It’s Halloween season again, and this year there seems to be a lot of interest in demons—from the spooky ghost-hunting videos I keep seeing about places haunted by “evil spirits” to the giant, winged animatronic caricatures being sold at my local Home Depot. So I’d like to kick off my own “season” with an introduction to the first “demon” I ever encountered (as both a writer and a gamer).
It was late Sunday night—way past bedtime, considering that I had school in the morning. But I was not going to stop now. I was close to beating a boss, or maybe finding the treasure or cleaning out the dungeon that I had been working on all weekend. Just a few minutes more, I told myself. Then I can save the game, shut it off, and go to bed.
And that was when the demon struck. Time and time again, over the course of my childhood and into my adulthood, like clockwork, the same disastrous pattern would repeat itself over and over again. And rarely did I ever learn. After a few years, you would think I’d know better, but I can recall several times as an adult—with my own children fully grown and seeing this for themselves—where this same predictable pattern played out for all to see.
The phenomenon became so easy to predict that I gave it a name. “Nintendo-Demon” or, as I grew older (and as it manifested in more than just my NES), the “Nintendemon.” By no means was this phenomenon confined to the gaming console I was using. Sometimes it would manifest as a sudden power outage, or an uncannily timed disconnect with the network. Sometimes it would be a phone call or external distraction timed so precisely in the middle of a seemingly unrelated “glitch” that, together, cost me my progress.
Regardless of method, the intention was always the same.
Don’t get me wrong, this phenomenon is, in no way, confined to video games. Even as a young adult, I would lose entire drafts or revisions to this wretched foe (one of which was lost while writing up this recent series of blogs). And it never manifested the same way twice. Often, I was able to block it one way (save my work, for instance), only to have it manifest through a different means (disk corruption). Several times it has disabled my entire computer, costing me several hours or even days of time I could have spent writing or working on my latest creation—and all the while fretting about what I may have lost forever should I be unable to recover any of my data. As a young adult, I got into the habit of saving my work and turning off my electronics at 10:00 pm so as to avoid this misfortune. Well, it wasn’t really the misfortune I was trying to avoid….
The Amish Mennonites of rural Pennsylvania view the devil as the “Prince of the Air”. They avoid using computers as much as possible because electricity, to them, is the evil ones’ tool. Perhaps that is true. But perhaps it is as much a case of externally stigmatized energy giving evil a form. After all, Nintendemon is not confined solely to electricity. In fact, Nintendemon is not defined by the nature of its manifestations—it is defined by the goal of its manifestations. So what is its goal?
Demons feast on “negative” emotions. Fear, anger, hate. But also frustration. And frustration abounds when somebody has spent the entire night progressing through a dungeon or writing code in a computer program or even writing a blog post…only to discover that a one-in-a-billion glitch has happened AGAIN to delete the entire night’s work. As a kid, I would lie awake in bed, tormented by the frustration of having to re-play that entire level over again. As a writer, I’ve lost many a night’s sleep frantically scrawling on paper the thoughts I had already typed out but then lost. And it always seemed to be the night before a big test at school—or a hard day at work the next morning. Why was that so important of a factor to the Nintendemon?
In later years, I have come to realize that the primary intention of this activity is not only to feed on the negative emotions it conjures, but to also eat away at my own self-control. In later years, I have begun to realize that Nintendemon can also strike in the middle of the day when I am at work, often causing power outages or network connection issues that seem strategically focused on making me lose my cool. Often this even involves certain individuals who seem to answer an invisible calling to create a crisis at the exact time the electronics are also acting up. And this is where, I think, the true intentions come into focus.
If anything, I have learned from my study of the paranormal that human interaction generates energy of its own. In a previous blog I called it “Zoe”. And while a diabolical entity may feed well on the lamentations of a single boy who lost his progress in a video game, imagine the feast that awaits within an emotional altercation between sleep-deprived spouses or an overwhelmed coworker.
I, for one, do not want to give it that satisfaction.