Ghost In The Machine: Haunted Video Games

Posted by on January 28th, 2011

In his 2009 column entitled Ghost In The Machine: Batman & Midnight Society Tackle TV’s Toughest Demonic Electronics, Matt explored how popular culture interpretations of the fear of addictive escapism through video games were portrayed by Batman: The Animated Series and Are You Afraid of the Dark? Spoiler alert: Batman gets it right, of course. In his intro to the column, he makes the following statement:

“Every major technological trend or development is always addressed by pop culture with a movie or show that illustrates the breakthrough’s potential for wild mass homicide. What if a VHS tape… were haunted? What if your cell phone… were haunted? What if the Internet… were haunted?”

Today, we are going to explore another question that people ask themselves a surprisingly large amount of the time. What if a video game… were haunted? Here are five times that question has been asked.

1. The Haunted Ms. Pac Man Machine – This particular Ms. Pac Man machine apparently came with one extra ghost. It was first spotted on Craigslist in Boston where it was being offered for free. When the owner was contacted and asked why it was being given away, he responded saying:

“Three-year old daughter started talking about the “man in the video machine”, didn’t think much of it, then my wife saw a dark figure move across the basement and into the machine. She ran out of the house, would not return until the machine was out of the house.”

Haunted video game or clever ruse to rid the house of Ms. Pac Man?

2. Pokeman Black – A bootleg version of Pokemon found in a flea market that was a modified version of Pokemon Red. The game starts out with an extra Pokemon simply called “GHOST” that had an attack called Curse. When used in battle, GHOST would slaughter any other Pokemon and when the end of the game was reached, the gamer was faced with “GHOST wants to fight!”. The battle always ended in death for the gamer and the game being erased.

3. Majora’s Haunted Mask – This legend has a really involved back story, but the basic premise is that a video game was purchased at a garage sale that belonged to a boy named Ben who had died, most likely from drowning. Check out these videos from the affected game. They are definitely creepy if nothing else.

4. Polybius, The Haunted Arcade Game – The legend of Polybius originated in Portland in the 1980s and involved a strange game that showed up at various Portland arcades mysteriously. The few gamers that actually got a chance and played the game supposedly became addicted and started acting strangely.

“Some say they experienced an extreme form of vertigo and vivid hallucinations long after they had finished playing while others claim they suffered amnesia, in some cases forgetting their own name. And most horrifying of all, it’s said that some players were haunted by horrific nightmares and eventually driven to insanity and suicide after coming under the game’s influence. “

Just as quickly and mysteriously as the game had appeared, it disappeared leaving few clues as to where it came from. Conspiracy theories range from government experiments, to ghosts, to Atari recalls. This legend is quite detailed and much more information can be found in the article and on Wikipedia.

5. Minecraft and the Legend of Herobrine – This is my favorite legend that we are covering today and it could easily be an entire post by itself. There is a lot of detail and information if you are willing to dig around the internet for it. The basic premise for the legend is that while playing in single player mode gamers started reporting structures and tunnels they did not build. They would also occasionally spot a user identified as Herobrine, who it was later discovered was the dead brother of Notch, the developer of Minecraft.

One of the most interesting parts of this legend to me is the hilarious and sometimes vitriolic interaction between the believers, the scammers, and those people who are clearly irritated with the whole idea.  I also love the growing library of videos that have appeared on YouTube chronicling Herobrine encounters. I have embedded some of my favorite ones below.

This one is long, you only need to watch like the last minute if you want.

It should be noted that four of the five stories involve haunted hardware, perhaps because it is easier to attribute something intangible, like a ghost, to a tangible object you can touch. Minecraft is a shared experience; however, Herobrine is only reported in the single player version of the game, which is not shared. Even so, as the legend of Herobrine has grown, the Minecraft community as a whole has shared the experience. This has been but a small sampling of the good ghost shenanigans in video games that are out there today. Anybody know any additional stories?

[image Jess Bradley]

4 Responses to “Ghost In The Machine: Haunted Video Games”

  1. Cameron Says:

    I remember that Majora’s mask… Was a huge ARG on 4chan/x/, the paranormal board. I still have yet to read/watch the entire thing…

  2. Joseph Says:

    Pokemon Black: Does the gamer die or his in game character?

  3. Ryan Crutchfield Says:

    My take on it was that the in game character died, in other words it was a “cursed” game that was not winnable.

  4. Ryan Crutchfield Says:

    and in another fun related story, it seems like the kinect can pick up “ghosts” in the room with you as well