How A Video Game Glitch Became A Full-Blown Conspiracy Theory

How A Video Game Glitch Became A Full-Blown Conspiracy Theory

The Binding of Isaac community lost their minds yesterday, in search of items missing from the game. Teases from designer Edmund McMillen suggested it was an elaborate, totally ridiculous mystery for players to solve. The reality is far more mundane: it was a joke, while the developer worked on a patch.

Image Credit: TehHolyPancake

If you missed yesterday’s story about how far The Binding of Isaac fans were going to figure out what was happening, here’s a prime example: they were reading passages from the Bible, suspecting it contained hints on what to do.

The game’s latest expansion, Afterbirth, promised more than 120 new items for players to use. When the expansion launched, however, players could only account for 74 items. Worried they’d been ripped off, McMillen began teasing that players simply hadn’t looked hard enough, beginning a National Treasure-esque dive into The Binding of Isaac that had everyone putting on tinfoil hats.

Specifically, lots of players were focused on the number 109, which has a history in The Binding of Isaac community, related to the number of hours it supposedly took for one of the game’s biggest secrets to be exposed, thanks to data mining.

Roughly 109 hours after Afterbirth was released, a patch dropped for the game.

Were there new mysteries to be solved? Would the path become clear?

Nope. Instead, it was just a patch. The items should have been available at launch, but there was a glitch that prevented them from showing up. It was an elaborate ruse on the part of McMillen, a way of toying with the community.

The move has not been met with universal acclaim, however, with some fans upset McMillen allowed fans to spend so much time and effort on something that ultimately amounted to nothing. He could have said a patch was coming.

(He did, in fact, say a patch was on the way, but perpetuated this joke anyway.)

The primary source of theory searching, reddit, seems understandably mixed:

One reason people fell for the joke was due to a previous interview from McMillen, in which he expressed disappointment over the way data mining had revealed previous secrets faster than he’d hoped. Here’s what he told Vinesauce:

“It’s disheartening. It sucks because we’re gonna start working on an expansion soon, but we sure as hell aren’t gonna fucking take all the time that it took – especially with Simon, who tried his best to really bury the stuff so it would deter people from doing this, but all they see is a challenge, so they’re going to dive right in and do it anyway. I can say right now that I don’t think the expansion is going to feature any buried secrets that anybody will care about.”

McMillen now claims he’s never been upset, and he didn’t plan for “revenge.”

But in addressing what was going on, he left the door open to more speculation.

Of course, it wouldn’t be shocking that Afterbirth would be hiding more secrets that people haven’t yet found — that’s been a mainstay for The Binding of Isaac.

McMillen didn’t respond to my request for comment about how this all went down, but promised a blog post about everything when “the dust has settled.”

Gotta admit, I was loving how ridiculous this was getting. It’s disappointing there really isn’t an elaborate conspiracy going on. Maybe McMillen can actually work something like that into the next expansion for The Binding of Isaac?


  • Hah! This is pretty awesome. Even if he did “waste people’s time” on a wild goose chase, it did bring the community together in one purpose. And it looks like he’s hinting that it’s not over, it’s just got nothing to do with missing content that got patched in (although maybe it has something to do with the bug that excluded the content in the first place?)

    Still, it was a great (and fun) troll for all those involved.

  • Once people have worked through the disappointed, maybe they will realise how much fun were they having with the whole conspiracy thing.

  • Very funny… but I’d be pretty pissed if i’d sunk time into trying to figure it out. Still… well played

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