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Friday, 21 October 2011

No Man's Land

You know what scares me? Virtual landscapes.

They are CREEPY. Flight simulations, computer games, even Google Earth freaks me out. I believe there is a very specific incident that triggered this fear in me. So settle down, children, it's story time.

 I love the caps lock-button on this.
Photo from here

It was the eighties, and my crafty brothers had recently aquired the must-have object of the century: the Commodore 64. It was sleek, shiny (in a metaphorical sense at least) and could entertain two pre-teen boys for hours with cutting-edge graphics and thrilling car games. Who can forget Spy Hunter or The Last Ninja? What better way to kill an hour than by doing a few levels of Mr. Robot or Jumpman Jr? Or a full Saturday Summer Games II tournament with the neighbourhood kids?

I mean, there were two buttons on that joystick, the possibilities were endless!
Photo from here
But neither one of these games scared me at the time (apart from The Last Ninja: those eyes in the intro screen could frighten anyone), and I have no trouble playing any of them now if I am so inclined. No, it was a different game that made the hair on my back stand on end. A small, obscure game no one really remembers. Apart from me. And a very few others. So few, in fact, that I spent a whole half hour searching for it on the Google, and we all know that a search session of such epic proportions means that whatever you're looking for is very, very obscure indeed. 

But I found it. Here it is. Watch this video. If you dare.


What, were you scared of being bored to death, you ask? 
I know, it's dull, monochrome, ugly, slow (was it really that slow?) and annoying. But picture me as an impressionable six-year-old playing this game, that eerie rendition of Greensleeves playing softly in the background, those green walls enclosing me, that oh so black and empty sky above. And then I get lost in the maze. I have forgotten which button to press to get help. I start to panic. I move about more and more randomly. I see a black square and aim for it. Maybe I found the way out! Oh but no. Nooo. Nooo! An empty, black abyss lies before me. With the scariest message I have ever seen:

Yeah! I know! Freaky, right? This experience was sufficiently significant for me to result in that whenever I want to check a map online to see, for instance, how I get from A to B in a car and have to zoom in to see small details, I keep my eyes half closed in case I somehow end up BELOW the map surface and plunge into No Man's Land again. It's like those robots you see that are very human-like, but not quite. Nothing is more scary than that not-quite-ness.

Wild horses couldn't drag me onto the Holodeck on the Starship Enterprise. Unless they paid me. A lot. And gave me free therapy sessions afterwards.

(By the way: I couldn't find a screenshot of the No Man's Land image up there, so I made it myself in Photoshop. You can download the Commodore 64 font for free, who knew!)

(By the way 2: my cat is sitting in front of her food bowl right now, looking like that guy in the corner at the end of The Blair Witch Project, weird)