Happy April Fools’ Day!
I was intending to be funny and original like how everybody else on the internet is on April Fools’ Day. Instead of showing you the “Top 5 Tricks and Pranks Game Developers Have Pulled on Players” like the title promises, I was thinking of sending you to some LOLcats or Rickrolling you or something. However, because I’m pretty sure you’d rather be looking at LOLcats (who wouldn’t!?), and nobody Rickrolls any more, I decided to be extra devious and instead present to you EXACTLY what you clicked. Man, the looks on your faces must be priceless!
Plus, these pranks are a lot more hilarious than anything I could ever come up with. Here are the Top 5 Tricks and Pranks Game Developers Have Pulled on Players!
5.) Eternal Darnkess: Sanity’s Requiem – The Sanity Effects
Silicon Knights outdid themselves with their Gamecube exclusive, Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem. The game puts you in the role of Alexandra Roivas and charges you with solving your grandfather’s murder. Also, there’s a book made of human skin and bone that allows you to experience past lives full of evil spirits and insanity. Being the masterful sleuth she is, Alexandra discovers the two things are related.
Riveting plot aside, it’s the Sanity Effects that make this game so memorable. While playing, if your character’s Sanity Meter depletes, strange things will happen, such as your head falling off, crying and whispering being heard off screen, or a message appearing onscreen informing you your controller is not connected. These are temporary effects, but they are enough to disorient unassuming players and give enemies the upper hand.
There are some more bothersome effects, like when your controls get inverted or when the game appears to have turned your TV off, but it’s the “Blue Screen of Death” that threatens to delete your save file that’s the worst! Well played, Silicon Knights. You know it’s a good prank when you simultaneously make your victim’s heart stop while they scream profanities at a screen.
4.) Simcopter – “Himbos”
Jacques Servin, a programmer for Simcopter, is an excellent example of a “disgruntled employee.” As legend has it, Mr. Servin felt that he was overworked and underpaid while working with Electronic Arts on Simcopter. In order to get “back at The Man” for this injustice, Servin did what any of us would have done in his situation: Created “Himbos.”
Himbos – the male versions of “Bimbos” – were speedo enthusiasts who would gather en masse on certain dates and commence hugging and kissing one another. They also had a tendency to run wantonly into your helicopter blades if you decided to land your helicopter for a closer look. The ensuing chaos would require the freshly lacerated Himbos to be airlifted to the hospital, netting you some mad cash and helping you forget that this was pretty homophobic.
Needless to say, The Man soon discovered the Easter Egg, removed it from future releases of the game, and then removed Servin from their payroll. It was a pretty funny prank meant for the developer/publisher, but players felt the brunt of the prank as well.
3.) Game Dev Tycoon – Pirates Trolled, Irony Ensues
Pirating software is not a victim-less crime; it can hurt developers’ and publishers’ bottom line. Therefore, many developers have done some pretty unique and funny things to screw with pirates. But sometimes a dose of irony can make for the best pranks.
Enter Greenheart Games: The developer behind Game Dev Tycoon, a game about creating and running a game company. If that isn’t meta enough for you, what if I told you they released to torrent sites a cracked version of their game exclusively to mess with pirates? Well, they did, and it’s scathing if you’re a thief.
The cracked version would only allow pirates to play to the first weekend. At this point, a sales report would pop up onscreen, stating how downloading the game illegally could drive your company to bankruptcy. Poignant, direct, and hilarious.
The best part? The pirates got on message boards and started whining about how in-game pirating was ruining their in-game sales. Mmm… the irony is soooooo delicious!
2.) Snatcher – Kojima Set Us Up the Bomb
Oh, Konami’s Hideo Kojima, you prankster you! You may know him for being the mastermind behind the Metal Gear series. If that’s the case, then you’re no stranger to his fourth-wall breaking antics.
Well, Kojima started messing with players’ heads years before Metal Gear Solid with a game in the early-nineties called Snatcher. Did I say “heads”? Because I meant ears. Hideo Kojima does not give a crap about players’ ears.
In Snatcher, there’s a part where players need to investigate an area. While investigating, the in-game volume drastically decreases, and one of the investigators (a little robot named Metal Gear) asks if the protagonist can hear a faint ticking noise. He then suggests that players turn up their TV’s volume so they might hear it, at which point a freaking bomb explodes at maximum volume!
Good one, Mr. Kojima. I really wish I could hear all the praise lavished upon you for such a terrific prank. But I can’t. Because you blew out my eardrums in the early-nineties.
1.) Takeshi’s Challenge – The ENTIRE Game
Takeshi Kitano was the host of a popular mid-eighties Japanese game show called Takeshi’s Castle, which some might know from its gag dubbed spoof, MXC. Kitano has been labeled a writer, director, comedian, poet, teacher, and – for the sake of this article – a video game designer. In short, Takeshi Kitano is an amazing man; too bad you wouldn’t know that by playing the only game he’s ever made, Takeshi’s Challenge.
Takeshi’s Challenge for the Famicom (the Japanese counterpart to the Nintendo Entertainment System) is a troll’s delight! Basically, the game asks the player to do random, ridiculous things in order to progress in the game. You have a karaoke section where you have to sing into the controller (Famicom controllers had built-in mics), there was a side-scrolling shooter section where you couldn’t go up once you went down, and there’s a part where you have to wait AN ENTIRE HOUR for a blank piece of paper to reveal itself as a treasure map. Touching the controller wouldn’t only make you restart the hour, but it’d make you redo the stupid karaoke section! Pure Evil!
People who bought the game were so confused that a strategy guide was printed mere weeks after the game’s release. Unfortunately, the game was so cryptic that even the guide didn’t help, leading the original guide’s publishers to print a second edition. All the while, Kitano presumably laughed atop his fresh pile of video game money.
Kitano’s game is considered an “Anti-Game,” a deconstruction of the medium that shows how pointless video games are. Critics theorize that Kitano felt like people who wasted time doing inane and ultimately pointless tasks (such as playing and mastering video games) should reconsider “taking such things seriously,” which is a paraphrase from the game’s ending. It seems like Kitano got everybody pretty good on that one, and that’s why Takeshi’s Challenge is the Best Prank a Game Developer has ever pulled on players.