One of my highest joys on my way to college was finding a nice boyfriend. I really can't complain. I finally turned away my old high school friends and moved along to a fresher stage of life. I still saw my old classmates here and there as they prepared for a vigorous college life. However, I could still tell they were disappointed somehow. One of my old friends--I've known her since kindergarten, but she has stopped being my friend for a while now--was particularly bitter. I don't think I ever wronged her, but she never told me why she felt the way she did. I even tried to invite her to parties and introduce her to my boyfriend. She remained unmoved. I didn't let it bother me; instead, I spent good time accomplishing my own goals in life.
We went to my mom and dad's house recently just for a visit. (My parents were pleased to see us as happy as ever.) While we were there, I looked through my old video game cabinet in my bedroom. I smiled as I flipped through the cases, but I suddenly frowned to see that "NiGHTS into Dreams" was missing. I complained to my boyfriend that I couldn't find it (I had told him about the game before). He just chuckled, kissed my cheek, and said that he would replace it for me. I was content with his answer and stopped searching for it.
The month I stayed with my parents' house, he went out of town. Along the way he was able to purchase a PC version at one of the retro game stores. He came back one night with a bunch of friends. With a grin on his face, he presented the game to me. I shrieked with delight and hugged him tight. One of his friends was coincidentally a gamer. We shook hands and agreed to play it together. All the rest of the friends spread about the house to meet my family.
We were upstairs while they were downstairs. Huddled by the computer, we popped the game in and got started. I was mystified and overjoyed as the SEGA and Sonic Team logos flashed. I enjoyed the intro to the game: how could one not become overwhelmed to see a mystical character like NiGHTS taking flight? The image of NiGHTS soon panned out, and that's when the trouble began. There was no background, and the logo was now pixelated like an eight-bit arcade or NES game. Not at all like the SEGA Saturn or PC game. I bit my lip. I knew my boyfriend could not tell the difference. I checked the case, but my game partner insisted that we continued. I sighed as he began the game.
Some of the Nightmarens from the original game appeared, only as eight-bit sprites. They flew in a straight line and came near the screen. I stood behind my friend as some text appeared on screen: "Start the game, you said? The game is over. It's all over." He looked at me.
"What kind of game is this?" he asked.
"Not the right one..." I murmured, though I was still more confused.
A maze flashed on screen while his back was turned. When he checked, he came to the same conclusion.
"Whatever you say. We can stop now if you want to."
"Let's eject the disc," I nodded.
Before he got the chance, the maze flashed brighter and brighter. His hand stayed by the eject button. He would have taken it out because he didn't know what to expect. I was turned around, so his murmuring made no sense to me. He asked me why there was a naked man running around a maze. I froze, afraid to turn myself to the screen. This had to be some sick joke; I just didn't know where it came from. He jumped back in shock when he began to rape a woman he caught.
"What the hell is this??" he yelled at me.
I only turned for a second, but looked away as my mind recaptured a sudden fear.
"It's not NiGHTS," I shriked, "It's Loverboy!"
It was a joke, it HAD to be a joke! However, there was that frightful memory of mine on screen right now. My friend was not even controlling the buttons; it was gameplay footage looped on a disc. How could anyone ever play this horrible game?? My boyfriend and his friends heard us screaming and charged upstairs to check on the problem. They saw the on-screen rape and my face buried in my knees to avoid the sight. The four women from the original game were already taken care of. I was crying and beating my fists against the wall, trying to forget about it. There was silence; it's over, I thought, it's all over. I sat by the computer again to eject the disc when another pixelated woman appeared on screen. She scared me so badly. She was crying so hard that I could even see her chest heaving. She began to run in place as though she was trying to find a place to hide but couldn't get away. Worst of all, she looked like a sprite of me. Her hair looked like mine. The shape of her body was like my shape. After I saw all this, the Loverboy caught her and played with her in all sorts of horrible ways. It was basically a pixelated porn, and I couldn't stand it. My heart beat out of my chest, and I cried so hard. The text mocked me:
"Looks like your dream is over."
My boyfriend was horrified. This was definitely not the game he wanted to buy me. When I gave just a quick glance, the text read: "Take that, you nasty bitch!" The Loverboy then pinned the woman to the ground and licked her. This was more than I could handle. I charged into the bathroom and threw up. My boyfriend ran after me to hold my hair back while his friends crowded around the computer to try to stop the CD. One of them grabbed the case and pulled out the instruction booklet. Someone had written obscene messages in it, soon implying that the author was enraged at someone or even envious of someone. He checked the picture of Reala, and the bottom of it read, "Sweet dreams. Love, Emi."
I was on the couch when he read it aloud, and I began to make connections quickly. They were loose assumptions, but they still made some sense. That was my former best friend's name, and she knew I liked NiGHTS. I just wondered how the hacked disc came to be. It seemed far-fetched for her to create the hack all on her own; she wasn't skilled enough. The again, maybe she was. To use that to her advantage, she would not have told me. It didn't matter now where it came from. I just wanted it to stop.
The game shouted, "There is no NiGHTS!" clearly (not like the game since some say that's not what Reala said). Then the screen panned on the name "Emi." They finally ejected the disc, content to see it all end, but still very angry. I hugged my boyfriend and cried.
"What did I ever do wrong?" He held me as I cried, and after all my tears were out, I fell asleep fast.
I woke up that morning to find someone cleaning my computer files, someone downstairs shredding the booklet, and two in the kitchen: one cooked breakfast, and the other popped in the CD in the microwave to watch it suffer. We would never hear of it again, and my boyfriend would check into getting me the original Saturn version to avoid any sort of hack. In the same way, I looked back on how Emi had treated me through the project. She was too bitter to move on. Now that I had my boyfriend, I was happy and planned never to turn back.