Original title: “"Why?"”
Date added: 03/02/13
Date stored: 05/08/13
I’m what you call a PC retro-gamer, anything between 70s and early nineties computer games are something I live for. But I also fall into a subcategory for this niche, as I’ve made a hobby of hunting down rare and obscure games and collecting them.
There’s so much I’ve found, a beta version of DOOM II with most of the maps either missing or slightly different. An Alone in the Dark pre-release; hell, at one point I thought I’d found the holy grail of Leisure Suit Larry 4, but that turned out to be fake.
Anyway, my friend Barry knew about my obsession, although didn’t share in it, so when my birthday came around I would always anticipate a few old games to play through; and on my twenty-second birthday, my presents included a copy of WaxWork (Useless without the code that came with it, but still), a CD of System Shock, and something else.
My friend Barry said his cousin handed him this game years back but could never play, due to his computer breaking and Barry’s general dislike for games; either way, he passed me a box containing 3 unmarked Floppy-Disks. He said he didn’t know what the game was, but thought I’d might like it anyway.
I most certainly didn’t.
Oh sure, I was happy for the mystery of an unmarked game; but that night, I regretted ever placing those floppies into my computer.
The first thing I notice was the DOS prompt, normally it would say something like “Loading ‘Game Title’” or “Running .exe”, but for some reason, all that appeared was:
- “Loading 01010111011010000111100100111111”
I screen capped it so I wouldn’t forget.
Thinking it was a little odd but not really caring, I patiently waited for the game to start. When the loading was complete, the screen flickered into a darker shade of black. At first I thought my monitor was busted, but then a pixelated image appeared on screen. It was a blue tinted skull with no jaw.
In front of it was the name “Why?”
I figured “Sweet! A good old horror game!” but thought to myself, wait, where’s the company logo? Normally one will appear before any game screen.
Figuring it was may be an unreleased homebrew game, I clicked enter and was brought to a screen consisting entirely of text. This confirmed in my mind that this was a homebrew, as text adventure games were VERY easy to make, but one thing was weird….
Why 3 floppies? Normally for homemade text games you only need one disk, but 3?
Jesus, someone was busy.
The first sentence on screen was:
- “Dark room. Demon on other side. Knife in hands. What will you do?”
Naturally, the choppy writing peeved me, but I did what any gamer would do and typed:
“Kill Demon with Knife”
Almost instantly after I hit enter, another sentence appeared.
- “You brutally murder him. Good work!”
I had to laugh at the almost juvenile way in which the sentence ended, but still I thought the way it was written was strange, after all; heroes in games don’t “Brutally Murder” demons, they just kill them and move on. Considering nothing else came up, I figured I could do what anyone does in an RPG, and loot the corpse for gold or items;
- “Found: Drivers Licence, Picture of children, Subway card.”
Ok, what the hell? Subway didn’t even exist in the DOS era, and why would a demon drive a car? Well, ZORK had a similar, subversive humour toward standard fantasy stories, so maybe it’s inspired by that. Still, a Subway card? I would have thought then that this game was new, but Barry said he got it years back, around the 80s.
Oh well, I guess the company was around back then and didn’t know.
Out of nowhere, more text flashed up:
- “Banshee walks through the door, if she manages to use SCREAM, you die.”
Figuring I this was a timed action, I quickly typed:
“Stab with knife”
The game asked:
- Stab where?
Figuring it was how to stop her scream, I replied;
The game slowly brought up:
“.......” “Good choice.”
Okay, this is freaking me out a little.
Then the game said:
“You slit the bitch’s throat before she has a chance to scream!”
What? Since when did this game start going all adult language on me, and why call it a bitch? This game was seriously creeping me out this point.
Another text screen comes up:
- “You leave the room; you’re in a dark hallway, up the stairs you see a glint of light as something runs out of view.”
Worried about what would happen next, I still wanted to give this game a chance.
That was the single worst mistake of my entire life.
“Go upstairs” I typed.
- “You stand opposite a closet door, you hear strange noises coming from the other side, will thou venture forth?”
Considering the game never used medieval speak before, I figured that the creator of the game was just pulling a prank on whoever played it at the beginning, and now it would be more of a real RPG.
I timidly typed:
“You see 2 trolls, 1 half the size of the other, their hiding in the corner.”
Why would enemy monsters hide in the corner? I then had a thought; neither of the other two monsters even attempted causing my character harm, was I playing the villain?
- “You step forward and draw your knife…”
A new line interrupted my thought, I didn’t type anything, so why was it acting on its own?
- “The trolls eyes glint in the darkness, looking petrified into yours.”
What the hell? I thought. I wasn’t even touching the keyboard.
- “You raise your blade…”
“STOP” I frantically typed.
After a short pause, the game replied:
The game was defying me, before I could type “Quit Game” “Cancel”, the game flashed this up:
- “You grab the slightly bigger troll by the hair and stab its eyes with your knife, his brain matter leaking to the floor. The smaller troll screams in terror, and you drop the corpse.
- You gently kneel down, and meet the shrieking monster with calm eyes. She stops screaming as soon as the knife splits heart her heart open.
- With her final gaze, the creature looks at you and asks…. “Why, big brother?””
The computer made a sickening fizzing sound after I tore out the plug.
What was this? What the fuck was Barry playing at, giving me this sick game? I immediately grabbed the phone and punched in his numbers, ready to scream off a storm at this apparent joke.
I had to re-dial 3 times before I heard a weak and timid “Y-y-yes?”. It was definitely Barry, and something was wrong, but I didn’t care, my rage at this supposed practical joke clouded my senses;
I screamed “What the fuck is wrong with you Barry?! Do you get off on this kind of shit? Is it fun for you?!” There was a long pause.
“I-I-I didn’t…. I couldn’t….” Barry’s voice shook and I heard his breathing was frantic and hollow.
“I just wanna know why man, Why?! Tell me why you did this!” I was still angry, but each sad breath he hurriedly inhaled over the phone pulled me out of my rage.
“I don’t know…. I just don’t know….” It was then I heard tears. He was sobbing.
I quickly tried to think of how retract what I’d said, I clearly interrupted something bad and made him feel even worse. Before I could find a good apology or excuse, the phone dial tone played. He’d hung up.
Jesus Christ, what’s wrong with me? My friend makes a simple mistake, and I explode at him! While he’s clearly devastated!
I glanced over at the clock. It was 3AM, far too late to head over and apologise.
I guessed I’d have to wait till morning.
The next morning I rushed to Barry’s house, and was horrified by what I saw;
Barry’s house was surrounded by cops, ambulances and police-tape.
I ran over to one of the cops, who were trying to hold back gossipy, vulturous neighbours.
“Officer! I’m friends with Barry, is he okay? What happened?!”
The officer calmly explained everything. Barry had murdered his entire family.
I timidly asked how it happened, too taken aback to even know what I was saying at that point. Apparently he’d stabbed his father and robbed him, and then slit his mother’s throat as she walked in on the scene. His brother and little sister apparently heard it, and hid in the closet, but he found them and stabbed them both repeatedly.
He apparently didn’t remember a thing, and after answering the phone, stabbed himself in the chest. He didn’t die though, he was currently being held in police custody.
I was close to vomiting, and for some reason, some ray of hope that I wasn’t responsible, I asked him what time they think this happened.
They estimated between 2 and 3 AM.
I started crying. What had I done? I wiped away my tears and walked off, but not before hearing this exchange between two cops and a paramedic:
Medic: So what’s gonna happen to the kid?
Officer: Well, we better him to a psych ward, and from then see if he has any next of kin.
Another officer: Sir, just ran him the database, apparently he’s got no extended family.
If Barry doesn’t have any extended family, then who gave him the game?
But one single thought clawed its way into my mind, killing any remaining questions...