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

Herobrine

Collected privately in an empty hallway while his friends played a horror game in the other room, which he returned to after the interview. I began by simply asking, “What do you know about Herobrine?”

The informant first heard about Herobrine from a Youtube video in middle school, around the time when Minecraft was getting very popular.

 

Informant: “Uhh I know that it was, umm uh, a popular myth surrounding the game Minecraft. Uh, the idea it that it was, uh, an entity hidden in the code that would sort of on a random case-by-case basis do things to your game. Um I also know it’s not true. Uh, you can go through the codes of all, of every single version of Minecraft and see that there’s nothing. Um, but the creators had fun with people and would constantly tease about it, and all of their change logs ever since the old myth came up, they would put, like, ‘Herobrine removed,’ ‘Herobrine removed,’ like ‘he’s finally removed.’ And, um, yeah but it was really popular and it’s a common thing that people who play video games like to do. It’s the same concept as creepypastas of just writing haunted versions of games, especially because they think people are interested in exploring ghost stories as they relate to modern media and modern technology, um, as opposed to the old jaded, like, haunted house that no one’s scared of anymore because we’ve rehashed it in so many works of fiction. But something as ubiquitous as a software that can be downloaded that can be haunted is more interesting.”

Interviewer: “Do you know his origin?”

Informant: “Uhh, something about… the creator, Notch’s, brother passing away? Something like that? Which isn’t true… in the slightest. Other than that, not too well-versed.”

Interviewer: “Do you know anyone who claims to have seen Herobrine, or know someone else who claims to have seen Herobrine?”

Informant: “Umm… I knew a, I knew a lot of uhh… a lot of kids in uhh… uh middle school that would claim it. Uhh… and who no one would ever believe.”

Interviewer: “What does Herobrine supposedly do? If he appears in a game.”

Informant: “Umm, I’ve heard various accounts because, obviously, it doesn’t actually happen, so people’s stories like to vary and people like to one-up each other. Um, but it very, it can be something as just suddenly killing you, suddenly appearing and disappearing, things moving around, um, a lot of things you’ll find in a lot of other ghost story literature.”

Herobrine

This informant does not believe in Herobrine, and provides very logical explanations for why he was such a phenomenon. He is in the age group of people who would be playing Minecraft at its peak of popularity, and being interested in game design, he is well versed in gaming culture.

Digital
Game
Legends

Herobrine

Collected privately in an empty hallway while his friends played a horror game in the other room, which he returned to after the interview. I began by simply asking, “What do you know about Herobrine?”

The informant heard about Herobrine in middle school, primarily through videos and chat rooms online, around the time when Minecraft was getting very popular.
Informant: “So the Herobrine, at least that I know of, is a character within the Minecraft game that is your player? Basically, he’s the Steve [the name of the Minecraft player character] pro-, like, character pro-protagonist but, but he doesn’t have pupils. And the game developers keep trying to delete him, but every update he finds his way kinda back into the game. And what, most players never really see him, but yet there still seem to be leaks and rumors about him kinda k-existing in the game and doing weird stuff. And that’s all I’ve got.”

Interviewer: “What kind of weird stuff does he do?”

Informant: “Like glitches and some people like, who you ask later are like, ‘Oh my goood, he came out of my computer,’ and I don’t know if that’s all that true, but people get really into it.”

Interviewer: “He what their computer?”

Informant: “Came out of their computer.”

Interviewer: “Oooh okay…”

Informant: “Yeah that’s one I read. It was, I mean — And again, a lot of this is just like in. like, online boards and stuff where people are like talking about him. So I don’t know how much of it you take as… really happening, but it’s worth noting that people seem to take him very seriously.”

Interviewer: “Do you know anyone who claims to have seen him, or know someone else who claims to have seen Herobrine?”

Informant: “Personally, no. I’ve yet to meet anybody that’s actually seen him, but I – I do see posts like online about him, and there’s like Game Theory videos and…”

Interviewer: “Do you know his origin?”

Informant: “Umm, the most I know is that it was part of the g-, like they put him in the game at one point and then they were like, ‘Nah we’re gonna scrap him.’ And they kept kinda deleting it, but every update he seemed to find his way back into the Minecraft updates and… that’s that.”

Interviewer: “So is he real?”

Informant: “Uhh, I mean… [informant looks like he is about to speak, but takes a few moments] I guess? He’s not supposed to be there, anyways. So they’re like, ‘Ah g- let’s delete him?’ I mean now I kinda wonder whether they’re leaving him in there because people are making such a big deal out of it, but… real enough.”

Interviewer: “Okay! Um, anything else to add?”

Informant: “Mmm… I like the idea that there is this kinda like… computer ghost in a way? Like the idea that people are being haunted by a computer ghost is quite funny to me, the fact that he keeps trying to get deleted, and he’s not deleted is hilarious. Like I don’t know if it’s intentional or not, but I appreciate it.”

Herobrine
While the informant has not seen Herobrine, or knows anyone who has, he does believe in him. He also believes that Herobrine was put in the game purposefully, and was then deleted. Because of this, his version of Herobrine’s origins does not originate from the Internet, but rather from a story involving the game’s creator’s brother. Interestingly, he has heard that Herobrine can be separate from Minecraft, coming out of the computer and haunting people instead of just the game. While the informant is not a game designer, many of his friends are, so he is fairly knowledgeable about gamer culture.

Digital
Game
Legends

Herobrine

Collected privately in an empty hallway while his friends played a horror game in the other room, which he returned to after the interview. I began by simply asking, “What do you know about Herobrine?”

The informant has not played Minecraft in recent years, but used to when it was first popular. He heard about Herobrine through the Internet, around middle school and early high school, when it was very popular.
Informant: “Herobrine is constantly being removed from Minecraft even though it was never there. Like I don’t know the exa- I don’t know what form Herobrine’s supposed to take, but it is some… NPC, before there were NPC’s in the game, who was supposed to appear and be spooky. And basically people used to think it was removed, and then, I think, Notch started adding in the patch notes that it was removed every time, and then it – now it’s in every single patch note; They just have a thing saying it’s removed.”

Interviewer: “Do you know his origin?”

Informant: “I don’t know the origin. I assume it started somewhere on the forums, but…”

Interviewer: “Do you know what he does in the game?”

Informant: “I don’t know what he does. I was playing the Alpha of Minecraft, a friend of mine gave me the Alpha when it had just come out, so I played it for years, but I’ve sort of forgotten.”

Interviewer: “Do you know anyone who claims to have seen Herobrine?”

Informant: “I don’t. I didn’t have any friends who were like, ‘If you look under the truck in Pokemon, in, in Pokemon Red, then you can get a hundred master balls.”

Herobrine
The informant does not believe Herobrine ever existed, and was created by fans. Although he has played Minecraft, he is not very immersed in gaming culture, and does not know much about Herobrine.

Digital
Game
Legends

Herobrine

Collected in a college apartment while the informant was preparing to cook lunch.

The informant played Minecraft in middle school, and, being a game designer, is well-versed in gamer culture. She, unlike many others, first heard about Herobrine from a friend rather than from the Internet.
Informant: “To my understanding – Sorry, I’m going to be a little noisy. [informant rustles plastic wrapping, preparing to cook] Okay. Herobrine, from my understanding, is, yeah, it’s like the Minecraft uhh… the Minecraft ghost? He’s got, like, white eyes and people claim that… I don’t know, that he behaves kind of similarly to Slenderman? Like he’ll just kinda show up. Um, I don’t remember if he does anything bad to you? I don’t think he does? But, there’s just like screenshots that are, like, very obviously edited [laughs]. Um, but those got a lot of traction, and then mods came out that had an actual Herobrine, but I’m pretty sure that it was just, like, another mod skinned to be looking like Herobrine… But I remember being kinda freaked out about it, like every time I’d play at night I’d be like, ‘Oh my god, what if I wake up in the middle of the night [in Minecraft] and instead of, like, a zombie… being over my bed in Minecraft it’s Herobrine’ and I’d be like, ‘OH SHIT, IT LOOKS JUST LIKE ME! [laughs] Except it has white eyes!’ And that was about the extent of, like, how deep the lore was for me [laughs]. And I kinda loved it, I don’t know.”

Interviewer: “When do you remember hearing about Herobrine, and through what?”

Informant: “Oh god, [chuckles] that was, like, middle school? One of my friends was like, ‘… [In a mocking, purposefully deep voice] Have you heard of Herobrine?’ And I was like, ‘ [In a mocking, purposefully high, airy voice] NO?! What’s Herobrine?!’ And he was telling me all about it, but it was like total fucking bullshit, like he told me the same thing three times, except each time was a little bit different about, like, the first time he’d seen it. So I was like, ‘Ian, you’re a jackass [laughs] .’ But… yeah then I, then I started digging into it on my own… because it was way more fun than listening to fucking [in a mocking voice] Ian talk about it. And then I told my other friends… and they all looked into it, except I was a much better storyteller than Ian was [laughs]. Do you have any other Herobrine questions?”

Interviewer: “Do you know what he does? So he appears in the game, right?”

Informant: “Theoretically.”

Interviewer: “Do you know what he does?”

Informant: “I don’t remember off the top of my head, no. Does he steal your shit? What does he do?”

Interviewer: “I don’t know, that’s for you to tell me.”

Informant: “[Laughs] I’m pretty – From my memory, he just was, like, jumpscare-man. Like he would just pop up, like all of the screenshots he wasn’t doing anything; He literally was just there. Uhh… like when people turn around they were like, ‘[In a mocking voice] And then Herobrine was right there!’ Or they’d be in, like, the desert, where you have a lot of visibility, and they’d see in the distance, like, the shape of, of Minecraft, you know, the Minecraft avatar, um, except they would have, like, glowing white eyes and they’d be, like, ‘[In a mocking voice] That’s not me.’ Uhh [laughs] yes. And that is my understanding of what Herobrine does.”

Interviewer: “Do you know Herobrine’s origin?”

Informant: “Umm, I’m pretty sure someone just, like… I feel like I, I saw, like, a 4chan screenshot? There was, it was literally just, like, the, the, the base avatar from Minecraft except with, like, Photoshopped white eyes. Umm, and then someone was telling this story about, like, their creepy interaction with Herobrine and how, like, Herobrine watched them. That’s, like, my most distinctive, and it feels like the most original [laughs].”

Herobrine
The informant is clearly amused by the notion of Herobrine, and by what, to her, is the sheer silliness of the character and her memories from middle school. She does not believe in Herobrine. Interestingly, while most others associate Herobrine with the statement, “Removed Herobrine” in every patch note, the informant had not heard of this ever being done.

Customs
Game

Weekly Horror Game Nights

“My roommates Lane and Brendan, and also our friend Andrew who doesn’t live with us but is around sometimes, we have a tradition of having horror game nights where we all get together late at night – recently, we’ve done it with cake that says like, ‘Happy Horror Game Night!’ – and we’ll sit around, and turn all of the lights off, and play a horror video game. It’s a terrible idea because all of us get scared very easily and none of us like horror games, so we just we don’t really enjoy it. It’s fun because it can sometimes be fun to get scared, but none of us like being scared. I especially don’t like being scared. We’ll sometimes switch off who plays but usually it’s Brendan or Andrew because I get too scared and Lane gets headaches and stuff, so they will play the game and we’ll all watch, and do the story and stuff, and freak out, and then take breaks, and turn the lights on, and eat cake, and turn them off again, and then I’ll say, ‘let’s stop.’ Everyone will say, ‘No, let’s keep going!’ and I’ll say, ‘Ok!’ and then we’ll all cuddle on the couch together in fear and horror.”

Background Information and Context:

“It’s a bonding experience being of afraid together, and it’s how we became friends in the first place, which is why we continue to do it. The very first time we all were in the same place at the same time, we were all at Brendan’s place and we had just gotten this game called PT, which we later found out stood for Playable Trailer because it’s a playable trailer for a game called, like, Silent Hill. The trailer was super scary, and it was basically like this hallway that you kept going round and round and round, and you kept circling back, and things kept happening, and it was super duper scary. He had gotten that, and we were playing it together even though we didn’t really know each other. It was in Webb Tower, and we sat this couch together and, like, all the lights are off, and we are playing it for some whatever ridiculous reason, and at one point there’s this ghost lady, and she looked popped out of nowhere, and literally all of us let out bloodcurdling screams. And no one came to check on us! We were in Webb Tower, there is an RA in that building,  I’m sorry it was very clearly not like we’re having a good time screams! It was screams of terror!”

Collector’s Notes:

This anecdote offers insight into the reasons people willingly engage in activities that are not enjoyable. I, personally, never watch horror movies or play horror movies, but many people, like the informant and her friends, engage in the genre frequently. For some, the adrenaline rush, itself, is an exciting and enjoyable experience. For the informant and her friends, being scared is a social experience. They are afraid, but they are doing it together in solidarity even though none of them enjoy the fear, itself. The tradition is also symbolic, reminding them of how they became friends as they experience this shared experience each week. I think stories of being scared also make great, exciting stories, and telling those stories can be a rewarding social experience.

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.

[geolocation]