You probably haven’t given the lives of non-playable characters much thought. I mean, many games show how NPCs can live happily: games that give a sense of freedom, of a life outside the confines of routine, or abject terror… However, other games make you think there can be no worse fate. Here is a list outlining some of the henious conditions an NPC can find themselves…
6) Resident Evil – Raccoon City (crying out for a parody involving evil racoons in residence)
Who would want to live in Raccoon City? Residents had been experimented on by the dodgy corporation Umbrella for many years before the events of the Resident Evil games. If that wasn’t bad enough, Umbrella also had its claws in the local police.
For Raccoon City residents, 1998 saw things go from bad to catastrophic. After an initial outbreak of the T-Virus in the mountains around the city, rats carried the virus into the city, infecting almost the entire population and turning them into zombies. The few who did survive were practically brain dead, as this video evidence suggests:
Finally, so the story goes, Raccoon City was bombed by the U.S. Army. Estimated dead: 100, 000. The number of known survivors, by comparison, is in the double digits.
5) Disaster: Day of Crisis – Blue Ridge City (does what it says on the tin)
Blue Ridge City has a “hell of a day”, as Disaster’s main character, Ray, might say. But this isn’t about Ray – forget him. NPCs in the city are subject to the following disasters: an earthquake, a tsunami, and a fire tornado. Following these encounters with the forces of nature and a dangerous terrorist group threatening nuclear warfare, Ray meets the survivors – all ten of them. And he then proceeds to eat their food supplies and ditch them in pursuit of a girl he’s never even met before.
Ray moves on to other natural disasters and cities, but lest we forget the residents of Blue Ridge City have just had their home effectively wiped off the map in a single day. At least the Raccoon City population had cause to suspect something was going on.
4) Alundra – Inoa (Nightmare on Elm Street meets Final Fantasy)
‘One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic.’ – Josef Stalin
The village of Inoa does not have anywhere near the same number of deaths as Raccoon City or Blue Ridge City, and yet the claustrophobia, paranoia and fear that permeates the village over the course of Alundra’s story creates its own distinct sense of tragedy.
One by one, the residents in Inoa fall prey to a bizarre sleeping sickness whereby they are unable to wake up. Trapped in a permanent nightmare, over the course of several days the targeted resident becomes ill and eventually dies. Or at least they would die if not for the intervention of Alundra, the mysterious “dream-walker”. But when Alundra’s attempts to save certain villagers fail, some of the townsfolk begin blaming him and his arrival in the village for the sleeping sickness. Alundra’s arrival in Inoa unleashes a dark and disturbing paranoia, with Alundra powerless to prove his innocence.
3) Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (Groundhog day)
The moon bears down with an evil grin, threatening the NPCs day in, day out. The NPCs of Clocktown are a mixture of zanily cheerful and abjectly terrified. Everything relies upon the actions of our hero, yet even when things seem to go right, there is still something eeyrily incomplete about Clocktown.
And then there’s the the Butler’s son’s storyline which pretty much embodies the abject nature of being an NPC in this game – trapped, isolated, with little chance of escape. Many were so affected by this storyline that people resorted to cheats to see if you could restore the Butler’s son – to no avail.
2) Silent Hill (the Hills are alive with the sounds of…silence. Just, silence and sinkholes)
Silent Hill makes its way on this list for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it is an iconic videogame town. Secondly, it’s actually based on a real place. And, finally, because of its timeless, mysterious and creepy atmosphere.
Although it is filled with strange monsters and terrifying environments, one of the most effective elements is its NPCs, mostly because they’re simply not there. Silent Hill is horribly empty. The streets and buildings are derelict. What we have are the relics of a community torn apart by an evil force.
The NPCs that are still in Silent Hills are all deeply traumatised in their own ways. They always seem to be running away, or are avoiding certain topics. No one seems to know why they are there. They’re trapped by their memories, their emotions – and the curse plaguing the town itself.
1) Harvest Moon: Animal Parade (join us in serving our master…)
Examine this picture. It’s the main character in the Harvest Moon: Animal Parade, surrounded by the happy, supportive NPCs of the town. It’s a heartwarming scene… but take a closer look. Isn’t it a bit too perfect?
That’s because it is.
Imagine a world where there is one resident who has a list of all its inhabitants. That one person plays God. You wait and watch, helpless, as that person decides who to marry, when they have children, what gender the child shall be, what plots of land will be theirs, what crops will grow… though the player is trapped as well, to a certain extent, nothing can compare to the suffocating, paranoia inducing entrapment of a Harvest Moon NPC.
The fact is, Harvest Moon is a completionist’s dream…with controlling, meglomaniac tendencies – its chief attraction lies in the fantasy that everyone is there just for you – that nothing happens without you.
Please leave suggestions/comments below on where you think NPCs are living unhappily in your cartridges/discs/downloads!