Thursday, August 25, 2011

That's Mister Fancypants, to You

In my ongoing quest to read every single post at the PC gam blog Rock, Paper Shotgun, I recently reached this post. Essentially, the article is about NPC (nonplayer characters) in games that players have found amusing, especially those that became amusing in particular because of some buggy behavior. The post prompted me to leave a comment on my own experience, though it wasn't so much "amusing" as "deeply, deeply disturbing." I can't imagine that it'll get much reading on a three year old blog entry, though, and I think it's a good story, so I'll recount it here, for posterity's sake:

The one NPC interaction I’ll always remember from Oblivion was the time I was witness to a psychotic breakdown. I was buying something in Chorrol, from the town merchant/lizard person, and after I finished talking to her, she starts moving and leaves the house. I follow, somewhat bemused. As her trip around town prolongs itself, I start to get a little excited. Is this the level of NPC interaction I was originally promised? Characters interacting with the world beyond my presence?
Deaf to my musings, the lizard merchant heads into the town smithy, and stops in front of the smith. I prepared myself for a typical in-game conversation about things I had heard many, many times before. Instead, the merchant attacks the smith, and kills her. The innocent smith offered no resistance. Why would she? She wasn’t some racist, fearing the presence of a lizard person she knew for years. She had no idea her neighbor had finally snapped.
It was so sudden, I didn’t react either, until it was all over. And then the guilt started. I wasn’t just an innocent bystander. I had followed the lizard woman every step of the way. I could have stopped her at any time, but I was just curious, until it was too late. Oh, I could avenge the smith’s death–but I didn’t. After all, I had already lost one unique character, why should I give up another? Merchants were a nonrenewable resource. It was the rational decision, but every return trip to Chorrol for the rest of the game carried with it a sense of dread. I didn’t know which was worse: the accusing emptiness of the town forge, or the cold, dead stare of the lizard merchant.

Well, there’s that, and the pirate on the docks who accuses me of being a “fancypants” in the most flamboyant manner possible. I love that guy.

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