The internet used to be a finite commodity. Before we were always connected and everyone could google topics with reckless abandon, videogame and hardware know-how was limited to the privileged few that actually what a search engine was (and didn't get kicked off by the computer by their dad after 7 pm). We were also kids then, with vulnerable minds that willfully latched onto the more mystic and bizarre of PC gaming folklore.
We used to believe in some ridiculous stories. Here's a few of our own, but come now and gather round the campfire. Sound off with your own in the comments.
Steven: CD sandwiches
As an eight-year-old boy, my friends and I were woefully incapable of understanding how science works. To us, the advent of CD-ROM was pure black magic. After all, we grew up in an era of NES cartridges, so the idea that some thin disc could store vast amounts of information was pretty mind blowing to us. One day, a kid in my class came to school with a wild story: The night before, while playing his Playstation, he put two games in the disc tray. Instead of glitching out, somehow the Playstation played both games at the same time but combined them together like some kind of videogame Frankenstein. I’m not kidding. Hearing this, my mind went wild all the possibilities and hybrid games I could create. I bet you can imagine the first thing I did when I got home.
We didn’t have a Playstation, but we did have a janky tan-colored desktop that my parents occasionally let me play games on. I only had two games on disc at that point: Lego Island and Creatures. That would have to do, I thought as I carefully placed them on top of one another and forced the disc tray closed. To my delight, I could hear it spinning up for a second before hearing a rather unsettling scratching noise. Panicking I hit the eject button and the tray partially popped open. I had to pry it out all the way, but one of the discs had become dislodged and I needed to fish it out from inside the CD drive. Doing so scratched up the Creatures disc pretty bad, and my dad had heard the commotion and came to investigate. Of course, being a home computer in the ‘90s meant that bad boy cost my dad a cool $3,000 and god forbid if I ever damaged it. I’m not sure if he was mad or just bewildered. Probably both.
Jody: Compact brains
There was always someone very helpful who would suggest a way of fixing a game disc when it got scratched. Toothpaste, that'll do it. No, just wipe a banana over it. Actually, peanut butter definitely works. The one we believed in was perfume. The theory went that the fragrance was suspended in alcohol, right, so you're basically just spraying diluted rubbing alcohol onto the scratched CD. Why didn't we just use rubbing alcohol instead? Why did we believe alcohol had borderline magical healing properties? Well, because we were kids. And we were dumb as balls.
Austin: Run as administrator
In middle school, me and my friends all effectively had the same PC. Some off-white Dells and HPs from the cretaceous period, right? We also believed the same nonsensical rumor: running a game as administrator gives you god-tier cheats. Infinite health, bottomless clip, flight, the works. Anything for an administrator. Word on the street was this worked for “most” games. Of course, it very often didn’t work, but rather than admit we were chasing snake oil, whenever it didn’t work we decided that whatever we were playing didn’t fall into “most” games. It was a rule of exceptions that was every bit as stupid as we were.
Wes: The power of Alt-F4
I can't say this is one I believed, but in one beautiful summer circa 2004, I spent many, many days at a friend's house playing Halo: Combat Evolved online. Those were the good old days of 4 hour CTF matches on random servers, and text chat was always a chaotic stew of trolls and confused kids. My favorite to watch was so simple, but so beautiful. No matter what server, there would always be someone in chat offering advice to the newbies. "Press Alt+F4 to change weapons." "Alt+F4 turns on god mode." "Press Alt+F4 to chat." Ninety percent of the time, this was laughed off or ignored, but every once in awhile, you'd see two perfect words:
Or whatever that poor, gullible son of a bitch's name was. I assume it was a mistake most people only made once, but the idea that you could trust anyone in an online text chat is probably a long-lost innocence.
Tyler: Turn it off and never turn it on again
My dad caught me turning off the family PC and turning it back on immediately after, and rightfully scolded me. Apparently the 'wait 30 seconds before turning a PC back on after shutting down' rule was grounded in truth: you wanted to let capacitors fully discharge. But being a stupid kid, I took it too far. I became horrified that I'd damage any electronics, and anything mechanical even, by turning them off and on too fast. For years I would wait a full five minutes or so before pressing the power button after a shutdown or crash, and admonished anyone who was cavalier with their power button—so I created my own myth in this case, I suppose. Today I'm still uneasy about rapidly power cycling anything. It'll never go away.
Wes: Nude Raider
I'll admit it: I was young and dumb enough to think that there were cheat codes for Tomb Raider that would turn Lara Croft into naked Lara Croft. I don't think I really understood cheat codes at the time—I probably didn't understand that cheat codes had to be programmed into a game, and thus that the developers would've had to deliberately create a nudity option. I also probably didn't understand that people wrote bullshit on the Internet. So when I went to cheat websites and saw the nude code, I figured it had to be real.
I remember trying to type it in, making Lara step forward or shuffle sideways, pulling up the inventory menu...and nothing. Was I doing it wrong? Try again. Hm, maybe the code's wrong. Oh, this other cheat website has a different code. Maybe this time it'll work! I think I must've tried a few times and never understood why it didn't work. One of the most infamous game myths of all time, and I fell for it like a sucker.
Andy: The Thief Bow Upgrade
The primary weapon in Thief: The Dark Project and its sequels is the bow. But it's much more than just a weapon: It can fire water arrows to douse torches, moss arrows to muffle footsteps, and rope arrows that enable climbing to otherwise-inaccessible areas. And it can do even more once players acquire the Bow Upgrade, which—so the story goes—is stashed away in the Alarus Extension of the Bonehoard, a great underground crypt. That section of the crypt has been blocked off by cave-ins—the Bonehoard is a very old, crumbling place—but players who can reach the ledge and twist and turn to find just the right path to squeeze their way through the tiny tunnel leading into it will be greatly rewarded for their efforts.
Except it's all a lie. The Alarus family crypt does not actually exist, nor does the Bow Upgrade. But the legend persisted for years (and for all I know, still does), thanks largely to the TTLG.com community site, which enjoyed proliferating the rumor among newcomers as a sort of light hazing ritual. Even when they told the truth, old-timers would leave just enough room for doubt that you could never really be sure if you were being messed with. (I'll admit it: I wasn’t sure. So I looked for it, with more persistence than was probably warranted. Now I'm sure. Mostly sure, anyway.)
Samuel: The Millennium Falcon in Rogue Squadron
Here's another true one—but the context is important. At the time of release, the N64 version of Rogue Squadron had a cheat code to unlock the Falcon. I still remember what it was, as my friends who owned N64s had clearly memorised it: FARMBOY. When I typed it into the PC version, it didn't work, and none of the cheat codes for the PC version at the time even referenced the Falcon. I remember that 'IAMDOLLY' gave you infinite lives, but the Falcon was nowhere to be seen. I convinced myself that Lucasarts had handed it over Nintendo as an exclusive treat, the cads. How could they do that to me, an 11 year-old playing this game with a very cheap joystick?
Turns out that wasn't the case. The Falcon was in there, but the codes to unlock it must've done the rounds much later on. It's possible I'm wrong on this one, and that from day one it was easy to find out how to unlock the Falcon, but I remember searching for this a lot back in 1999 and 2000 using Ask Jeeves (that's how long ago this was). It wasn't until I played the GOG version that I finally got to fly the Falcon.
Was it worth waiting for? The answer is, sort of. The Falcon was actually a bit too big for most of Rogue Squadron's levels, but it sure was nice seeing it leave the hangar at the start of a level.
As a side note, my dad also told me that installing a Game Boy emulator was 'slowing his computer down', as were the demos from the PC Gamer cover discs at the time. His programs were fine, though. He was just plain making that shit up.
Wes: Myth confirmed: You can actually drink blood in Wolfenstein 3D
Okay, I actually thought this one was a myth but it's completely true: if your health in Wolfenstein 3D is low enough, you can walk over a pool of blood and restore 1% HP. I remember an adult telling me this years ago, and at some point it twisted in my mind into one of those obvious exaggerations that probably wasn't really true. Slurp it up, B.J.