It’s strange that puzzles and games don’t seem to have urban legends attached to them, even though they’ve been with us for so long.
I mean, sure, there’s palindromes believed to have magical powers… and cursed puzzle boxes like in the Hellraiser films… but I can’t think of any pervasive urban legends around modern puzzles and games.
It strikes me as odd because there are plenty about video games, which are a relatively new art form, generally speaking. There are stories about haunted Legend of Zelda cartridges and sinister destructive secret characters in Minecraft.
There’s the supposed Madden Curse (where athletes who appear on the cover of Madden games end up suffering poor seasons or getting injured), and even the conspiracy stories about an arcade game called Polybius that government agents used to download game data from in the 1980s.
Recently, an urban video game legend was put to rest.
It starts, as many urban legends, bits of folklore, and spooky stories do, with a hazy recollection. There’s a forum on Reddit cleverly titled “Tip of my joystick,” where people can post details about a game whose name they don’t remember, and the other posters help them remember it.
The post was about one of those complete-a-task/farming-style games, like Animal Crossing, Stardew Valley, or Farmville.
Except it had an appropriately sinister twist, like something out of a Hitchcock movie or an episode of a weekly crime drama like Criminal Minds or Bones.
At one point, the player gets into an argument with their wife and kills her. The game continues as a farm simulator, except you periodically have to hide the body from police.
This was clearly meant to be a darkly tongue-in-cheek game mechanic, almost Weekend at Bernie’s-esque. Obviously, this game wouldn’t be for everyone. You might even think people were purposely creating a dark urban legend of their own by making this post in the first place.
But the fellow posters of r/tipofmyjoystick tried their darnest to figure out the identity of this game. Some asked questions for further details, while others suggested possible games, but were quickly proved wrong.
The game remained unidentified for several years, coming to be known as “that evil farming game,” even getting its own dedicated reddit forum.
The original poster, at one point, finally concluded at one point that they must have dreamt the game, or misremembered something while half-asleep.
In the years before the Internet became the prolific searching and information tool it is now, I had plenty of experiences describing random TV episodes or b-movies that people presumed I had made up or dreamt up while home sick on the couch from school. (One particular episode of MacGyver involving a hidden temple with traps and a giant blue gemstone, for instance, was a joke in my group of friends for years until I could finally point to the episode on Netflix or the episode page on IMDb to prove its existence.)
So what was this “evil farming game” the original poster remembered? Was it real? Or a sleepy invention?
Well, it turns out it was neither.
Diligent posters and game fans went looking through the video library of a YouTuber called Vinesauce after the original poster mentioned watching it often. And they found a video where Vinesauce jokingly suggested a farming style game with the grim addition to the gameplay.
The original poster misremembered this as a real game, and started the ball rolling on an Internet video game urban legend that lasted half a decade.
It turns out, our brains are good at this sort of thing — convincing ourselves that what we half-remember is real — and this urban legend evolved as something similar to the Mandela Effect, a mass misremembering of something.
Two prominent examples of the Mandela Effect from recent history are the Berenstain Bears (which many people swear should be the BerenSTEIN bears) and the movie Shazaam staring Sinbad, which never existed. (They’re misremembering the Shaquille O’Neal genie movie Kazaam from 1996.)
So, this spooky mystery was solved, but perhaps a more interesting mystery — how the original poster’s brain created this fake game in his memory — stands in its place.
I found this story both fascinating and charming — if a little morbid — and I thought it would be the perfect puzzly conclusion to the Halloween season.
Have you ever misremembered something like this, fellow puzzlers, or experienced something similar to the Mandela Effect? Or are there any urban legends about puzzles and games that we should know about? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.
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