It might not seem that way now, with all of our Crackeds and JDates and forums dedicated to bodybuilding, but once upon a time the Internet used to be filled with huge nerds. Much of the earliest traffic on the Internet was in fact dedicated to these nerds' favorite pastimes, two of the most popular being "video games" and "fucking with other nerds." And when these two passions inevitably combined, a spectacular amount of disinformation was soon spread about video games around the Internet: fantastic hoaxes, artfully constructed of lies, built on a foundation of doctored screenshots.
Here are some of the most famous examples.
6Sheng Long (Street Fighter II)
In the game Street Fighter II, after your character wins a fight, you get to deliver a short speech to your bloodied opponent in which you reflect on the causes for his failure and just generally act like a dick. In the original Japanese game, the character Ryu delivered a particularly dickish wisdom-nugget that would eventually set up this hoax: "If you cannot overcome the Rising Dragon Punch, you cannot win!" This is of course a reference to Ryu's Rising Dragon Punch, a really impractical-looking leaping uppercut that everyone who watches UFC is secretly hoping to actually witness one day.
Within the game, it's actually quite practical, although this is also a game where you can kick a car to shreds.
But when translating this into English, the developers decided to first translate it into Chinese, because that's evidently closer, and by the time the quote reached Western arcades, it read: "You must defeat Sheng Long to stand a chance."
Poor Guile. First the haircut, then the ass-kicking, and now the lecture. He's having a serious case of the Mondays.
"Well then who the fuck is Sheng Long?" a chorus of 11-year-old voices shrieked, only to be answered when the SNES version of the game came out. Its instruction manual claimed that Sheng Long -- which, I cannot stress enough, at that point was a mistranslated gibberish name that came out of fucking nowhere -- was Ryu's former martial arts master.
Into this clusterfuck of miscommunication stepped Electronic Gaming Monthly, a video games magazine best known for its mastery of clusterfucked miscommunication. In their April 1992 issue, EGM printed a claim that the player could fight Sheng Long by undertaking a ridiculously difficult sequence of events, essentially using Ryu for half a day without taking any damage. It was later revealed that this was an April Fool's joke (which EGM cleverly disguised by publishing in mid-February), but that didn't stop other magazines from reprinting the trick. Without checking it, because obviously this is just video games journalism we're talking about. Before long, there wasn't a Street Fighter player in the world who wasn't convinced that you could fight Sheng Long if you only tried hard enough.
How Gullible You'd Have to Be to Buy It
Not too gullible. As mentioned, "Sheng Long" had been hinted at in both the arcade and SNES versions of the game. And there was no reason to distrust the video games magazines; in this era, to an 11-year-old, they had about the same authority as the Bible.
And we know that in all things, the path forward shall be lit by up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start.
And because the steps were so difficult to do that they could never be verified, and there was no way to definitively prove the hoax wrong, this one drove kids mad for a long, long time.
They did probably get pretty freaking good at using Ryu, though.
5Mew (Pokemon Red/Blue)
Mew was the 151st Pokemon in the original Pokemon Red/Blue games, and was by design always going to be the hardest to get. The legal way to get Mew was to attend a real-world Nintendo event, where a Nintendo employee with a tired smile would plug your Game Boy into his and upload Mew. This was the only way to actually get Mew in the game, so for anyone with the sense to stay far, far away from other Pokemon players, the 151st Pokemon was completely inaccessible.
Telling a group of players that they can't collect something, after relentlessly badgering them about the importance of collecting everything, is one of the biggest dick moves in all of video gaming, and as you can expect, it broke many young players' brains. The Internet soon filled with rumors of how to get Mew, the most famous of which can be summarized thusly: Mew is under the truck.
No, that's to the left of the truck.
The truck in question was in a normally inaccessible area of the game, but by following a (fairly easy) series of steps, the player could get there and wander around. Most discovered that the area was inaccessible for a reason; there was basically nothing there at all. Except for a truck. A purely decorative, not remarkable in any way truck.
But because of some dink on the Internet who claimed that the secretest of all Pokemon was hidden under the truck, players would spend hours pushing, pulling and pleading with it. All for nothing.
How Gullible You'd Have to Be to Buy It
There was little shame in trying this once and failing. It wasn't too dissimilar a technique from those used for finding other Pokemon, and it was certainly easy enough to do. What made this so insidious was the relatively young age of Pokemon players and the correspondingly high levels of gullibility, which meant that once they'd tried and failed, they kept trying. Again and again and again, convinced that they'd done something wrong, ruining their Gameboys with salty tears, pleading for the 151st Pokemon to arrive, the one that would surely become their real friend.