Recently, I have gotten back into the Pokémon series. I have played all the games except for Red/Blue. I was having a hard time getting a copy, none of the local video game stores had any new or used copies and my parents wouldn't allow me to use eBay. But a couple weeks ago, my friend lent me what looked like an old Pokémon Red cartridge. He told me he didn't know if it was a working copy (It didn't look like it was, its appearance made it look like it had been hammered multiple times). Apparently, his friend's dad had got it at a yard sale somewhere across the country. He got it for a great deal, the owner wanted to get rid of it so badly he only paid a quarter for it.
This didn't really matter to me though, all I wanted to do was play the game. I inserted the cartridge into my gameboy, and turned it on. Thankfully, it flashed to the copyright information. It took me to the starting screen, the game had no save information. This didn't surprise me, the game was so beat up I was just thankful it worked properly. I started a new game, and staying true to the plot, named my character 'Red'. Soon I took my first steps into Pallet Town. Making my way over to Professor Oak's lab, I named my rival Gary to keep it simple (the whole Green and Blue controversy had always confused me) and selected Charmander as my starter.
I made my way over to Viridian forest, all while appreciating the simplicity of the game. Soon, I was initiated into my first real Pokémon battle, easily winning with my Charmander. The screen returned to the normal view of the forest, but instead of it letting me walk away, the bug catcher prompted me into a conversation.
"Now I shall stand, forgotten . . . "
This statement confused me quite a bit. I tried to talk to the Bug Catcher again, but he wouldn't respond. Was this some part of the plot restricted to Pokémon Red? Shaking the idea off, I continued on. Every trainer I met said that after I battled them. Reaching the exit to Viridian Forest, I exited and re-entered to attempt to speak to the trainers once again. They did not respond, but something had changed about their position. They were all facing to the right.
I proceeded to my first gym battle, and won with a bit of effort. After the battle, I expected the gym leader to say the same words as all the previous trainers- but instead, a box popped up that read these words:
"Having served my sole purpose, I shall rest in silence."
Then surprisingly, he made his way out of the gym. I quickly walked out of the gym after him to try to see where he went. He was nowhere in sight. I went back into the gym, and he wasn't back in there either. In fact, none of the preliminary trainers were there. I rushed toward Viridian Forest, and upon entering I noticed all the trainers within it were gone.
I continued on with the game, receiving eerie responses after every battle. After I had finished an area, they all faced a direction that was usually due east. After I defeated the gym leaders, they gave me the same responses as the first and walked out of the gym. The only time the response varied was when I faced Gary, who replied with "I still have a purpose."
Soon, I arrived within the vicinity of Lavender town. I entered the city and it started to play the eerie tune, giving the feeling of death creeping around every corner. But as I walked into the town, what I saw was much more frightening. The whole layout of Lavender Town had changed, the whole of the city uprooted and replaced with a horrifying sight. Around the ground there were multiple skulls and bones. In the center or the terror was a giant, leafless tree. On some of the tree's branches, there rested multiple skulls. The sight paired with the theme was overwhelming. I tried to turn down the volume, but the music only grew louder as I turned it down. My gameboy began to shake because of the intensity of the sound waves. I quickly turned it back up. Was this even possible? Recovering from the intensity of the music, I observed the scenery closer. I focused on the tree and noticed that all the branches that had skulls were consecutive on the left side- leaving a few on the right side empty. It was filling up. Deeply disturbed by this thought, all I wanted to do was get away from the town. I tried to quickly walk across the town to the exit, but as I entered the field of skulls Red's steps slowed down gradually- as did the town theme. As I began to reach the exit, his steps started to speed up again.
What had I just seen?
After I beat the trainers on route 10, I exited and returned to see the routine turn of all the trainers. This time they were facing south. Then I realized- they were all facing toward Lavender Town.
Driven by pure curiosity, I continued on. Battling my way through the rest of the game, the trainers continued to disappear, repeating the same lines. Eventually I reached the Elite 4. I beat the first 4 quickly and faced Gary. I defeated him. This time instead of saying what he usually said, these words flashed on the bottom of the screen:
"We will all be waiting in silence".
He turned and walked out of the room. Confused, I tried to move, but I couldn't. I sat watching...waiting. Suddenly, another figure emerged and stood in front of Red. The battle initiated. The trainer who had challenged Red to a battle was...Red? On the other side of the battle screen was his own sprite. The battle screen read:
"You have challenged yourself to a battle!"
Automatically, my Red sent out his level 73 Charizard. The opposing Red sent out a level 100 Charizard. Naturally, the level 73 Charizard was defeated. Next, Red sent out a level 68 Raichu. The opposing Red sent out a level 100 Raichu. The other Red had exactly the same team as my Red, except more powerful. He wiped out my Red's team.
The screen returned to the view of the two reds standing face to face. Words appeared on the bottom of the screen... Red was talking. "Your purpose has been served." "End it all . . . Before you exist alone"
At once, my Red turned and walked out of the room. The screen turned black. It returned, fading in to the image of the modified Lavender Town. But that wasn't what was unsettling... the music had been changed to what sounded like a reverse version of the normal theme, sped up. It was like death was racing toward you. Red's sprite came walking slowing onto the screen and positioned himself in front of the tree.
"I do not want to be alone forever . . . !!!"
And instantly, the screen cut black and the music ripped itself into an electrifying, blood-curdling screech.
The screen faded back in a few seconds later, and the normal Lavender Town theme returned. The focus was centered on the tree. I tried to open up the menu, but it wouldn't respond. Nothing happened when I moved the control pad, either. Then I noticed. There was one more skull than before the screen blacked out, at the center of the tree...and I understood. Red had killed himself.
Soon it all began to unravel...the skulls littered around the tree were the skulls of the trainers I had defeated along the way. The skulls resting upon the branches were the Gym Leaders, Elite 4, and Gary.
I set down my gameboy, my hands shaking in astonishment. They had all killed themselves. But why? Reflecting upon all the lines they had said after Red had defeated them, they all conveyed the idea that they no longer had a purpose.
They are nothing but characters in a game. Trapped. Once they serve their purpose that they were programmed for, they would sit forever for no further reason to exist. No communication, no meaning. If you think deeply about it, it's worse than hell. Either they would be trapped like that forever, or they could die. They picked the best of the worse. Whatever was waiting for them after they died was surely better than what would have happened if they stayed.
But why would Red kill himself? He was the main character. He would always have a purpose until...the one controlling him stops playing.
Eventually will come the day when we all are forced to stop everything. Then...even Red himself will be sentenced to eternal solitude. His sole existence is to embody you- the player- in the world of Pokémon. So when you stop playing...essentially, it is him who is sentencing himself to death. Defeating himself.
I turned the gameboy off and on. It returned to the starting screen, the save file still intact. I opened it and it returned to the view of the skull bearing tree. I restarted the game once more and tried to select 'New Game'. Text flashed on the bottom of the screen:
"The dead do not return."
and took me back to Lavender Town.
Every day after that, I returned to visit the tree with the dead trainers. It seemed stupid, but giving some kind of requiem to them felt right. The unrest stirred up by the game was somehow calmed. I did this for weeks. Then one day...the internal battery died within the game. No matter how much I tried, the game wouldn't turn on.
Red was gone forever.
And when we cannot access our memories...
There, we have truly died.