The Princess Society was, simply put, a bunch of idiots.
I couldn’t really blame them. These weren’t people brought together because they were problem solvers. They were just random gamers who’d all happened to encounter the same thing. I was only twenty when I first joined, but I was actually one of the older members. Most of The Princess Society was still in high school. Of course, in spite of this, they still liked to act as though they were superspies figuring out some ancient mystery. They’d obsess about installing apps to make their board (marginally) harder to find by search. They’d write up and edit lists of complex rules about how to deal with The Princess should you encounter her. One person even took to backing up the board on an external hard drive so there would “be a record in case she got us.” The fact that we didn’t have a damn clue what we were doing was generally brushed aside.
What we spent the majority of our time doing was just swapping stories. Everyone had their own Princess story they were proud of telling. I’ll admit it was rather fascinating. Most of the stories were like mine, vaguely creepy but nothing horrifying. Here are a few I remember, heavily abridged.
Wild 00000000! – While playing Pokemon Blue on an emulator, a player encountered a tile in the middle of the road in Celadon City which could not be walked on. The tile appeared empty, but resisted attempts to enter it as though an NPC was there. The player eventually realized he could talk to this blank square, but all it opened was a blank dialogue box. Moving on, the player noticed periods of silence between music transitions, which were getting longer and longer. After a while, NPCs stopped responding and animating, and some building textures were being replaced with nonsense.
As the player considered resetting the emulator, he absent-mindedly walked back to the location of the invisible Celadon NPC. On that space he now found a “fuzzy” sprite of a girl. The moment he approached her, she got an exclamation mark over her head and ran at him, acting like a rival trainer. Unlike most rival trainers, she actually walked INTO the player sprite before opening a blank dialogue box. After a battle transition, the player found himself fighting a “Wild 00000000!” with the sprite of what the player said at the time looked like an angel with no face. She behaved mostly like one of those Ghosts that can only be unmasked with the Sylph Scope. Pokemon were too afraid to fight her and instead of attacking she opened dialogue boxes of garbage characters. Eventually one of these boxes froze the game on a high-pitched whining sound, at which point the player just reset the emulator.
The player remembers that there was a lingering effect on his file from this. His character’s name was now blank. Specifically, it had been replaced by five spaces.
A Face in the Crowd – Now, I actually forget which game this was. It wasn't the one pictured above, I don't think. It was some WWE wrestling game on the original Xbox. Apparently, this player booted up an exhibition match only to realize the crowd wasn’t animating during the introductions. They were frozen still. Also, no sounds of cheering were playing. It was just the entrance music and sound effects.
When the match began, the player noticed someone out in the crowd. It was a 3D polygonal model of a girl with white hair and a red dress, who stood out immensely because the normal crowd was just 2D sprites. She was actually animated, and would turn her head to follow the movements of the first-player wrestler. Sometimes she would fidget her arms for some unknown reason. Most of the time she just held her arms straight out to her sides.
Though they both started the match at full health, both wrestlers immediately began acting as though they’d taken a heavy beating, clutching their chests and limping towards each other. Despite this, both wrestlers were suddenly far more resilient than usual, and the match just went on and on. It had also somehow turned into a submission-only match, with all ref features turned off. By the time the player finally forced his opponent to tap out, both wrestlers had pretty much every possible “battle damage” decal the game could put on them. They both looked like bloody pulps.
Once the match ended, a low droning of what sounded like improperly-mixed crowd sounds kicked in as the player-one wrester did his victory pose. After that, a menu appeared. The player realized he couldn’t move the menu selector off of “Rematch” no matter what button he pressed.
Dreamland Nightmare - Playing Vigilante 8 (a car combat game in the vein of Twisted Metal) on the N64, a player encountered The Princess standing around (in her usual pose) in the Casino City map during Johnny Torque’s campaign. Thinking she was some kind of easter egg, player’s first inclination was to shoot her, at which point she exploded like any other destructible object.
The player finished the map as normal, but when the next map began to load, there was no “story summary” screen like normal. Instead, it was a corrupted image with a blank space where text should be. This screen lasted about twenty seconds, during which time the player was convinced his game had frozen. It hadn’t.
The “mission” began with the player, as Johnny Torque, on the “Super Dreamland” map. This map, for those who don’t know, is a bonus map only available in the N64 version of the game. It’s basically a joke map made to look like a cartoon fantasy kingdom, in contrast to the rest of the game’s 1970s grindhouse aesthetic. The map, however, was very different from usual. There was no music playing, but even more unsettling, the lighting was way off. As the player described it “It was night, or supposed to be night, I think. As close as the game could get. It was like a video game version of day-for-night movie scenes.”
The player drove around a bit. At first, it seemed like there were no enemies, but after some searching the player found that Beezwax and Dave were sitting on their spawn points, not moving. They appeared to have no AI. The player rammed them a couple times to see if they would react, but they didn’t. Eventually, he tried blowing them up to see if they would respawn with the proper AI or something. Nothing that simple, unfortunately.
The moment the player defeated Beezwax, the Super Dreamland music began playing very loudly and full of audio artifacting. The player looked around for Beezwax’s respawn, but instead saw what appeared to be a glowing car driving around on the other end of the map. On closer inspection, the car wasn’t glowing so much as the weird night-time filter wasn’t mapping to it, making it appear a lot brighter than everything else. This car didn’t match any other vehicle in the game, looking like a boxy, untextured mess of polygons in a vague car-ish shape.
The mystery car had actual enemy AI, though it was erratic. It was constantly ramming into walls and trying to drive places it couldn’t. It would only get it together to attack if the player got very close. Even then, it would just kind of spam weapons without much strategy or attempt at aiming. Overall, a very weak opponent, made weaker by the quick discovery that it could be killed with one hit. By anything.
But it had a trick. For every one of these vehicles the player destroyed, several more would appear. It seemed to be anywhere from two to four new ones appearing every time one was destroyed. Stopping attacking didn’t help the situation, because the vehicles were attacking and destroying each other, too. Very quickly the map exceeded the usual maximum of vehicles and the already-weak framerate plummeted.
It should be noted that, this entire time, the Super Dreamland music was getting louder, slower and glitchier. It was actually the overwhelming music that eventually forced the player to shut off the game. By the end, the player says the music was just a high-pitched screech that almost sounded like a voice.
Peek-a-boo! - A short one, but an important lesson was learned from it. A player encountered The Princess while playing the first Portal on his PC. In this case, the player in question was already a member of The Princess Society and immediately quit the game upon seeing her. (She was in one of the offices near the end of the game, if you’re curious.)
The player immediately went to the Princess Society message board to log his sighting. While typing his post, he heard a voice very clearly through his headphones.
“I see you.”
It was the sentry turret dialogue. The player immediately shut off his computer, realizing that just quitting the game wasn’t enough.
And most of the stories were just like that. A lot of them ended with the player’s game freezing or becoming so unplayable the player turned the game off. Very few ended quite as dramatically as mine. However, as I’ll get into later, my story was also unique in a much more important way.