The world of gaming is always a series of different combinations always yearning for the same outcome.
For most games, that victory is in the form of accolades or saving the world. The story usually starts at the basics in defeating smaller monsters and working up until you can handle the gods of their world. The Player learns the ins-and-outs of the world before harnessing this information into power. Because in the world of gaming, knowledge is power.
This story, like many games, starts on level one.
Now Entering Mushroom Kingdom.
As far as these realms go, Mushroom Kingdom is by far one of the most renowned for its sheer simplicity and familiarity. Take out the rampant animals trying to kill Mario, and it’d almost be paradise.
Oh, and the fire-breathing King Bowser with a penchant for capturing princesses.
It’s at this point that you join me on a shaky bridge staring across from an enraged Koopa-King with bubbling lava underneath.
He roars at me in a language only understood through speech-bubbles.
“Mario! You’ll burn before you take my princess from me again!”
“Don’t worry, Princess! I will save you!” I yell confidently despite her being out of view.
The bridge begins to shake and buckle underneath my feet as Bowser leaps up and forward. While doing this, he spews fireballs in my direction with hopes of roasting me alive! Using my knowledge, I leap with the right timing to avoid his flying balls of death. I soar high above him as his eyes look up in fear and defeat knowing what is coming.
The impact of my feet stomping on the king’s head is enough to knock him from the bridge into the lava beneath. I quickly cross the bridge before looking over the edge. I take off my crimson M-emblazoned hat in remembrance. His eyes peak out of the lava as he tries to pull himself from the lava unsuccessfully.
I turn my attention ahead before following the castle until I find the reason for my journey.
Quickly I rush up to her and remove her ropes as she leaps into my arms kissing me on the cheek.
“Oh thank you, Mario!”
I smile broadly, but inside I know this happiness is only temporary. While Mario may get to live happily ever after, my happiness is fleeting. Because once I finish this end-sequence, it’s off to the next world to take on a new name and a whole new story.
A whole new life for Gameboy as I travel the realms in search of one thing.
As the credits begin to roll, I see the large doorway ahead of me with the title of the next adventure above it.
As I slowly walk towards this door, I contemplate my very existence.
Why am I here?
Why am I defeating these games one after another with no end in sight?
Why have I completed five thousand, six hundred and forty-two games?
Why are there so many Call of Duties?
As I’m clouded by these thoughts, I reach out my right hand to grab the knob to the door to the next world. Only my hand misses the knob. My mind snaps out of the trance to notice that the handle is on the left side. For every single game so far, the knob has always been on the right side.
But this one’s on the left.
I glance back at the sign to make sure it hasn’t changed, but the glowing words have not changed in the slightest. As my eyes return to the door, I notice that the handle is back where it should be. I sigh in relieve.
“It must have been a bug.” I say underneath my breath before turning the handle and leading into the next world.
The next adventure.
“A WATCHFUL EYE”
5,652 games down.
The number continually grows as my knowledge of these lands grows exponentially. More and more sequels come down the line as returning characters make appearances accompanied by new faces to grow their universes.
Sonic & Knuckles was one of these games.
But this game was ground zero for the event that would change my life forever.
As with the previous installments, Dr. Robotnik was causing chaos and creating robots in order to stop the fury Sonic whom I had replaced. No matter what world I entered, I become the main character. After spending endless hours moving from level to level and reaffirming my knowledge from previous installments of this game, I noticed a shift.
For the first time, I felt like I was being watched.
I looked behind and ahead, but no matter where I looked, I couldn’t find the source of this intrusion. The very feeling disturbed me as I felt powerless for the first time in one of these games.
Then it was gone.
Just as quickly as it came, the feeling vanished. As I sped my way through the levels, I noticed that the robots seemed to switch their patterns. This isn’t abnormal as levels progress, but their attack had no pattern.
Their attacks seemed directed at me with no path in which to plan and dodge them. This technology, for the time of this game, was remarkable and infuriating.
Yet, even with these new developments, I was able to make my way through the levels until I reached the boss.
Dr. Robotnik monologued as per usual.
“…and that is why I shall crush you, you nincombots!”
With the robots leaping into battle, the battle ensued, but, once again, things were out of whack. The robots begin twitching and moving at half-speed. With this handicap, they made for easy prey as I quickly dispatched of them before heading towards Dr. Eggman.
Only there was no battle, he simply fell to the floor as the credits begin to roll for the game.
No ending celebration.
No ending monologues or declarations of latter annihilation.
It just ended.
Seeing the next door appear, I chose to not exit right away. Something was wrong, and I was going to figure it out before stepping foot into another realm.
I began looking over the body of Dr. Eggman who hadn’t moved since falling over. As I studied the body, I began to feel that same foreboding dread of someone watching from the shadows. I scoured the room only to see Tails, my fine Fox friend, flying towards me.
“Hey Sonic! Good work with defeating Dr. Eggman!”
I look down at the portly villain who hasn’t budged an inch before looking up at Tails.
“What exactly happened? I remember the battle beginning and then suddenly all of the villains were down or moving at super slow speed.”
“I’m sure it looked that way to you, Sonic! You move so quick!”
A moment passes as I stare at the Tails to see if he’s kidding me.
“So how did I defeat Dr. Eggman?”
“Same way as always, Sonic! You beat him with speed!”
Tails smiles as he holds a thumbs up. Something was off about him, but I couldn’t place just what.
Just as that happened, the credits’ end began to scroll, and I wasn’t going to wait around to see what happened if I wasn’t on the other side of that door by the time they finished.
5,643 games down, and the next one would prove to be the one of the most challenging.
“NOT SOON ENOUGH”
As I step into through the doorway, the imagery changes to even simpler with only three colors spreading across the world. Black, white, and red as I found myself thrown into the Kanto region. I entered into a building to where an old professor offered to give me a creature to control and use.
I chose a fire-type pokemon by the name of Charmander to match both my outfit and the world’s natural illumination. Yet as soon as I did, another kid grabbed another round container. We battled our newly acquired Pokemon before setting out into the world to create our own adventures.
It wasn’t until hours later that I would be forever traumatized by the scene before me.
As I finally defeated the second gym leader, I headed south to the next destination, but I heard a sound to my left. I turned towards the sound, and it’s there that I saw my rival stepping out of the woods. Only instead of his normal over-confident nature, my rival stepped out of the shadows of the trees with his jaw slack and his eyes wide-open.
I’ve played enough zombie levels to know one when I see it.
As his zombie-fied person walked towards me, I saw further rustling in the treeline. Two dark creatures stepped out of the woods before moving up alongside them. These four-legged black furred creatures shared the same frozen stare as they approached. I tried to move, but the fear caused by the appearances kept me cemented in place. I reached for my belt and pulled out a Pokeball.
I hurled it, operating fully on instinct.
My Charmander popped out of the Pokeball before stopping, turning, and looking right back with that horrific stare before turning a shade of black.
For every step they took, I noticed that their footprints were causing a shift in the background. Their very footprints were disrupting the coding of the game as well as destroying the very world we were in. I realized there was only one way to combat this. I quickly tapped the side of my visor as my appearance shifted in-game to my regular form of blue-hair and electric blue full-body outfit.
I twisted the nob on the side of my visor as a menu appeared in my vision.
If Grand Theft Auto taught me anything, it’s never leave home without your cheat codes.
I quickly typed in the code for ammo.
Quickly, I was equipped with guns and grenades. Just enough to take out zombies destroying the very fabric of the universe.
Rather than waste precious ammunition trying to shoot down these creatures, I simply removed the pin from one grenade and lobbed it towards the slow-moving party.
The explosion rocks the entire route I was travelling as smoke fills the area where the grenade landed. As the smoke fades, the rival is gone. The horrific black creatures are gone. Charmander has vanished, yet a Pokeball is back on my hip as if I’d never thrown it.
It’s then that I notice the bushes rustling once more. I rush towards them hoping to catch a glimpse of whatever started that, but whatever or whoever started this has vanished.
They simply glitched out of existence as I turn my visor changing my form back to the hero of this story. But this zombie nightmare was only the beginning. I continued travelling through the Kanto region experiencing more and more bizarre circumstances that simply don’t coincide with the already unusual landscape of Pokemon.
Finally, I have defeated the Elite Four and the Champion and this game can be put behind me. Right as the credits roll, the room goes dark with the exception of the next door reading “God of War.”
I can feel someone, something watching me from the darkness, but my feet feel willed to continue. I step towards the glowing doorway and reach for the handle, but the handle is once more in the wrong spot. I reach for the left, but the handle disappears.
It’s back on the right side.
I reach for it, but it disappears once more.
Before reappearing on the left side.
A wicked and vile laughter echoes from the darkness around me as I quickly resume my normal form withdrawing a shield and a Sword of Power.
“Show yourself, coward!” I bellow in a mixture of fear and bravery.
The laughter continues, but no face comes forward.
Only a voice, muffled and distorted.
“Soon, buddy, soon.”
With that, a huge gust of wind buffeted me backwards into the door and through it, taking me into yet another lab test to run for this mysterious voice.
As I land, I find myself in an unusual setting with a blade in my hand and a pale body filled with rage.
I carve a path through the entire landscape of this game fighting everything from legendary creatures to endless minions. Yet no matter how much carnage I unleash as Kratos, there’s only one battle that truly matters to him.
The God of War.
The killer of his family.
Through his grief and remorse, I learned about the importance of family and friends, and I learned just what aggression and violence could earn you.
I learned what vengeance could achieve.
As I climbed up the mountain to where the final battle was to occur, I noticed it returning. The previous feeling of being watched returned just as I crossed over the peak of the mountain.
And it’s then that I saw it.
The powerful God of War.
This war-seasoned god did not stand atop this mountain alone. Standing on his shoulder was a shadowy figure with his face indescribable as a cloak covered his entire body. Almost seemingly as soon as my eyes sat upon him…
The world came to a halt.
A muffled and distorted voice called out to me.
“I’ve enjoyed watching your work, buddy. The way you figure out the variety of these levels and overcome them with such ease. Your work is truly inspiring.”
I try to speak, but my vocal chords are seemingly held shut.
“Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. Welcome to the end of the line, buddy. Normally, if you failed to defeat a boss, you’d only start the encounter over again. However, this time is different. If you lose to my God of War, there won’t be anything left of you.”
A bead of sweat drops down my brow.
“No more Gameboy and no more acts of heroism stopping my ascension to dominance. It’s Game Over, buddy.”
With that parting word, the cloaked figure reaches over and touches Ares as his entire previously flaming figure becomes a darkened flame as if coated in a dark shroud of power.
The world resumes as a pillar of fire jolts towards me!
I manage to roll out of the way, but now the stakes are raised.
Another pillar of fire shoots towards me, but I manage to time my jump with enough time to close the distance between myself and the towering god. Ares picks up his sword and swipes, but I am able to get two blades into the eyes of Ares!
“ARGHH!” groans the God of War.
Seeing the opportunity, I begin slicing into the god as his health bar continues to deplete.
After a few more minutes of timing my jumps to attack, the God of War takes a final blow to the midsection as he falls down.
There’s a new God of War in these parts, and his destruction isn’t quite over. I see the door to the next world appear, but I choose to leap towards where I last saw that shadowy figure transforming the world into his own creations.
As I leap towards his direction, I notice that he is nowhere to be seen with only a hole in the ground that seems to be tearing the world apart much like what had happened with my rival in the Kanto region. I scratch my head for a moment looking at this chaotic hole before me and back towards the door.
“Game on, Glitch!”
I leap into the hole!
“NEW WORLD UNLOCKED”
As my body is morphed, dismantled, and rearranged, I find myself finally put back together.
However, the place that I landed is not familiar at all. The entire room looks as if it’s made directly of static, yet one figure stands out amongst it all.
“Stay right where you are!” I yell as The Glitch turns around to face me.
“Well look who’s feeling ballsy today! Unfortunately, you just ruined yourself early by following me.”
The Glitch begins to move towards me, but I quickly withdraw my weapons. Armor garnered from the Metroid universe. Shield gained from Hyrule. And a glowing energy sword gained from Halo. My voice becomes muffled as the helmet of the Metroid slides on.
“You’re all out of lives and I’m all out of patience, buddy!”
The Glitch pauses for a second looking at me.
“No… this can’t be possible. You’re not supposed to have all of that!”
“Oh, I’m just getting started. Welcome to Level One of HELL!”
I rush towards The Glitch who turns around and begins to run. Surprised by this, I pick up my own pace as I try to close in on him just a little. The Glitch turns around and audibly gasps before raising a hand and slicing forward. Another hole opens up as he quickly dives through!
I come to a stopping place as nothing is coming from the other side.
“You got this Gameboy.” I say to myself.
I leap through!
My form quickly becomes pixilation for a moment. This often happens when I enter a world for the first time until I can figure out my form or who I am supposed to be. But this seems to take even longer than usual. My perspective looks around the room before settling on a poster showing a masked individual wearing a unique combat outfit that seems to just be tights.
My form shifts and forms together to appear like that character from that poster as I settle on normal ground. I pick up the paper and further examine it.
“Welcome to Old School Wrestling! Do you have what it takes to become the champion?”
I set the poster down realizing this entire world feels different than all the rest, and The Glitch was long gone.
I step out into a hallway where I see a dark-haired woman coercing a young man who doesn’t seem the most intelligent.
“Level One, and I already know who the boss is.”
I step away as I feel as if I’m being watched.
Yet no cloaks within sight.