Throughout gaming’s history, many exciting rumors and theories have spread uncontrollably. Which popular myths are not true?
By Sam Bloom
Published Jun 06, 2021
A Scottish Philosopher once mused that?the human passion toward “surprise and wonder” can often lead to strange beliefs. The modern era is no exception, and video games are a prime subject for myth-making.
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Long ago, before devoted fans knew how to pour through a game’s source code, games were shrouded in mystery. Urban legends about games could range from secret content to shocking claims about their effects on public health. Game development was also far less transparent to the public. As a result, canceled features in a game that felt conspicuously absent lead players to believe these features were hidden?somewhere inconspicuous. But these myths usually just?resulted in wasted time and a lot of disappointed kids.
Arcades mark a cool, lost era of gaming, and stories about government conspiracies are all the rage. It’s only natural to marry two interesting topics!
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Enter Polybius: an?experimental arcade game that the U.S. government developed to research subliminal messaging. While the story resembles some actual government conspiracies, there is?no proof that Polybius ever existed.?No gaming magazines from the era mention it, nor does any local ephemera contain its name.
Games are about control because it feels good to?affect situations that are unique and exciting. This is why many people believe that they can affect the success of a Pokeball after throwing it. ’90s kids might?recall methods of increasing catch rates by holding B and down, or mashing the A button. All of these are false, though.
The catch rate of a Pokemon?in Generation?1 is?determined by a variety of factors, and a player’s willingness to hold a button is not one of them. And while the math for capturing Pokemon has changed over the years, this feature has never been added.
It is an oft-repeated piece of video game trivia that?the Tomb Raider?mascot’s early design was a happy accident. Legend tells that Toby Gard, Lara Croft’s original designer, accidentally overinflated her chest while doing some modeling, but the new look got so much approval from his peers that he decided to?keep it.
It’s an?appealing story that a fictional woman?became a sex symbol by computational blessing. But in a?piece for sister site The Gamer, Ruth Cassidy?puts this story to bed?once and for all. The “body slider” story is a misunderstanding, borne from the poor translation of Gard’s verbal sarcasm to the written word.
One of the most bizarrely popular urban legends was that Luigi was unlockable in Mario 64. This was further exacerbated by a blurry texture in the castle’s rear courtyard that supposedly read ‘L is real 2401.’?Luigi was originally planned for the game but was cut.
Interestingly enough, though, about 24 years and 1 month after 64’s initial release, the source data for Luigi’s?voice and model were leaked onto the internet. Soon after, fans restored his presence in the game. Together at last!
Shadow of the Colossus?(2005) takes place in a convincingly large and mysterious world. Early fans took a cue and knew there had to be?something?lying in wait in the far reaches of the Forbidden Land. The most devoted fans spent years searching for the fabled “17th colossus” until hacking put their guesswork to rest. While hacking ushered a renaissance of SotC knowledge, it also disconfirmed the prospect of any hidden enemies lying in wait. However, in creating SotC’s remake, Bluepoint Games hid goodies around the world?in reference to?this legendary hunt.
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Still, the rumor mill never stops. There were also once stories about an alternate ending. The?rumor went that if players use an obscure late-game item to lower their health enough, then they can die during the game’s ending. However, no such alternate ending exists because the player cannot die during the sequence in question.
Bethesda games are notorious for being buggy, but?Skyrim?has a different bug story floating around it. For years, fans were perplexed by a series of jars containing bugs that are hidden in nonsensical locations. The weird writing hidden on them would unsettle imaginations, too.
While stories permeated that they were part of a secret in-game conspiracy, the reality is that the jars?are?an artifact of an aborted questline. They were left in the games as mere curiosities,?with Bethesda underestimating how much allure they would retain in their defunct state.
In the wake of fans’ disappointment over the ending to the classic?Mass Effect?trilogy was a surprisingly convincing interpretation of the game’s final events, called “Indoctrination Theory.” The theory goes that the series protagonist Commander Shepard experiences a rapid form of?mind control?in the game’s closing moments. The purpose of this theory was to recontextualize some of the inconsistencies and contrivances of the game’s final act. And while the theory is little more than fan fiction, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a fun concept.
Speculating about fiction is common, but why did so many fans seek to amend the canon? Well, the ending that appeared in the original?ME3?was prompted by?a leak of the game’s script, which forced BioWare to abandon all previous foreshadowing. On top of that, the original writer of the series did not work on?Mass Effect 3. This left writer Mac Walters in a tight spot.?And while his hard work is commendable, longtime fans were still unhappy. Perhaps, ultimately, it would have been better for BioWare to let fans read the leaks?and ruin the story for themselves, instead of?forcing the rewrites that?ruined it for everyone!
Fire Emblem: Three Houses?is the most recent entry of a long-running series?that has only recently seen mainstream success. As the title implies, players are given a choice between allying with three different dynasties, which affects later developments in the story. One house among the three boasts a split path late in?Part I, but fans have found data that suggested there were?similar splits for other routes. On top of that, fans have noted that the game’s obscure fourth route (where the player joins forces with Part I’s antagonist) is notably more sparse than the other three, leading them to believe it was an afterthought.
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Both of these findings smell of cut content, but the creators have assured fans that only the four routes that currently exist are the ones that were planned.
When MGS: V?debuted in 2015, fans felt that the game’s story was sparse,?despite its expansive worldspace. With the game’s?hasty conclusion and unresolved plot points, fans?suspected?something was amiss. When owners of the collector’s edition shared the cut “Kingdom of Flies” mission, everyone’s suspicions were proven… sort of.
Players had proof that the game hosted cut content, but it wasn’t clear how much. Devoted data miners spent the next several months?scouring for a hidden “Chapter 3” that answered?everyone’s questions. Unfortunately, they never found much beyond a monologue connected to the game’s multiplayer.
The most memorable meme to come out of Sid Meier’s?Civilization?series is that of “nuclear Gandhi.” Back in 1991, gamers were perplexed by the extraordinary aggression that the Indian leader would display after developing nuclear weapons. For decades, people speculated that this was due to a glitch. Supposedly, Gandhi was programmed for his aggression to be set to 1, but because of how the game treats the variable in context,?this setting underflowed to?maximum?aggression.
But as Meier himself states in his 2020 memoir, there was no glitch. Gandhi’s rush to nuclear development was simply the game’s way of exploring nuclear deterrence theory, a key concept of the Cold War at the time of development.
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About The Author
(5 Articles Published)
Sam is an enthusiast of biking, hiking, and running. In her free time, she plays retro games and reads fantasy and philosophy. Sam is brimming with opinions and trivia. She thanks her friends and colleagues for their enormous patience whenever she opens her mouth.
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