The gamer who once was

As gamers, we know we can get a little too obsessed sometimes. But have you ever considered that, perhaps, our obsession is really a possession? When we play for hours on end with no want of the outside world, it seems that games are the true masters of our behavior.

Such is the tale of Howie, a once amiable young man who had his life turned upside-down by such an unfortunate obsession. His spooky tale is recounted below by a former friend who wishes to remain anonymous, who has also provided video evidence of the critical moment that changed Howie’s life…forever. After reading it, maybe you will be more mindful of those recommended hourly breaks…

[[image:supernes666.jpg:I almost died taking this shot. :center:0]]

“During the middle ’90s, I had a video game-obsessed friend named Howie. He was your run-of-the-mill high school student, except that when he played video games, a fiery passion burned in his eyes, like a demon. He often told me how he dreamt of working in the game industry. You probably know one or two like him.

“He lived right next to me with his old grandmother in our suburban sprawl that cuddled up to some vast woods. I would usually join Howie after school to play some fighting games in his basement room. He had a ton of systems, but the one he loved most was his Super NES.

“He would treat it like a person or — dare I say it — a lover, referring to it only by a string of random female epithets such as ‘Sally’ or ‘Michelle.’ It was silly but meshed with Howie’s amusing personality.

“During class one day, I looked over to see that Howie had written the same phrase over and over in his notebook: EREN-PUSS. ‘Eren-puss?’ I whispered. He was startled, but explained to me that Eren-puss was the true name of his Super NES. I chuckled to myself; this was par for the course for Howie. I asked him how he found this out.

“‘She told me,’ he said with a deadpan expression. That part wasn’t like him.

“That day, Howie didn’t walk home with me as he usually did. When I got back, I rapped on his door and was let in by his absentminded grandmother. Once in his room, I found Howie caressing the shell of ‘Eren-puss’ and didn’t seem to disturb him. He said he ‘wouldn’t get to see me much anymore’ as he was quitting school for a job. ‘But not just any job –- my dream job of working in video games,’ he said. ‘And it’s all for my Eren-puss.’ I told him he was crazy for thinking he would get a job in the game industry that easy, in addition to having become such a weirdo. But he laughed as he revealed that ‘she has connections.’ I stormed out of his house in anger.

“As he promised, Howie was absent from school the next day. Once the bell rung, I rushed to his house to try and get to the bottom of his strange behavior. I tapped on his front door and windows for an hour with no answer, not even from his grandmother. As I gave up and walked back to my house, out of the corner of my eye I was startled to find ‘Eren-puss’ staring at me through Howie’s basement window. I felt the Power and Reset buttons on her ‘face’ gazing through me like a pair of predator’s eyes. A cruel joke on Howie’s part, and it made me all the angrier.

“I had all but given up on him, but that weekend, I noticed Howie eating his dinner outside on his porch. Sitting opposite him was Eren-puss, of course. I didn’t hesitate to ream him vocally for playing those tricks on me, his best friend. He laughed at me again and told me to hush down, for now was a time of celebration. He had gotten a job as a video game play tester, and showed me his employee ID to prove it. I couldn’t believe it. ‘I’ll have to reward her,’ said Howie as he looked toward Eren-puss lustfully.

“For a few months, I would look out my window and see Howie going to and fro. He always wore a backpack with him; an instance with a Super NES controller hanging out of it clued me into its twisted contents. He would always come back with bags from either Electronics Boutique or Toys ‘R’ Us, presumably full of Super NES games. The lights in his basement stayed on, even when I would get up during the middle of the night. As the days drew on, however, I would often see him on the front porch looking very sullen.

“One day, I heard arguing coming from Howie’s house. It was in Howie’s voice, all right, but I could hear no others. All of a sudden, he stormed out on the porch, crying. I ran to ask him what was wrong. He explained to me that he hated his job. ‘I’ve been testing this terrible fighting game eight hours a day for the past few months. I can’t take it anymore.’ He wanted to quit, but was afraid -– afraid of what Eren-puss would do.

“‘I can’t take it anymore, either,’ I said, and marched down to his basement to deal with his imaginary consort. His room was laden with hundreds of games, but Eren-puss was strangely missing.

“‘She knows. She knows and she will punish me,’ whimpered Howie as I searched his closets and other possible hiding places with no results. I left him to drown in his lamentations.

“That evening, with the sun set and the moon shining on high, I once more heard a commotion coming from Howie’s house. Abruptly, Howie burst out of the back door and, making agitated, gutteral sounds, ran towards the woods with a flashlight and what looked like a video camera. I ran after, but quickly lost sight and sound of him.

“As I turned back to my house, I found the sky illuminated by something brighter than the moon: Howie’s house was ablaze. Before I could even call 911, it was razed to the ground. Strangely, though, the trees surrounding the house weren’t so much as singed. I later told the police that I saw Howie running towards the woods, and they assumed the same as me -– that Howie had set his own place on fire. Once caught, he would face both arson and homicide charges, as his grandmother’s remains were found among the cinders. One officer asked me to identify an item found on the front lawn: it was Eren-puss, which was taken as evidence. Chillingly, a subsequent investigation would determine the fire had started from a short-circuited piece of electronics in Howie’s basement room.

“Weeks passed, and I heard nothing more of Howie. I would occasionally walk over to the site of my former friend’s house, which still bore the charred foundation. One day, something shiny caught my eye in a corner hole of what had once been Howie’s room. Without thought, I reached in…and pulled out a videotape. I was puzzled that something like this would have survived the fire. Curious, I popped the tape in back home — to find a nightmare realized.

“These appeared to be Howie’s final moments. By now, I was deeply disturbed. As soon as I could, I got rid of anything video game-related in my house, from magazines to my father’s old Pong machine. I shudder to think where Eren-puss could have turned up. If you ever bought a used Super NES, be forewarned: I fear that the player truly in control might not be you.”

4 thoughts on “The gamer who once was

  1. That was a great story! My Snes is currently locked away in a cupboard, I don’t dare look inside it now!

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