Bloodsucking Freaks

Bloodsucking Freaks
Advice for Serial Killers

Chris Gardiner | 15 Feb 2011 12:44
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It says here that you are a genius, always three steps ahead of the best detectives of whatever poor P.D. whose lawn you've chosen to crap on. That's fine, but it also says you know your pursuers better than they know themselves, and that you're as fast as a ninja, as deadly as a SWAT team, and as tough as a rhino. What's that? We missed your mesmeric force of personality? How careless.

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'Fess up. You didn't roll all those 18s straight, did you? Maybe a couple of the dice fell on threes and you gave them a little nudge.

But it doesn't stop there, does it? You have to be there at the climax, but you also need to encounter the protagonist beforehand. Just for a glimpse. Perhaps a small chase. So there's a connection, a reason for the hero to hate you. That means you need an escape hatch. Your ability to disappear into thin air by going around a corner will be invaluable, just as your ability to be in two places at once is so handy when you're chasing down your victims.

In the movies, the killer's tricks can be covered up with a clever cut or a careful camera angle; but in a game we don't have that level of control over the player's perspective. Players expect that the creatures inhabiting their virtual world adhere to the same rules that bind them as a protagonist. If we don't play fair they're free to take their ball and go home. Games cheat all the time, but they have to do it invisibly.

Jack-of-Smiles

So here's the deal, Mr. (or Ms.) Serial Killer: If you're going to make it in the world of videogames, you may have to leave some bad habits behind. Maybe you won't be the center of attention anymore. Maybe you'll have to play by the rules once in a while. You know what might help? Try not to take yourself quite so seriously.

There's a serial killer in Echo Bazaar. When you set a game in a displaced Victorian London you create certain expectations, like cockney urchins and sputtering gas lamps and a dedicated murderer called Jack.

Jack-of-Smiles is a gloomy, if committed, killer. Life isn't easy for Jack, because in Fallen London people don't die. Not for long, anyway. You can kill them, but after a short, strange trip they're back and getting on with their lives. This frustrates Jack. Mild inconvenience is not why he went into the serial killing business. Down there he's less an earthquake and more a traffic jam.

From the perspective of the game he's great to have around: a recurring, but not final, threat. His little sprees are annoying - even in a deathless world, no-one says "You know what I need more of? Getting stabbed in the face." But a few face-stabbings don't justify a major investigation. Jack is a clown. Creepy, but preposterous.

It might not win him any Oscars, but it's a paying gig. Think about it.

Chris Gardiner writes content for the casual browser RPG Echo Bazaar. He hopes serial killers don't read The Escapist.
Special thanks to Paul Arendt for providing custom Jack of Smiles art for this article!

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