Won’t Somebody Think Of The NPCs?

Modern games are set in modern places. Cities, in a lot of cases. Liberty City, Pacific City and Empire City all spring to mind.

Games also have people. There are the good guys, the bad guys and the we-don’t-know-yet guys who might turn out to be good guys or bad guys, later on.

But games, like cities, would feel empty in a 28 Days Later kind of way, if there weren’t the other people around. The people you don’t notice. The people driving the cars around you. The people you ignore. In life, we call them passersby, pedestrians or “those arseholes that get in your way on Oxford Street”. In games, they are the NPCs. Non Player Characters.

Not an NPC in sight…

In Heavy Rain they get in your way as you desperately look for your lost son in a crowded shopping centre. In GTA IV they dive out of your way as you desperately attempt to lose the cops by driving through a Burger Shot restaurant. In Assassin’s Creed they shout inane phrases querying the sanity of your character as he climbs up yet another building. In Modern Warfare 2, they are gunned down rapidly by trigger happy gamers who lack morals, in airport terminals.

Forget your all-action video gaming heroes, NPCs are, in my eyes, some of the bravest people to ever walk a video game street. Take the civilian walking the streets of Liberty City who took umbrage with me running over a policeman, and bravely attempted to punch me to the ground, despite me clearly holding a pump action shotgun. It didn’t end well for him, but at least his family can take consolation in the fact that he died trying to be a hero.

A spot of shopping during a brief lull in the gunfire.

It’s not only the have-a-go heroes, though. Almost every person in Liberty City is a brave soul, simply for still living there. I often wonder why there are still any normal citizens in a city that is more frequently on fire and under fire than not. It’s not just Liberty City, but all of these gaming cities. They’re incredibly dangerous places to live, rife with explosions, murder and casual automobile/gang related homicide.

The simple fact that any of these normal people manage to get out of bed, and even risk leaving the house to buy a pint of milk is a testament to the fact they are made of sterner stuff than you or I.

On the other hand, perhaps I misjudge their heroism and they are actually just stuck there because they cannot afford to move out of their half-ruined neighbourhood, simply because house prices plummeted in direct correlation with a certain Eastern European immigrant’s arrival.







One response to “Won’t Somebody Think Of The NPCs?”

  1. Simon avatar


    Imagine it…..you’ve managed to rent a plush apartment overlooking Star Junction. You pop out for some milk, but don’t reckon with the attack chopper locked in mortal combat with a bus that’s half-lodged in Burger Shot.

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