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Video game myths that are completely untrue

Even more than the wonderful worlds of film, music, or art, the gaming industry prides itself on secrecy and surprises. It was only a matter of time before gaming was bound to eventually generate straight up legends and folklore. Fortunately, gaming coming of age right alongside the internet has made it a lot easier to suss out what's true, what's false, and what's just plain lunacy. Still, some legends, especially from the dark ages before Google, persist to this day, even with the truth already well established.

For the benefit of those who haven't yet done their homework, however, here's a few of the most enduring myths in gaming, and the truth about them that oh so many gamers need to hear. And the truth is that all of these have been proven 100% absolutely bogus. Take notes. You never know when you might need to shut down a terrible argument at a party. 

Stop trying to make Sheng Long happen, Gretchen

For its time, Street Fighter 2's localization does a bang-up job translating complex Japanese for a Western audience, with a lack of the language trainwrecks that plague some other fighting games. Still, some things do get misunderstood in the mix, and one misunderstanding blew up bigger than anyone could've imagined.

It started with Ryu's win quote, "You must defeat Sheng Long to stand a chance!" Famous as the quote is, it's actually a mistranslation of Ryu saying you can't win without defeating his Dragon Punch (Shoryuken). But, the damage was immediately done. Gaming magazines the world over would regularly get barraged with mail asking who Sheng Long was, to the point that Electronic Gaming Monthly ran an April Fools' tips article saying how to fight Sheng Long in SF2, complete with doctored photos of him taking out Bison on the final stage. This being the pre-Google age, however, other publications ran with the absurd unlock process as gospel, even after EGM made their intentions clear.

Capcom, ever eager to please, eventually gave the people what they wanted, sorta. Sheng Long was never put into the game by name, but a character named Gouken, bearing a strong resemblance to EGM's design, did slip into Street Fighter 3. Meanwhile, the fabled unlock process and Bison-destroying intro was eventually used in Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo for another character you might've heard of.

Aeris lives?

The death of Aeris Gainsborough at the hands of professional bastard Sephiroth in Final Fantasy 7 is basically the B.C./A.D. changeover point for games. Once gamers stopped bawling their eyes out, the conversation about games shifted from "is this fun?" to "is this art?" No character that had ever elicited that widespread of an emotional reaction, and naturally, fans did what they always do when faced with unpleasant emotions like grief and sorrow: immediately started trying to figure out ways to undo it.

Over 20 years of rumors, arguments, fake tricks, and dialogues exist on the vastness of the internet about friends of a friend who managed to save poor Aeris through some arcane means or another, and 99.99999% of them a pure, grade-A crap. The only thing that has ever panned out true is that a code exists for the original PS1 Gameshark to keep Aeris in your party after Disc 1, but it has no effect on dialogue or the story. Even the game's director has gone on record that no, they wouldn't cop out that way. As far as canon goes, sorry, folks, Aeris only lives on in the hearts and minds of those who loved her.

No, seriously, this is a thing, she's literally in Cloud's soul or something; it's weird.

Squall Leonhart, on the other hand ...

On the flipside of the Aeris Gainsborough problem, however, is a long standing myth involving Final Fantasy 8. In this case, it's the idea that Squall Leonhart, the game's angsty, pent-up protagonist is actually pulling a Sixth Sense. As in, when the evil sorceress Edea impales Squall with an ice shard at the end of Disc 1, she actually kills him, and the flashback/time compression craziness that occurs later in the game is all a dying dream of sorts.

In fairness to the fan conspiracy theorists of the internet, there's at least plenty of fuel for this fire. The dude really does take an icicle to the chest in the fateful cutscene, the dialogue does get awful vague when talking about anything involving Squall's wounds, so much of the symbolism of the later portions of the games is so specific to Squall, it can't help but seem catered to him specifically, and really, a game called Final Fantasy being some dying fever dream would make a lot of sense.

Unfortunately, series producer Yoshinori Kitase threw the icicle at that theory too in the Kotaku piece. "I think he was actually stabbed around the shoulder area, so he was not dead," Kitase says. "But that is a very interesting idea, so if we ever do make a remake of Final Fantasy 8, I might go along with that story in mind."

Invasion of the quarter snatchers

Back in the '70s and '80s, some parents swore up and down that arcade games were turning their children's brains into mush. Most of them were talking metaphorically. For some folks in the early aughts, though, it might've been literal.

It was around then that rumor spread about a game called Polybius, supposedly released in 1981. Now, we say supposedly because by all accounts, the game never existed, despite multiple websites, dedicated to the arduous task of cataloguing every arcade game ever made, showing an entry and a picture of — again, supposedly — its title screen.

The game wouldn't be anything to write home about normally, but rumor also spread around that time about what the game was, the gist being that the U.S. government tested out the game in small markets, and that anyone who played it suffered headaches, memory loss, and debilitating nightmares, side effects of a low-key attempt at mind control. Some time after the test, men in black suits would collect the data from each machine, then the game would vanish the next day.

Naturally, over the years, there's been numerous attempts to track down a machine, or at least anybody associated with its creation, and all of them have come up goose-egg. Still, there's been a few games bearing the name looking to live up to the legend, including a recent –and fantastic — PS4 game that wound up as the basis for a Nine Inch Nails video.

Put your lips together and blow

Possibly the most enduring myth of the 8-bit era, and the one the majority of people who ever owned the system outside Japan still hold. Nobody even knows anymore where the idea to blow into your NES game to make it load came from anymore. Still, it seemed at the time like every kid knew exactly what to do when it happened, and what made it worse is that it seemed to work. Key word there, though, is "seemed."

See, one of the side effects of Nintendo trying to course correct from the infamous video game industry crash of 1983 was making the NES look less like an Atari and more like a VCR in the US. That included changing the layout of the cartridge loader so it looked cooler but was functionally broken in terms of making games read properly.

The actual science behind why is a fascinating bit of knowledge, but, tl;dr, while gamers swear up and down that blowing in the games is what helped make them play, in reality, the simple act of forcing the game to make a better connection inside the unit is the real hero. And in fact, the moisture from your breath probably did unspeakable damage to your cartridge. If only Nintendo tried telling us all along that it was a bad idea — OH WAIT.

Hornbuckle hears a who

Nowadays, the Mortal Kombat games tend to lay all their secrets out on the table (or Krypt) upfront, but once upon a time, the series was notorious for being coy about how to unlock stuff like Reptile or Jade. That secrecy led to a slew of speculation and rumors. Some of which turned out to be true, like Noob Saibot. Others, like Ermac and Rain, turned out to be true later on. And then some special cases were flat-out lies.

The greatest case in point is the sad saga of Hornbuckle. Hornbuckle who, you ask? Exactly, says Jade, who gives the mysterious Hornbuckle a shoutout from time to time when she drops down before a match. Seeing as Jade's other hints lead players into secret fights, fans immediately speculated Hornbuckle was another unlockable in-game, and the story they settled on was that Hornbuckle was the palette-swapped Liu Kang chilling in the background of the Pit II stage next to a character who's on fire. Electronic Gaming Monthly, troublemakers they are, once again got in on the fun with an answer to a reader letter. Of course, it's all bogus. See, Dan "Toasty!" Forden may get all the attention, but he's far from the only person on Ed Boon's staff who got their due during the course of gameplay in Mortal Kombat 2, and one of his staff members, Leanne Hornbuckle, just so happened to get one from Jade. The end.

Blast (processing) from the past

There is a whole generation of gamers who will never truly know just how ugly the Sega vs Nintendo console war got in the schoolyard. Nothing — NOTHING — that's happened after even compares. Friendships were irrevocably damaged. It was brutal.

Of course, history decides the real winner of these fights, and seeing as Nintendo is riding high with one of their biggest console success stories, and Sega doesn't even have a console anymore, it's pretty clear who won the war. More than this, however, it seems that one of the most common weapons might've been a terrible misfire.

For some time, one of the big trump cards every Sega kid could play was the fact that the Genesis had Blast Processing, which was the thing that let Sonic roll around screen faster than anything Mario could accomplish in his wildest dreams. It made sense. It was in their commercials, and as we all know, commercials never lie.

Except, of course they did. Years later, Scott Bayless, one of the senior producers at Sega during their glory years (1990 to 1994) came out with the harsh truth that, yep, Blast Processing, while not exactly a lie, was definitely an overstatement. The less PR-friendly fact was that the Genesis could overclock its memory in a way the SNES couldn't. Which, tech-wise, is nice, but just saying, one of these systems had Sonic, the other had Chrono Trigger. Take from that what you will.

The ghost of SPARTAN

The internet is ripe with gaming related creepypasta — that is, internet urban legends that are taken at face value as being false, but are pretty legitimately spooky stuff regardless. Every so often, though, one of those creepy stories has merit. That's the stuff you pray has a logical explanation.

Submitted for your approval: the story of the ghosts living in Halo 2's multplayer. These vengeful spirits would randomly appear in matches on specific maps (infamously, Lockout), and would teleport aimlessly around the map, unnamed on the scoreboard, invincible to all gunfire, and killing whoever wanders into their field of view with lethal precision, with your death marked only as having been "Killed By The Guardians," Halo's usual signifier for accidental deaths (falling off the map, standing too close to your own rockets, etc).

Terrifying, yes, but thankfully, a terrifying story with a perfectly logical explanation. Basically, the ghosts are a known glitch that would occur in Halo 2 (and apparently, the glitch carried over into Halo 3 and Reach), where the stage would spawn a random bot if the map was overloaded either trying to keep up with poor network conditions or by too many objects on the map at once (e.g., overly busy Forge maps). So, good news, Halo 2's not haunted. Bad news, the glitch AI is probably better than your teammates.

Don't stop B-lievin'

Just like their hardware, myths surrounding Nintendo games seem to be nigh-unbreakable, with staying power above and beyond the norm. Maybe it's because their player base is younger, and rumors get around schoolyards faster than anyplace else on Earth. It's the only logical explanation about how a myth like this can endure across generations of Pokemon players.

We're talking, of course, about the myth that holding the B button and a direction — which direction varies depending on who's telling — while trying to capture a Pokemon will improve your odds of that Pokemon staying in the ball. This one's just flat-out lies. You know it. Don't even have to Google it: you know it. How do you know it? Because there's literally enhanced Pokeballs you can buy, relatively cheaply in-game, whose specific purpose it is to raise the probability rate of you capturing a Pokemon that will stay in the ball. Nintendo does NOT work in redundancies, and you know this.

And yet, here we are, over 20 years after the release of Pokemon Red and Blue, and still the superstition persists. Some call it comfort. Some deny the truth. Some say it's habit. And all of them are delusional. And it will not stop a player from holding that button for dear life when there's a Pokemon you really want in sight. It is the Pokemon Trainer's prayer.

Three Dog-adamus

It's not too far-fetched seeing anybody use a video game to predict the future, especially considering how accurate they can sometimes be. But there's a huge difference between Madden predicting the outcome of the Super Bowl and, say, letting radio transmissions in Fallout predict the death of the Queen of England.

Some years back, a post over on Snopes purported to have found a hidden radio station in Fallout 3 that didn't just contain more Morse code, but seemed to sound like a despondent Three Dog reading off a series of numbers. Those numbers apparently corresponded to specific dates, predicting a few specific events: the day Gary Coleman died, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the death of Queen Elizabeth II, and Britney Spears winning an Oscar.

The method to unlock the hidden radio station was fishy to begin with (and as one poster immediately pointed out, if it was in there, it would've been in the game's files somewhere), but the idea of a Morse Code station spelling out things that occurred after the game was even released sent the internet conspiracy machine into overdrive a while. Right around then is where Bethesda themselves had to nip this in the bud with an email to GamesRadar and say, definitively, "There's no truth in it."

Fetal Dis-Ness Syndrome

Earthbound is already one of the weirdest games Nintendo has ever made, and that's before they have schoolchildren going back in time to become robots who can fight an evil alien trying to eat the Earth. Afterward, though, it's just peak weird, though some players think the whole thing might actually start making a weird sort of human sense during the final boss. Specifically, some players believe the final boss makes no bones about Earthbound as a metaphor for abortion.

See, the final boss of Earthbound is an alien named Giygas, who starts out as a simple silver sphere with Ness' face. It turns into a nebulous alien skull, then turns into what most people believe is a distorted wallpaper of a fetus, and with your main characters all being kids, a lot of players put two and two together.

The reality, on the other hand is … well, actually, kinda worse. See, Shigesato Itoi, the game's director, shot down the abortion theory in an interview, but explained the image as an abstract reference to the childhood trauma of accidentally seeing the wrong film one day, witnessing a rape/murder scene in said film, and the round shape players are seeing is actually a representation of the victim's breast being grabbed by force. Somehow, this man was never tapped to help make a Silent Hill game.

The Madden Curse

It is the ultimate in superstitions, believed by gamers and non-gamers alike. There's historical basis, but the truth is less supernatural than folks think. Myth has it that the athlete that ends up on the cover of Madden is basically screwed; misfortune will cost him his career in the short- or long-term. Yes, the curse has been analyzed by experts, and yes, it does have some statistical merit; only six players in the last 20 years have managed to escape disaster the season after the cover.

For years, EA's brushed off talk of the curse, as injuries and bad seasons are just the name of the game, which sounds like PR speak for "Please keep appearing on our covers," but, really, they might be right. Think about why EA might select a player every year. Said player is at peak performance. They make the cover. Suddenly, there's a downfall. Maybe the player's done the best they can. Maybe they get injured. Maybe they just get arrogant, which, often, can lead back to injury since they're being less careful. There's just so much of a human element at play with the Madden Curse to chalk it up entirely to the whims of bad fate, and even if there wasn't, the fact that three of the six players to avoid the curse have done so in the last five years might suggest those players are being smarter about avoiding it.