While wandering through the internet recently, I discovered a Youtube series called Epic NPC Man. In this series, the main character is an NPC (Non-Player Character) and we are seeing things that are normal in a fantasy videogame, but from a different perspective. As I was watching this, the realization that this character is capable of independent thought and reflection was forced to do scripted things slowly dawned on me. As this happened, I began wondering if this was Hell?
Watch the above clip and really think about what is happening. He is watching the guard be killed by a game mechanic and then sees experiences it, but he has no ability to stop it. Even worse, the episodes continue which means that he must respawn and most likely live on with knowledge of his own death. The horror of this Hell seems to come from more than just his own awareness of everything, but is a continuation of the Cartesian dualism we talked about before. This is Hell because Epic NPC Man’s mind is fully aware and dependent, but it is completely incapable of effecting the body it inhabits. Instead, the mind is forced to experience the scripted actions of the body and all of the effects on the world around him that those actions cause. The complete inability to direct the body, but remaining completely sentient is the epitome of Hell for the Cartesian dualist because the body is supposed to be a servant of the mind, not its jailor.
Even worse, the body does not seem to let the mind of Epic NPC Man betray that he is present based off of other characters reactions to him. When he calls out to the guard or responds strangely in other videos, no one ever addresses him as anything other than a mindless NPC who is there to serve the Players needs. This is seen more directly in the second episode when Epic NPC Man interacts with a passing Fisherman.
In this we see how the Fisherman goes along the same path repeatedly, on a script, never deviating from it and always responding to Epic NPC Man in the same way. We see the interaction from Epic NPC Man’s perspective though, so we see his internal struggle as he comes to grips with the repetition of the action and the insanity of their repeated conversation, but we never see the Fisherman change. Why is that? Is he just not an Epic Fisherman so he is truly a bit of code? Or is it that his mind is also trapped within a body that forces him to walk a loop and talk to this Shopkeeper every time? I don’t think we can tell the difference and, practically, I don’t think it matters. From every NPC’s perspective, every other NPC is incapable of being anything other than what they were programmed for and every Player is incapable of recognizing the NPC’s mind. This means that Epic NPC Man is trapped in this never ending cycle of a handful of actions with no hope of freeing his mind from his body.
What if this is what happens when one dies? Their mind sent to inhabit an NPC body in a video game somewhere for all of eternity. What happens when people stop playing the game? Are you lucky enough to be in a place populated with other NPCs or are you trapped in a place all alone? Which one would even be worse?