Most people in my age will probably tell you how fondly they remember all their favorite NES, Gameboy Colour, SNES games such as Castlevania, Mario 3 and Pokemon RED/BLUE. However, I couldn't tell you that I fondly remember anything like that as I never had a game console at the perfect time to experience them being released, I got the aftertaste of what was a gaming revolution and by the time I could have got an SNES, it felt like it was old news with the announcement of a new set of consoles being released.
Skipping forward quite a few years to 2004, I was living on my own and doing quite well for myself, I wasn't poor like before (Though still nothing luxury) and I got spent quite a long time on the internet. It was unstable however and slow as hell. As I said, not poor but not luxurious living and as it went, SNES games that I dreamed of as a child demanded pretty insane prices out on the field and so, I couldn't really buy anything of the sort and as an adult, I felt I didn't need to but let's face it, no matter how old you get those urges to see what everyone was talking about will never go away and so I found myself browsing Pokemon sites and forums in an attempt to find a gameboy colour cartridge of Red, Blue, Yellow. I found one for sale on a fairly desolate forum. It was horribly formatted and coded but somehow still amassed 100+ users and so, I checked it out. He was selling the cart for £5 as he said that he didn't have interest in it anymore and warned me of something dark lurking in the depths of those four plastic walls, a dead battery. I wasn't willing to replace that battery for myself, so I asked if he could repair it and slap that price up to £11, and he agreed.
While waiting for some feedback, I checked out some other threads. It was frustrating at first and navigation took a long time but coupled with my slow internet speed and it was a draining experience.
After about an hour, I found a good thread called 'What Pokemon Myths were your favorite as a kid?' posted by an Admin called CecilH21, I don't know why I remember his name so well, maybe because he showed up so often. The thread went to all ends of the spectrum, light-hearted 'Hidden Mews' and darker myths such as Team Rocket dead Pokemon factory, a confusing title and I wish I could remember the specifics of that story but I don't. My favorite were the 'hidden Mew's quite funny how many people heard it from those asshole childhood friends who's dads' "Worked at Nintendo". Another regular made a post on that thread talking about how Gamegenies and Gamesharks can replicate the 'hidden mews'. This introduced me to Roms and Emulators.
Over the next few weeks, I downloaded emulators, roms and all sorts. The guy messaged me about the aforementioned cartridge now that it was fixed and I purchased it still because I would feel bad after he fixed it for me but I didn't want it anymore, these Roms were way fucking cooler. That's when the forum took a turn from a traditional Pokemon forum to a modding and emulator forum for Pokemon ROMS though, it still didn't get many more users.
The same day, CecilH21 came back and made a thread called 'I found something [pokemon red] ROM' Titles of threads worked like this 'thread title [pokemon game]' and then a flair.
Trad for tradional, as in, the game was a legit copy.
ROMx for a previously edited ROM which later changed to ROM+ and simply, ROM for just a clean, vanilla ROM.
Anyway, the forum thread by Cecil was out of this fucking world, the formatting was broken and unreadable and judging by the comments, it wasn't just me. Every thread was like this due to the reboot and redesign of the forum and so it took about a day until we could all read it.
Cecil's post was pointlessly long and I wouldn't be able to remember it word for word but it was basically talking about an extremely long and empty terrain which is unlike anything in the game and he posted strings of code which I would never understand giving evidence that it was data once linked to a town. People downloaded his save data and ROM, a user proved it was a clean ROM and not edited whilst others sent pictures back and forth of code and in-game screencaptures to figure out what it was. I just sat back and went through it, not really bothering about downloaded it, after all, downloading Pokemon Red took me an hour last time due to my slow internet so I was in no hurry to endure another hour of that. To summarize all the discoveries in a quick way, it went like this:
Cecil: I found this place, here is the ROM and Save data. *Screencaps etc*
A bunch of users: WOW, WEIRD, COOL, YES, AWESOME.
Levi9612: Yup, I had a look through the files and it appears to be all clean and a real un-edited ROM.
Heroin (Coder and modder, also an Admin): Did you think about the possibility of it being installdata?
Installdata was a little phrase we made up, it's basically, a placeholder for more important data so that when in towns, codes such as entering houses and opening up your bag or pokedex would be in a different area so it could be accessed a string of data at a time rather than being present within the same field as NPCs data and the like. To put it simply, it's done like this so the code has less chance of being exploited, though given the mass amount of gamesharks, we can obviously see, that didn't work as intended. Things such as random pokemon encounters are stored here also.
It took about thirty minutes for Cecil to reply, though people were going with Heroin's theory and I will never know why the five words he replied with next always stick in my mind and give me a little shudder.
CecilH21: Can't be, I found someone. *screencap*
Now, I don't know why this always gives me chills but I guess it was the simplicity of it and the fact he referred to the NPC as 'someone'. The comments went wild, people were tapping in, left, right and centre. You couldn't get a word in edgewise. "This is sick" "Ok. this is creepy lol" "Can anyone clarify whether this is genuine data or not?" Those were some of the last comments I saw before the thread was disabled, both comments and the download were pulled offline. It was a small forum and I guess the mods couldn't take so much data and traffic all at once so it was disabled.
I pm'd Heroin about it and he replied an hour later.
Me: Hey, Heroin, did you see the comments on Cecil's last post?, it blew up like crazy with people saying it was creepy and sick. What are they going on about?.
Heroin: No clue mate, it's been disabled, I'm looking through the ROM and it's just an empty field. Have you found anything?
Me: Wait, you didn't disable it? Also, no, I have a terrible connection, slow internet.
Heroin: Nope, I didn't disable a thing. Must be all on Cecil's end. I'll try and get in touch with him, I'll transfer the file to you, I'll remove the data that isn't directly linked to this area so it's a smaller file, faster to download.
He was right, it took about 20 minutes. It was an hour until he came back and I decided not to touch the ROM until then.
Heroin: Right, he isn't replying. I biked it up to his house and knocked but he text me and said he was busy trying to fix the traffic issues with the site and so, I just let him be.
Me: So long as he is okay I guess. I feared something might have happened to him. Silly, I know.
Me and Heroin spoke for a while and we decided to play through the ROM together and AIM each other our findings.
8pm: The ROM appeared to be of Pokemon Blue, given the purple-tint on everything. It was just an empty field with a single NPC. Heroin told me how to check through data and he was correct, it was full of data so it held up his theory that it was a data placeholder area. No significant findings as a yet.
9pm: Heroin goes down the map whilst I go up it. About five minutes of walking and I saw an NPC. A dialogue box popped up saying 'Fuck the employees'. I couldn't stop laughing. Sent Heroin my finds and he laughed too. We wondered if it was a inside joke or whether our Japanese translation source was incorrect or inaccurate.
10pm: Heroin found an NPC too, the big guy who is always impressed with current technology in your hometown, it had his sprite. He said 'Shoot them' in bold letters. It became less funny.
10:30pm: Heroin found yet another NPC. I was jealous of how he was doing far better than me at the whole finding game but that's another story. The NPC said 'I'm doing it, I'm going to do it'.
10:50pm: Our finds were becoming more frequent. I found a building that said, 'Nintendo' in horrible 8-bit text. The resolution and quality was so low, I didn't even know it said that until I sent it over to Heroin.
11:00pm: Heroin found another NPC, who said, 'Shoot the employees. Knock the door and open fire'. We stopped there and knew what this all meant. We frantically searched through the internet, news articles, 'shootings at Nintendo HQ'. We went through page after page, search engine after search engine and we found nothing. Subsequently, we knew that it was not data written by Nintendo and if it was not Nintendo Data. Our fears were confirmed, it was written by Cecil. Nothing else really became of it. Cecil wasn't seen much of again by Heroin, though he felt it was best not to go and visit him. We kept our eyes peeled for any sign of a possible shooting or an article to see if he ever did snap but no such thing occurred.
It's been years and me and Heroin are still in touch, though we don't speak of it too much. We don't really want to. The forum went down completely after a month or two, not really under 'strange conditions', the amount of members dwindled after the event, or so we assume that is what caused it but it might just have been because it was less active without Cecil there. It would pain me to not be able to summarize why he ever did this and luckily, I can get some closure. Cecil got in contact with Heroin four days ago, the last words of Cecil. The last we'll ever hear of this event.
Heroin: What was that ROM all about Cecil? What the fuck happened to you?
CecilH21: I wanted to be amazing, I wanted to discover this never before seen evidence to draw everyone's attention to me and then once everybody found out, I was going to do it Mark, I was really going to do it. In a way, that empty field was fitting, with those few people. The empty field was my mind and the NPCS were my thoughts, bent on nothing else but destruction.
And with that, he was gone.
I wonder why anyone would convey such a dark idea on a kid's game but I can't really question it too much, after all he was clearly sick and Pokemon was among his obsessions.
Anyway, I better end it here. I've been typing for hours and someone is at the door.