Rumors and videogames have gone hand in hand for years now. From school yard bragging about your uncle who works for Nintendo, to the almost constant leaks that seem to plague new releases. We’re all suckers for a lie or myth, and even with a healthy dose of skepticism, I’m sure you believe in one at least of these falsehoods.
The Myth: Blowing in Game Cartridges Makes Them Work
The Truth: We all know this one. Blowing into game cartridges was meant to clear the dust off the pins, and allow you to continue playing.
In reality it was the removal of the cartridge from the console that helped. Blowing on a cartridge actually damages it. Instead of lightly dusting the pins, making them cleaner and happier, we were actually spitting all over them and causing the pins to corrode.
It actually makes a lot of sense, but as a kid it wasn’t important. I in a hurry to play Puggsy on the MegaDrive, and even my parents didn’t seem too bothered with the proper care of games. CDs and VHS got the same treatment because no one in my family had ever heard of an air duster or knew anything about micro fibre cloths.
Even being the learned and responsible adult that I am, I still have to force myself to stop when I boot up my GameBoy. Just because it hasn’t happened to me yet, doesn’t mean it won’t.
The Myth: Lara Croft Cheats Could Make Her Naked in the First Game
The Truth: The Lara Croft Nude Code first appeared in 1996, shortly after the debut Tomb Raider game released. Tomb Raider was a popular game, offering adventure, mystery, and atmospheric environments to ogle at. Or you could ogle Lara, who is one of videogames most well known sex icons despite having a rather triangular bosom. From there, it really isn’t that surprising that someone came up with the rumor that you could play through Tomb Raider with Lara in the nude if you had the right code.
This wasn’t restricted to just one game either. Game after game, the Tomb Raider franchise was rumored to allow you to see nude Lara. Even the 2015 reboot had players clamoring for an “almost topless” glitch from one of the costumes she could wear.
Not once was Lara ever nude, of course. As many times as the game developers said it wasn’t a feature, the rumor came back again and again – like some sort of nude Lara Croft hydra, which still isn’t the weirdest thing the explorer has encountered in twenty years of games.
The end of it is that there never was a nude Lara code, despite many wishing it existed, and there never will be. Unless you count mods of course.
The Myth: It Was Possible to Kill the Duck Hunt Dog in All His Smirking Glory
The Truth: I’ve never played Duck Hunt. Not one single game. Yet I still grew up with the knowledge that you could kill the Duck Hunt dog and wipe that stupid smile off his smug face. You can’t though. At least, not on the NES game with the snappily named NES Zapper.
The developers obviously knew of everyone’s hate for the annoying laughter that followed each miss, because in the arcade version – Vs. Duck Hunt – you could shoot the dog. In a bonus round which had you fire at as many ducks as possible, the dog would jump out of the grass, allowing him to be shot.
Even in Vs. Duck Hunt you can’t kill the dog, rather just maim him and cause him to complain a lot. Though probably not as much as we’ve complained about him.
The Myth: Legendary Pokemon Cheats
The Truth: There were a lot of rumors about how to get legendary Pokemon from the first three sets of Pokémon games. Most of these died down when the DS came out, and you could download Pokemon via codes. We all knew that you could get legendary Pokemon via a GameShark, but that felt like cheating and was very expensive.
As an answer to very few people not having access to a GameShark – and probably just so people could have a few laughs at the gullibility of Pokemon players – there were hundreds of forums and websites offering various cheats and glitches for you to take advantage of. From cloning Pokemon, replicating items, and catching Safari Zone Pokemon outside of the Safari Zone, we all probably tried at least one.
The most famous of these myths was that Mew could be found under the truck parked next to the S.S. Anne. To do this you needed to come back with both Surf and Strength (as well as the badges to use them) without having gone on the S.S. Anne. This meant you had to trade a Pokemon with cut from another game so you could continue with the story. To attempt this you had to start a new game and spend hours hoping it would work.
It didn’t. There was no Mew hidden under the truck.
There was however, another way to get Mew in Pokémon Yellow that included battling specific trainers past nugget bridge, capturing an Abra and teleporting away from a battle. In the end though, you could glitch a Mew for yourself. All that meant however, was that I believed every other legendary Pokemon glitch for the next two games.
I spent hours in front of the Ilex Forest shrine trying to get a Celebi that just didn’t exist without an event.
The Myth: The First Videogame Ever Made Was Pong
The Truth: Pong was released in 1972 as an arcade game, and was definitely one of the first videogames to have any sort of commercial success. Even now it’s a household name, though many people haven't played it. Beating it by a year however was the arcade game Computer Space, which released in 1971 to moderate success. Computer Space is considered the first arcade game, though it is worth noting that Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabne – the creators – did go on to found Atari, the company behind Pong.
Even Computer Space wasn’t the first videogame though, just the first popular one. Computer Space was based off Spacewar, a 1962 project from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was programmed by Steve Russell and several others, but would continuously be improved on later by students and university employees. It wasn’t easy to get your hands on though, and if you didn’t have connections to a handful of different universities, you wouldn’t have a chance to play it. Hence why Computer Space and Pong are much more well known.
Earlier than even 1962 is Tennis for Two. Playable in 1958 at the Brookhaven Library, there is no doubt that Tennis for Two was a game, but questions arise as to if it counts as a videogame.
It was played through an oscilloscope, powered by analogue computers. These fed an image to the oscilloscope of a bouncing ball. Add a net and two controllers, and you’re looking at a brand new experience that proved very popular at Brookhaven Library -- but largely forgotten after being dismantled. Legally, to be counted as a videogame however, there must be some sort of video signal manipulation, which Tennis for Two lacked.
Videogame or not, it’s easy to see where the idea for Pong came from.
The Myth: You Could Jump over the Flag in Super Mario Bros
The Truth: Reaching the flag indicated the end of a Super Mario Bros level, yet some players obviously wanted more. Rumor floated around for years that if you jumped in just the right way, at just the right time, you could maneuver Mario over the flagpole. Supposedly, you could do this on every level.
It just isn’t true. The levels weren’t designed to allow you that sweet flag-avoiding glory. Except, where there’s a will there’s a way, and while you weren’t designed to leap the flagpole, you technically can in two levels. When playing World 1-1 on a wide screen, you can take advantage of the horizontal and vertical looping techniques to make the jump.
World 3-3 however is the only world you can leap a flagpole in. By using a platform on a string you can gain the extra height to pass over the pole. Then you get to spend the next however-long running around doing nothing until timer runs out and Mario dies, making you play the level again.
Hey – you win some, you lose some.
The Myth: Windows 95 Hid a Secret Program That Proved Bill Gates Was a Devil Worshipper
The Truth: The rumor here is that Bill Gates hid a secret program in Windows 95 that took you through a sort of mini-game of horrors. Bloody halls, weird messages, and unsettling music.
Bill Gates is many things, but I think we all know that he’s not a devil worshipper. Or if he is, he has the sense to not bring that into his business. Of course there was no secret program hidden in Windows 95.
It was in Excel 95. Here’s how you accessed it.
- Open up Excel 95
- Make your way down to row 95
- Select the whole row
- Select cell B
- Go to Help/About Microsoft Excel
- Hold CTRL, ALT, and shift, then click on the tech support button
- A window should open, and you can play a mini-game
The program was called the Hall of Tortured Souls and featured several disturbing rooms, narrow bridges, and – worst of all – images of the programmers that worked on Excel 95.
While the Hall of Tortured Souls does exist, it doesn’t have any of the aforementioned bloody halls, weird messages, or unsettling music. This easter egg was left by the programmers because – let’s face it – no one ever reads who created any of the Microsoft Office programs.
The Myth: Polybius Existed, and Was Secret CIA Brainwashing
The Truth: Polybius was supposedly an arcade game from 1981. It has never been proven to actually exist, and is generally believed to be an urban legend. But what a legend it is.
It goes that Polybius suddenly appeared in several Portland arcades. It was addictively good, and had queues to play it. Despite being popular, it disappeared a month later with no trace of it to ever surface again. The game was meant to have caused severe psychoactive effects, such as insomnia, hallucinations and amnesia. Men in black suits were also said to have visited the arcade cabinets regularly, to collect unknown information.
Men in black suits means only one thing of course; the government was experimenting on people via videogames. The experiments ranged from subliminal messaging to brainwashing. It’s worth noting that Polybius shares a name with a Greek historian, who was known for firmly believing that nothing should be recorded as history until there was sufficient proof via interviews and witnesses. Something which this urban legend lacks.
American author Brian Dunning looked into Polybius in 2013 and raises several alternative ideas surrounding it. While he firmly believes that Polybius didn’t exist, it does have a few things in common with events that happened around the same time. Another game called Tempest released in the same year as Polybius, and supposedly had issues with vertigo, and photosensitive epilepsy.
Dunning believed that the Polybius rumors started with exaggerated reports of the effects of Tempest.
This was combined with a couple of gamers falling ill in arcades in Portland; one with a migraine, another with stomach pains after trying to beat a world record for playing Asteroids.
Shortly after these illnesses was another incident. Apparently several arcades were raided by FBI during an investigation of gambling. In preparation of the raid, several FBI agents were said to have checked arcade cabinets for tampering, and recorded several high score tables.
It all mixes together rather well to conspiratorial young minds, and with no actual proof that Polybius even existed (such as a patent), it’s pretty safe to say that this myth is just that.
But who knows, stranger things have happened.