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Has anyone else ever played that old game Yu-gi-oh! GX Duel Academy?  It was always my favorite game of the series, even though most people who played it seemed to hate it.  The whole point of the game was to move around a map of the main island of the game, featuring the Duel Academy and it's surrounding areas, dueling others in order to meet certain requirements to raise your class rank to King of Games.  It was actually a bit challenging when it came to the timed puzzles, and some of the events that took place were kind of entertaining.  

Having long since lost my official cartridge of the game (as well as the game boy I played it on), I instead downloaded it as a rom onto my old smartphone, since the service on it was dead anyway and I figured I might as well make something useful out of it.  I'm still not sure why, but the idea of having this game in my pocket to pass the time was a highly amusing one.  I spent countless hours playing, and long after I attained the legendary King of Games rank, I kept playing, if only to pass the time in a more entertaining way than solitaire.

As you play, the game keeps track of your stats for you.  how many times you've won, lost, things like that.  As my win count climbed closer to ten thousand, I wondered how high I'd have to go before the whole counter reset.  Maybe I'd break the game, or maybe even unlock something new.  Needless to say, the thought intrigued me.

After some time, I finally found myself almost at that point.  I had nine-thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine wins, and as it was Saturday night (in the game at least), I cast around the map looking for the final kill.  I decided on the main douche of the game, Dr. Crowler.  He's not much of a challenge, but his deck is about as annoying as he is, with that damn Fairy Box and Bottomless Shifting Sand.  After a few turns, his life points fell to zero and I won.  I got my usual prize money (which at this point was useless, having gotten EVERY card in the game) and my character was locked into my dorm room, which is normal at night.   I checked my win count, and to my surprise, did not read 10000, but XXXX instead.  I figured I must have broken the counter, so I made my character sleep.  

When the next day started, the first thing I noticed was there was no music.  I checked the phone volume, but it was turned up to max.  Shrugging this off, I looked around the map for someone to duel, but it was as though every game sprite was gone.  This was unusual, but I figured it could happen.  I tried to make my character sleep, but instead I got the dialogue "I can't sleep yet".  This got me excited, as this usually meant that something was going to happen later in the game's day.  So I picked a random location and pressed 'A'.  The game told me no one was there and went back to the map, now late afternoon.  Once again, the entire map was empty, and still there was no music to the game.  Oddly, the game's sound effects would still play normally.  

Since the map was still empty, I went back to the dorm room on a whim and tried to sleep again.  Once again I got the "I can't sleep yet" text and went back to the map.  I picked another random location, was once again told no one was there, and the map came back up, now night.

This time, though, the map had only one location: Docks.  This is by no means a unique situation, the map has a tendency to do this at other locations if you schedule a duel with some via in-game email. What made this strange was that beside the name of the location, was the face of the infamous Shadow Duelist.  He shows up a couple times in the game, and ends up losing a couple of decent cards if you beat him.  This excited me, and since I couldn't go anywhere else on the map, I pressed 'A'.

"Welcome Player.  Yes, you, the one playing this game.  The one watching all this on the screen." At this I laughed.  The developers must have had a good chuckle when they broke the fourth wall like this.  

"You are to be commended on doing so well.  On defeating so many.  But perhaps you seek a greater challenge?  Perhaps you'd like to make things a bit more interesting.  Why don't we have a duel, right now.  And to spice things up lets make this a true Shadow Duel.  You do know the rules of a Shadow Duel, right?"

At this point the game gave me two answers to choose from.  I could either tell him "Of course!" or I could tell him "Uh, what?"  Since I didn't live under a rock, I chose "Of course!" No one played a Yu-gi-oh! game without knowing what a Shadow Duel was.  In the tv series, a Shadow Duel was a normal duel played with one difference: the loser's soul would be trapped in the Shadow Realm forever, a nightmarish place by all accounts.

"Good.  Then let us begin!" With that, the screen flashed white, then faded away to reveal a strange sight.  We were still at the map area Docks, but it looked like someone had used a photo negative of what it should really look like.  The Shadow Duelist himself was normal, but everything else was chromatically inverted.  This was a neat effect I wished they had used earlier in the game, but it gave everything a bit of an eerie appearance.

After that, the usual coin flip commenced for first turn, and I lost.  The game made me go second, which was a minor nuisance at best.  As the game board appeared, I noticed that it, too, looked like a photo negative.  The cards still looked normal though, for which I was grateful.  

As our two decks were shuffled and our five cards were dealt, I felt a light pressure on my neck and throat.  Almost as if there were a pair of hands just barely touching me.  I swallowed, trying to get rid of the sensation, but it wouldn't go away.  Annoyed, I turned my attention back to the game.

8000 life points, five spell/trap card zones, five monster zones, a graveyard, a fusion deck, the main deck, and a spot for cards removed from play.  That was the game board, and this was my kingdom.  Here within this game, I was God, and no amusing tricks would save this AI from a painful defeat...or so I thought.

It seemed like everything in the game was against me.  First, the cards I had been dealt were good cards, which sounds good but I'll explain why this was bad later.  Second, the computer had thrown down a defense position monster, used Pot of Greed (which let him draw two more cards) and promptly filled all FIVE of his spell/trap zones.  Knowing this game, they were all trap cards, which didn't bode well for me.

The first thing I did after my own Draw Phase was to use the effect of a card called Cyber Dragon, which let me special summon it to the field if my opponent already had a monster and I didn't.  This was mistake number one.  As I finished summoning, he flipped a trap card: the Ring of Destruction.  This card destroyed my monster and inflicted damage to both our Life Points equal to the destroyed monster's attack.....which was 2100.  A nasty blow by all accounts, but I'd suffered worse and still won.  

As my Life Points dropped, I swear I felt the pressure around my neck increase, like someone was squeezing my throat.  I could still breathe, but it was getting difficult, and as I clawed at my throat, all I succeeded in doing was scratching myself.  Some crazed part of me KNEW that this had to be the game's fault, that somehow it was doing this to me.  

I managed to calm down, trying to ignore the irrational side of me that was still screaming that the game was evil.  I had heard the creepypastas before, about possessed and haunted games and evil things happening, but they were just stories.  No way they could be real.........right?

Irregardless, this only gave me a new reason to kick this guy's ass as fast as possible.   So I threw down an Insect Knight monster, only to lose it to a Trap Hole card.  Figured that was coming but I had an ace of my own.  I dropped two traps and ended my turn.  I won't bore you with details, but this AI countered my every move.  I couldn't attack without losing an equal amount of Life Points, couldn't defend without him punching through as though my defense didn't exist.  And each time I took a hit, the pressure increased around my neck.

Finally, the pressure reached the point of becoming out and out painful, and I decided enough was enough.  I would shut off the game and get myself checked out at a hospital.  I hit the sleep button on my phone, and the screen went dark.  Gradually, the pressure faded as I got up and got in the car.  By the time I had started the engine, the pressure was completely gone, but I wasn't going to take a chance on this happening again.   

After a brief, useless visit to the hospital (they made me wait for an hour and a half before telling me nothing was wrong), I was both angry and insanely bored.  Glancing at my phone, I picked it up and swiped it unlocked.  The game started again, and so did the pressure.  I saw the Shadow Duelist's face in a text box that read, "You didn't think it'd end that easily did you?  You surprised me last time, but there's no getting away again!"

I was officially freaking out, and I tried everything to shut it off.  I hit the sleep button, I tried to shut down the program, I even pulled out the phone's battery.  Not even THAT worked!  I knew then that I would have to finish this.

I pulled out all the stops, I unleashed card combos I usually reserved for super-quick wins, and for those opponents who truly needed an ass-kicking.  It was during this that I learned that restoring my own Life Points would actually lessen the pressure around my neck, so I made a mental note to do this as much as possible. 

Even still, this AI fought me like the Devil himself, countering my counters, slipping around my defenses, deliberately targeting cards that were most beneficial to me,, and generally being a douche. It was then that my one true trump card emerged from my deck.  Chaos Necromancer.  A simple, one-star monster, the lowest of the low really...except for his life-saving effect.  His original attack value is a whopping zero, but he gains 300 attack points for every monster in my card graveyard.  And since this duel had lasted almost forty turns, I had no fewer than eighteen monsters in my graveyard.  Eighteen times three hundred equals five thousand four hundred.  As far as I was concerned, it was the equivalent of a much-needed tactical nuke.  

With one single attack, I devastated his remaining Life Points, dropping them to zero, zilch, nada, nothing.  Immediately the lingering pressure around my neck intensified for a moment, squeezing like iron before fading away completely.  Coughing, I glanced at the phone screen, just in time to see another text box from the Shadow Duelist.  Once again, it was a plain, sky-blue box with his face to one side, and "NO!" to the other.  As I watched, the Duelist's face seemed to melt, to fall apart like he had been splashed with acid.  First his skin melted, sliding off his face in large liquid globs.  Then the muscle beneath bubbled and dripped down out of sight in a red stream, leaving only a bleached-white skull underneath, which crumbled away to dust.  The whole scene had only lasted a moment, but it made me feel nauseous.  Something about it had seemed so real.

After a long moment, the text box faded away and the usual WIN flashed on the screen.  Instead of rewarding me with currency, the game just reset, and the intro started up again.  I had had enough for tonight, and simply closed the program, shut down the phone, and crawled into bed.

The next morning, I got up and took a shower to wash away all the fear-sweat from last night.  As i did, I noticed a huge bruise on my neck, like someone had tried to strangle me.  Something told me it would be a very bad idea to go to work with this, so I called in sick.  After my shower, I picked up the smartphone and turned it back on.

After that I just held it for a while, debating whether or not I should play the game again.  Against my better judgement, I turned the game on, and saw to my my horror that my win count was back at 9999.  I wondered if winning one more time would start that whole nightmare over again.  Do I dare try?

As I finish writing this, I have decided to give it one more shot.  Wish me luck.

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