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The Perfect Video Game

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I heard rumors about a video game console, released in the early 90s, that promised the most immersive games imaginable. It bore a strong resemblance to the Super Nintendo, except it had no cartridge slot, no reset button, and only one controller port. It was released in an extremely low quantity; it's possible that less than fifty were ever available. People I talked to who remembered it from their childhood only mentioned the first game in the list. Other games were included on the console, but this one was, they say, the perfect game. Lifelike graphics and sound, even by today's standards, an endless supply of new, fun content, solid gameplay (the controls were responsive to the point of precognition, they recall), and the single controller port was all that was necessary; the NPCs in the game were “smart” enough to be just as entertaining as real players.

It was quite literally a game nobody wanted to stop playing, and the people I interviewed all remarked, somewhat bitterly, that their parents forcibly dragged them away from the television set after a few days of continuous playing and threw the console in the trash. I was intrigued by what I knew so far, so I went looking for more people who remembered this relic of gaming history.

I searched high and low for anybody besides the handful of people I had already talked to, and, after a month of painstaking investigation, I found two independent accounts. They had a much harder time remembering the specifics of the console, but I was able to jog their memory by repeating what I had in my notes. I could see their eyes light up a little, remembering the perfect game, but both of them said, “That's not all it [the game] could do.”

Both of them said the interface was “complete”, and I inquired what exactly they meant. After a few days, apparently, the game started having a positive physiological effect; it was as if the actions done in-game were giving the player “exercise”, and the player was able to go without food and water, seemingly drawing sustenance through items collected in the levels.

However, after a couple of days (they had played this game continuously for a week by this point), they started feeling the damage done to their in-game player character; the pain was small at first, and only a slightly forceful reminder to be more attentive. After a short while, though, the pain started getting intense, and the weariness of the constant action was taking its toll on them.

“The game was still perfect. It was better than any high you can imagine,” one of them said, but it was becoming physically exhausting to play, and they couldn't tear themselves away from it.

“I was almost done with one level, and I was fighting a boss that used a whip,” the other interviewee said. “I remember the whip was a one-hit kill; I had to start the level over, but I remember the searing pain where it lashed me across my arm.” He then unbuttoned the sleeve on his shirt, and I could see a scar twisting around his arm. “Yeah, it was getting that bad.” Both of them said their parents returned to the house nine days into the marathon game session, and forcibly dragged them away from the console and took them to the emergency room. The console was gone when they got back home – thrown away like all the others, I bet.

I could not find any other people who even knew what I was talking about. The rumors had stopped there, and I was left with incomplete knowledge about where I could even find one of these consoles. A sense of dread settled in the back of my mind, though, and I felt it was necessary to pore through newspaper archives from that period.

I was trying all sorts of variations on “bootleg console” in an online database search, and what I finally stumbled upon was shocking. There were fifteen separate incidents of people found dead in their homes, sitting in front of their TVs with a bootleg-looking console hooked up to it. They had a “butchered” appearance, most commonly, with some found in pieces, and autopsies revealed that the internal organs had dissolved.

One article remarked that the TV was just displaying static, and they could not get the console to power on. Local officials tried contacting the manufacturer of the console, but the owner's manual and the information on a sticker on the back of the console both referenced an address that led to the site of a warehouse demolished over 80 years ago.

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