After throwing your copy of ‘Contra’, your NES and whoever was playing with you (who managed to walk too far forward, killing your character) out the bedroom window in 1991, who could’ve dreamt that video games would become the largest section of the wider entertainment industry in the world?
Any phenomenon as popular and wide-reaching as this will spawn a whole bunch of fringe stories, interesting individuals and quirky facts. Here’s a list of 10—some of the entries are short tasters for you to read about and research via the references. Some of these are less a trip down the rabbit hole than a full-own dungeon crawl through the Rabbit-God’s labyrinth. Enjoy!
10 The Elder Scrolls Game That’s Bigger Than Britain
A lot of RPG gamers stick to the core quest/storylines. They listen intently to tutorials and methodically work through the remaining side quests once they’re done with the main game.
There is another sort of gamer—those who treat open world-type games as the name suggests. Many a gamer has delighted in taking to the open road, be it the vast frozen lands of Skyrim or the sprawling city of San Andreas from the GTA series, and randomly do whatever the hell they feel like. These worlds, however, have a border. You can only travel so far before you run smack bang into a game wall. Some maps are larger than others.
The map from the second installation of popular Elder Scrolls series from Bethesda Softworks, ‘The Elder Scroll II: Daggerfall’, is vast. Bethesda, the game’s publishers, claim that the world map roughly equates to the size of the island of Great Britain. Maybe a bit bigger. Where it takes most players a few tens of minutes to get across the map in your typical large, open world game, Daggerfall takes days. The best time thus far is 61 hours and 54 minutes (!) The record for running the 874 miles from Land’s End to John o’Gorates in Britain is 9 days—so Daggerfall is huge, but it takes longer to walk through a roughly equivalent real map—real humans tend to get blisters, though.
Then again, you won’t come across as many centaurs, spriggans and wereboars.
9 A Weird Dark Souls World Record
Gaming world records are usually quite mundane—speed-runs, high scores on arcade games and record times in racing games. One avid gamer, however, found a novel way to get his name in the record books.
Benjamin “Bearzly” Winn from Edmonton, Canada, set the record for successful completions of the PC version of the fiendishly difficult, Lovecraftian RPG ‘Dark Souls’, all whilst using different types of game controllers. He chocked up a total of 9 finished games with the different controllers, ranging from the mundane to the seemingly impossible—”Bearzly” used:
An Xbox 360 controller (with 1 finger)
A Steering Wheel
A Microphone (implementing voice control)
A ‘Rock Band’ Guitar
A ‘Rock Band’ Piano
A ‘Rock Band’ Drum Kit
And a pair of ‘Donkey Kong’ Bongos
8 ‘Duke Nukem Forever (Took) Forever’
The gaming community isn’t known for its patience. When gamers are made to wait an extra year for a promised game to be released, it’d better be at least a 9.5/10, lest you release a kraken of online hate.
One of the most notorious flubs after a long delay was ‘Duke Nukem Forever’. First, the game was held from release for 14 years (announced in 1997, released in 2011!). That’s as long as it takes a child to get from their birth to the end of elementary school, have a bar or bat mitzvah and have most of your non-head hairs come through.
Secondly, at the end of all that, your rewards was a copy of ‘Duke Nukem Forever’, one of the dullest games ever released. Luckily for the developers, the Duke’s ‘Enforcer’ (a twin rocket launcher) is not commercially available for former fans to purchase.
7 That’s The Name Of The Game
We all know ‘Tiger Woods PGA Tour’, ‘Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!’, ‘Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater’ and… ‘Emlyn Hughes International Soccer’? No? How about ‘Shirley Muldowney’s Top Fuel Challenge’? Ok, that’s less likely.
Over the years there have been many obscure celebrity endorsed video game titles -sometimes the game remains obscure, sometime it’s the celebrity that isn’t all that well-known, sometimes they’re downright weird.
Take 2008s Nintendo DS game ‘Who’s Cooking? with Jamie Oliver’, a cooking simulator where the player prepares some recipes from the English chef’s repertoire. That’s it. Some have said there is an easter egg hidden in the game—you can induce the mockney healthy-eating advocate to cry profusely onscreen if you manage to cook a turkey twizzler gumbo. But that’s probably just an urban legend.
Another strange one is 1986s Commodore 64/ZX Spectrum title ‘Peter Shilton’s Handball Maradona’, a soccer game where you control one player, as opposed to the whole team. That player is the then-England goalkeeper Peter Shilton. So why is legendary Argentine player Maradona in the title? Well, in the 1986 FIFA World Cup, Diego Maradona scored a very contentious goal (he very clearly used his hand, which is a foul), leading to England losing the match and getting dumped out of the tournament. In order to cash in on this sensational scandal, the game’s developers dumped the words ‘Maradona’ and ‘Handball’ into the title, seemingly to cash in on the prominence of the event. The teams in the game are all English domestic league teams, a league that Diego Maradona never played in.
One of the all-time-most-bizarre celeb-fronted games has to be 1991s Japanese game ‘Gorby no PipelineDaisakusen’ for the MSX2, Famicom and Fujitsu’s ‘FM Towns’ gaming PC variant. This Tetris-style game tasks you with building a pipeline from Moscow, then in the USSR, to Tokyo in order to improve diplomatic relations between the two states. ‘Gorby’ refers to Mikhail Gorbachev, the USSRs Premier, who’s featured in cartoon form on the game’s cover, birthmark and all! 3 months after the game’s release, the USSR dissolved. Plans for ‘Yeltsin’s Vodka Distillery Daisakusen’ never came to pass.
6 A Crowd-funded Nightmare
Waiting years and years for Duke Nukem Forever to be released must have been frustrating for fans, but that’s nothing compared to the ‘Star Citizen’ saga. After first launching a Kickstarter for developing the game in 2010, English game developer Chris Roberts, noted for creating “Wing Commander” series of games, still hasn’t given pledgers a release date. That’s all despite raising $339 million in pledges!
The ins, outs whys and wherefores are too numerous to cover in detail here; needless to say, if the ‘Star Citizen’ affair just fizzles out with no game released, it will be considered one of the biggest scams of the digital age.
5 Game Over
We’ve all done it—played some low or no-budget, crappy video game on Steam, or on miniclip.com (back in the day), or after buying some cheapo ‘300-in-1 PC Game bundle***INCLUDES DUNKY KANG!’ (way back in the day). These sorts of games have one thing in common—they are all shite.
The game that defines this sub-genre of games is the unlicensed craptastic shoot ’em up ‘Hong Kong 97’, published in 1995. It was designed by Japanese hobbyist ‘Kowloon’ Kurasawa, replete with terrible level design, graphics and an awful storyline —You play as ‘Chin’, A heroin-addicted super soldier and cousin of Bruce Lee, tasked by the Hong Kong government to kill the population of China—not a small number of people—because of a chaotic influx of migrants from the mainland to the island city-state after the 1997 handover from the UK… hell, maybe it was prophetic.
This game is often considered the ‘worst game of all time’. But a that isn’t why this game is notable amongst the 1000s of titles that float in the cesspool of shitty games.
There’s a photo of an actual corpse shown on the ‘Game Over’ screen. No joke here. A real dead person. There was a whole conspiracy theory borne from this (which was way more interesting than the game itself). Some claimed that it was the body of a Polish boxer named Leszek B?a?y?ski, who committed suicide 3 years before the game was released. Was he actually murdered—the still used in the game taken from a video recording taken by his killers? Did China have a hand in doing so, maybe as retaliation for him speaking out against the newly struck trade deals between the CCP and Poland?
Turns out the designer clipped a screenshot from a ‘Faces of Death’ mondo film that included Bosnian War footage. So, who was the corpse? A dead combatant from the war in Bosnia. God, this game sucks.
4 Chris Houlihan And His Secret Room
The title of this entry sounds a lot creepier than it should.
Chris Houlihan was not (as far as can be ascertained) a CIA torturer or a serial killer. He was once a kid who won a cool prize. Back in 1990, Nintendo Power Magazine ran an awesome competition—entrants had to send in pictures of themselves with Warmech from the Final Fantasy franchise. The winner was a young man named Chris Houlihan. His prize? He has his own secret room on the SuperNES version of the game “The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past”. Chris Houlihan is now immortal.
3 The Guy Who’s Been Playing Sports Management Simulator For 333 Years
Dedication to ones work is often held up as a primary ideal of modern society. Nobody represents this as well as Sepp Hedel, a German man who took it upon himself to work the often thankless, grueling, high-pressure job of managing a series of soccer teams. For over 300 years.
In a video game, of course.
The world record holder from Germany was playing ‘Football Manager 2017’. He started his virtual career with FC United of Manchester, staying with the club for 50 years. He then moved to India where he managed Bengaluru for 200 years. He finished off his career back in England with Hereford FC, taking the small market town’s team to 45 league titles over 83 seasons. How long did Sepp play the game in real terms? 81 days. Or 1,940 hours.
When life-extension biotech becomes commercially available, Sepp should probably go for the record of managing a soccer team for 300 years IRL. Or it doesn’t count…
2 How To Make A Horror Game Gorier
No matter how many flying intestines and geyser-level blood spurts you add into a game, there will always be the protective barrier that is the screen/monitor. You won’t be ‘in’ the game world itself…yet—it’s coming, though.
When ‘Resident Evil 4’ was released with much fanfare in 2005, players were treated to another top jump-scare-laden release for the franchise. But somebody, somewhere, must have expressed how disappointingly mundane the game was. This prompted NubyTech to release a special controller for the game, usable on GameCube or PS2—A blood-splattered Chainsaw controller. That, or this was yet another ‘collectible’ add-on to squeeze as much cash as is humanly possible out of gamers. Still, it’s another controller for “Bearzly” Winn to beat Dark Souls with.
1 Taking Obsession A Tad Too Far
There are a lot of urban legends and creepypastas associated with video games—from the ‘Ben Drowned’ story about ‘The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask’, to the infamous ‘Polybius’ urban legend about a 1980s arcade game rumoured to have caused various terrible symptoms, placed in arcades by mysterious men in black—the world of gaming is no stranger to scary tales. The case of the ‘Final Fantasy VII House’ actually occurred.
Much like the ‘Star Citizen’ affair, the story of the ‘Final Fantasy House’ is too long and winding to cover in a listcicle (check out the above video), but here’s a breakdown to help you rappel down the rabbit hole—after more research, you can decide if you believe this strange tale:
The story, in short, is that two individuals referred to as ‘Jenova’ and ‘Hojo’ enticed people to live with them. Jenova then convinced these tenants that they were all reincarnations of characters from the game, coercing and controlling them like a maniacal cult leader.
Given the hours many people spend glued to screens, immersing themselves in an alternate reality where they can be a hero, maybe this urban legend is actually true.
About The Author: CJ Phillips is a storyteller, actor and writer living in rural West Wales. He is a little obsessed with lists.