USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘video game’
Game
general

Polybius

Polybius is an urban legend videogame–meaning a video game that is only rumored to have existed.


 

What’s Polybius?

BA: Polybius is a video game, supposedly made by SEGA, that caused the kids to play it to have seizures. They say there’s only been one Polybius cabinet–this was the 80s, when games were in cabinets in arcades, like Pac Man and Asteroids and stuff…and this cabinet was in Portland.

Why was there only one cabinet?

BA: There was only one cabinet, because that’s how they tested the game before release. It was a big game by a big company, and it used new graphics technology, so they just secretly tested it under a fake name…if the game passed testing, it wouldn’t be called “Polybius”. But… the kids who played it got addicted to it and had seizures. People reported seeing men in suits watching them play, and some say it was the United States government watching to see the effect of the game, to somehow use it as a weapon. Anyway, they scrapped the game and hid it from the records once the kids had seizures, so they couldn’t get any bad press, so nobody’s heard of it since.


 

The mystery of Polybius originated on the internet in discussion boards in 1998. It’s since snowballed to a huge essential question: “Is Polybius real or fake?”. Some claim that it is a fabricated story based on the overwhelmingly negative reception of the early testing stages of Tempest, while others claim to have been part of the developer team responsible for the game.

There are some slight references to Polybius in popular culture, such as a background joke in The Simpsons and the plot of a long-cancelled G4 series, Blister

Adulthood
Childhood
Digital
Humor
Life cycle

Dixie Cup Ness

Informant is a facebook page that regularly posts memes. As the page’s primary following is teens and young adults, most of their content is humor based on 1990’s & 2000’s American youth culture.

Dixie Cup Ness

This particular post shows Ness, a character known from successful Nintendo game ‘Super Smash Bros Melee,’ with a retro Dixie cup print on his clothes. By combining the popular 2001 video game character with the distinct folk pattern of 2000’s school cafeteria cups, this satirical image is aimed to evoke nostalgia.

Adulthood
Childhood
Digital
Humor
Life cycle

Supernintendo Chalmers

Informant is a Facebook page that posts only memes. As the page’s primary following is teens and young adults, most of their content is humor based on early 2000’s culture.

Supernintendo Chalmers

This particular post shows a Super Nintendo gaming console (1990), with a decal of Superintendent Chalmers of the popular TV show the Simpsons. The pun here is on the words ‘superindendent’ and ‘supernintendo.’ By combining the show known for its success in the 1990’s, with a 1990’s video game console , this satirical image is aimed to evoke nostalgia for people who grew up in this era.

Digital
Folk speech
Game

“Camping”

Informant’s self-description: “I am a large melting pot of everyone that I have ever met. Even if I did not really know who they were. And that makes me me! And different from everyone, ‘cause we all have different experiences. I am a video game person that loves a video game, and I love things that aren’t actually real life. But I also like real life! But sometimes fiction more so because the boundaries of what can be done are expanded. And that’s really cool to me. I like food – a lot. And I am a person that just wants to do a lot of things all the time. Forever.”

 

 

Is there gamer culture that you take part in, or is it more of a solitary thing?

I’d like to be part of some sort of gaming culture – I’d really enjoy going to some video game convention and get to see what’s up-and-coming, and be able to talk to people who are within that community and get to make friends. I’ve only recently begun trying to engage with that side of my life – before it was very solitary. It was just me at home, planting my butt in the chair and playing Mario Kart or the Sims for ages on end. And then I got an X-Box, which was like communication with other people that were playing, and that sorta kinda kicked me in the right direction, which is fun, also scary but fun.

Do you talk to people online?

The game I mostly play is Mass Effect, and there’s a Mass Effect multiplayer. You just do missions with other people. You can talk to them if you like, I usually only play with friends that I know in real life, because there’s a tendency for – especially if you’re like a gal and you’re playing online and if they know, they don’t treat you with respect or it’s kind of really weird and they don’t treat you like a fellow gamer? It’s like “Oh, it’s a girl.” I’ve experienced before where they just kind of leave me be to the really small side missions. And I’m not down with that. So I usually just play with friends that I know in real life. And we destroy things together.

Is there any particular lingo that you guys use in the game and not outside of it?

I guess the terms for the things that we’re trying to do. With the monsters or the enemies that we’re trying to go up against, or I think – like a certain term would be “camping.” Which is when a certain player is lying in wait. And hidden from the rest of the players just so they can score, or kill someone, so they can destroy something, they can achieve the objective without really having to go through the process of avoiding other people on the go. They just kinda lie in wait. That’s generally frowned upon.

How often does it happen?

Depends on the game and whether or not you’re able to. I know in Call of Duty, if you camp a lot of people will gang up on you.  After they’ll be like “CAMPER! HE’S A CAMPER!” And then you wind up dying a lot because if you get found out, you’re the camper, and no one likes you. In other games, maybe not so much because you can’t really camp? And if you do you’re kind of just like a coward and people will ignore you.

Have you ever camped?

Yes in Call of Duty, because I am not very good at Call of Duty. And the only time I played it, I played Black Ops, and I was about to die and I was like “NO!” So I just hid for the rest of the game. I let other people just kind of kill each other, and once in a while I would shoot someone if they were passing by.

It was more of a defensive camping than an offensive camping.

Yeah, yes, much yes. Lots of defense, no offense whatsoever. I mean, occasionally try to shoot someone, and then maybe get them, and they’d come back and find me, and I’d just lie in wait again.

Have you ever ganged up on a camper when they were found out?

Only on my friends, really. I mean I kind of feel bad when it’s someone that I don’t know, unless – it’s been very rarely that I talk to other people via the voice chat, in a party – it’s just so quick sometimes, especially with Mass Effect, but um… Yeah sometimes, my friends and I – friends I know in real life – if we see someone that’s camping, then we go and gang up on them and destroy all of their kills – if they’re about to kill something and we see that the enemy’s health is low, we kill them before they do, so when they kill them it doesn’t count for them, and it’s ours. And that makes them angry, and it’s funny.

 

 

By playing this multiplayer game, informant engages in the gamer culture maybe more than they realize, to the point where they can explain a specific communally-recognized term and the behaviors surrounding that action the term refers to in the game.

Game
Legends

Finding Megalodon

Item:

“The lengths people were going to to try to find this thing were so extensive, I didn’t even bother trying to look since I felt like there wouldn’t be a chance I’d find it.”

In Dice Entertainment’s recently released video game, Battlefield 4, there was rumor of a secret hidden somewhere in it that users spent months trying to find. It was a massive shark, a megalodon, that would apparently appear if you do the right sequence of actions and show up at the right place at the right time. Apparently, it was something someone on the development team added for fun, but wouldn’t tell if it indeed was true.

 

Context:

The informant plays a lot of games and loves easter eggs in games — hidden secrets placed by the developer. He says they range from small scale, like the signature of a designer tucked away in a corner, to large scale, like a massive extinct shark that flies out of the ocean and destroys everything in its path. He says he thinks people eventually found it, but wasn’t sure if they cheated to do that or someone faked it. Apparently, people in these communities band together and put in several hours of work to find these secrets beyond what normal players see.

 

Analysis:

In researching further, it turns out the megalodon is real! Players, after months of searching, found the shark, the last known unfound easter egg in the game. It’s unclear when exactly it was added into the game — either it’s been there since it was released, or the company added it at a later date to surprise fans who had been spreading rumors about its existence. The latter is a really interesting scenario — it’s almost like claiming to have found big foot, but you’re literally in control of whether or not big foot exists. To a certain extent it nullifies the possibility of legends or at least an unknown since the control of existence is in someone’s hands, at least if we allow modification of the original games.

Digital
Game

SCP: Containment Breach

SCP: Containment Breach is a horror computer game that is based on user-generated stories on the wiki/website SCP Foundation. SCP stands for “Secure, Contain, Protect”. The game takes place in a facility that hunts, tracks down, and categorizes supernatural objects, or SCPs, that are either safe, euclid, or keter. You can come into contact with safe SCPs without getting harmed. SCPs that are euclid are unpredictable, and keter SCPs will kill you.

The main types of characters in the game are scientists with code names, the SCPs, and finally the D-class personnel. There is a seemingly infinite amount of D-class personnel, and you play as one of them. They are prisoners sent to the facility for experimentation purposes, and they die off very easily because they’re always dealing with the SCPs.

The first SCP you meet is this giant baby that’s facing the wall. You have a blink meter, and every time you are forced to blink, the baby moves closer to you. When it’s right in front of you, it kills you. [Informant's] favorite is the butler. It can do anything you want it to do, as long as it is reasonable. He would ask,” What can I do for you?” in a very butler-like manner. You can ask him to kill a D-class personnel in the neighboring room, and he would point at a surveillance camera, saying, “Is that camera on? I can’t do it if it’s on.” And once you turn it off, he would disappear and then come back, having accomplished the goal. If you ask him to get a bar of gold of, say, 99.99% purity, he would say no, but ask if a a lower purity were okay. There are also inanimate SCPs like a train ticket SCP, which would affect the train that the ticket-holder takes.

Anyone who passes the test to be a writer on the website can create an SCP. The SCP Foundation website is a wiki that is open for comment. If people see a bad SCP, they’ll mark it down, and if enough people dislike it, they’ll remove it. There are rules, like no using clichés, and no SCPs that can be described in two words (like “basically Wolverine”). The game developers then take these user-created SCPs and put them into the game.

I found it very innovative for a video game to be based on user-generated content. It throws into question the idea of authorship but it is also somewhat reminiscent of the way folklore was spread / the way people told stories before the institutionalization of writing/publishing/etc.

Digital

Pokemon Capture Button Press Ritual

Click here for video.

“So as a kid, I was a huge fan of the Pokemon games. Best game ever, just putting that out there. So there’s quite a few times during the game where you have to catch these Legendary Pokemon. Like you know, in like Pokemon Yellow you go into the cave and you’re like ‘Oh my god its a Mewtwo, I need that Mewtwo’, right? So I have like 20 Ultra Balls and I’ll be like ‘Oh crap. I need to catch this thing before I’m out of Pokeballs’, so I go in and like every single time I throw a Pokeball I have to do the traditional moves. Once you throw that Pokeball you have to press left, right, left, right, and then while you’re doing that you have to vigorously press the A and B buttons. That increases your chances of catching that Mewtwo. Trust me it works. Try it next time.”

This practice of mashing buttons while trying to catch a Pokemon is incredibly widespread. Everyone that I’ve seen play Pokemon has done something similar. It is almost like a nervous fidget while waiting for a successful capture or a failure. Everyone I’ve watched does it differently based on where they grew up. In my hometown, the common practice was to hold the A button and tap B in rhythm with the twitching of the Pokeball. As children, we had no understanding of programming or how games were designed. We didn’t know that the designers of our Pokemon games never programmed in any functionality for button pressing to affect Pokemon capture rates. To us, Gameboys were these magical boxes that did things when we pressed buttons. I think we just assumed that pressing buttons while a Pokemon was being captured would affect the probability of catching the Pokemon because why would it not? This ritual speaks volumes about how we see new technologies. When we don’t understand things we tend to come up with rituals to deal with them. When we catch a Pokemon due to random chance, but happened to be pressing a certain button combination, we’re often lead to believe that pressing buttons works. For many people, these button patterns became consolidated because every once in a while, they appear to work.

There is an incredible amount of folklore and rumor surrounding the Pokemon franchise thanks to the internet and poor translation. In 1998, When Pokemon first achieved mass appeal in the United States, the internet was just burgeoning. I remember going on “gaming tips” sites that often featured wild rumors and had little-to-no fact-checking. What complicated things was that a lot of literature about Pokemon was in Japanese, the game’s original language. Many of gaming tip sites were run by people with no knowledge of Japanese, so often they just took pictures that were available in Japanese gaming guides and made an educated guess as to what the pictures were trying to illustrate. As a result, there were many theories and rumors, mostly incorrect, about the game.

In Pokemon, the main goal of the game is to catch a multitude of colorful monsters and battle them. Perhaps this explains why the game is so incredibly popular. The core concept of the game plays into our drive to collect, dominate, and compete. A friend of mine once compared it to a more interactive form of stamp collecting.

Contagious
Digital
Magic
Musical

Lavender Town Syndrome

The informant is a college student from Reno, Nevada.

This supposed “syndrome” is a piece of online lore which comes from the Pokemon video games for Gameboy. The informant first stumbled upon a website about it while he was in high school. However, he played the games when he was seven or eight years old. In the game, the player travels from town to town, advancing towards the end. One of the towns is called Lavender Town. In it, there is a tower full of ghosts of wandering souls of Pokemon who have been murdered. When the player enters a new area, the music changes. Each town has its own song, and the informant recalls Lavender Town’s being particularly creepy.

This song is central to the lore which has become an online legend. According to the legend, when the first prototypes of the game came out in Japan in February of 1996, there was a spike in illness of children who bought and played the game. These “illnesses” supposedly made them mentally unstably, resulting in a spike in suicides and violent behavior. According to the legend, the high frequencies used in the song resulted in these physiological changes. The informant does not actually believe the legend is actually true, mostly because it is posted on a page called “creepypasta Wiki”, a page for stories that are generally made-up internet hoaxes. Still, there are entire forums filled with lengthy theories about missing frequencies and ghosts in the machine. The following is a link to the song, as heard in the final, U.S. version:

 

Digital
Game
Legends
Narrative

World of Warcraft Legends – SuperAIDS

My informant used to play World of Warcraft for a period of about 5 years, and during his time with the game, he has come across several stories.  The two stories he told me about were the SuperAIDS story and the Leeroy Jenkins story.  This story is about SuperAIDS.

According to my informant, SuperAIDS was the player given nickname of a debuff [essentially a curse] that a particular boss character would inflict upon the players.  This debuff would deal damage to the inflicted player and would spread to any nearby allied units.  The debuff could be cleansed by a particular class and be stopped.  However, this debuff would sometimes get on a player’s pet, and one of the ways to deal with this was simply dismiss the pet rather than wait for someone to cleanse it off, because it’s really hard to see if it’s on someone’s pet and just as hard to target the pet.  So players with pets would simply dismiss them and be done with it.  Unfortunately, the debuff didn’t go away, so when they went back to major cities, and summoned their pet, the debuff would still be there.  Once players figured out this was happening, they got their pets infected and brought them into the major cities and started spreading the disease intentionally.  The disease would spread rapidly between players and would kill almost anyone who wasn’t highest level.  Normally this would just be considered a prank but the disease would also spread to NPC’s [non-player characters].  The major problem with this was that NPC’s regenerate their health when out of combat and this regeneration outpaced the rate of damage from the disease.  So the disease would kill almost any player who came into contact with it, but it would never get off the NPC’s.  This is perhaps how the name SuperAIDS came about, because it didn’t go away.  Anyway, this meant that, as the disease was spread, more and more areas of the game became essentially uninhabitable because your character would just get infected and die over and over.  This persisted for about a week until the devs were able to patch the game, eliminating the disease from the NPC’s and preventing the disease from leaving the raid encounter.  And even though the game of WoW is played in several different servers, because the players all communicate online, nearly every server experienced this in some way.

Folk speech
Game
general

Folk Speech

Folk Speech – Videogaming

Woot!

Woot is a word used in popular teenage culture as an expression of happiness or agreement much the way one would use Yay or Woohoo. The word was originally created by online gamers, but quickly found its way into the vocabulary of non-gamers online. People are now even saying it in everyday conversation. A non-gamer friend of mine began using the word in everyday conversation in August 2007 after picking it up on online message boards. Players of the game Doom first created the word woot. It is actually an acronym for “we own the other team”.  Woot was a way of quickly saying that your group was showing dominance in the game. Since it was only used as an expression of victory it became a way to express happiness like the word yay.

The formation of special words and acronyms is not uncommon among a subgroup of a society. In this case the word woot came out of using an acronym to reduce typing. Words such as these allow a group to assess a person’s knowledge of the group. Someone who is a member of a group like this will know the terminology common in the group. I think woot is an acceptable expression for online, but when people use it in everyday face-to-face speech it is annoying. The expression is very informal and kind of nerdy.  I think the jump of woot into popular speech shows the increased influence of the Internet on younger people. Many young people know and can use a plethora of online abbreviations and expressions such as lol, rofl, ttyl, l33t, and gtg. Woot has even become the name of a very well known online retailer. Woot.com is a retailer that sells only one product each day. Usually it is an electronic good, but regardless the product is always sold at a highly discounted price. This website was the first one deal per day type website. Woot.com has been profiled in magazines like Time, PC Magazine, and Motley Fool.

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