The Greatest Video Game Prank Ever Pulled*

*Since today is April Fool’s Day and the internet will be abuzz with half-hearted attempts at fooling people with cockamamie stories, I thought I’d write a little something about the greatest prank ever pulled on me in a videogame. If there was one that totally fooled you, be sure to leave a comment and let us know, we’d love to hear about it!

Throughout the rather brief history of videogames, there have been few and far between that have actually tried to pull the wool over your eyes and make you think things are happening that really aren’t. Eternal Darkness is one of those games that come to mind. During the game, you have a sanity meter and as the meter starts to deplete, strange things start to happen to your game. Flies will crawl up the screen, a screen shows your saved games getting deleted, and messages pop up that your controller is unplugged. The only thing is that crazy happenings like this would also occur along with other not-so subtle effects like your limbs falling off, or hearing knocking on doors that you just exited through.

It was a game that totally screwed with your mind, but it was something that you expected. Granted, you didn’t know what exactly to expect, but you expected something. As amazing as the things that happened in Eternal Darkness were for messing with your head, (still waiting for a sequel!) none of them sent a chill down your spine that made you think your console just died and that you were suddenly out A LOT of money.

The greatest prank ever pulled in a videogame to me was the restart in Batman: Arkham Asylum. When you are nearing the end of the game, you will walk down a corridor that begins to fill with Scarcrow’s fear gas. You aren’t really aware of it other than the slight coughing of Batman and the audio from the Asylum’s PA System that asks “Did anyone catch the game last night?”

As soon as that happens, your game freezes and a visually garbled screen appears that—if you have ever experienced it, and chances are if you own an Xbox 360, you have—is indicative of your console getting the dreaded Red Ring of Death. I’ve had two Xbox 360 that have had this happen mid-game and when you see the garbled screen and choppy audio, your heart sinks and you either want to cry or scream—or both.

When I experienced this part, I had just gotten my first Xbox 360 back from Microsoft after having an RRoD failure. So needless to say, when I saw this happen in Arkham Asylum, I was speechless. I sat there looking at the screen with a scream building up in my throat and all these scenarios racing through my head where I’d never buy another Microsoft product again. The funny thing is that I had absolutely no clue that it was a prank nor did I have any preconceived notions that this was even part of the game. After the screen “unfreezes” it starts from the beginning of the game again but this time with The Joker and Batman’s roles reversed as they arrive at Arkham.

Obviously the game was screwing with me, but I was still reeling from the thought my just returned 360 was red ringing and my brain was struggling to piece together that the game was seriously messing with me. I have played just about every mind screwing game out there ranging from the Fatal Frame series to the Silent Hill series, to Amnesia, and nothing has ever terrified me in a game as much as this one little, ten second scene did.

I’m sure it didn’t have the same effect on other people that it had on me, but to this day it is the only time I can recall that a game ever actually fooled me into thinking something had gone wrong in the real world. While other games have tried —and come close –this is easily the best prank that a game ever pulled on me.