I was a fan of Super Mario 64 ever since I started playing it back in 1996. Was, mind you, but I don’t think I could play the game again after what just happened to me.
Before I tell you what happened to me, I should probably tell you about Cody. I used to think I was the biggest Mario fan in the world, but realized I wasn’t even close when I met him. Of all the people I knew who played video games, he was the only one who got Super Mario 64 before I did, buying it on launch day with several months of saved up allowance.
All through high school, we were pretty close friends. He didn’t have many other friends, but it seemed like he just didn’t want friends either. He seemed pretty nice at first, but I should have taken the clues that something was off about him the day he downloaded a program called “Lunar Magic.” Lunar Magic is a program that allows the user to edit ROMs of Super Mario World.
He became more withdrawn when he gained the ability to change one of his favorite games. Being withdrawn wasn’t the strange part, though; it was in his hacks that I started to see his mean streak. His hacks were much more difficult than the normal game. Not like Kaizo Mario World, but significantly harder, and when I tested them for him, he did seem to enjoy watching me fall for his cheap traps. At the time, it was just a bit of harmless fun, and I didn’t feel like spoiling his good time by telling him that he was starting to worry me.
He also made some changes to the game that baffled me, and made no sense in terms of game design. Whenever I asked about them, he kept saying that they reflect how the Mario universe is “supposed to really work.” The way he talked about The Mushroom Kingdom like a real place struck me as odd, but I thought that was just normal behavior for such a huge fan.
After we got out of high school, we went into different majors and got out of touch, as people tend to do at this point in life. I went into advertising, and he went into computer science. His interest in game design and game coding had grown after high school, since it was his “key to controlling The Mushroom Universe.” (his term for the entire cosmos surrounding the planet Mario inhabits.)
While I was studying advertising, I never gave Cody much thought. I enjoyed his company when I was a kid and video games were a huge part of my life, but I had little time for them in college, and the way he started to talk about games more and more exclusively made him a little boring. When I did play video games in college, I mostly played popular multiplayer games that allowed me to socialize, but would always dust off my Nintendo 64 when I was back home for the holidays and needed a nostalgia trip.
It was in my senior year, as I was getting close to my degree, that I got a phone call. I was pleasantly surprised to hear Cody, but before I could respond to his “hello,” he told me that I needed to come to his dorm and help with his latest project. “Sure,” I said, “I’ll test another one of your rom hacks.”
“No, not a hack!” said Cody “Something much bigger, you need to see this for yourself!”
Unfortunately, I wasn’t busy that night, and thought I owed him a visit, now that he broke the long, awkward silence. It was a short walk to Cody’s residence hall. The white board outside his dorm only had only his name on it, meaning that he had been living without a room mate this whole time.
As soon as I knocked on the door, it swung open, and if Cody had always looked like the man standing in front of me at that time, I probably would have avoided him in high school. He looked like he hadn’t washed or slept in days, with his greasy skin, messy hair, and dark circles under the eyes. He seemed to have lost weight, but it looked more like the result of forgetting to eat than any healthy diet. I shuddered a little, but felt guilty for it, since this was an old friend from high school.
I hesitantly entered his dorm, and as soon as I was inside, he started going on about virtual reality. I was nervous because of how obsessed he sounded, and tried to lighten the mood with a joke about the Virtual Boy. As soon as I said that name, he became furious with me and started to rail about how much people misuse the word “virtual”. Once he calmed down from his tirade, he asked “Do you still like Super Mario 64?”
I answered “Yes.” stammering a little, “I still play it.”
“Good!” He said. “Would you say it’s still one of your favorites?”
“Yes.” I replied, exaggerating a little out of a desire not to alienate him. I did beat the game with 100% completion, and even had some fun with glitches after that, but that was back in high school, when I had the time for that stuff. Recently, I only played the game when I felt nostalgic, and would just replay a couple of the more memorable levels.
Cody walked over to something in the corner that I had somehow managed to not notice until now. It was a large mass draped in cloth, like a work of art at its grand unveiling. I can’t say what I was expecting to be under that cloth, but I certainly wasn’t expecting the thing I saw as he lifted the fabric.
It looked like a dentist’s chair, with a small desk and computer terminal attached to one side. The desk had a cheap looking monitor, mouse, and keyboard on it, and a small swivel chair in front. Beneath the desk sat a CPU tower, and a Nintendo 64 containing the heavily used copy of Super Mario 64 that Cody had owned since it came out. Connecting all the devices was a mess of wires and adaptors, like vines growing over each other on a rain forest floor, but none of those were as scary as the dentist’s chair they were attached to.
The chair had some metal restraints. It didn’t look uncomfortable to sit in, but it did look hard to break out of. Although the wrist and ankle holders were padded, they were made of thick metal and appeared to latch together electronically. On top of the chair was a helmet that all the other devices were attached to with at least four wires. It could cover the entire top and back of my head, and had even more wires dangling out of its front, terminating in what appeared to be electrodes.
“Ready for a glimpse of the future?” Cody asked, sounding more excited than I’ve ever heard him before.
“N-no thanks” I frightfully declined.
Cody quickly became even angrier than he was when I mentioned the Virtual Boy. He pleaded for me to sit in that chair, telling me that he couldn’t convince anyone else to try his device and all the companies he contacted refused to work with him. I didn’t blame them.
I got up and tried to walk out, but Cody ran in front of me, cutting me off and locking the door. He pulled out a syringe, and I knew he wasn’t going to let me refuse. I shoved him away from the door, desperate to escape. He may have been week, but he was agile, and managed to inject me with something before I was out of the room.
You may have seen how anesthetics work on TV, right? On Dexter, whenever the main character stabs someone with a syringe, they stop struggling and faint instantly. I wish it were that simple.
I quickly unlocked the door, and ran out into the hall. The needle was still jammed into my arm, and painfully wiggling in the soft, moving flesh. I ripped it out as I ran down the hall and sprinted towards the exit. I just made it to the end of the hall when I couldn’t feel my legs, and lost my sense of equilibrium. I fell forward against the door to the stairs. It may have hurt, but at least I didn’t fall while I was on the stairs.
My bruised face soon became as numb as my legs, as I saw Cody coming up the hall behind me. The RA came out of her room, looked at me, and asked what happened. I tried to call for help, but my numb mouth only allowed a drunken sounding mumble. “Just a typical Friday night.” Said Cody. “You should see him on New Years.” He leaned in, hoisted my inert arm over his shoulder, stood me up with considerable effort, and carried me towards his dorm. I heard him say “Sorry for disturbing your sleep.” As my vision blurred and faded. That was the last normal thing I remembered before things got really weird.
I clumsily stood up, and felt weird in a way I couldn’t put my finger on. After my eyes adjusted to a bright light, I couldn’t believe what I saw. I was standing outside on familiar, jagged, and angular terrain. I nearly fainted when I realized that it was the dirt road leading to Princess Peach’s Castle.
As I examined my surroundings, I realized that the reason I felt weird was because my body wasn’t my own anymore. I looked down at myself and realized that I was in Mario’s body. I had control over my neck, like in free-look mode from the game, but all my other movements were restricted to moves Mario had animations for. I tried to stretch out, but could only stretch with the same motions Mario uses in his idle animations.
As I walked towards the castle, I noticed that Mario is shorter than I am, with shorter legs, but a faster running and walking speed, which seemed impossible get used to. If Cody was trying to make the game more simple and intuitive, he didn’t do a very good job.
Before trying to make any progress through the game, I tried out the jump physics and moves. I was able to do all the jumps Mario did, but was stuck in first person, and actually felt every shift in his sense of equilibrium. Precision platforming in this state would be nearly impossible.
Trapped in a nearly unplayable version of Super Mario 64, I went into the sitting idle animation, and tried to come up with a plan. I considered just trying to get through the game normally, but going through all that in one sitting sounded daunting. I considered abusing the glitches that would allow me to beat the game with zero stars, but realized that Cody would probably had some sadistic punishment planned for anyone who would cheat.
Being a hacked game, and a demonstration, I thought that maybe the game would let me out if I just played the first few missions. I steeled myself up, walked through the door to my left, and jumped into the painting that would teleport me to Bob-omb Battlefield.
Remember how Mario flips through the air as he enters the stage? I certainly forgot about it, until I had to go through it. Suddenly tumbling forward in a fetal position left me dizzy and reeling, as the little red Bob-omb gave me the monologue he always does at the start of the level. As he kept talking, I couldn’t move or look away from the little guy. It used to be annoying when I was just watching these things on a screen, but now, the lack of mobility was unnerving.
Trying to avoid dizzying jumps and nauseating stunts, I made my way up the hill to the first boss fight. A lot of the hazards were harder to avoid in first person, since I never had to worry about being blind-sided by an enemy when I could see the area around my feet. On the other hand, some of the other hazards were easier to avoid, since I didn’t have to worry about any objects coming between the camera and my avatar. Estimating how far things were away from me also got much easier.
I was able to avoid the normal enemies with ease, although being nearly hit by the chain chomp was one of the most panic inducing experiences of my life. The parts where I had to avoid the rolling iron spheres were a bit trickier, and less easy on my stomach. I had to jump over them, flying many times my own height into the air. With each jump, my real life instincts would kick in as I fell, telling me that I was about to break every bone in my legs, only to be abruptly silenced when I harmlessly landed with a soft thump and a cloud of dust.
I made it to the top, and fought the Big Bob-omb with ease. It was just like I remembered it, yet completely different at the same time. The boss was actually imposing that time, as I looked up at him from first person instead of looking down on him from the overhead camera. As I picked him up, I actually felt the strain of his massive body in my stubby arms. I threw him three times, defeated him, and grabbed the star. My vision then faded to white, and I was forcefully ejected from the rippling painting.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t greeted by an “End of Demo” message, and it looked like the game was going to go on. I turned around and jumped back into the painting, wondering just how much of the game Cody had remade, and what might happen if I reached the end of it.
As I returned, I saw a giant turtle who wasn’t there before. I suddenly remembered the second mission in Bob-omb Battlefield: the race with Koopa the Quick. I thought this was going to be another easy challenge, since all I had to do was retrace the path I took last time, only at a running pace. The race started out all right, but I realized something halfway in that made me lose focus, and stop running. I didn’t care about the race any more when I realized that I was hungry.
Since my real body was presumably sitting in Cody’s chair, I realized that I had no means of actually getting food. “Maybe this is just part of the game’s design.” I thought to myself, desperate for any explanation other than the most logical and most unpleasant one. “Cody always loved making the Mario games more ‘realistic,’ what ever that meant in a world that contained flying squids and talking mushrooms. Maybe he’s trying to give the game survival elements, like DayZ, or Minecraft.” I walked to that circle of coins you can collect for a 1-UP. I got the coins, and grabbed the mushroom, but that did nothing for my hunger. In fact, it didn’t seem to do anything at all.
“If I can’t get food from a mushroom, then what am I supposed to eat?” I thought. Then I remembered that a lot of these games where you have to avoid starvation allow you to eat the corpses of defeated monsters. I ran back down to the dirt floored area filled with enemies, and jumped on one of the goombas. It disappeared and left a single coin behind, the way goombas always did in this game. That was when I realized how hopeless my situation truly was.
“This is the end of the line.” I thought to myself. “I have no way of getting food, and can’t possibly complete the game on one life while starving.” If I had to die, I decided to just kill myself with one of the faster hazards in the environment. I decided to let the chain chomp hit me three times.
As it charged into me, it was the worst pain I had ever felt. I could feel the infinitely thin metal blades of the creature’s perfectly triangular teeth rip through my flesh from head to toe. The chain chomp’s mouth was rapidly opening and closing as it always did, and I felt the agony of being shredded on those vicious blades with every close of its mouth. In the real world, I would have screamed until my throat was horse and my lungs were empty, but here, my new body only let out that little “OOMPH!” sound Mario makes when he’s hurt.
I was knocked to the ground, as I became temporarily invulnerable in typical Mario fashion. The chain chomp continued bounced on top of me. I didn’t expect to feel the enormous weight of it. Although I was invulnerable, I could feel the blunt force of it slamming down on me like a wrecking ball while the pain of its bite still hadn’t subsided. That was when something really strange happened. The force of the chain chomp hitting me repeatedly was forcing me down, even though I was already lying on the ground. I looked to my right, and saw the ground rising through where I could feel the ground on my back, and that’s when I realized that I was beginning to clip through the ground.
In spite of the pain, I forced myself to remain completely still. I was forced through the floor, and fell into a blue abyss, from which I could see the land above me disappearing into the distance. As I was starting to pass out, I closed my eyes and enjoyed the free fall.
I never thought I would be glad to feel my body resting in Cody’s chair, but after the last painful and disorienting experience, it was simply sublime. Once my eyes adjusted to the darkness as I saw Cody slumped over his computer terminal, his sleep deprivation having apparently caught up to him. By some stroke of luck, the restraints on the chair had released me as an error message flashed on his monitor. I tried to escape without waking him, but as I got out of the chair, I forgot about the electrodes coming out of the helmet.
As I pulled my head out of the helmet, the electrodes all detached from my scalp with a loud, collective popping sound that caused Cody to stir. I gave up on stealth as I got up, and rushed out of his room. He had just lifted his head form the desk, trying to get his bearings, when he was probably blinded by the light as I flung the door open, running back into the hallway.
Not looking back, I sprinted the whole way back to my dorm. I immediately started writing this, because people need to know about my experience, so nobody would repeat my mistakes and be subjected to Cody’s device again.
He followed me to my dorm, and stood in front of my front door for a while. Now, he’s sitting on a bench outside my dorm, but right where I can see him from my window, and where he can spy on me.
I may be safe inside this room, but I can’t stay in here forever. Cody’s agile and clever, so it’s only a matter of time before he finishes what he started.
Aside from warning you, and hiding in this dorm room like the victim of a medieval siege, I don’t think there’s anything I can do. How could I explain to the police that I was kidnapped and imprisoned in virtual reality? Though I doubt Cody could abduct me from a mental asylum, I personally prefer any other grim fate to being institutionalized.
Author’s Note: This pasta is inspired by Game Coding, which gave me the idea that someone should use the idea of a real person trapped in a virtual world for horror instead of light-hearted action-adventure. The title and villain’s name are also borrowed from that story, although I could probably give them better names. Thanks to the author of the original Game Coding. (I think it was Thatonecreepyguyinyourwindow, but I’m not sure.)
Written by Blarble Blornets