Hi, my name is Charles, and I want to share my teenage experience. I was never a big gamer when I was young, with the exception of rarely playing some SNES and N64 games, Donkey Kong country, Super Mario 64, just some of my favourites. I was more interested in outdoor activities, playing sports with friends, and just generally fooling around, hanging and socialising, this was the norm throughout my childhood and into the start of my teen years. January 22nd 2004, 8:43PM, I was 14 years old; I stood staring in utter disbelief at the carnage which lay strewn before me, the family car, now a casserole of twisted metal, fuel and human anatomy, Dad never saw the oncoming 6 wheeled truck, it was a dark and misty night, and the trucker’s lights were out. My sister was in the back seat, emphasis on was, as she now lay 6 feet in front of the wreckage, on the cold concrete road, motionless ,unrecognizable. I remember hearing screams, faint screams; I frantically scanned the flashing red and blue lightshow in order to find the source. A woman in police uniform approached me, grabbed me by the shoulders and tried to calm me down; it was me that was screaming. Two of the most influential people in my life, had just been ripped from me, like a heart from its cadavers.
A year passed. The loss of my father and sister affected me very hard; I feel I had been left traumatised by the event. That once adventurous, fun loving boy that existed, was now a reclusive, shut in hermit crab, a former shell of myself, my friends would call me, asking if I wanted to join them outside, and play sports, I always refused, and it got to the point where they didn’t bother to ask anymore, as they knew the outcome, over the months I fell more and more into seclusion, even my own mother struggled to get conversations out of me. With nobody to socialise with, I searched and found comfort in technology, at first I played computers, online games such as world of warcraft, which had just released at the time, it was such an enthralling game, and I soon made many new friends, it didn’t matter to me that I couldn’t see their faces, or that I couldn’t socially vocalise with them, I read what they wrote and saw them as a character, it was real to me.
December rolled around, and school had finished for the Christmas season, no school meant more free time on my hands to do what I now loved, play video games, I needed to feed my addiction, World of warcraft was great, but I needed something different, something fresh and exciting, I recalled back to my old gaming systems, the SNES and N64, I found them in the closet, dusted those bad boys off and settled in for a nostalgia attack. The first few days of playing were amazing, I had a blast playing these retro games, reliving Donkey Kong and Mario’s adventures, but after a while I grew tired, these consoles were old, and outdated for the time, so for Christmas I asked my mother to purchase me the newest console on the market, the PlayStation 2.
Christmas morning arrived, and as I made my way downstairs, I saw the bundle of presents under the tree, I proceeded to tear them open, to my delight there was my PlayStation 2 console, Mom told me it was brand new from the store, I wasted no time in rushing upstairs to my room, I hooked up the new system to my television, and started to debate which game I should play first, Burnout 2- point of impact or Tekken tag tournament, both these games my mother had bought along with the PlayStation. I decided I would play Tekken first, but as I opened the disc tray, something odd struck me, there was already a disc inside, the title read “Manhunt” and depicted a man wearing a baseball mask on the cover, I was confused, and started to question whether the console was brand new or had been previously owned, my mother was a trustworthy women, and since the accident we had always been open with each other and never kept secrets, so I had no reason to believe my mother had lied, it hit me as very peculiar.
But even throughout my scepticism, I was intrigued to find out what this game was doing in the disc drive, I had never seen or even heard of the game before, this only fuelled my interest, and I decided that I would play this game first instead, the game loaded, it was made and trademarked by Rock star, and the image of the same man which was on the cover appeared, the hockey mask, he was also wearing a black tank top which looked to have specks of blood on it, but it was slightly blurry, as if filmed through an old camcorder. That title “Manhunt” loomed over the top of him like a horrific shadow, the screen read, “New game”, but nothing else.
Being the only option I proceeded to start a new game, the screen silently transitioned to “select a difficulty”, the options ranking from easiest to hardest were, coward, dead meat, natural, and finally, psychopath, this sent slight chills down my spine; from these words alone I knew that this game was to be quite dark and disturbing, but I enjoy a challenge, so if it meant I was psychotic, then so be it. I selected the hardest difficulty and instantly turned down the volume, I had a feeling this wasn’t for kids, being only 15 at the time, and I knew if my mother found out about this game she would ban me from playing.
The opening scene was a disorientated man, quite scruffy looking with a shaved head in a very dimly lit room, no windows, but their seemed to be a surgical table, with various instruments scattered across the floor, the character stumbled around the room, seemingly trying to get an idea for where he was, when a high pitched screeching sound came through my speakers, so piercing I cringed and tried to cover my ears, I looked back up to see my character also clutching his left ear, a calm voice followed and ushered the words “ wake up… you’re not dead, not yet anyway” the speech continued and I found that my character had been convicted of murder and sentenced to death by lethal injection, but had survived the ordeal, and was being given a second chance at life or “another roll of the dice” as the voice so charmingly put it.
The only catch was that “Cash”, as the voice had called the man, had to obey the orders of whatever he said. The screen cut to black, and the words “scene 1…Born again” appeared, the game started and at this point I gained control of “Cash”, the first level was a gritty, dark street, graffiti plastered across all the buildings and a sea of litter covered the pavement, the environment was disgusting and made me feel uneasy. I heard short static and the voice came through again, “These streets are littered with scum, like you, and to survive you must hunt them down, and cut them up”, I was very startled by this line, and I felt a twinge in my stomach, but shit!.. It’s just a game right?. With the message in mind, I proceeded down the street.
The sound was very eerie, just a slight whistling of the wind and Cash’s footsteps and a chilling lack of music, at the end of the street was a right turn into an alleyway, I heard muffled sounds unlike the voice earlier, there was a man in the alleyway with his back turned, he was dressed in black with a red balaclava concealing his face, he was mumbling to himself, I made out the words “ when I find him, I’ll kill him”, as I slowly walked towards the man, the screen flashed and told me to press X, without hesitation I pressed it and collected a blue plastic bag from the floor, as Cash grew nearer to the man, he walked slower and adopted a crouching position, I almost fell out of my chair in pure shock, as the voice screamed “DO IT!!”, it seemed so deafening even though the volume was low, I composed myself and watched in horror, as Cash plunged the plastic bag over the unaware man’s head, held it tight and began suffocating him.
After a few seconds the enemy stopped resisting, Cash began continuously punching him in the face, blood spattered against Cash and the surrounding walls, the enemy’s sickening cries of agony grew weaker and weaker until silence fell once more, But Cash wasn’t done, to finish, he grabbed the man’s neck and in one motion, twisted and snapped it clean, the sound was horrendous, it seemed so emphasised, the ripping sound of human muscle, and the cracking sound of human bone, fused together to make an unimaginable death.
I sat staring at the screen as the body fell lifeless to the floor, the voice came through again “was that so hard?.. Think of it as an audition if you will...” I was sat on the edge of my chair, in pure shock, I was trying to fathom what I had just witnessed on my TV screen, and also wondering... an audition for what?. I’ve never murdered anyone before, not even in a video game, I felt a mixture of emotions, slight guilt, but also excitement, my adrenaline was pumping, small beads of sweat crept down my forehead, in a strange way I felt liberated, I hadn’t felt this alive in so long, I just had to continue and see what the rest of the level had to offer.
As I morphed through the twining dark streets and alleyways, the voice would seemingly mentor me, giving me advice, tips on how to “execute” my foe’s, I was very freaked out by some of the comments that he made, he even ended some of them with a devilish chuckle, whoever this was, they were enjoying this to no end, I made my way through the level, and ended up in an small industrial park, it was heaving with broken and abandoned vehicles, “The shadows are your friend”, that familiar voice rung through my speakers again, I saw the entrance to a door across the park, guarded by another man this time, he was slightly different, bigger, dressed in camouflage gear.
I found a glass shard on the floor, and crept my way around behind him, the voice didn’t prompt me this time, seemingly like it knew I didn’t need direction, a fountain of blood and eye fluid, projected out of the enemy’s face, as Cash repeatedly drove the shard in and out, kind of like that nursery rhyme, you put the glass shard in, the glass shard out… in out, in out… you twist it all about. Finally, the sound of splitting bone was heard through my speakers as Cash penetrated the enemy’s skull and left the shard in. “Well done, you have survived for now, let’s continue”, it felt strange that I was being congratulated for these sick events that my character was performing, but curiosity compelled me to continue, I opened the door, the screen cut to static, then black, and “Scene 2.. Doorway to hell” illuminated my TV.
It was still fairly early, around 5:00pm at this point, I had reached level 2, and I was alive!, the surroundings were pretty similar to the first scene, just darker, more places to hide, it played very similar to level 1, enemy’s looked the same, said the same generic lines, the only real difference was some new toys, a baseball bat and a crowbar, the executions were a lot more graphic and intense, I began to fall further into the game, I started to get hooked on it, the storyline was gripping me, and with each kill, the voice seemed to approve even more, it felt bizarre, like I was being groomed, it reminded me slightly of world of warcraft, a friend, who I could hear, but not see.
The clock hit midnight, and I grew tired, I couldn’t comprehend how many enemies I had slaughtered so far, pick a number and triple it.., I had managed to get through a large portion of the game and encountered a variation of different gangs in which I had dispatched, with my cunning and brutality. So far I had no reason to believe anything was out of the ordinary, as much as this game was messed up, it was addictive, even though I grew more fatigued, I knew I had no school the next day, so I decided I would stay up and continue playing. Scene 10….Drunk driving, I started to feel slightly sick, and my bottom lip started to quiver, those words, in that context had haunted me this past year, during the investigation after my dad and sisters accident, there was huge speculation on whether my father was intoxicated at the time. I and my mother refused to see the toxicology report after the autopsy, he was my hero, I don’t think I could have handled knowing that his selfishness was responsible for the death of himself, and my sister.
This scene brought back old feelings of doubt, which I had repressed; I wiped the tear away from my face and told myself to continue, this level started out different to the rest, I was on a road, in a derelict area, very few houses, a lot of the streetlights were broken, creating huge areas of darkness, something wasn’t right about this level, as the voice spoke once more, “Now we have that brain of yours working.. let’s see what else we can unlock”, he sounded different, his speech was slightly slurred, this was unusual, as throughout the game so far, it was very monotone, I carried on with the level until I found my first group of enemies, they looked nothing like they had previously, the character models were completely different, they looked already injured, as if somebody had got to them before I did, they were covered in gashes, open wounds and bruises, they were staggering around, and swaying on the spot, the area around them was littered with cans and bottles, I stood in the darkness with Cash for a while and listened to their conversations.
I had done this in previous scenes, for the comedic value, but this time, my smile turned into a still face of fear, three of the enemies had turned, and appeared to be watching me as I was crouched in a shadow, surely they couldn’t see me I thought to myself, they stood swaying back and forth and began to talk, I heard the sentence “Are you enjoying this?” and one of them replied saying “He doesn’t know anymore”, we’re they addressing me directly?, I became scared, I sat in the dark a little longer, in absolute silence, only the sound of my deep breathing was present, I could feel their stares through the screen, so piercing, as if they were looking through Cash and straight at me.
Then I heard the voice again. “Families are a delicate thing, alcohol is a dangerous thing. Mix those two together and you got yourself a car crash of a party”, the voice started laughing maniacally, I sat in total astonishment at what I had just heard, and for a moment I lost it, an overwhelming sense of emotions hit me, I was so angry, but yet upset and scared at the same time, so difficult to express all at once, I grit my teeth and fought back the tears, I didn’t care about executing the enemy’s anymore, I just wanted to fucking kill them, I ran out of the dark spot where I was hiding with Cash towards the three men, using my machete I sliced into all three of them, they didn’t even fight back, they just stood there, as I cleaved and hacked into their appendages, spilling a sea of blood over the road, as I cut them up one by one, they were laughing, a far cry from the shrieks of agony I was used to in the game, it seemed like it took an eternity, but eventually the laughing stopped, and what was left of three bodies lay scattered around my feet.
I stared at the screen for about 3 minutes, trying to calm my breathing, I released the controller from my grip, and looked down at my hands, they were bruised I was holding that tightly, I was shaken up, and my face felt slightly wet from some of the tears which had edged out. I paused the game and wandered to the bathroom, I turned on the light and looked at myself in the mirror, my face was pale and I was sweating quite a lot, I splashed myself with water in an attempt to cool down, when I heard my mother call me from downstairs, she said she had heard some commotion, and if I was ok, and that I should get some sleep as it was late, I replied that I was fine, and that I would be going to bed soon, I heard her faint footsteps walking up the stairs, she walked down the hallway and said she was going to bed, she had left the door slightly ajar.
I took in a deep breath and sloped back to my room; I sat back on my bed and stared blankly at the “continue” screen, I tried to reassure myself that everything was ok, I didn’t need to worry, I put the events which had happened over the last 15 minutes down to me being extremely fatigued, I had been playing this game for over 9 hours now, I was overreacting, and exaggerating about things which were probably standard gameplay. It was just a coincidence….
I felt my eyelids get heavier, I just had to sleep, I decided that it was enough for tonight, I was going to un pause my game, save it, then turn of the console, my hands felt sore as I picked up the controller again, I pushed the start button and became instantly confused, I had left Cash in the middle of the road, with three dead guys around him, but as I un paused, the game cut to static again and the next scene appeared… scene 11… mouth of madness, this was so bizarre, I had yet to complete scene 10?.. I waited until the screen loaded, it looked like I was in a hospital, until I started to wander down the hallway, I saw jail cells and testing rooms, the walls painted a sickly yellow colour and there were needles and strait jackets scattered around the floor. I froze, was this an asylum? The environment made me more uneasy, I went to go save the game and quit, but I saw the save option was gone, just replaced with “continue”, I was extremely irritated by this, I didn’t play this game all night and get so far to lose my progress.
I started the game up again and continued the level, I thought this may be an error, and I could save at a further point in this scene. I walked down the grotesque hallway, peering into the open cells, all were empty, except one, the far corner, illuminated with a hanging florescent light, it flickered on and off revealing a glass window, I walked over and looked inside, there was a man strapped to a chair, he looked distressed, he was held down with huge straps, he seemed calm and still, staring back at me, I noticed a note stuck to wall beside the glass, I zoomed the camera in to get a better look, it read “ Insanity is contagious...it likes to hide, but the seekers always prevail”.. a sickening smiley face was drawn at the bottom of the note.
Seemed like a fitting motto for a crazy place, I zoomed the camera back out and took a last glance at the man in the chair, he was smiling now, it creepily resembled the same freakish smile on the drawing. I walked Cash through some huge double doors and out into a courtyard, I could vaguely make out a young women stood further ahead, her back was turned, this was strange and slightly unsettling as I had never encountered a women in the game so far, then that familiar voice spoke again, “Welcome home”, I didn’t understand what it meant, I sat in deep thought trying to piece things together, But nothing. What was actually happening here? I started to walk towards the girl, as I crept closer, there was no option to execute this enemy, and I noticed I couldn’t even attack, I mashed buttons, but Cash did nothing, I assumed the game had crashed, I went to pause and try save again, when suddenly the young women turned around to face Cash, it was so sudden it startled me.
She was hideously disfigured, wearing a bloody torn dress covered in glass shards, it was a horrific sight, one which made my stomach churn, she started to whisper “ you can’t kill me….because I’m already dead!” she started to laugh softly, it started to resonate, it grew louder and louder, until my speakers were blaring, then she screamed at me “ ALWAYS WEAR YOUR SEATBELT!!!!!!”, I clasped my hands across my mouth as I threw up, the laughing continued, then a huge crashing noise burst from my speakers followed by blood curdling cry’s! I opened my mouth to yell but nothing came out, I was stricken, the screen started flashing white, I felt paralysed; the screen's flashes grew more rapid, the screaming and laughing became louder, and finally, darkness.
Strange… this level looked different to the rest, no dark streets, no abandoned train station, no enemies… but instead, a bedroom, looked kind of familiar, I opened the door and walked out, it was very dark most of the lights were out, lots of places to hide, I walked down some stairs which led into another dark room, a small glimmer of light shone through a window, creating a spotlight on a worktop, I had found a new toy!, a kitchen knife, but where were the enemies?, I walked back through the dark room, and back up the stairs.
I looked around and saw a bathroom, the light was on, the floor seemed slightly damp, I spotted a door barely open at the end of the dark corridor, I proceeded slowly towards it, I edged the door open, I was in another bedroom, except this one had someone in it, the enemy was lying down, I crept towards the enemy, as I got closer, that voice spoke again “DO IT CHARLES!”… I didn’t need reminding, it was second nature by now, I plunged the knife into the enemies neck, and repeatedly stabbed until the cries of agony grew weaker and weaker, as life drained from them. I walked back down stairs and left through the front door; the screen didn’t cut to static this time, no black, no white, the level remains the same, and I’m still waiting for this scene to change……
Hi, my name is Charles…. Charles fugate, son of the late Betty fugate, grandson, of Caril ann fugate… and I want to share… my adult experience…