So, for the most part, we didn’t hear much from Dark over the course of the following two months. Mark made several allusions and references to Him: while thanking the audience for their reception of “A Date with Markiplier” (during the Let’s Play for chapter 1 of Bendy and the Ink Machine), explaining his reasoning behind Dark’s characterization (during the February charity livestream), and throwing out an oddly-placed Darth Vader taunt during Prop Hunt #44 (“If you only knew the power of the Dark side.”).
There were several thumbnails and sundry that recalled Darkiplier’s particular brand of stylized visuals: the snowy-visioned switches between realities in VHS, Mark being loomed over by a massive shadow for Museum of Simulation Technology (along with the address to his website giving a distinctly Dark-ish flicker onto the screen at 9:17), the Slender Man in a suspiciously-familiar suit and red tie for Slender: Adrift, and the title for SCP Containment Breach #49 (“He’s been with us all along…”).
In addition, Mark made some rather smart-alecky remarks about not only Dark, but also Jacksepticeye’s alter-ego Anti during his play of Mono.exe. He also claimed the survival horror game Welcome to Hanwell (where the protagonist has to escape a haunted, abandoned prison) “mysteriously appeared” on his PC.
File.exe, additionally, was an interesting meta example with the protagonist as a game reviewer, who is trying to use their particular skillset to fight back against a dark, malicious entity possessing their computer, their home… and themselves. (Spoiler: It does not end well.)
Bendy and the Ink Machine was also later revealed (in its second chapter) to be a mystery surrounding the resurrection of a demonic god in a place that was originally dedicated to entertaining the masses.
Darkiplier Himself, however, seemed to have gone silent. The worst appeared to be over… but it was a false sense of security, at best. Because then came the Let’s Play for Don’t Play This Game on Easter Sunday. Mark posted the link to the video on his Twitter account, with the title apparently mistyped as Don’t Play His Game. When a fan brought the error to Mark’s attention, his response was essentially a coy “Maybe I goofed, maybe not.”
That’s… not terribly comforting, Mark.
In the video, an opaque series of what sounds like garbled English is spoken by a being with a multi-layered voice. This voice may initially sound female to the listener, but the actual sex of the voice is indeterminate due to the audio layering. Throughout the video, Mark struggles to interpret the words, repeating them over and over with an increasing wariness. It’s as if he knows there’s something very wrong with this; the only clear words in the entire spiel are “Do you understand me? Nobody does. Listen…”
Mark quickly becomes unnerved by the repetition of what is an untranslateable series of syllables, and refers to the game’s voice as “Demonspawn.” But he keeps trying (though at one point, he attempts to quit, and his computer screen receives some very familiar world-bending static and a distinctive groan). At one point, he even jokes that “Cthulhu is coming!”
Interestingly, even the viewers reacting in the comments couldn’t decide what the words meant, if anything. More than that, they couldn’t agree on what the dialect even was: some were saying it was Cockney terms, some saying the voice’s personage is actually a victim of receptive aphasia… and there were even those saying it wasn’t English at all, but another language entirely. One commenter even claimed to identify a handful of German words in the dialogue.
My theory: It’s none of these things. What we’re actually hearing is a demonic tongue which, because we don’t understand it, we mentally superimpose the closest words from our own native language onto it.
Supernatural elements aside, this is a form of an actual, existing psychological phenomenon known as cognitive dissonance. Humans are by nature mentally uncomfortable with things we can’t understand, and so we try to reduce the dissonance to what is familiar to us, bypassing or dismissing the new information entirely, so that we can continue to function (kinda like the human equivilent of how Google IRL misheard “do the dishes” and then later shorted out due to Matthais’ questions).
The resulting string of nonsense words that result from the cognitive dissonance of hearing an unfamiliar language is called a mondegreen. A good example of this with real-world language is the Spanish-speaking girl group Las Ketchup’s song “Asereje”, the refrain of which is based on their mishearing of a portion of Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight.” Because none of the girls spoke English at the time… and the Gang’s rap might still be tough to understand for us native speakers at some points, as well. (And yes, Google’s “poo the fishes” also qualifies as a mondegreen.)
Again, this brings me back to my theory: in Don’t Play (T)His Game, we’re hearing an unknown language, so we end up processing what we think is being said, rather than the actual words themselves. If it’s a demonic language… well, nobody outside the employ of the Watchers Council speaks those. Maybe what we’re hearing is, in fact, the native language of the denizens of Raspy Hill. You know, Dark’s domain that He ruled at one point, and His first legitimate appearance years before was with the intent of trapping us all there. With Him. Forever.
Because He actually shows up in the video… more or less.
In fact, Don’t Play (T)His Game actually doubles as a callback to Raspy Hill. Like Raspy Hill, we’re seeing Mark in a state of distress before he begins to act like a man possessed, while Dark draws us in with a deceptively conversational, yet distinctly menacing turn of phrase. In Raspy Hill, Mark began to laugh uncontrollably before staring at the camera with an eerie smile as Dark “welcomed” us to Raspy Hill. Here in DPTG, Mark’s expression goes slack and he stares dead-eyed into the camera… as if he’s no longer really there with us. Then, we hear the thunderous groans and see the world bend… heralding the sound of His voice over a screen gone completely black.
“Do you understand Me? Nobody does.”
After those words, reality instantly snaps back on us like a rubber band… back to Mark, who seems blissfully unaware of what the hell just happened. He warns us not to play the game or, if we choose to anyway, to avoid losing our minds “diving into that hole.” Dark used similar phrasing when He challenged us on the date.
Again, it’s indicative Mark knows something’s wrong, but he doesn’t yet realize Dark is regaining His strength from the events of Valentine’s Day.
Mark’s sign-off is also peppered with the same “warning static” as on the Vanilla ending to the date. The message is clear: Dark’s still here, but Mark doesn’t know it yet. Mark isn’t fully cognizant of the danger… because the God-King is in hiding, but giving us just enough to let us know He’s still there. He’s still waiting for us to make our choice.
Now, some found Dark’s words in this video to be “emo” …but I firmly disagree. If you listen to His tone (multi-layered and echo-y as it might be), He’s being as matter-of-fact as if He were discussing the current weather. Ninety degrees, partly cloudy, with a chance of rain of hellfire. And yes, that was the Four Horsemen you just saw riding by. Nothing unusual ‘round these parts.
All joking aside, the truth is we really don’t know anything about Him: we DON’T understand who and what He really is, and we only have a few pieces of evidence, more questions than answers, and a whole lot of speculation to go on. We know it, and He knows it. He wants us to question, to become intrigued while He remains in the shadows. He’s mocking us, this time, for our ignorance and all too human curiosity. Daring us to take the plunge down that rabbit hole, to fall into the abyss of madness… and right into His waiting hands. (Does He even have hands in His True Form? We don’t even know that much…)
Dark learned from His mistake in trying to approach us directly; He came on too strong and frightened us, which is anathema to the portion of His purpose we’ve since come to understand. Now He wants us to come to Him, of our own volition. To let Him in, freely and of our own will.
In regards to that demon lingo we heard, over and over again? My thought is that it’s an incantation. To what end? Maybe to help Him grow stronger, to repair the damage done to His vessel (certainly enough of us were focused on it to give Him a supernatural boost). Or maybe to establish a mental link with us, so He could get inside our heads whenever He pleases, via a means to usurp our free will. Or… to bypass Mark’s own awareness, so He can reach us more directly, without our hero knowing. There’s just no way to tell for sure.
But, there IS one thing we know for certain about Dark: He is the master of manipulation. He does nothing without a great deal of planning and scheming, without some grander purpose in mind, and something was definitely accomplished that day with Don’t Play This Game. We played His game, and He won something from us… and we know not what we lost.
A small portion of Dark’s plan becomes a little clearer – in the sense that we’ve found one more piece of a thousand-piece puzzle wedged under a couch cushion, while the other 900-odd pieces remain missing – with Markiplier TV. (Which, like the two previous releases featuring Dark, was on another holiday. This time it was the Cinco de Mayo celebration that got tapped.)
Dark may be one of the two heads of the table after Wilford’s presentation, but He doesn’t say much. What He does have to say, however, is very telling. The first seven and a half minutes are devoted to the presentation itself, and the two and a half minutes remaining are focused on the meeting. (I’m not going to go into the seating at the table, as Hailey already handled that brilliantly.)
What’s Dark’s initial reaction to the Markiplier TV presentation? His shell IMMEDIATELY cracks and, from what we’ve already seen in “A Date with Markiplier”, that only happens when he’s truly angry (the kind of anger that could result in a serious smiting for the poor sap who pissed Him off). Why would His shell crack here; why is He raging over this? The answer is obvious, in this case: Wilford didn’t clear this idea with Him, first. If they’re both effectively co-bosses at Ego Inc. and equal in power while under a united front, it should have been discussed at length between them, in a private meeting beforehand. But, based on all the reactions at the table, it was hardly discussed at all.
This is heavily underscored when Dark finally expresses His opinion on the subject. “Look, Wilford, I appreciate what you’ve done for us. But, how is this supposed to help us take back control? We’re the heart and soul of this channel, after all.” Here, Dark is referring to Himself and Wilford explicitly, as the other entities at the table originated on sketches from other channels. He’s speaking in friendly terms, from one truly powerful, reality-warping, game-breaking entity to another… though whether He’s genuinely fond of Warfstache or is simply trying to manipulate him is unclear.
Dark lapses into silence, letting the lesser egos around Him continue to bicker over the minutia of the presentation, of which Wilford is dismissive of all their concerns. Then Dark makes His second and final statement, with the dignity of a king handing down a royal decree. “Look, Will. I respect you, – I always have – but you’re missing the point of this endeavour.” He reaches out over the table as He says this, and Warfstache (who was arguing passionately over the matter with the other egos) instantly caves upon Dark’s declaration. Wilford’s pet project of Markiplier TV is immediately axed and the camera is turned off.
The fact that Dark holds sway over an entity that is equal to Him in position on the hierarchy of Mark’s channel, and who may be equal (or even superior) to Him in supernatural and/or physical power is very telling. It indicates that, Mark’s protestations to the contrary, only one entity TRULY is in charge. Dark is the Man Behind the Man. And that makes Him more dangerous than we can even begin to fathom.
And that’s the very thing that most fans (especially the fan writers) tend to miss. They think that His audio-visual notes (the ringing tone, and the aura that leaches out the colour around him) is all smoke and mirrors. But it really isn’t; it’s a display of His power, a small sample of what He’s capable of. And Dark isn’t just supernaturally powerful… He’s also incredibly persuasive, which adds significant socio-political influence to His already considerable strength. He’s the epitome of walking softly and carrying a big stick, but it’s all for an intent we have yet to wrap our heads around. We know He wants control of the channel, and of us with it, but the whys and wherefores remain undetermined.
Make no mistake, you underestimate His might at your own risk.
So, knowing what we know (which, admittedly, isn’t much) does this guy ever take a day off? What does a Hellgod do for fun? Besides… oh, say… nailing kittens to walls, or painting the town red, red, red with His buddy Anti?
Turns out the chessmaster Himself shares Mark’s love of games. Though Dark generally prefers playing mindgames with an unsuspecting audience, there is one occasion where it’s believed He played an ACTUAL video game: During the World’s 4th Quietest Let’s Play.
May God have mercy on the game makers’ souls, because Dark sure as hell won’t.