Saturday, February 27, 2016

Gaming Legends: Animal Crossing and the "X"

Today we're going to be doing something a bit different. All throughout the history of gaming, different rumors, stories, and "creepypastas" have been told about our favorite games. Back in the day a lot of us actually believed these stories, but of course thanks to the internet and data miners many of these myths are debunked pretty fast. Even so, today we're going to take a look back on one that I personally was involved in, and has now days faded away into obscurity. Many of you may have never heard of this before, but at the same time I'm sure I'm not the only one to have "fallen" for it. This is the story of the mysterious X, and a little game called Animal Crossing Wild World.

When Animal Crossing Wild World first came out, it was a huge deal. Finally we were getting an Animal Crossing that could be played on the go, it gave us a much larger house, the section grid based map had been replaced with a free open one, and above all it was going to have online play! For the first time we were actually going to get a chance to play with friends in real time, and without having to go over to their house to trade memory cards (like in the previous). I really can't stress how big of a deal this was to us back then (especially considering how common online play is in today's world), but trust me, it was huge -- and of course with that also came the rumors.

Nintendo Nsider was Nintendo's massive online community. Hundreds of thousands of people were on each day, posts were created non stop, and nearly anything you wanted to find out about a Nintendo game could be found there as well. It was one of the largest gaming forums at the time, and it remained this way up until it shut down in the mid 2000s. When Animal Crossing Wild World came out, Nsider's Animal Crossing forums were just as active, and constantly people were sharing their new discoveries. Sadly sharing friend codes to play with each other was against the rules (spoilers: we did it anyway), but that didn't stop people from talking about their experiences online with people, and that's when the strange stories started to form. It wasn't long before the "X" rumor spread, and everyone was jumping online with their friends to find out if it were true or not.

In the story, one Animal Crossing player had described a strange occurrence in his game that had happened late at night. According to him, he was walking around his town near a bridge when he had caught sight of some black thing move across his screen. It was pretty fast, and he wasn't able to get a good look at it, but as he explored his town he managed to come across it again but this time with a twist. Apparently this "X" (as he called it) would jump scare you by screaming like a Redead from the Legend of Zelda series before vanishing. Afterwards he did keep searching for the mysterious thing, but he never did find it again -- so to Nsider he went with his story, and the hopes of finding it.

Needless to say, this story was fake. Looking at the game's data will show that there's no such thing in the game, but it's a story many of us wanted to believe, and we wanted to find it for ourselves. It was a rumor that gave us a reason to stay up late with friends looking for it, and possibly give ourselves a scare when we found it. Really, as strange as the story may sound, it was something that was quite possible. The first Animal Crossing featured a ghost, and many of us were wondering what happened to it, or what could have possibly replaced it. If X were real, it would explain why we hadn't seen him, and the Redead sound effect could have easily been an easteregg for fans -- that's just how Animal Crossing is. As made up as it may sound now, we truly did think it could be real.

Although we may not have been fully sold on the idea, my friends and I did set out to see if this rumor was true. There was me, "SirRufus," this guy, and his brother, and I can still remember us staying up well into the night as we searched the town from top to bottom. We ran around the bridges, we ran up and down the river, we had someone wait in each store at closing time to get locked in and explore them at night, and we ran around the main parts of town trying to recreate a similar path to what was explained in the post. We never did find anything, but once in awhile someone would yell "X! ITS X!" just to get everyone to come running. The whole thing was just us playing like the kids we were, making the most out of a game that we loved. We realized pretty fast that there wasn't an X, but we didn't let that ruin our fun. Soon everyone else came to the same realization that it was just some story someone made up, and the rumors of X faded away.

Even though it may sound a bit silly, the story of X and my hunt for it is something I'll never forget. It was something from the time when the world of video games was still a mystery to me, and I still believed anything could be possible. It's something most of us have lost by growing up, but the memories of that feeling will always remain.

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