As we’re talking about video game pranks and foolishness this month, I thought it would be a good time to talk about the most important gaming prank I ever came into contact with. It’s weird thinking of an obnoxious think like a prank as “important,” but that’s what this one wound up being. It’s something I’d never fall for today thanks to almost constantly being connected to that wonderful, yet kinda worrisome tool we all know as the internet. Like most people, I wasn’t overly involved with the internet when I was younger. At the time, it still held a status of being a mostly magical and mysterious thing that only savvy people unlike myself were able to use. Well, I suppose that’s enough of trying to justify my middle-school self’s ignorance. I was fooled, and it led, at least in part, to where I am now. It’s the Paper Mario prank that eventually resulted in my online name and my willingness to start doing this in the first place.
Ever since the game launched in 2001, I’ve been a huge fan of Paper Mario. It started with my love for Super Mario RPG back in the days of the SNES. That game had more or less been my introduction to the JRPG, and I remember being incredibly excited at the prospect of another Mario-themed RPG to carry that torch. It was a little jarring at first to see these 2D sprites playing about in a 3D environment, but it quickly won me over with how committed it was to selling the idea. These characters weren’t just sprinkled in this world, they really inhabited it. Combine that with satisfying combat and progression systems and you’ve got a game I could never get tired of. Suffice it to say, I played the game several times over in those first couple of years and was quite proud of the completed save files I’d accumulated on my cartridge.
Maybe a year after the initial fervor had finally wore off, I decided that I wanted to start yet another play through. I popped my cartridge into my N64, flipped on the power switch, waited to get to the file select screen and…nothing. All my files were gone! As far as the game was concerned, I hadn’t even so much as started the game even once. At first, I didn’t want to believe it. I took the cartridge out, blew on it and replaced only to find that my files were still missing. Cycling the power didn’t work and neither did replacing the cartridge multiple times. I was just about to give up and resign myself to the reality that all my hard work was gone, but then my friend spoke up. He offered to look up the problem on that magical internet and see if anyone had solution to the problem. I told him to go for it while I continued to fiddle with my console.
About 10 minutes later, he came back and said he’d found some instructions to fix it, but that they were a little weird. The instructions were as follows: boot up the game and then in the lower-left slot, type in “H@Tm0NsTAr*” and cycle the power twice. I agreed that it sounded weird, but I did it anyway. Why not, right? Nothing should have happened, but that wasn’t the case. It actually worked! The next time I booted up the game, all my old save files were back and weirdly named one was no where to be found. Needless to say, I was ecstatic and proceeded to start a new file with that same name. I’ve never had another problem with that cartridge.
The odd name stuck with me over the years, and once I’d bought an Xbox 360 and had to choose an online handle for myself, I decided that “HaTm0NsTAr” would work just fine. At the time I figured it would be a way to reference one of my favorite games while also having an unusual name nobody else would have. So far, the name has stuck and I’ve used it for just about every online account that required a user name (excluding important things that called for something less silly). It became an identity of sorts, one that could allow me to reach out into the vastness of the internet unhindered. Because I had that name, I could even start blogging. Something I don’t think I ever could have begun doing under my own name. It’s worked out well so far, don’t you think?
It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I got curious and decided to see if I could find some more information on that weird N64 trick. It really never occurred to me to dig any deeper after my cartridge was fixed. Here’s the thing though, I couldn’t find anything on it. Not even so much as a trace! I called my friend to ask about it and he couldn’t believe that I’d never figured it out. He’d made the whole thing up! He had been just as surprised as I was when it actually worked! I wasn’t shocked at the revelation I guess, but I did feel profoundly silly for having believed the lie for several years.
So here I am. I’ve been blogging about games for just over five years as Hatmonster and have been playing under the name even longer. I’d thought it was a name based on a weird fix, but it turns out to be based on a series of characters thought up for a prank. It’s not a reference or anything, just my name. It wasn’t directly responsible for anything, yet I can’t imagine having many of my favorite gaming experiences or blogging life without that name. I was completely and thoroughly fooled, and it’s probably one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. 😀
Have you ever been thoroughly pranked? Did wind up working out for the better? Has anyone ever told you a convincing video game story that wound up being totally bogus?