Note: The person mentioned in the below case chose to remain
anonymous, therefore he will be referred to as the "Subject"
from this point forth. This person and the situation are real.
I would ask for all readers to remain open in mind and spirit
before jumping to any early conclusions. It is also crucial to
note from a moral standpoint that I am not looking to make any
profit or gain from the unfortunate events that played out in
the Subject's life. I made clear that he had my deepest sympathy
from the very beginning.
piece certainly proved to be one of the most intriguing to compile,
and that stands for all my work here on NES Player. I have always
held interest in the unknown, the paranormal, and human behavior
since I could remember as a small child. The social human aspects
fascinated my curiosity and still do to this day. Which explains
the main decision to investigate further into this so-called "Taboo
fortune" upon reading stories of people witnessing strange
occurrences shortly after "playing" Taboo: The Sixth
Sense for the NES.
a little background information on Taboo: The Sixth Sense,
the title was released stateside in April 1989 by licensee Trade
West (the same folks who brought us Battletoads). The game's
copyright states 1988, however, and was developed by the then-momentum-building
UK based Rare Ltd. The cartridge retailed for the average price
of shrink wrapped video games at the time despite the short lack
of appeal and the flat-out lack of a game altogether.
begin our investigation of Taboo: The Sixth Sense it is
necessary to first point out the usage of words within the software’s
beginning word 'taboo' itself is defined by Dictionary.com as:
"Excluded or forbidden from use, approach, or mention,"
as an adj. and "A ban or an inhibition resulting from
social custom or emotional aversion" in noun form. Taboo
= bad/unspoken of thing.
is the 'sixth sense' meaning, also provided by Dictionary.com:
"A power of perception seemingly independent of the five
senses; keen intuition." We usually refer to the motion
picture The Sixth Sense, starring Bruce Willis, to coin
the modern connotation; typically a way some people have to perceive
or make contact with the dead. In spiritual/paranormal circles
(such as the eight-year-old web portal ghostweb.com
run by co-authors/"ghost hunters" Dave R. Oester, Ph.D.
and Sharon A. Gill, Ph.D.), this ability is considered a special
and intimately developed physic gift that some possess. Furthermore
these physic circles tend to believe children at an early age
better have access to this undeveloped part of the brain before
being formulated to exercise the portions of the brain for mathematics,
language, and colors as taught in our educational systems.
back to our initial judgment of Taboo, as we can see from
the definitions, the game pak certainly does not hold back on
the strong language, bearing an intentionally dark mood to the
title. It appears that Rare understood the deep material involved.
Yet still to build on the spiritually forceful terminology, Rare
decided to also place questionable inappropriate sinister imagery
as well; e.g. the title screen's blinking red-eyed skull. In fact,
much of the sprites shown throughout Taboo are portrayed
as doomful. These small subtleties serve to add to the overall
stirring 'excitement' or 'atmosphere' begging that it is true
Rare set out to produce more than just a run of the mill horoscope
game with Taboo by including non-mainstream elements similar
to that of cult ritualistic icons ("black magic").
game testers at that time were notorious for censoring any religious
symbols or questionable content from NES titles; this we know.
So then why did the censors allow passage to the only licensed
NES title dabbling in spirituality and complete with full frontalandbackside nudity?
Did they understand the roots or significance of such 'spiritual
tools', even if Rare could have brushed off the accusation by
labeling Taboo as a "semi-mockery" of those arts?
With such strict guidelines Nintendo set out enforcing publishers,
how did this "game" get released when it is barely a
game to begin with? Why would Rare make such a poor title during
the company's upward stride to gaming developer hall-of-fame?
out to attempt to answer these questions, and found much more
The Sixth Sense
I previously mentioned, Taboo is a completely lacking video
game. It is shallow, flat, and can be "beaten" within
ten minutes time - which is just the point to make: replayability.
Once a question is answered, the player is escorted back to the
main screen to start again. Repetition is the one key component
of this "game." Rare expected the player to ask question
after question and observe the same ominous screens over and over
until boredom set in.
proposed question is this: Does the constant dark enchantment
of Taboo have an effect on the mind when someone is consciously
drawing question upon question and viewing the same formula so
many times over again? Before we can begin to answer that, let's
take a quick run-down on the "gameplay" itself.
the person presses Start on the title screen, the player is introduced
to an uninspiring "build-up" that might have been successful
in fooling a younger child.
raises another question: Who is the main audience for this "game?"
Is it geared towards the pre-teen, teenager, or adult crowd? I
think it is pretty safe to rule out the 18 or older crowd, but
is Taboo really the sort of experience a pre-teen or below
should be experimenting with? Later on in the article I address
the connection between this "game" and another popular
'communicator' called the Ouija board. Taboo, if successful
in anything, is luring adolescents into subjects he or she may
not be able to handle mentally or emotionally.
next menu prompts the player to fill out his or her name, birthday,
and gender. Notice the usage of a crucifix and "witch/anarchy"
symbol. This is the one part of Taboo where the player
feels connected to the "game." Whether or not that player
is "serious" to it or not, the player knows that he
or she consciously has given up personal information. I find it
suspicious that the Rare chose to begin asking of this sort of
the player's input, the person playing is told to compose a question
for Taboo to answer. Remind you of something? This is yet
another reference to the popular Ouija board, underlining that
possibility beyond a strictly 'horoscope game' to a much broader
outline of spiritual communicators.
after the computer shuffles the deck of tarot cards.
Quick History Lesson: The first example of the modern divination
tool called tarot cards dates back 500 years ago to northern Italy.
A traditional deck amounted to 78 and divided into two groups:
22 tarots are of major arcana and the remainder cards are minor.
Each card holds a general meaning and is translated by not only
its type but also the position in which it is drawn (right side
up or upside down). There are many different decks widespread
and available to the user; some proving to be better for answering
specific circumstances/questions than others.
the shuffling sequence is finished, the system then removes precisely
10 tarot cards from the deck. These chosen cards are either numbered
(78 major arcana) or apart of a "club" set (22 minor
arcana). Their values are combined to determine the overall final
verdict or fortune at the end.
are just some of the examples of tarot cards used in Taboo.
final screen, after finding out one's outcome, displays "lucky"
fortune numbers as translated accordingly to the player's U.S.
state and the amount of numbers they have chosen.
about this moment you might have already judged Taboo: The
Sixth Sense as a rather low-grade attempt at "creativity"
(or "new approach") and nothing more. From our deciphering
the core elements that embody Taboo above, we can better
understand its inner workings and relate back to help explain
our Case File.
to Case File
agreed to share his personal story to the world if only his identity
remained anonymous. I contacted this person throughout the duration
of writing this article to better understand the amazing events
that you are about to read about. Let me insist that these events
did happen and they are real. What you are about to read is not
a "made up" account but an actual encounter of subsequent
events that followed after a personal experience with Taboo.
I edited a few words (as seen in brackets) and nothing more, so
all in all below is the unadulterated story.
The Personal Story
I was younger I rented this game because I had seen it and I was
curious about it. As I was playing it I noticed that little devil
or satyr faces with glowing red eyes would appear super imposed
over the suns on the backs of the cards from time to time. Needless
to say this creeped me out immensely. Almost every time I asked
the game a question I would get a negative reading involving the
Devil card and or death. I didn't take any of it very seriously
though, after all I was young and just shrugged it all off as
a silly video game. Within the next few following months my dog
Tippy died, my parakeet died, and then the worst thing all happened
my father died of lung cancer. My parents were split already and
I lived with my father because my mother was deemed unfit due
to her alcoholism. He was my best friend.
years passed and I never really blamed the game for any of those
things because logically it is just silly to think that an 8 bit
video game cartridge can cause someone to lose everything that
they care about.
got married and moved out of town. I finally got a computer and
internet access and as a result I discovered emulation. (I did
not have my NES anymore because I gave it to one of my best friends
before I moved.)
I [played] the Taboo [game] to give the game another try. My wife
thought it sounded cool and we asked it a few questions. The devil/satyr
faces with their creepy red glowing eyes appeared again and my
wife saw them too.
to say it creeped her out too. Again I got negative readings.
Over the course of the next few days both me and my wife became
terribly ill. She got over her illness quickly, but I had a fever
of nearly 104 off and on for about 5 days straight. I was delirious
with fever for a bit. I finally went to the doctor and I was told
that I had an unidentifiable flue-like illness. He prescribed
me some strong antibiotics (The same kind that they give people
who have contracted Anthrax.) and he threatened to hospitalize
me if my fever did not go down soon. I got better but the antibiotics
cause me to have internal bleeding.
to say I have never played the "game" since this happened.
am not saying that I believe that Taboo was responsible for anything
that happened in my life but I do feel like it is not worth the
risk to find out.
anything really worth that?
sample of a "bad" Taboo
tarot reading. Note:
This was the first card dealt to me during my first & only
Taboo reading. Five days prior I announced my return to NES Player,
explaining of my sudden mid-semester transfer. Coincidence or
Rare LTD. Responds?
of the Rare staff in late 1987; Taboo was developed one
year later. (Picture courtesy of Raretopia)
shocked by this person's traumatic account, I contacted him immediately
and asked if I could contact Rare LTD. directly to see how they
would respond to the likes of his story. I was fully well aware
that the crew responsible for Taboo had most likely moved
on to another company, profession, or even retirement by now.
The true reason I wanted this question addressed to Rare was to
see the sort of PR response that a video game company would give
to explain the possibility of harmful software or unconventional,
perhaps even immoral, means to earn a buck.
can help us in trying to unfold the Taboo mystery. Using
psychophysics to fit undetected sensory of stimuli that is below
the level of absolute threshold - the absolute minimum amount
of energy a person can detect - into subliminal perception, we
can begin to make assumptions if there is any possible individual
explanation to this situation.
cognitive approach best suits this case file at first, which theorizes
that one controls the mental subconsciousness of one's behavior
through subliminal memories or false perceptions of such things
like a video game title. Could our Subject's case translate into
nothing more than a "mind game" trick, or an object
to blame unfortunate events that played out in his life? Is there
even such a thing as simple coincidence?
it were a psychological phenomenon it would have to be primarily
subconscious for my part because I never took the game seriously.
a physiological experiment on the effectiveness of subliminal
perception, Carol Fowler provided evidence that human beings can
process information much beneath their conscious awareness. Participants
groups were shown words on a screen so rapidly that they were
unable to perceive what they were seeing. Later in the experiment,
the participants were shown two words and asked which was most
like the subliminally presented word. The majority of participants
answered most questions correctly, proving that stimuli that we
deem atrociousor that we are confident to faintly ignore
may leave a lasting effect on us [whether we like to or not].
signal detection theory says that detection of stimuli depends
on more than the intensity of which it is computed but rather
on the individual's contextual variations (e.g. boredom, fear,
fatigue). The person sets a criterion for himself to determine
whether or not a stimulus is in effect; however other emotional
or physical factors could override that criterion.
term of psychology that fits the Taboo situation is a person's
selective attention: focusing on a specific portion of the game
experience while ignoring others. Assuming you have Macromedia
Flash to download the music playing in the page background, you
are using selective attention to directly focus your brain power
to read these written words amongst a backdrop of the music. That's
not to say you can't hear the eerie tune looping, it's just that
your immediate mental abilities have shoved it out of the spotlight.
Is it then the case that Taboo: The Sixth Sense could play
the same role as this very document? A player experiences the
video game by reading the tarot cards therein an environment of
scary aspects of both visual and audible nature. This argument
underlines the subliminal effect of the game.
discussing the matter over an E-mail with our Subject, he told
me of his past experimentation and trust in these so-called possible
"communicators." (I do not and never will trust the
Ouija board, or any other form of instrument for that matter to
consciously attempt to contact the unseen, unknown, or one's personal
future. The best way, which you also practice, is personal reflection
and mediation. Doing good, acting good, speaking out for good.
Call it karma; call it whatever you would care to. One can feel
it inward, and that's more beneficial [in my mind] than any tarot
card, game, or external tool.) This is what he had to say:
am not a religious person. I am not a Christian.
do consider myself a spiritual person though as I practice different
forms of meditation and I consider myself to be an extremely aware
individual. I am also vegan. And as such I have an intense compassion
for all living things.
have used tarot cards in the past with no ill effect and I practice
my father passed away I began to have precognitive dreams and
my abilities have continued to develop from that point on into
the present. I feel that things like Ouija boards, tarot cards,
and runes are merely tools that help us tap into the broader normally
inaccessible part of the subconscious mind where we are more aware
of our environment than we could ever possibly imagine.
is of importance to note that all of our everyday workings of
the mind strictly reflect the necessary means to survive. Our
more than less mentally lagging abilities gets us to work and
back home. A real ability to sense or feel a sense for outside
forces just is not there the majority of our lives.
example: We perceive the primary colors in all objects because
it reflects that of our environment, which then reflects off of
the basic natural needs (water, grass, trees) to live. Psychologists
insist there are many more colors that cannot be accurately seen.
The same can be said in terms of sound.
brings up the point, if experts in the field exclaim that we do
not see nor hear truly much of what exists beyond the basics of
survival -- and that we use only part of our developed brain --
there must exist more powerful and undeveloped areas which hearing
and seeing and able contacting is more possible than we're willing
to allow in our busy lives [also that fall below the absolute
threshold of our five human senses]. I generally tend to believe
that thesis. (I also believe children who are not yet "developed"
in the sense of only exercising the portions of the brain for
mathematics, language, and colors can more willingly feel or understand
this part of the mind.) I can speak from personal experience when
I've witnessed "paranormal" behavior from a relative
whom passed. I also feel it when I am shaken, scared, or alert
about something particular, out of the everyday scope. It feels
as if the 'survival mode' has been taken up a notch, so to speak.
put a proverbial check mark on some form of actual inner contact
with unknown forces as one possibility. The other: our own subconscious
mind doing the dirty work. The way I figure this theory is when
I tell myself to "shake off" something, whether it is
a failure or an upset in life, and I do manage to forget--until
I go to bed at night and vividly see this situation played again
or modified in a way. Simply put: if you believe something is
going to happen in the back of your mind, there's a much better
chance it will in fact happen. And many times, even if you don't
honestly think an issue is of importance, your subconscious thinks
have had a great deal of unexplained experiences throughout my
life and this is just one of those instances that seems to be
more than mere coincidence.
human mind is an amazing thing. The brain is full of electrical
impulses that create patterns that exist and indeed quite possibly
originate at the quantum level. At the quantum level linear time
begins to melt away into a more non-linear cyclical reality. Future
influencing past and so on. So why can't we be aware of the future
or at least our future perceptions of it.
Ghost Theory: Ghost hunters today are groups hired by people,
or egged on by their own initiative, to explore hauntings and
capture proof of spirits. Such electronic tools to capture the
existence of ghosts are EMF and thermal scanners that measure
energy/temperature levels because is it believed that when a person
dies he/she releases a non-physical stimuli of them (energy, such
as heat, or what have you) into the surrounding environments.
This means when an unusual reading is shown on the tools, is it
believed another presence is existent in the immediate area. ESP
is another tool often used by placing a tape recorder down on
record to capture faint sounds in the noise of the background.
Clear voices and words of men, women, and children have been heard
through this technique. One more device often used is night-vision
camcorders/flash photography. Ectoplasms (ghostly fog), orbs (small
circular transparent-white movements), and full bodily visions
can be recorded by this equipment.
final point of argument basically throws out the scientific platform
or mumbo-jumbo theories and replaces with a fundamental spiritual
basis. Many recorded cases involve the abuse of physic tools similar
to Taboo. The use of the Ouija is the biggest/most mainstream
phenomenon of the spirit world communicators. The common belief
that most people hold is that because the popular game board company
Milton Bradley puts it out that the Ouija must be harmless fun.
idea of Ouija actually originated as far back as ancient Egypt.
For our purposes, though, 1853 in Europe was the first form of
the "planchette" developed and then imported to America.
E.C. Reiche from Maryland altered this method to communicate with
the unknown and his revisions became the board we all know today.
Down the marketing line, a man named William Fudd in Baltimore
sold the concept of the "talking board." After Fudd's
death, the heirs continued selling the Ouija until 1966 when Parker
Brothers obtained the company.
as we played around with the idea of the subconsciousness altering
a person's mind while playing Taboo: The Sixth Sense, Ouija
offers a more thoroughly mental awareness. When someone places
a hand on the Ouija pointer, is our own mental/nervous system
addressing repressed information (i.e. "ideomotor effect")
or is the awareness of the brain heightened to make contact with
outside forces? These are the two main sides of debate about the
Ouija; I happen to respect both positions.
no actual scientific theories can explain when questions we know
little of are somehow accurately answered, most casual players
of the Ouija [in almost the same way people see Taboo: The
Sixth Sense] view the board as nothing more than a "harmless
game" to fool around with over a sleep over. Unfortunately
for a chunk of players this beginning, sporadic usage can slowly
turn into a very unhealthy obsession, which then psychological/mental
illnesses can progress inside of the user. The simple warning
most physics heed is aimed specifically to these amateurs (the
persons should not take part in this potentially dangerous divination
practice alone); that the average user should know the consequences
that could change the path of life for the worse beforehand.
saw its own Tarot reading software in "Tarot
Uranai" released for the Famicom Disk System
by Scorpion Soft and someone who calls himself"Prof.
The two titles are very similar in that you pick tarots
and get a reading, except in this one you get to also
shuffle. You can also specify whether you wish for
a romantic reading, business reading, or study reading.
main projected task I set out from the gecko was to contact Rare
and inquire about the game itself. Unfortunately they never replied
back answering if the company should have dabbled in the unknown
art to make a profit from a shabby NES cartridge. I can, however,
ask you the same question.
our analysis do you now perceive Taboo: The Sixth Sense
as a force, like the Ouija or other spiritual instruments, as
a force to be reckoned with that beckons an undeveloped segment
of the brain to unconsciously predate/control the destiny of our
lives? Or has it always simply been a poorly developed Nintendo
game farce all along and the life events of the subject
were circumstantial? Is there such a thing as superstition?
subject made it clear that he did not want to risk it either way.
I don't blame him. His final strict warning to those reading:
Respect the Taboo that is what I say.