Mapjabbit Run

Exploring the Spaces Between Wildstar and Feminism

A Pleasant Surprise

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I’ve hit the point in my leveling where I’m firmly entrenched in Galeras and I’ve been largely enjoying the mixture of alien farmland and war-torn Holland in the landscape. Part of the initial quests in the zone are doing active work for the Exile armies – you’re running around assassinating key officials, rescuing ammunition, bandaging the wounded and helping to blow up tanks. It’s fun stuff and it always feels like you’re running through enemy lines to do something important. Near the end of this story, you capture one of the Dominion airman in order to find out information about why precisely the Dominion are in Galeras.

A pit in my stomach formed because, frankly, I always know how these things end.

When it comes to relative brutality, video games always like to take a sharp dark turn when interrogation is concerned. I’ve seen relatively goofy games go straight into the “forceful questioning techniques” and games actually designed to be hyper-real take it to very extreme levels. I do not want to torture someone for information in a video game or beat them with an inch of their life. The narrative that violence perpetuated against other actively fighting people in a violent context is one I can adopt, even in fluffy story settings. Struggle is intrinsic to humanity. But gunning down opponents on a battlefield is very different from sitting down and torturing one person for information – it brings out a disconnected brutality that I do not not like mimicking in video games.

So when “Show and Tell” showed up in my task list, I braced myself to just get through it. My character would never, ever torture someone for information, despite being a pretty aggressive spellslinger, so I’d just sidestep the canon-ness of it and that would be that. Consider me entirely shocked when the quest, while still an actual interrogation, stayed firmly true to the tone and goofiness of Wildstar.

Mesmer Radu, a Mordesh esper of some stripe, has you help him use illusionary animals to prod the airman’s fears. First you try a jabbit (he laughs, mocking you that maybe it’ll tickle him to death), then a large ox-type creature, and finally a buzzbing. The airman quakes at the idea of a giant bee (who wouldn’t, actually), so Mesmer Radu has you capture an actual buzzbing from the surrounding whimfiber trees to bring back so you can extort information from the airman. You do so and the guy caves at the sight of a literal giant bee. Mesmer Radu commends you for your skill.

And that was it. No red hot pokers, no savagely beating someone up to obtain the information. Just some rather believable and goofy esper magic and animals to get the Dominion to squeal. It captures really what the essence of Wildstar does – straddling that line between having serious subjects like war or violence mixed into a world that is, let’s be honest, goofy and candy-coated. It knows what it’s about. The fact that it displayed it here, in possibly the darkest kind of quest, makes me glad that I am not going to run into more serious problems in the future of the game. Maybe I will. If I do, I will definitely confront that when it happens, but given my patience for hyper-realistic atrocities, abuse, torture or sexual assault being handed out as story hooks in other video games, give me my bunnies, psychic constructs and double jumps. I am pleasantly surprised that so far, I’ve been able to really lose myself in the world of Nexus without worrying what’s in the deep end.

7 Comments

  1. Good thing you don’t play Dominion- I think the second quest new players get is an interrogation quest. I love the Jabbit bit. Even before I pressed the 1 key… I thought I misunderstood the quest. Why would we be trying to scare him with a jabbit?

  2. After you told me about this quest I was thinking about it, and I realized it reminded me a lot of something that would happen in a pen-and-paper RPG. Like, oh look we captured the Evil Goblin Henchman, like always, and we can’t just TORTURE him because that would be evil and we’re heroes and the Paladin over there would throw a fit.

    So instead, let’s come up with some effective, but utterly bizarre and hilarious way to extract the information! Intimidating them with a giant bee is ABSOLUTELY something I’d expect to see happen in D&D or similar games, and everyone wins – the players get to stay on the right side of the moral compass, they get their info, everyone has a good laugh, and the story progresses.

    To me, this is 100% a positive trend in story/quest design. It’s memorable, it’s fun, and it’s also immersion since that IS how someone with wicked mind powers would think. I know if given the choice I’d certainly prefer a creative, entertaining option than breaking his kneecaps or something similarly unnecessarily violent (and just plain boring).

    • Yes, this is a good parallel. I haven’t done much tabletopping but I like the idea of having goofy strategies to get around amoral behaviour.

  3. I haven’t done this quest, but from how you describe it, it is absolutely torture. What’s the difference between “Talk, or I will hurt you with this weapon” and “Talk, or I will sic this giant creature of your nightmares on you”?

    Psychological torture isn’t magically not torture just because it doesn’t leave marks. It’s harmful and violating, not moral or funny.

    • Nothing about it struck me as psychological torture so much as using someone’s pretty everyday trepidation/fear of something to aid questioning. It struck me (and I do note that you can absolutely have a difference of opinion on this when you do said quest) as trying to wheedle info out of my boyfriend who is scared of bees, but not in a way that is mentally damaging. I am personally scared of spiders and it felt like the difference between bringing a giant spider into my vicinity versus something like dumping me into a tank full of them and shutting the box. There was no element that felt like torture versus intimidation.

      The difference to me really felt like because the game has kept tone so consistently that there was nothing overtly torturous about it and definitely wasn’t cast that way.

  4. Well, playing a Mordesh right now, and its a lot of ethical experimentation that can skeeve into torture, and one of quests in Celestion had an element where you expose ‘subjects’ to physical torture. It was my least liked quest to be honest, as I hate scientific experimentation type quests that do these things.

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