Secrets are scarce in modern video games. And I don’t mean easter eggs that anyone with a working internet can find hours after a game releases — I mean actual, honest-to-god secrets.
So it should come as no surprise that the Speedrun crew had to return to 1997 to find one. In the years when message boards and forum threads reigned supreme, something as innocuous as a hazy island in the 64-bit distance could drive players into a frenzy. Such was the case on the Dam level in the FPS classic Goldeneye 007. Through the lens of a sniper rifle, players could see a small pack of buildings across a large reservoir. Was it a bonus area? An allusion to the movie? The end point of some secret passageway hidden earlier in the level?
With the help of GameSharks and noclip cheats, players eventually discovered what many had feared: it was nothing. Just a leftover production asset the team at Rare never got around to finishing. But at that point, it almost didn’t matter. The myth of the island had already taken root.
This serves as a gateway into the idea we explored in this week’s episodes of Speedrun: how players, just as much as developers, create the stories in the games we play.
This led us to a more recent legend: the Shrouded Ghost in Sea of Thieves . The massive, glowing shark is one of the open-world pirate game’s most elusive achievements. Our West Coast correspondent Mari Takahashi joined streamer BBXH to investigate the legend surrounding the Ghost, and the results were not disappointing: even with such a dedicated player base, no one actually knows what spawns the shark, or where it’s going to appear at any given time. In many ways, the legends surrounding the Shrouded Ghost are more exciting than the actual Ghost. I’m reminded of the scene in The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, when Bill Murray and his crew come face to face with the fabled Jaguar Shark they’ve been hunting for so long. It comes, it lingers, and then it’s gone again.
Lastly, we explored the bizarre story of Warframe’s most infamous character, Clem. Although he began as a community creation — an inside joke, really, in the early days of Warframe’s now massive community — he eventually made his way into the game. We spoke to Alex Mcguire, the tumblr artist who first created the character in his comic series “The Chronicles of Clem,” and Rebecca Ford, one of the developers responsible for adding him into Warframe proper. It’s a reassuring story about the relationship between a studio and its players, at a time when “living games” are a dime a dozen.
So, yes — legally speaking, studios and publishers own the games they make. But in a broader sense, it’s often the players that really make a game. They lend it their own imagination, their own conspiracies and head canons and politics. They search every nook and cranny for something undiscovered, only to discover that there’s nothing left to find. And at that point, they do the only thing they know how: they create something of their own.
Next week on Speedrun, we’re bringing on comedians Reggie Watts, Adam Conover, and Mike Drucker to explore the untapped potential of comedy in video games. We had a blast making those episodes, and as always, they’re come of my favorite yet. I’ll see you then.