Jon Snow can’t keep his mouth shut in this VR-related sketch from last nights SNL.
Anyone familiar with video games probably has a story or two about a particularly infuriating NPC (non-playable character) that severely dampened their gaming experience. Perhaps an annoying quest-giver constantly hounding you about menial objectives or a cumbersome side-character that keeps getting itself killed during a simple escort mission.
During last nights Saturday Night Live, host Kit Harington lead a prerecorded sketch that shined a humorous on the ridiculous behavior of several AI-powered video game companions in a virtual reality game called Earth War 3.
The sketch, entitled ‘New Video Game,’ starts with a customer at Gamestop stepping into an HTC Vive Pro headset and entering a game world similar to that of The Division 2. Upon entering the game, the player (Pete Davidson) is first introduced to Damian (Kit Harington), the leader of the safehouse.
Eager to jump into the action, the player begins searching for the weapons room, only to be introduced to Ethan, a Mission Hub specialist who also claims to run the safehouse alongside Damian. Frustrated with the constant conversations, the player continues looking for the weapons room, at which point Damian returns, angry with Ethan for what he just told you about co-running the safehouse.
What follows is a series of hilarious over-the-top melodrama set to the backdrop of a catastrophic zombie apocalypse. The player, desperate for any kind of stimulation, finds himself immersed in a petty feud rather than an adrenaline-pumping battle with the undead.
The player eventually bumps into other NPC characters, only to find they are more concerned with Damian and Ethan’s beef than preventing the apocalypse; even the zombies themselves are wondering where all the animosity is coming from. There’s a great moment where the player is prompted to choose from several dialogue options, which include “No Drama, Please,” and “Get Real With A bitch.”
The sketch does an excellent job of highlighting the at-times ridiculous behavior of video game AI. At the same time, it also paints a picture of VR’s potential future. We’re constantly striving for more realistic, human-like interactions with AI while in virtual environments; will this eventually include the pettiness that comes with it?
Will we one day find ourselves managing our AI teammates emotions like we would our item inventory? I mean, would you charge into the thick of battle with someone who’s been talking behind your back? I know I wouldn’t.