Second Banana

Second Banana
A Paean To Floyd

Chuck Wendig | 24 Aug 2010 13:47
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He loves that, too. He bolts around the room. "Oh boy oh boy oh boy! I haven't played Chase and Tag in years!"

I tell him I'm not playing, but he doesn't seem to grok my lingo.

So I kick him. That gets through.

"Why you do that?" he asks. He looks stung. "I think a wire shaken loose." Then he goes off to the corner and sulks.

Crap. Now I feel bad. Stupid robot.

***

He's not entirely useless.

I need him to go through a robot-sized door and get me a fresh fromitz board. He does it. He doesn't do it immediately; no, the little asshole finds a rubber ball in there and has to bounce it around for a while.

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Still. He does the task. And it's a necessary task, too. Only way I'm getting off this station is with his help, I realize. A little voice in my head whispers, "Then, you're doomed." But I tamp it down and move on.

Floyd, of course, follows.

***

We find other robots. They're defunct, but because of Floyd, I think of them as "dead."

He doesn't care for Achilles, a robot that "wasn't friendly."

But he laments the loss of Lazarus, a medical robot who was his friend.

It leaves an unsettled feeling in my gut.

***

We enter a bio-lab. Once more, I need Floyd. I can't move on without his help.

The lab is home to a bunch of angry mutants. Problem is, the mutants are home to a particular access card I need. Floyd wants to go in and retrieve it for me. I tell him no. But he's insistent.

"Robots are tough. Nothing can hurt robots." He obviously doesn't remember Lazarus or Achilles. But he seems so sure. "You open the door and Floyd will rush in. Then you close door. When Floyd knocks, open door again."

Fine. I do it. He rushes in.

I know instantly that I've made a terrible mistake.

Floyd screams.

Then: three knocks accompanied by the sound of tearing metal.

I open the door, and Floyd tumbles out - and I shut it again so the mutants don't follow, and for a moment I think, whew, we're all clear.

Except, Floyd is hurt. Loose wires. Busted circuits. Leaking oil like blood.

He lays his head in my lap and tells me, "Floyd did it. Got card. Floyd a good friend, huh?"

I sing him a ballad. His favorite.

Then he smiles. His head lolls to the side.

And like that, he's dead.

***

That moment is a critical one for videogames. It's a moment that both pushes you deeper into the experience and brings you out of it at the same time.

On the one hand, this text-only puzzler-slash-adventure game suddenly becomes something bigger, greater, stranger. Oft-cited as one of the first video game moments that made people cry, it's an early foreshadowing volley against Ebert's eventual criticism that games cannot be art because there you are, no longer playing a game as a third-party but experiencing it as a prime inhabitant.

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