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Funny, intriguing and just misguided gaming myths
Since the early days of video games, gamers have whispered secrets on the schoolyard and spent hours trying to make gaming myths come true. Someone's best friend's cousin found Mew under a truck in Pokemon; others were convinced there was a secret way to find the Triforce in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Before gamers banded together on the Internet and used their collective knowledge - and the ability to hack into games and parse their code - to rule out the impossible, any schoolyard whisper could turn out to be the truth.
The video game world is so insular that you'd have to be a dedicated gamer to even hear some of these myths. The one surrounding a code that revives Aeris in the game Final Fantasy 7 is a good example. Because these ideas are funny, intriguing or just plain misguided, we now present some of the most common myths about video games.
There's a Madden curse
As far as silly video game myths go, this one is pretty darn eerie. Around the year 2000, game developer and publisher Electronic Arts began featuring football players on the cover of its popular Madden NFL game every year. And a weird thing started happening. For several years, nearly every player to grace the cover of the game ended up being injured the following season. Some merely turned in poor performances. Star athletes were seemingly struck down left and right by the Madden curse. Of course, there's a logical explanation for how the Madden curse came to be. Athletes picked for the cover are always coming off of great seasons, and football is a rough game. It happens in the NFL all the time: Some athletes turn in weak seasons, and others get injured. The curse is well-known, but that doesn't mean appearing on the cover of a video game magically causes players to sprain ankles.
Video games are for kids
Here's a shocker: Kids love video games. It's true! Millions of kids all over the world love Mario and Sonic and Pikachu and the games that spawned them. But there are many, many more gamers who grew up playing Mario Bros. and Sonic the Hedgehog - or older games on the Atari - who are now adults and still love video games. In many ways, the video game industry has grown up alongside them, offering more sophisticated and violent games like Call of Duty that are akin to R-rated action movies. In 2011, 53 per cent of gamers fell within the 18 to 49 age range. And within that range, the average gamer was surprisingly mature - 37, in fact. "Casual" games, like Flash Web browser games and Nintendo's Wii Sports and Wii Fit, have brought older people into the gaming world. Gamers 50 and older now represent 29 per cent of the market. Only 18 per cent of gamers are under the age of 18, according to the Entertainment Software Association. There are plenty of games still out there for kids, but the average gamer has definitely grown up.
Video games lead to social isolation
Video game culture has a reputation for being a nerdy indoor hobby - gamers sit in their rooms or their mothers' basements staring at the TV day in and day out, never going outside to socialise with their peers. Even if that image may be accurate for some gamers, the anti-social stigma of video gaming fans has never been less true. Internet connectivity has been a part of PC gaming since the 1990s with online multiplayer games like Quake, and since the launch of Xbox Live in late 2002, Internet gaming has grown into a huge feature on consoles as well. Thanks to high speed Internet connectivity, gamers can play with one another from across the globe. Some games are even designed for millions of simultaneous players. Blizzard's World of Warcraft has more than 10 million subscribers paying a monthly fee to log onto servers and play in a virtual world populated by other gamers. Microsoft's Xbox Live service has 23 million subscribers. More and more games are designed with cooperative play or competitive multiplayer in mind; time spent playing games often means time spent socialising. While competitive gaming also brings out a lot of trash talk in online communities, online play gives gamers the opportunity to spend time with distant friends or make new ones.
Video games lead to violence
Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the two teenagers who carried out the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colo., were fervent Doom players. German 17-year-old Tim Kretschmer killed 15 people a decade later with moves he stole from the game Counter Strike. When youths engage in violent behaviour, the brutal video games they played before they committed their crimes are generally cited as reasons for their tendencies. Logic simply follows: Violent video games make kids violent. This idea remains conventional wisdom, although some studies of kids and aggressive video games have turned up evidence to the contrary. One 2005 study of people ages 14 to 68 who were asked to play 56 hours of the massively multi-player role playing game (MMRPG) Asheron's Call 2 in one month found no noticeable change in aggressive behavior among players after the game. Nor did the researchers turn up an increase in aggression among gamers when compared to the control group who didn't play
Girls don't play video games
When the home video game console first became widely available in the early 1980s, games were generally asexual - or at least unisex. Titles like Frogger, Dig-Dug and Q-Bert lacked any sort of gender bias and gaming wasn't relegated to boys or girls. As gaming became more sophisticated, however, titles began to skew more toward young males than females. Public perception of video games as an almost-strictly boys' pastime still remains; the relative lack of popularity of even the most obvious effeminate titles supports this notion. But does the fact that Metal Gear Solid vastly outsells Barbie titles on PlayStation mean that girls just don't play video games? Absolutely not. In fact, from January to August 2008, females ages 18 to 45 came in second only to males of the same age group as the biggest spenders in video game industry (37 per cent versus 38 per cent).
You can use chips from a PlayStation 2 to form a guided missile system
In late 2000, reports emerged along both the grapevine and mainstream media that then Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was stockpiling PlayStation 2 systems, which had debuted that autumn. More than 4,000 consoles had made their way to Iraq in just a couple of months, having circumvented the arms embargo on Iraq imposed by the United Nations more than a decade earlier. The game consoles were, after all, kids' toys at their essence, so what was the harm? Further down in the reports of the PS2 stockpile (and often in the headlines) was a more alarming idea - that Hussein valued the consoles for their chips. Fears grew that the leader had found a loophole in the embargo and was planning to string together 10 to 20 of the consoles to create a supercomputer powerful enough to guide missile systems. Reality would undermine this concern almost as quickly as it emerged. Technically, one could connect a series of PlayStation 2 consoles and use their 128-bit processors in conjunction, but it would require unique software that Iraq would have needed years to develop after the PS2 debuted. In other words, the rumour was pure myth.
Pong was the first video game
History was made in Sunnyvale, Calif.'s Andy Capp's Tavern on Nov. 29, 1972. Ted Dabney and Nolan Bushnell - two computer programmers who had just founded Atari - had set up and unveiled a new arcade game by the name of Pong that night. The game's debut represented the birth of the video gaming industry, which would reach global revenue of $38 billion just 34 years later. The world's first video game was born. Except, it wasn't. Pong was born that day, sure, but it already had a few older siblings. The common conception that Pong was the world's first video game is actually a myth. Actually, another arcade game had been released a full year prior to Pong's debut at Andy Capp's Tavern. Contrary to popular belief, it turns out that the relatively little-known Computer Space holds the title of world's first arcade video game. It was based on a computer game called Spacewar! that was a bit too difficult for gamers since, at that time, every gamer was a novice. Pong was slightly more everyone's speed; its popularity blew the doors off of Computer Space and led to the myth that it was the first video game.
There are millions of Atari cartridges buried in the New Mexico desert
Sometimes what sounds like a myth is actually the truth - sort of. This is the case with the longstanding rumour that there are millions of Atari game cartridges buried in the New Mexico desert. In September 1983, 14 trucks containing somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 million unwanted - hated, even - Atari game cartridges showed up at the Alamogordo landfill. They dumped their cargo there and went along their way, leaving behind evidence of the birth of one of the earliest video game rumours. The reason for the mass dumping is a matter of public record; Atari's fourth-quarter earnings report for 1982, to be precise. The company had a year that was far worse than expected, largely because it had staked so much on two pivotal releases: its home console version of Pac-Man and a game based on the blockbuster film, E.T. Both titles hit so far below company and public expectations that around five million copies of each were returned to the company. Stuck with millions of the games, Atari opted to bury them. Unfortunately, nostalgic video game hunters who visit the landfill in search of a souvenir will be sorely disappointed. The company had the landfill owners crush the cartridges with a steamroller, and the whole pile was paved over with concrete.
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