Sunday, December 18, 2011

Part 5: The Mistake

In the early days, so I’ve been told, The Princess Society was very different. The society was formed around 2003 by a small collection of gamers, all of whom had seen The Princess at some point. Apparently it grew out of a discussion on GameFAQs where one poster excitedly recounted his experience with a strange glitched character model, only to be amazed that a couple others had seen the exact same thing in several other games.

At first, they assumed this was some sort of easter egg. A bit like the Wilhelm Scream, game designers were putting this model into the code of various games as a joke. But the stories were too elaborate for something like that. Moreover, the way this character appeared was never quite the same, even in the same game. As more and more stories were added, it became clear this character calling herself The Princess had more to her. Whether or not she was "alive," no one was certain, but what was certain was that more investigation was needed.

This handful of gamers opened The Princess Society board for a single purpose, to perform “experiments” regarding The Princess phenomenon and record any findings. Members would play games obsessively in the hopes of drawing The Princess out. Then, upon encountering her, they would invariably chicken out and turn the game off before giving an exaggerated account of the night’s events to their fellow society members. No rules were being written and nothing was really getting cataloged. It was all done in the spirit of fun, like kids saying “Bloody Mary” in a mirror or something. More than any sort of investigation, they were doing it for the thrill.

This was before they knew The Princess could kill people.

As the group became closer and closer friends, they started to reveal more about themselves to each other. Real names came out, ages, genders and even the cities in which they lived. Eventually, two society members realized they lived very close to each other; within walking distance, in fact. No two society members had ever met in real life before, so this was treated as an exciting new possibility. What would happen if two society members played a game together to try and draw The Princess out? They could provide each other moral support as well as a little strength in numbers. While The Princess had never exhibited any true hostility, there was always a vaguely unsettling quality to her appearances, so it was agreed that two people working together were the best way to attempt deeper communication with The Princess, just for safety’s sake.

We’ll call the two society members Adam and Brian.

The plan was simple. Brian would go to Adam’s house one afternoon with a stack of N64 games. The two of them would play game after game in the stack until The Princess showed herself. And, this being the important part, they would not chicken out. They would not shut off the game. They would keep each other calm and allow the game to run. Even if the screen froze or got filled with garbage, they were prepared to leave it on to see if there was something on the other side.

Anticipation grew as the day approached. The society was convinced that everything would be revealed with this experience. No one knew how The Princess would react to such direct confrontation, but everyone wanted to know. Adam mentioned that he was going to keep a knife handy in case “anything went wrong.” Brian was bringing a tape recorder in case The Princess had any sort of message. Neither of them owned a video camera, and cameras in general weren’t quite as ubiquitous as they are today.

It’s debatable how much a camera would have helped anyway.

The day finally arrived with much fanfare on the society message board. A “Good Luck Team” banner went up on the board’s main index. There was a pool going on whether or not the team would get any useful information or if they’d just wuss out immediately and shut off the game. “Wuss out” was in the lead by a good margin.

Adam and Brian had both agreed that they would check in around 6 PM whether or not they’d found anything, so society members all made sure to log in at 6 PM for the news. It was like New Year’s, with everyone counting down. 5...4...3...2...1...

6 PM hit. Nothing.

There were two theories, either something had gone wrong, or Adam and Brian had established contact with The Princess and couldn’t get away to write anything yet. At the very least, the “wuss out” predictions were looking less and less likely. Something was clearly going on. Excitement just got greater as the society members considered the possibilities of this delay.

7 PM hit. Nothing.

A few people were starting to get worried at this point. Could an encounter with The Princess really tie a person up this long? People were starting to swing more towards the possibility that something bad might have happened, though no one could think of what. There was speculation that "she got them," but what did that even mean? Up until this point she'd just been an off-looking model in a video game.

8 PM hit. Nothing.

It was around this time that an “RIP Adam and Brian” thread was made on the board as a joke. I think people wanted to laugh at it because they didn’t want to consider what was on the backs of all their minds. Fake eulogies were said, jokes about how Adam should have kept an NES Zapper on him were made. People were starting to get desperate for distractions while they waited for some sort of news.

They waited until midnight.

Actually, they waited for a week and a half. Midnight of that night was just when most of them logged off. Ostensibly, it was to go to sleep, but I doubt any of them slept well that night. For a week and a half neither Adam nor Brian logged in. Admins watched their accounts day and night for any sign of activity. People sent worried emails to the both of them and tried to contact them on AIM. It was like they had just disappeared…at least, from the internet.

After a week and a half, Brian logged in. Users saw he was logged in before he even posted anything, opening a thread called “BRIAN!!” and demanding he tell them what had happened. Brian only made one post.

“adam is dead. the princess is evil. if you see her turn off the game”

And he logged back off.

The forums exploded, as one might expect. Was this some kind of prank? Why wouldn’t he say what happened? How did Adam die? Where had Brian been? Did they learn anything about The Princess?

Brian would return to the forums to answer these questions six months later. Six months may seem like a long time, but he had good reason. He had only just been cleared of charges for Adam’s murder.


  1. I'm kind of morbidly curious now. Would certain video game accessories work? The NES Zapper, or the SNES Nintendo Scope? What if ROB would become possessed? And I'm still curious as to what she would do in a game with a different artstyle, or a 2D game (Although some stuff did happen to me on Drawn to Life, weird stuff)

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