into the room. For a while, it goes normal, up to a week without any real observable effects. At this time, the mics stop responding and the researchers are only able to look into the room via the viewport.  However, the porthole gets covered some sort of liquid. The researchers attempt to talk to the subjects, but they get no response, at first. They end up turning off the gas and opening up the door. Inside, there are only a small group of the subjects left alive. The rest have been disembowled with blood everywhere, the same liquid on the porthole. The one that are still alive had portions of their body missing, and some of them had their own skin ripped off. Evidence suggested that there were no markings of teeth, and it is suggested that the portions of them missing were by hand. The subjects alive begin shouting and panicking, asking the scientists to turn the gas back on.

They become hysterical as they were screaming to put the gas back on. The scientists tried restraining them, but like in a superhero story, they threw one of the researchers across the room, as if a ridiculous strong superhuman.  Eventually, they wrangle down the subjects. They tried to inject them with morphine, 10x normal dose, did nothing. They try to operate on them, they were immune to sedatives. They put them under anesthetics, his heart stops, and in the autopsy, they discover their is triple the amount of oxygen in the blood of the first subject. The second person had his vocal cords ripped, and wanted to be operated without anesthetic. The doctors operating on the subjects said it’s medically impossible for them to still be alive. Once they were finished, the patient wanted to write a message. When they let them write their message it just said “keep cutting”. Afterwards, only two subjects were left alive. The scientists began to monitor the position of the two that live and noticed that the EEG would hard line several times. They were suffering from repeated brain death at various times.

Then the story ends “really stupidly”, according to the informant. One of the soldiers kills themselves, the other broke out. When they caught the other, the scientists asks what they are. The remaining soldier goes on a rant saying “We are you, we are the madness within you, we are what you hide from at night.” The End. To the informant, this last part makes the story seem the most absurd and unworthy of redemption. The informant said it was “stupid as fuck” and it just another example of stupid internet stories run wild.  “It’s just a lot of gore.”

Performance Context: According to my informant, someone linked it through the internet because they said they thought she was Russian.

My Thoughts: I think it is interesting because it another example of creepy pasta that is on the internet of these strange twisted stories that almost seem to have no evidence, and yet is compelling enough that people read anyways. It makes you question whether the insanity of the story is of value or rather the insanity of its construction at all.

Digital
Folk Beliefs
Legends
Magic
Narrative

Anansi Goat Man

Background: My informant was a American who has lived across the country and has learned a lot of stories about other people through her travels.She is currently a student at the University of Southern California studying game design.

Main Piece: My informant told me a story known as the “Anasi Goat Man”. It is a very long form “creepy pasta” (internet horror story) about a group of young teenagers who go out campiong in the woods of Alabama. Throughout the story, the children encounter the smell of ozone, a copper-like smell, that indicates that the Anasi Goat Man is in their presence. At first, the kids are unaware of the creature and search their RV for an electrical malfunction. One of the kids owns a cabin in that area as well where they also own some pigs. They find that the pigs have been ripped up and eaten, which freaks out and scares all of the group. They also see the visage of a man in the woods, although they only see his back. They also begin to hear a “gibbering” from the woods that changes in volume and comes from all around throughout most of the rest of the story. They discover that he is a man with the head of a goat, who gets into groups by disguising itself like a Wendigo, before hunting the group members. The original group started out as 12, but the number dwindles down to 8. Towards the end of the story, they bar themselves into a larger cabin owned by one of the friends cousin. There they barricade themselves in and arm themselves with weapons and wait out the night. Throughout the night, something keeps approaching the door screaming to be let in, banging on the door. Meanwhile the gibbering continues to fade in and out throughout the rest of the night and the smell of copper turns to the smell of blood. Morning comes and the children leave the place. The storyteller who is recounting the tale, however, ends the story by talking about one of the friends who came to them two days after the event. Two days after the strange event in the woods, one of the friends had been nodding off to sleep, when he caught one girl walking out of the bathroom and begin sleeping in the middle of the room as everyone else was. Out of curiosity, he counted the members of the room, and there were one too many. The rest of the night he could not sleep and watched this one girl, even as they left. He was too scared to act against her because he thought the creature might kill all of them, or in their fear, they might use the guns on one another. As he kept his eye on her as they left the campsite, at one point, she slipped away and went into the forest.

It’s supposedly from an account from an actual person, but the informant says that it probably is just because people want to be scared or want to feel like they have had some sort of supernatural event. It doesn’t seem to be much more than an urban legend to her. She doesn’t buy into most urban legends or ghost “crap”.

Performance Context: According to the informant, she read it in an old book before she looked it up online.

My Thoughts: I think it is interesting because it is an example of a much longer form narrative that forms a series of internet ghost stories. There is also special attention made towards making it seem as if an actual account, to not only immerse the reader in its possibility, but also I believe to fall into the recent trend of stories that are from first person youth perspectives such as Cloverfield and other such “found footage” stories.

Digital
Folk speech
general
Humor
Proverbs

Difficult Difficult Lemon Difficult

Context: My roommate discovered this meme one day, and it prompted a discussion about the various levels of depth it reached.

Background: My roommate is a self-described “conveyor of fine memes” and has a hobby of collecting, creating, and sharing Internet memes.

The Meme: The meme (attached to this post) is a play on the phrase “easy peasy lemon squeezy.” The phrased is reworked in a text explanation that laments the fact that things are not “easy peasy lemon squeezy” as once believed, but are in fact “difficult difficult lemon difficult.” This explanation is accompanied by the image of a middle-aged woman furiously gripping a laptop in both hands and biting into it.

Analysis: This became a folklore discussion as a surprise, as the further my roommate and I discussed it, the more it seemed to work as a piece of folk speech. “Difficult difficult lemon difficult” is definitely an evolution of the saying “easy peasy lemon squeezy,” which itself has an origin that feels meaningless in the context the phrase has since gained. The specific discovery of the newly-changed saying also has the context of being in meme form, memes being one of the more common areas of unauthored expression in the 21st century.

Digital
Folk Beliefs

Shazaam, Staring Sinbad

Main Piece: There’s a big community of people on the internet that are convinced that as children they used to watch a movie about a genie called ‘Shazaam’, where Sinbad played him. The thing is there is apparently no such movie, but for some reason people collectively remember it. Some have even posted pictures of the VHS cover of ‘Shazaam’ with pictures of Sinbad as the genie, but Sinbad assures he was never in that movie. There isn’t even an IMDb page for this thing. Most people think that these guys are just confusing it with the movie ‘Kazaam’, where Shaq O’Neal played a genie, but they swear that it was a different movie. This has lead to all sorts of theories and speculations. Some say that it is a conspiracy by the studio because the movie was a flop and they tried to erase it from existence. Some credit the Mandela effect, which is an alternate timeline theory that says that we have memories from ourselves in alternative timelines.

Background information about the piece by the informant: Jacob has a keen interest in knowledge in internet folklore. This story surfaced in recent years, and has been increasingly growing with more and more people claiming that they have seen this fake movie. He says that there’s many cases of collective memory in the internet, such as people being convinced that the children’s books “The Berenstain Bears” were actually called “The Berenstein Bears”.

Context on the piece: This phenomenon of collective memory is usually talked about in discussion boards such as Reddit or 4chan. The idea has been communicated and made popular by people commenting on it on bigger sites, like Youtube or Snope, which is how Jake knows about this.

Thoughts on the piece: I think this folk belief goes to show how much an idea can propagate among people to make them think it’s true. This shows that this can even create fake memories for people, as it seems that they are simply misremembering the title and star of the real movie ‘Kazaam’, yet refuse to believe it, going as far as to considering conspiracy theories on the matter. This makes the belief take an almost devoutly religious aspect to it, where the people are convinced that the movie had to be real and cannot cope with the fact that their memories could be fabricated.

For  more information and discussion on the phenomenon, see: http://www.snopes.com/sinbad-movie-shazaam/

Digital
Humor

All Star Memes

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsSw_9oAFdI

Main Piece: These are mash up video memes on the internet that use the song ‘All Star’ by Smash Mouth as their basis. The song has also become a meme and has been used, edited and bastardised in every way possible by the internet. They are usually presented with a title that says ´All Star, but…’, followed by the alteration. For example, theres ‘All Star, but every time they say star it gets faster’, ‘All Star but it’s in the melody of Space Oddity’, ‘All Star but the lyrics are reversed and the music is fine’ and ‘All Star but all the instruments are Bill O’Reilly saying his name’. There are too many of these to mention, but the amount of things that one can do with that song is unbelievable. They know every single lyrics, note and accord.

Background information about the piece by the informant: Jake is an enthusiast and avid investigator of memes on the internet. According to him, the movie ‘Shrek’ has been a meme for at least the past 8 years. He is not sure why, but he assumes that it’s because the animation and the soundtrack are an outdated product of the early 2000s, which people like to ridicule. There is even an entire webpage dedicated to Shrek memes known as ‘ShrekChan’. ‘All Star’ is the opening song of the film, so it has also been used as a meme by the internet. It represents the seemingly outdated so soundtrack of the film, as its style is that of pop exclusive for the early 2000s.

Context on the piece: Since these memes do not have any actual jokes for the general public, the videos are only meant to be funny for the people familiar with the ‘Shrek’ ridicule of the internet. It is sort of an inside joke in which only a niche group of people will get the reference.

Thoughts on the piece: This meme creates a very specific in-group, as it is meant for a very narrow audience. It is meant for people who are avid meme and internet users that are not only familiar (and most likely grew up with) the Shrek films, but that also know and understand the widely non-generic and strange humor of the Shrek memes. This creates a strong community on the internet, just when there are people with an inside joke in real life that brings them together. I think this is in part due to the fact that this group was raised on these movies, and now that they are adult they enjoy taking the film and the opening song apart in a form of expression of transitioning form childhood to adulthood.

Digital
general

Man Door Hand Hook Car Door

Informant Information:

Joey Tan is a student at the University of Southern California studying Interactive Media and Game Design. She has a Chinese background, and is originally from Toronto, Ontario until moving to Los Angeles, CA for college.

Story:

“Ok so, so, a man and a woman were in a car and they drove to a forest to you know get the sexy times on and they were like making out, like you know light touching, and suddenly they heard a strange noise outside. And they stopped and the guy’s like ‘what is that sound?’ and the girl’s like ‘I don’t know I couldn’t really hear it that well’. So they went back to making out and getting it on, but suddenly they heard the strange noise again. This time they stop and the guy’s like ‘I’m gonna go check it out you stay here, don’t let anyone in, even if it’s someone asking for help. Don’t let anyone in.’ the girl says ‘yes’. So the guy leaves, the girl stays in the car, she doesn’t hear anything. She stays there for 10-15 minutes. She starts to worry because she’s hearing nothing and she’s like when’s he gonna come back. Suddenly she hears a long banging from the back of the car. Like from behind the car. She turns and sees nothing there but the banging continues. She sees someone scratching on the back of the car ‘Let me in’. She’s reminded of what the guy said and she doesn’t let them in. She stays there and after awhile the noise stopped. She didn’t know what to do, she ends up waiting until morning until it’s safer so she goes to sleep. She wakes up the next morning, the forest is still silent, there’s no one around, and she decides to leave to find her boyfriend. Just then, as soon as she left the car, she turned and noticed that man door hand hook car door. The end.”

Q: Where did you hear this from?

“My friend was sleeping over and he was like do you wanna hear this scary story and I’m like yeah. It took an hour to tell it which is the worst part.”

Q: Is this supposed to be messing around?

“He couldn’t stop laughing for 10 minutes straight, it was crazy.”

Analysis:

The informant mentioned that she did not know the origin of this story because she had only heard this from a friend. After doing more research, I found out that this “story” is actually a “meme” from a website called 4chan. Apparently, the original poster of this story wanted to make a parody of a creepypasta (a website for horror/scary stories, very much a part of internet culture) story, and by doing so created the “man door hand hook car” meme.

 

Digital
Legends
Narrative

Cyber Ghost: Toads & Texts

Informant: Michael Davis is a sophomore at Cal Poly SLO and is currently majoring Business. He does not really believe in ghosts and thinks that going on ghost hunts with his friends is exciting. His story takes place in an abandoned home that may have been an asylum in San Jose.

MD: “Back at home, my friends and I went to check out this abandoned home, or maybe it used to be an asylum. There were four of us, and we pulled up in the driveway of the abandoned house. When we got out of the car, we saw in the distance that there was another car with its headlights on. We also saw a toad in the middle of the driveway and it started croaking. We walked up to the house and saw that it was blocked off by a “Do Not Enter” sign. We went inside anyways and saw that there were chains on the floor of the house. As we went into one of the rooms, we found another toad that started croaking. We just hung out in there, because it was kinds like a competition of who could stay in the longest. We went on exploring the place but suddenly heard chains rattling, but the chains we saw were still on the floor and there were none hanging anywhere. After a few more minutes inside the house, one of my friend’s phone starting buzzing and going crazy and then he started to get these text messages on his phone. It said something like “Why are you here”. We freaked out all walked out of the house. Right after we got out, my friend was like “I swear I heard some quiet, old, scary voice telling us to get out.” Then right outside, before getting into our car again, we saw another croaking toad. On the drive back to out house, my friend’s phone kept getting text messages saying stuff like “why were you in the house”, “I know what you did in there”, “I know what happened in the house”. We tried calling the number, but every time there would be the automated voice saying that “this number does not exist”, but it was clearly texting my friend! And what was even more freaky was that after a couple of months of visiting that house, the same number texted again and asked “why they were in that house”.

Impact: “This is not the first time I’d gone into a haunted place looking for ghosts. I like ghost hunting because of the adrenaline and thrill of it. But this experience was one of my more extreme ones, because usually there are some creaking doors or maybe shadows. It was scary ‘cause my friend got the same text even after the whole incident. I also went home that day and researched about the toads we kept on seeing in and around the house. Turns out, according to some websites, seeing a toad three times or something is representative of a ghost presence.”

My thoughts: I got goosebumps while hearing MD’s story because personally, everything I hear my phone buzz from getting a text messages, I would wonder which one of my friends would contact me. But I would be really scared if I got a text message from “nobody” because texting involves physically typing, so I don’t know how the ghost’s message got translated electronically.

 

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