Monday, June 14, 2010

Paying For My Sins



“To Artyom!”
Artyom sculls the vodka shot. We are sitting in the bar at Riga Station, drinking to our survival. Artyom and I just experienced our first adventure beyond the safety of Exhibition Station. We lost the trader, but the remaining three of us pulled each other to safety. Boris is talking about something; I am not really listening. I look around the bar, admiring Metro 2033’s beautiful architecture. The nervous horror that caused my hands to tremble and my aim to go wide is already fading in the warm glow of the gaslights.
A flash of red catches my eye. A pale girl sitting at the back of the bar smiles and waves at me. Embarrassed, I glance away. Boris is making another toast in my honour, and I belatedly pick up my glass to join in. I edge my eyes around to look at the girl again, her red hair and black leather so out of place among the brown and khaki, so unlike the Exhibition girls. She stands and struts out of the bar, keeping her eyes locked on me as she walks slowly, teasingly, across my field-of-view.
Finally, the vodka is drunk, and I leave the bar—sad to be farewelling my friends but eager to continue to Polis. As I leave, I can hear Boris retelling our tale and raising another toast in my name.
Before I can find Riga’s shops, a boy tells me a man wants to speak to me. I give him a bullet and he leads me to Bourbon. Bourbon wants to pay me to help him get to the next station. I can hardly believe my luck. My first victory against the monsters behind me, a track-smart cowboy willing to assist me, a pocket full of military-grade bullets, and the promise of a pre-war AK-47 on arrival. Everything was looking up. Part of me knew I was letting the romance of adventure get the better of me, and I was forgetting the gravity of my mission, but I didn’t care.
With my newfound wealth, I head back to find Riga’s shops to load up on new weapons and equipment before setting forth with Bourbon. I dream of a weapon with a scope of some sort. Perhaps a few extra medkits and oxygen mask filters as well. If there was a button on my controller to put a skip into my step, I would be pressing it.
“Hey, you.”
I stop and turn. The red-hair, black-leather girl is looking at me, one hand on her hip.
“I’ve got a surprise for you. Back in my room.”
I walk up to her, pathetically nervous. The ‘$’ symbol appears, telling me I am able to enact a money transfer. What she wants is pretty explicit.
Throughout my gaming years, I have done horrible things—despicable things—to, and to the expense of, nonplayable characters. I have, on occasion, caused more death among the scientists of Black Mesa than the residence cascade ever did; I have chased down peds in Carmageddon, letting them hop futilely and frantically on their remaining leg before finishing them off; I have blown up Megaton for money. I have thrown grenades in strip clubs; I have nuked entire cities; I have removed ladders from my Sims’ swimming pools and watched them flounder. And not just violent things. I lie, cheat, slander, and abuse nonplayable characters for my own benefit and enjoyment. Not all the time, mind you—more often than not I play a morally “positive” character—but I do it.
All these things (and others I am too ashamed now to recall) I did because I was invincible. What I do in the game-world has no repercussions on me in the real world. I am a god. These people are not even real. What is their suffering to me if I am able to progress the game? So what if I get some kind of sick pleasure out of their agonies?
This girl in Riga Station (Nikki, I would later find out her name is) offering herself to me for money. This is something I have never been compelled to do in a game as virtual sex scenes do not particularly entice me. Never mind the many worrying connotations of a society that thinks it is okay to present a game-world where A) paying women for sex is fine, but paying men for sex is unheard of; and B) the only meaningful role played by a female is as a prostitute.

This time, though, I am tempted. Artyom is eighteen, just survived a near-death experience, is slightly intoxicated, and has plenty of bullets to spend. Besides, Nikki is the most attractive person I have seen on the Metro thus far. Artyom could more than likely be heading to his death; doesn’t he deserve some fun first? But this is unfair, to put all the blame on Artyom. I press the button and pay her the bullets. She smiles again. Looking back, I think it is the smile that bought me.
“Follow me.”
In her room, she sits me on her bed and turns her back to me. She starts fumbling with her top.
“Now, close your eyes.”
This is when I realise something is wrong. I want to stop Artyom from doing this. As if the fool would be stupid enough to close his eyes! As if I would be stupid enough to lead him into this room in the first place!
Artyom opens his eyes after a few seconds. A giant of a man is looming over him. In that man’s face, in Nikki’s victorious smile behind his shoulder, I do not see con artists. Rather, I see ever nonplayable character I have mistreated over the years for my own benefit or enjoyment. “This is what happens when you fuck with us,” they seem to be saying. Artyom is punched out cold; I am slapped across the face.
When I finally come to, the man, Nikki, and all my bullets are gone. A bum sticks his head in the room and laughs at me, not believing anyone could be so stupid to fall for Nikki’s trick. Everyone knows to stay away from Nikki, supposedly.
The self-loathing is heavy on my shoulders as I sulk back to Bourbon. Part of me wants to scrounge Riga Station for bullets, to make up for what I lost, but I cannot bare the idea of coming face to face with more nonplayable characters. As it is, I look down at the ground as I pass the few on the way to Bourbon, unable to make eye contact.
I am carrying the same crappy weapons I left Exhibition with. I have no scoped rifle, no extra ammunition, no money. I’m embarrassed, ashamed, and feeling incredibly stupid. Metro 2033 tempted me to treat nonplayable characters the same way I always do, like shit, then taught me a harsh lesson for doing so.
Bourbon looks up at me. I swear he is about to ask me what I spent all his bullets on. Fortunately, he does not.
“You ready?” is all he says.
I look at my meagre supplies: my sparse filters, my two medkits, and few clips of bullets. I nod.
“Good. Let’s go.”

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

LOL Well next time have some morals and don't fall for something that seems too good to be true :)

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