when i was in the 3rd gradei convinced my friend's older sister to loan me her gameboy colorwith pokemon blueon the one conditionthat i never save over her file. this was contraband; my parents couldn't know i smuggled that gameboy home and kept it inside my pillowcase, turning it on at an almost imperceptible volume after i’d been put to bed for the night. i would play until the batteries died or i fell asleep or it was time for school
whatever came first.
because of my promise to never save, i had, generally, somewhere between 6 and 10 hours to beat the game that year, the margins of my schoolwork filled with (what i would later learn were) 'speedrun strats' i wrote down what patch of grass would come up with a pikachu traced my routes through the caves memorized the dialog, then the buttons to skip through it learned i could invert the screen and navigate dark caverns without teaching my pokemon "flash" eventually, i didn't need to invert anything
i just knew where to walk, in the dark.
i was angling for the elite four, the ostensible win condition of pokemon but i often stopped at cinnabar island this is because if you surfed up and down the coastline off cinnabar you might meet MissingNo. missingno is a data buffer glitch, and a famous one at that it appears when the game mistakenly substitutes the player's name as a pokemon id forming a scrambled, glitchy block described as a "bird/normal" pokemon (although occasionally appearing as a ghost or a fossil unseen elsewhere in the game)
summoning a ghost was reason enough to try for missingno, but it also came with side-effects (including a useful error that would copy an item 128 times over) but rumor was, catching missingno was dangerous-it could softlock the game.destroy your save file.
delete pokemon out of your party.
none of this was true, but we traded these stories around the playground, whispered about our angry ghosts and there were other phantoms; invisible computers a teleporting man stuck on roof swapped overworld tiles a trick to catch the most elusive pokemon of all, mew a way to visit glitch city glitch city was a place made of scrambled sprites where menu items and objects and sections of buildings melted into one another forming an ornate, broken map you could stand in glitch city, but you couldn't move i tried everything, every button press order and screen inversion and quit-restart scenario stuck on a single tile, the character walked morosely as if into a wall but it was still, materially there i could see it just beyond my reach
although i eventually had to give back the gameboy i did have one friend with a playstation and spyro the dragon unlike pokemon, which uses memory manipulation to step out of bounds spyro is 3d, with simulated physics and barriers this means that you can see outside it is right there over an invisible wall that rings the world see me: 9 years old, inviting myself for a playdate, insisting we play spyro, and then, over and over again, trying to bump my way out into the blue. recently, i found a video of someone doing exactly this; making a sort of hopskip into the atmosphere one-sided, the geometry of the world turns transparent as the dragon spirals down, gliding under the level you can see the architecture unstitch itself at the seams one purple dragon soaring through glitch city the house we lived in was old the driveway was long it was sandwiched between a few family graveyards; my friends loved to come over, but wouldn't spend the night sometimes we'd get out the ouija board and try to contact the beyond generally unsuccessfully once, a friend told me ghosts walk through walls because they remember the house different like, after a remodel or renovation they run a logic of memories and can't see that the door got moved
and this is why they respect the rules of floors but not of walls
around this time, we learned in school about the structure of atoms how 99.9999999999996% of an atom is empty air i took this to mean that surely two atoms could be slotted together, if you tried hard enough if you angled them right, probably you could put your hand right through the table if you believed hard enough if you weren't watching
if your eyes were closed
my teacher tried to explain that air wasn't the right way to think about it it wasn't air in atoms, because air was made of atoms it was just nothing forces, void
like in space
atoms never even touch each other, our teacher said they have a layer of repulsion our bodies are like a house made of unmortared stones no matter how well they fit together no mater how they are locked in place it isn't forever
the wind still gets in
i had a schoolyard crush on a kid who sat three desks ahead of me i remember thinking, how romantic if maybe if we held hands if we closed our eyes if we really focused we would phase a little closer then stop surely with all that empty space, we could get our fingers aligned in just the right way and actually touch one another. some years later, i learned there is a name for just that for when atoms touch and it is called radiation poisoning.
same year as the atoms, i was gifted a history of the world-type book one of those aspirational encyclopedias given to children at birthdays i can't remember reading more than a page or two but on the cover was a print of the flammarion engraving i faced to it me so i could see it from my bed i still remember the caption;"A traveller puts his head under the edge of the firmament" the traveller had found a way through i puzzled at this in the margins of my schoolwork dreamed about it nights tried to apply it to glitch city sometimes the games and the dreams bled into one another a pushing and floating space where the walls yielded where my character passed through the barrier where i saw what was just beyond the edge of the surface or the firmament
eventually we got the internet at homeand i discovered other kinds of gamesthe resplendent wealth of roleplaying forumswebringsdiariesblogsflash games
as well as another kind of invisible wall, the view source for all that i'd been grasping at the internal structure of the games i played attempting to get under or around their surface and access what was caught inside i had been stuck moving a body to do so- the memory manipulation in pokemon the determination to scale the world wall in spyro even the summoning of ghosts with the ouija board had been done by navigating a world with a character and asking it to break
like putting your hand against the wall and willing the atoms to let you in
but view source- it was all there like picking up the shell and seeing the hermit crab i could read it i could see how it was put together and most importantly i could break it into pieces
and let myself in