Many have mocked the way that Super Mario Odyssey has you using your cap to take control of various hapless individuals.
But this is just one of the reasons you, the player, are an NPC’s worst nightmare.
In fact, if the inhabitants of a videogame were to acquire even a scrap of sentience, Amnesty International would have to intervene. There are a multitude of ways you’ve likely made an NPC’s life hell; here I present just ten of them. Perhaps you aren’t able tick every single one of these torments off, but you’ve likely inflicted several of them upon your hapless videogame victims. How on earth you do you sleep at night?
1You are a shameless thief
If it’s not nailed down, take it, that’s your motto. Never mind that someone might have only paused for a moment to put that hammer down, a hammer which cost them a week’s wages to purchase. Don’t let it bother you that without it they’re out of work; you go right ahead and take it. Not that their things are any safer inside either. You’ll happily wander into someone’s private residence and shove their property into their pockets, even if it’s something you’ll never conceivably use.
Perhaps you rationalise your crimes, internally reasoning that, one day, you might find yourself without a sword and therefore need to cram that stolen fork into an Orc’s eyeball. Or, more likely, you just don’t care. But that little girl’s birthday money was just lying around on her dresser and it has to be good for at least a couple of flagons of mead or a health potion, right?
2It’s all about you
Imagine living in world where everyone talks about Justin Bieber, all the time. Every other conversation you hear is about him, even your children can’t stop talking about him. Ask your postman about the weather and he’ll segue into a conversation about Justin Bieber. Is there a problem that needs to be solved, a disaster brewing? Only Justin Bieber can fix it.
Welcome to the world of your average NPC, except in this case they’re all talking about you, and you’re the only one who can solve their problems. Someone’s daughter has been kidnapped by bandits? Bad luck – there’s no sign of the Chosen One, so the worried father will have to put up with all those sleepless nights ’til you wander into his village. There’s a massive civil war raging? The citizens have no choice but to endure the endless casualties until you step in and solve the whole mess.
God forbid there happens to be the one sane (or insane, by the world’s standards) NPC in this world who sees how wrong this is. Bring it up and they’d be met by blank expressions and bemusement, wishing there was at least someone who could have a normal conversation.
“Get a posse together?”
“Solve our bandit problem ourselves? What madness is this?”
“By the way, have you heard what the Chosen One’s been up to this week? I hear he killed a dragon.”
33. You treat people as a disposable asset
You could tell that things weren’t going well when the Babylonians were wiped out. They were your closest allies, right until the last of their cities fell to the combined armies of Emperor Lincoln and Overlord Ghandi. Soon, their tanks were within range and you were hopelessly outgunned; but not outnumbered. That’s when the idea hit you – rush attack!
It didn’t work, of course, but still your faithful followed, spears in hand, as they headed out to fight. Even when the strange mechanical monsters started to belch fire, they still believed in you. They leapt at the tanks, weapons ineffectually bouncing off their metallic hide. Right up until they died, they were sure that some miracle would save them, that lighting would arc down from the sky and annihilate their foes.
The same thoughts occurred to the fifteen other battalions you sent out, each convinced you were testing them and that their fallen brethren had been spirited off to Valhalla. When the tanks finally ground to a halt, their wheels gummed up by the pulverised corpses of 1,214 spearmen, a revelation finally struck you. You really should have put more points into military research.
4You are a walking disaster zone
Everywhere you go, disaster follows. That’s a fact, albeit one that’s escaped many of the NPCs who are entirely happy to cheer you as the hero who saved their land from certain destruction. But there’s one man who knows otherwise, who suspected the truth. It bothered him that, for so many years, the land had been at peace and yet the moment you appeared, things started happening. Unpleasant things. Dragon attacks, rogue trolls and more; monsters that hadn’t been seen for years were now ludicrously commonplace.
And then he started digging a little deeper, investigating witness reports, speaking to the city guard, anything that would confirm or discount his theory. In a way, he wanted to be wrong; but he wasn’t. Focusing on the dragon attacks, he discovered that the dragons only ever attacked locations while you were there. You weren’t saving the world from the dragons, you were attracting them! Couldn’t these people see that the only way to keep their cities safe, to keep themselves safe, was to keep you well away from any populated area? Nor, was this the only time this had happened; history was smattered with similar tales of horrifying events that only took place when a “hero” entered the kingdom.
He was on his way to tell the Jarl his findings when he saw you emerge from The Bannered Mare, sword slung over your back. The man turned towards his house and started to run; right about the time that a vast, familiar shadow fell over the town. The gust from its wings send him stumbling backwards and, cracking his head on a stable post, he passed out.
Hours later, the battle long over, he was kneeling in front of his house, nothing left but ash and bone. As the survivors of the attack run milled around you, singing your praises, he alone sat there in silence.
But, hey, those dragon scales were sure going to make a fancy helmet.
55. You are the worst driver
The worst thing about owning a car in Liberty City is not the traffic, but the insurance. “Accidents” and car jackings are so commonplace that many people have to work two jobs just to be able to afford the premiums. But even when you’re not deliberately ruining lives by yanking people out of their cars, you’re still the bane of everyone who lives in Liberty City. You’ve decided that traffic lights aren’t for you and that pedestrian crossings are just as easily dismissed. You charge along the city streets, viewing any negotiable surface as a potential shortcut. You were showing just such disdain for the rules of the road yesterday, when you careened around the corner and slammed into a yellow hatchback.
For you, it was just another obstacle and you drove off, ignorant of the damage you’d caused. But for the owner of that car, it’s was a nightmare she couldn’t afford. A single mother, she’d been working hard to make ends meet and thanks to your negligence, her car was totalled. The insurance payout could, in theory, have been used to buy a small runabout. But she could never afford the hiked insurance premiums and so, had to walk to work. Leaving early meant she gets to spend less time with her daughter but at least she’s wasn’t unemployed. The poor souls who don’t have a job were legally required to walk the streets of the city, never going anywhere, till their feet hurt. No matter how little sleep she gets, it had be better than that. Right?
66. You’re more durable than the Terminator
It’s pretty standard these days that your health recharges. Gone are the days when health packs are de rigeur; now all you to need to is crouch behind cover, wait a minute or two, and you’re good to go. But are NPCs ever afforded that luxury? Not in a million years.
How must it feel to fire bullet after bullet into your enemy, only to have them shrug it off? Then to see a comrade, who you were fighting alongside, fall after being shot only once? How do you even begin to explain that? You, the player, likely end up acquiring legendary status as some kind of bullet-proof bogeyman. Soldiers go into battle, praying that they never meet you on the field; though, given that the game is all about you, the odds aren’t exactly in their favour.
77. You hog all the best jobs
You honestly couldn’t what to wear; the Grand Wizard’s robes, or the Master Thief’s Mask? Though when you thought about it, the Armour of the Assassin King does look pretty snazzy in a certain light. You dwelled briefly upon how easy it was to become leader of all three organisations. Kind of odd, now you that thought about it. You’d been in the kingdom for what, four months, and they were putting you in charge just for completing some quests? What was up with that? Didn’t they have better candidates?
The same notion had been occupying the mind of one senior wizard. At the spritely age of seventy two, he was sure the role of Grand Wizard was his, and he had such grand plans. Under his guidance, he’d lead the world into a new age of magic, where it was no longer something to be feared. He’d been on a diplomatic trip to a neighbouring kingdom at the time. All he was able to ascertain was that there’d been some upheaval in the guild and that you, of all people, had been appointed as Grand Wizard.
But why? You’d been learning magic for all of six months, as far he could tell, but had been elected to the highest office in the guild! And, as he quickly discovered, you were also head of at least three other guilds. He pored over the guild charter to see if there was anything against that but you couldn’t find a specific rule prohibiting it.
Still, he reasoned that he could talk you round, that his personal mission to make magic more widely accepted could continue. But the only time he ever saw you was when you when it came to collect your wages and you were gone as swiftly as you’d filled your pockets. Actually, no, that’s not entirely true; he did see you outside the guild once. You were striding through the centre of town, flinging fireballs in every direction, setting fire to at least three market stalls and several passers by.
“Is it too late to retrain?” he wondered.
88. You never surrender
You never know when to quit. Some might view this as a positive boon but to the crew of the one starship it’s the last thing they wanted to hear. They’ve just spent the last two hours watching a superior enemy force whittle away the armada, ion beams scything through hull after hull, until they’re the only vessel left. Fires have erupted across multiple decks, the shields are at 35% and, finally admitting defeat, the captain issued the order to pull back, to hit hyperspace and regroup.
But then new orders came in from command. Your orders. “Press on forward”. What good was one ship going to make anyway? Might as well let it go and start again. “Madness!” yelled the captain, losing his composure. A swift glance around the command deck revealed that his fellow officers were equally strained and, well aware of the consequences of disobeying an order, redoubled his order to retreat. Dwarfed by the vessel nipping at its heels, the ship started to turn around and the hyperspace countdown began, each second feeling like an eternity.
Then, nothing. There was no need for the captain or crew to ask what’s happened; the words flashing up on the screen spelt it out. “Command Override”. The ship turned to face the enemy again but, with weapons locked out, there was no opportunity to return fire. The engines flared as the ship picked up speed. Ramming speed.
“Figures,” thought the captain in the few seconds before the ship smashes ineffectually into the colossal enemy mothership. Then, nothing. He never even found out why he was fighting.
99. Your “rolling up” has ruined lives
Every played a Katamari game, or still do? Then you are just the worst. Why? Because of the way you went along your merry way just mowing down anything in your path. You grinned as your Katamari grew larger and larger, gathering up more objects. Eventually, it became colossal enough to “roll up” people and ultimate buildings. But did you stop to consider your actions? Did you even blink an eye?
No, you just kept going. You even smirked a little as your victims went flying and then were drawn into the horrific, rolling mass. You didn’t spare a thought for the mother and daughter who were imprisoned within the Katamari. Nor did you think about the father who, watching from a building, witnessed their horrific fates, joining them when the nightmare grew to a truly apocalyptic size.
Maybe, as they squirmed within their spherical tomb, they still had hope; hope which was extinguished when, mere minutes later, they were carried up through the atmosphere, to perish in the cold vacuum of space.
“Nah, na na na na nah na naah,” indeed.
10You never let it end
But perhaps the worst torment of all, the one inflicted on NPCs again and again, is that there is no end to their suffering. With very few exceptions (such as Undertale), you’re resetting the world every time you load a game save or restart a game. That soldier who died at the tip of your sword? He comes back again, to die once more; perhaps, at the back of his mind, he’s got a vague sense of deja vu but it’s eclipsed by the terror he feels at having to face you.
Love the ending of a game so much that you replay the final battle and closing sequence again and again? You’ve just condemned them to a temporal loop that ensures their lives will never go on beyond that moment. They face a bright future, one free from the menace that plagued them and then… that future is snatched away from them.