You have to remember, we made countless sound bits and sights that would haunt this generation of gamer for years and years to come. If you’ve played through the game, you may recall when James is in the motel. There is a certain secret in the motel where you can find a music box. I made the sound for that bit, and went to the head developer with the idea. Well, most of us had used childhood paranormal experiences to influence the dark and creepy portion of our work. I used a particular artifact from mine and my brother’s.
Guess what it was?
When our untimely encounter with the supernatural occurred, we were only six years old. We’ll call my brother James, the same name of the game’s protagonist. Him and I were fraternal twins, so we had always been pretty close. We had to stay at my grandmother’s house that weekend because my parents were out of town. We would always play typical six-year old boy games, like tug-of-war and jump the rope. And sometimes, she would let us look through her attic full of wonders. One day we were sifting through a rather dusty box of memorabilia when we stumbled across a little porcelain music box we should have heeded our grandmother’s next words on.
“You boys don’t touch that box, you hear?”
“Not another word.”
Overtaken by curiosity and spite, we did the exact opposite. I slyly snuck it into our room and waited until that night to inspect it.
It was painted white and lined with pewter, which had tarnished with age. The gargantuan amount of dust on it implied it hadn’t even been touched in years and years, perhaps when our grandmother was the same age we were. Ornate flower designs draped the top, which opened on noisy hinges. I didn’t want to be the one to crank the handle.
“Crank the handle. I want to hear the song it plays.”
“You snuck it in here. You do it.”
“If I snuck in here, you should do it. Getting it in here was half the work.”
With a sigh and a roll of the eyes, he agreed. He turned the nickel-plated handle four times to produce the most haunting sound I’ve ever heard in my life.
A three inch ballerina pirouetted in the center. She was made of porcelain as well. The song playing was somber. It drew us to a level of gripping, bitter sadness that could never be equally produced. I bite back tears when I think of the sound that stupid thing made. My brother was the one who turned the handle, so he suffered its grisly effects.
It was about halfway through its little tune when things went really wrong. The ballerina in the center started to drip blood from her eyes, almost as if she were crying. My brother then walked into the kitchen. I followed.
He took a knife from our cabinet and sat on the floor. He started to cut into his toe. He did it with no shudder of pain, his eyes black and void of any emotion. I will always remember those eyes. When I ran to go get my grandma, he was halfway through his pinky toe. By the time we sprinted back, his middle toe was perilously dangling from his foot. I forever wish I had taken serious consideration from the conversation that followed at the hospital.
“Grandma, I’m really sorry, I-, I”
“Why did you open the box?”
“James opened the box, not me. We didn’t know, I’m-”
“There was a reason I told you two not to open that box.”
“That box is filled with unspeakable evil. When I was a little girl, I got it for my seventh birthday. Just a year older than you. My mother got it for me while she was in France on business. It was a good thing she had been in the room when I turned the handle.
I broke the glass coffee table that sat in the middle of our living room. Then, I took one of the sharp shards and tried to cut my throat open. If your brother had done that with the knife, he’d be dead right now. Don’t you ever touch it again, Ok?”
That was the last night that music box held any significance in my life. Until about a month ago.
My brother and I had been on the job market for about a month and a half. Let me tell you, getting a big break in video game sound development is no easy task. One day my brother called up a friend who worked at Konami. We were both hooked up with interviews, and we both had a job within the week.
When we came on board, they had gotten just past the drawing board. Everyone was on their computers. They knew exactly what they were doing, and how they were doing it. My brother did the sound for the second half of the game, and I did the first. The plan was to tie it together when we were both done. I was doing the hotel stage when I got a call.
It was my mom. They were bulldozing my grandmother’s house down the next day, as she had died many years before as the house sat and sat. She then said that anything that held any emotional semblance to us we should get after work. I thanked her and said goodbye.
At that particular point in the game I had wanted to add an easter egg. I had become friends with one of the guys in the graphics department, and he had been brainstorming for this as well. I e-mailed him my idea to include a music box easter egg and he responded by creating a segment in the level.
That night I picked up the music box from my grandma’s relatively dilapidated house. It was sitting on her wooden cabinet, taken out of a box. I found it odd that she would take it out. Not telling my brother, I took it home with a couple of pictures that night. That night, without a shred of coincidence, I had a nightmare.
I was trapped in my bed. It was gray outside, but not cloudy. The sun shone with an eerie white, void of happiness and color. I wasn’t tied or chained down, just paralyzed. Five-year old children surrounded my bedside. They all wore the same black and white garments, male and female respectively. None of them had eyes. Just seemingly endless black holes that struck into the annals of my soul, fading in to their creepy dolphin gray skin. After a seven minute period of silence, they started faintly whispering.
Do it, do it. Do it, do it.
I started to involuntarily tear at the skin on my face. I was ripping most of it off, then that was it. I woke up in a cold sweat, to find my face unharmed. The dream replayed itself twice more, until it was five in the morning. Having nothing else on my agenda, I left for work.
There was no one else in yet, not even the head developer. This didn’t surprise me. That day we were to record the music for the music box bit, so I just waited for everyone to pour in. It was about three and a half hours later when everyone was working. My brother saw my lack of sleep and asked if anything was wrong.
“No, I’m fine. I’m helping a buddy of mine working in the graphics department create an easter egg. We’re doing the sound for it today.”
“Oh yeah I heard about that. How are you guys gonna record it?”
“Check this out.”
As I produced the music box from my briefcase, my brother’s eyes grew wide and he backed away.
“What the FUCK are you doing with that thing?!”
“James, it’s just an old music box I found in grandma’s stuff. They’re bulldozing her house down today, and I took a couple of her pictures too. Would you like one?”
“You know why I’m acting like this!”
“What are you talking about?”
“The night I went to the hospital!”
“You accidentally fell on some broken glass.”
“No I didn’t! Nice try, but grandma told me what happened when we were fourteen. That thing has caused enough pain for me already.”
“Dude, we were kids. We also believed in the boogeyman. Are you going to listen to our wizened old grandmother, or to your brother who is about to earn a very nice Christmas bonus?”
“Fine. I’ll be in the room with you so we can get the bonus. How much is it?”
“One thousand dollars.”
At around one, we all went in. It was just my buddy, James, the head developer, a seventeen year old girl my buddy had brought in who was here on an internship, looking at going into video game sound development, and myself. I went into the sound room first, music box in hand.
The recording guys were working on some sound for the game when we walked in. My head developer did the talking.
“Hey guys, can you access the easter egg in the hotel level?”
“Sure. You guys here to do the recording?”
I held up the box. “Yes.”
I set it next to the high def microphone. With a few adjustments, we were ready to start. I was standing just in the doorway of the booth, turning the handle and letting go on their cue. Their fingers counted down. Three, two, one.
I let go of the handle. Silently closing the door, I let the music play.
All of the chit chat in the room ceased quite quickly. Everyone watched in stark speechlessness as the music played. Their faces were blank, but I could see it in their eyes. They were in the clutches of the deepest sadness any of them had ever experienced. It was as if all of their sadness, all of their life’s tragedies were compiled into one event of melancholia. Then it happened again. A demented throwback. A twisted moment of nostalgia.
The ballerina started to weep tears of blood. Again, it was halfway through the song. At this point the head developer put his head in his hands. The intern vomited into a nearby trash can. Fits of fear-fed crying rocked her small body as she repeated “No no no no no…”. “My god,” my buddy said, watching in horror. My brother and I were screaming, “I’M NOT GONNA DO IT! I’M NOT GONNA DO IT!” Neither he nor I remember what happened in that recording room, because all of the above was on the account of the rather shaky sound guy.
After the song finished, the sound guy tried to fade it out. It didn’t work. At this point my brother and I had snapped out of the music box’s evil spell and were completely aware of what was going on. The computer recording the sound then shut down. Everything was dark until the sound equipment turned on by itself, followed by the computer. After a few minutes of searching, the sound guy found a file titled Hahaha.mp3. He played it, and it was the sound of the music box. It was already edited, and it was placed and coded in the appropriate file.
A few weeks later our game testers came in. We did the rest of the sound with no incident. Needless to say, that intern had no intention of showing up again. My brother had quit as a result of what had happened earlier in the sound room, so I got to keep all of the bonus. My buddy and I asked one of our testers to do the easter egg in the motel stage, and this is what he found.
James (the game’s protagonist, not my brother) found the music box sitting on a table. A small cut scene of the music box appeared. Out of respect, they hadn’t copied its real life design, which I was thankful for. The game tester went to the bathroom and came back. Then this happened:
James couldn’t move. The tester pressed every button frantically, but he stayed put. The controller was brand new, and it had worked for every other part of the game. Suddenly, children surrounded James. He turned his head around and looked at them. They had no eyes, just black holes. It was my dream come to life; it had to be. They were even wearing the same outfits. They also repeated the same phrase:
Do it, do it. Do it, do it.
My friend then interjected. “None of our guys did this. The boss has me go through and make sure the files are in the right places every night. Not once in one of my playthroughs did this happen.”
That was when things started to get pretty freaky. James started to tear the flesh off of his face, exposing every nerve. I then knew that none of the programmers would do this, regardless of the game’s other content. A chair came out of the floor and a noose came out of the ceiling. The children continued their chant, and James then hung himself.
That day the game tester quit. I finished doing sound for the game, then I quit as well. But the day after the incident, I got a call. Both my brother and the game tester killed themselves. My brother had a knife he used for protection, so they used that to cut their faces. They then ripped off their faces and died from blood loss.
One of the graphics guys found the video bit we saw with the tester and deleted it. I had thrown the music box away that day, and all unusual activity stopped. The rest of the game's touches were added without incident and within schedule. I was paid in full for my contributions to the game. Konami also gave me a $200,000 settlement to save themselves from an expensive law suit.
I still have those dreams sometimes. I see the children repeat their words,
Do it, do it. Do it, do it.
And one of these days I just might.