We look at 5 of the most interesting games that never were.
Seven Reasons Why Being an NPC is a Living Hell
Go ahead and whine to me, heroes of the open world. Go ahead, I’m listening. Tell me about how hard it is; how difficult a fight with a dragon can be, how troubling it is to have to fight an evil government organization hunting people with super powers, how scary it can be to fight an alien invasion. Really. Flex your big, super-powered muscles and tell me all about how hard your life is while I play some Dashboard Confessional in the background.
Because you have no idea. No, you really don’t. You know whose life really sucks? That shop owner whose apples you nicked just for laughs. That old woman going to visit her grandson that you just super-power punched in the face. That group of cancer researchers you ran over in a tank while they were crossing the street to go to lunch.
Yes, being an open world hero certainly does come with its problems, but allow me to tempt some empathy from you by presenting the seven reasons why being an NPC (non-player character) is the stuff of nightmares.
1: The World is Ending
…and no, not in that angst-y teenage sense where all of life’s problems are seemingly crashing down on you. No, I mean the world is actually ending, nearing its point of complete and total destruction for one reason or another. Perhaps a species of aliens have invaded, a plague has stricken the city, zombies walk the earth, or an ancient evil has arisen to enslave humanity. No matter the case, the world is ending, and as a lowly NPC, all you can do is sit back and hope beyond hope that whatever hero is meant to save you will come along soon, because humanity doesn’t have much time left. Puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?
2: You’re Constantly Terrorized by Unspeakable Horrors
As a result of the world ending, you’ll likely spend much of your time in the world facing all manner of atrocities on a regular basis that makes even the day-to-day experiences of investigators on NCIS look tame. Your friends will die at the hand of evil maniacs, you’ll likely lose everything from your family members to your most prized possessions in the shuffle, and you’ll often shrink back in horror as powerful folk express their abilities before your eyes or massive ironclad monsters meant to be heroes unsheathe their mystical weapons inside your inn. It’s likely that, due to this constant barrage of terror, you’ll develop some sort of drug dependency or addiction to deal with your pain. And no, there are no support groups to help deal with this as an NPC.
3: You’ll Likely Be a Victim
Whether you’re used as a pawn in a villain’s broader scheme to ruin lives, or merely happen to find yourself on the receiving end of debauchery at the hands of a supposed hero, it’s more than likely you’ll be used as some sort of plaything for a super-powered entity at one point or another. There’s not much you can do about it, either, besides cry and beg for your life like the powerless little bug you are.
4: You’re Always Losing Everyone (and Everything)
When you’re an NPC in a world in peril, people and things have a way of disappearing around you. Family members will be kidnapped or get lost, precious items will be stolen by evildoers or be lost while trying to escape some cataclysmic disaster headed your way, and you’ll likely be left with nothing but the grungy clothing on your back that looks suspiciously like the clothes that many of the others wear in your world. An NPC’s first rule is truly to learn how to let go of everything they love, lest they inevitably lose it.
5: You Are Powerless
Seriously. You’re not much better than the Styrofoam packaging used to protect electronics while shipping. In fact, they serve more of a purpose and have more importance than anything you’ll ever do as an NPC. You have to rely on the hero exclusively to be rescued or saved from your lowly state at all times. Lose something? Have the hero find it! Has your brother wandered off and lost himself in the haunted woods? Just summon the nearest hero over and offer your measly gold rewards for his recovery. There’s no such thing as an empowered NPC, making your life as meaningless as a Land Before Time sequel in 2014.
6: The Work Hours Are Hell
Maybe you are one of those rare shopkeepers who do actually serve a small purpose in the world as the arms dealer for intrepid heroes. Congratulations! Now, prepare to arrive at near-lethal levels of exhaustion as you stand behind that counter day and night, entertaining the needs of all heroic customers who call upon you at all times of the day. Yes, there are a few exceptions of people who are able to leave their everyday 12-hour shift for some much-needed rest, but even those who are allowed rest will probably be robbed of their livelihood while in their slumber.
7: You Engage in Boring, Tedious Conversation
It’s been said that the most boring conversations tend to fall on the weather and whatever movies Tom Cruise has found himself cast in, but even an NPC would love to discuss the finer details of the day’s temperatures and dew point over the tedious re-treading of conversation typically had with heroes and other NPCs. No one’s asking you about your theories on geopolitical tensions within your fantasy land, the challenges of running a potions shop, or the gender themes explored in that stage play you saw last week. No, all you’re ever asked about is which way the bad guy went, why your lost item is so special to you, or what you’ve got to sell. *Sigh*. It gets…lonely.
So before you start to complain about your life, heroes, take a step back and consider what sort of message you might be sending to those whom you’ve rescued. Because really, you have no idea how great your life really is.