Non-Player Character (2020)
Were you just barking?
How long was I out?
I don't know.
You were in the zone, so I left.
I figured one of us should get decent sleep.
Well, at least you brought me breakfast.
This is mine. It's prescription.
A prescription bagel?
Legally, you're actually not allowed to ask me about it.
Whatever. I fixed the white noise bug.
I'm gonna go home and take a shower.
I have a lunch today, and I can't go like this.
You've got a lunch?
Yes, Michelle, I can have a lunch.
Yeah, what's up?
-Zachariah? -It's Paul.
What's up, Paul?
I think we've got a problem.
-Is it important? -Yeah, actually, it's the Masked Man.
So, he's handing out thousands of dollars of free loot every minute.
So far we've lost about $300,000.
Is that bad?
Yeah. That's bad, Zach.
Sorry. It's Paul.
I don't care.
So... this is bad?
Yes, this is bad. How does nobody know this is bad?
It's bad. He's spewing up loot like a busted ATM.
He just gave away a horse. Those are expensive.
Okay, this is bad.
I'll go loop in Ian.
No, no, no, you don't need to tell Ian.
He'll just freak out and hold it over my head for the rest of forever.
-All right. Fine. I'll loop in Brad. -No! Don't tell him either.
This is a closed loop. You don't need to call a meeting and get the entire company involved in every decision.
But I rule by committee. That's my strength.
No, David, that's your weakness.
No. My weakness is my shoulders. You know this.
Can you please let go of my arms? I can't escape your grasp.
You know what a strong leader does?
He puts out the small fires before anyone even knows about them.
He doesn't call in the entire fire department because a trash can is burning.
Well, if you had a trash can fire, you're gonna want the entire fire department--
Let's just keep it simple. I'm gonna fix the bug, you stop the Masked Man from giving away any more loot.
Me? What do I do?
I figured out that he can't give away loot if you're hitting him. So, sit here, follow him around, and bash him until I can fix it.
It's that button. Trust me, we got this. It's no big deal.
If it's no big deal, then why is your neck covered in stress hives?
These? No, I get these all the time. They could be from anything.
No. That's from stress. Absolutely. I know.
I was covered in them during my divorce proceedings. It wasn't my fault.
-I mean, my wife, she's-- -David.
Fine. Look. I won't loop in Ian on this, but he's gonna find out.
-The second he sits down at his computer. -Don't worry about Ian. I got a plan.
-Morning, gentlemen. -Morning, Ian.
-Hey. How you doing? -Good morning.
Good to see you, everybody.
-Hola. -Hola. ¿Cómo estás?
Muy bien. ¿Y usted?
-Muy bien, gracias. ¿Qué me cuentas? -Tengo café.
-Okay. Qué bueno. Me alegro mucho. -Okay.
-Okay. Chao, chao. -Okay.
-Hey, Pop. I was just talking to Maria. -Cool.
Yeah. In Spanish. I don't know if you caught that.
-What? -I speak Spanish.
-Yeah, great. I-- -Ah, g'day.
Sure. There's someone I want you to meet, just over here.
This is Paul, our new gameplay programmer.
-Paul, this is Ian. -Hello, Paul. Welcome to the team.
Hello. It's such a pleasure to be here.
Nice to meet you. Welcome...
Welcome. You can go ahead and sit down. Let's get back to work, everyone.
I have a surprise for you, Paul. I heard that you have a bad back, -so I got you a standing desk. -Wow.
Thank you. That's great. It's really exciting to be here, you know.
I'm a huge fan of your work, Ian.
I used to go on your blog a lot back in the old days.
You know, to gain a bit of inspiration and just a big fan...
-He's a big fan. -Yeah.
It's a pleasure to have you.
"Big fan." Okay, great.
Back to work.
-Back to work, everybody. Yeah. -Okay.
-Great job, Paul. -Thanks.
Great, great, great.
Great, great, great.
Oh, my God!
Yo, what up, y'all?
This is Wyld_Danimal coming at ya.
I'm a streaming noob, but I'm an OG gamer, so subscribe for all of the red-hot MQ action.
C.W.'s in the shot.
Well, I don't know where the camera is.
How can you not see it? It's right here.
-Does it pick up this? -Oh, God.
And that's a cut.
Thank you for that, C.W.
Come on, we talked about this, buddy. You gotta be quiet, okay?
And, Dana, maybe be less quiet.
This is supposed to get people excited about your channel, so maybe don't act like you're in a basement in Kabul.
Give me a giggle.
-I don't really giggle. -Try it out.
C.W., let's go. Zip it up.
Find somewhere else to peddle your digital smut.
Hey. We gotta keep this operation under wraps.
I refuse to write another word until this office is restored.
That's too bad because I was just about to ask you to join the stream team.
Maybe write Dana a little backstory.
-Go on. -Yeah.
That'd be great. I love your cutscenes, C.W.
Your flattery is nothing more than a siren song... meant to lure me in and then dash me upon the rocks.
I shall not listen, lest I fall prey to your beautiful poison tongue.
I don't really like when he talks about my tongue.
Yeah. It's not great.
Close the door. Can't see with the glare on the screen.
Sorry, who are you?
I'm Lou. They brought me up from the third-floor tester pool.
Replaced some chick who quit or died or something.
Her name is Dana, and you can't replace her.
Sure she was a saint, God rest her soul.
Anyway, upshot is I'm up here from now on.
You know what? Let's maybe not talk for the rest of the day.
I'm kinda chomping at the bit to test out these new maps.
It's actually "champing."
You said "chomping at the bit."
It's actually "champing at the bit."
Don't worry about it. It's a common mistake.
Okay. Thanks, Lou.
Let it be known, if you take my office, I will occupy yours in kind.
In the '70s, I participated in my fair share of sit-ins.
I was once forcibly removed from Jane Fonda's house.
Hey, C.W., man, Brad's not here, so you're just bothering me.
Okay? I'm trying to do my work, so just let me focus.
Why are you harming the creation I helped define?
I'm not harming him. The Masked Man is an NPC.
He's an automated character.
He does what we program him to do.
So, just let me do my work.
Sitting in my chair, huh?
What? You have taken my office, Brad.
In retaliation, I have taken yours.
It's a power move. I like that. Kudos.
No hard feelings. I found a new writer.
What the hell is that?
It's an AI server that can spit out a brand-new backstory for Dana.
That's preposterous. A computer cannot write a story, dear boy.
It can. And you know what? It already has.
See? Just took about three seconds. You want to read it?
Please, that monstrosity isn't able to generate a story with the emotional resonance of a Nebula Award-winning writer.
David, this matter needs your immediate attention.
What? You guys, come on.
I'm working over here. Just you two figure it out yourselves.
Sometimes a fireman has to grab a hose and put out the fire alone.
Okay, I'm gonna go give this backstory to Dana while David plays with his hose.
He's mocking you.
His very presence emasculates you in front of your entire staff.
Do you see how they look at him?
Jo, he's no threat to me.
Sure, he's big, but... the big ones are always dumb.
Trust me. Here, check this out.
Hey, Paul, what's the last book you read?
Eso sería Cien años de soledad en su lengua materna.
A Hundred Years of Solitude.
Sorry, I'm reading it in the original Spanish.
I thought I heard you talking to Maria earlier, -so I thought you-- -Cool.
-I thought you spoke Spanish. -I do speak Spanish. That wasn't Spanish.
I'm pretty sure that was Spanish.
If it was, it was some kind of weird dialect.
They have a lot of indigenous tribes, and I think the locals...
-Should I be taking notes? -No.
Don't write any of that down, Jo.
Not a big deal, okay? Let's just move on.
Ian, you must reclaim your alpha status.
Fight him. Hand-to-hand.
"Fight him"? Jo, please.
I mean, yes, in my younger days I would've fought him.
And yes, I would've won, but this is a professional workplace and we are adults, okay?
I'm a modern man.
"A modern man"?
Ian, don't let Rachel and her liberal agenda cloud your judgment.
I'm not letting the liberal agenda do anything.
I don't even know who the fuck Rachel is.
Now, if you will allow me, I need to get back to work because I have a game to run and a culture to impact.
Hey, what's up?
Poppy, hey. Whoa, your hives have gotten way worse.
Well, the Masked Man's acting normal again.
Your fix worked. See?
Business as usual.
What? No, no, that can't be right.
I'm still working on the bug. I haven't pushed anything live yet.
Well, maybe the bug fixed itself.
Bugs don't just fix themselves, David.
You haven't told anyone yet, have you?
No, I mean, C.W.'s here, but I've got him sequestered. See?
Nothing. He's squatting in my office. It's a whole thing.
I have to go. I just got to the lunch restaurant.
I'm excited to show you our studio and perhaps your new home.
-Awesome. -All right.
Well, think I'm gonna get some more of those awesome snacks.
Damn, you guys got it good up here.
Yeah, we have it great, except that our higher-ups never listen to us and everyone generally treats us like shit.
I guess when you're coming from the third floor, it's a little easier to check your privilege.
Do you have any idea how hard it is to be a woman in gaming?
You know what? Never mind.
Look... there's clearly a lot of tension between us here, and we're working in close quarters, so...
Why don't we just address this right now?
-I don't want to have sex with you. -What?
I don't want to have sex with you, man. I'm gay.
No shit? Bet I could turn you.
Fucking-- You know what, Lou? I'm done.
I am done. You are obnoxious. You are rude.
I don't even--
I could care less what you have to say about anything.
You couldn't care less. If you could care less, then you do care a little.
All of our tech leads and specialists are here.
They work collaboratively, driving our technical agenda for the next five years, you know, bleeding edge stuff.
Not too shabby, Dan Williams. But I'm gonna have to hold out judgment until I see the creative director's office.
That's right here. We have an open office space plan here.
-That desk? -Yeah.
Seems a little low.
Shouldn't it be kind of higher up, you know?
So that the creative director can lord over everyone else in, like, an unspoken display of power.
Who would do that?
Ian does that. Is that not a thing?
How's this little piece of shit treating you?
Great. We love Pootie. He helps promote our game.
Why would you call him that?
I don't know.
That's just what we call him at our studio.
It does seem kind of weird now out of context.
Maybe because he's a child.
Yeah, yeah. That's probably it.
MQ sounds like an interesting place to work.
No, no, no, it's not all bad.
You know, to be honest, when I called you, I was feeling a little underappreciated.
Look. Here's my quick pitch.
We don't rely on egomaniacs making risky moves.
All of our creative decisions are cross-checked with behavioral player simulation to ensure success.
We protect our creative here.
If you join us, the only ego you'll have to contend with is your own.
-Yeah, I know. -You saved the best for last.
-Let me walk you out. -Cool.
Not bad at all.
Okay. It's been, like, 30 minutes. I think we're in the clear.
How can you sit there frittering away your life while the machine... robs us of our livelihoods?
You hear that, you mechanized abomination?
I know your game.
C.W., Brad showed me the backstory you wrote.
I knew you were a good writer, but this is incredible.
That shit made me cry, man. Really.
You've already said enough.
Is it true?
Has a cold, calculating machine produced a story that can stir the human spirit to such a degree?
C.W., don't let Brad get in your head. You know?
You just gotta--
I've been obliterated.
As have I.
No, C.W., the Masked Man killed me. Something is very wrong.
-It's not supposed to be able to do that. -Maybe it's not an "it" anymore.
We in the science-fiction milieu have been writing about events like this for decades.
We may be witnessing the dawn of the machine revolution.
Perhaps the Masked Man has come to life.
No, it's a bug.
Yeah, it's a really big bug, but Poppy will fix it, okay?
It's the beginning of the enslavement of mankind at the hands of our own technology!
Right. Yeah. I'm just gonna give Poppy a quick jingle and see if we can sort this all out, okay?
Crap! Straight to voice mail.
How long does it take to eat a tuna fish sandwich in a bathroom stall?
See, this is exactly why we need committees.
Eight, nine... ten.
Yes! That felt great. I mean...
It really feels great to get a nice sweat, you know, and that... really quiets those insecure voices, you know? I feel better.
I needed that too.
What about you, Stretch? You wanna get down here and do a couple of reps?
No, you're all right.
Gym's not really my scene.
I'm not sure how we ended up in here.
I thought you were gonna give me a tour of the whole building.
This is an integral part of the building.
I try to encourage all the employees to make exercise a daily part of their routine.
It's good for creativity.
Might be good for you too. I mean, with that bad back of yours.
You see, Paul, as you grow older--
I actually injured my back when I was 21.
Twenty-one? Must have fallen down after your first beer?
I'm just joshin' ya.
No, an RPG hit our armored personnel carrier outside Basra.
Yeah. Punched a fist-sized chunk of shrapnel into my spine.
Fist size, you say?
Ian also has a back injury.
Yes, actually, I did... injure my back in a motorcycle accident. I have a motorcycle.
-Motorcycle. That's cool. -Yeah.
It tipped over at a stoplight.
He doesn't need the specifics, Jo, thank you.
How did it tip over?
-Yeah-- -It has three wheels, so it's extra heavy.
Yes, it's a trike, technically.
-Not a motorcycle, but... -Yeah. That's cool too.
Ian looks like Criss Angel.
-That's not what I'm going for, Jo. -Really?
-That is who it is. -Yes, really.
Well, look. Listen. If your back's giving you trouble, I can still remember a few tips from the old rehab days.
-No, my back is... -His back is fine.
-It's fine. It's just a little bit... -Here we go.
-No, I think I'm good. -Just hold your arms.
Nah, he's good!
All right, I've got you. Here we go, you're all right. I've got you.
-Nah! -You're safe. There we go. Okay.
You're all right. I've got you. And... You feel anything?
Yeah. There we go. All right.
Now, how's that? Did that work?
-That worked. -Great!
Yeah. Let's keep the tour going.
-I have returned. -What are you doing, bud?
I'm showing our new writer to his office-- to his half-office.
After all, if he's gonna replace me, might as well have my office as well.
It is a "he", isn't it? Please, God, tell me it's a "he."
It's an air conditioner.
But it-- It wrote such beautiful prose.
No. The story that I gave Dana was some of your old writing.
I took it from one of these books over here.
Yeah. Inside the Caves of Beneroth.
You wrote this in the '80s. How could you not remember this?
Admittedly, the... the '80s were also a bit of a blur.
Okay. Whatever. Either way, you wrote it.
So, the machine is undone!
Man lives to fight another day!
Yeah. Okay, so are you gonna join the stream team or what?
Because I'm not gonna be able to pull this off without you.
Yes, indeed. My prose shall flow from her beautiful tongue.
Okay. You gotta stop talking about people's tongues.
Loosen up, man.
Yeah, whatever. Have fun writing.
Son of a bitch!
Ian! Ian! Ian! Ian!
What is happening?
Hey, Pop. We're just taking out a little aggression.
Everything's under control.
Come on, Ian! Yeah!
David, what the hell is going on?
Well, Brad tricked C.W. into believing an air conditioner was an AI server, so now he's just taking out his pent-up frustration on the AC unit.
Ian was unable to emasculate the giant programmer guy, so I guess he just decided to pick a fight he could win.
How could you let this happen?
Look. It doesn't matter. The problem got solved anyway, okay?
Because about ten minutes ago, the Masked Man disappeared.
-Disappeared? What do you mean he-- -Yeah. I mean, poof. He's gone.
Yeah. I can't find him on any of the servers.
No. That's impossible.
Well, it's not ideal, but I think it's a pretty good short-term solution.
Of course you do! Because this entire office is insane!
This is supposed to be a professional workplace full of adults!
Okay, yes. Today is a little bit abnormal.
Except it's not, is it? This is just another Tuesday for us.
You know, it was your idea to distract Ian with Tall Paul.
Yeah! I've gone insane too because, up until today, I thought that this was normal!
But it's not. I have to grow up and be the adult and figure out what the hell is happening with the Masked Man!
-Hey, your hives are getting worse. -You think?
If the Masked Man has disappeared from the game, then this isn't a glitch.
Someone's messing with him.
I'm just gonna go through the code logs.
Wait a minute.
This looks like the changes didn't come from a verified log-in.
What does that mean?
It means we've been hacked.
Oh, my God.
-So what do I do? -Fucking nothing, David! Nothing!
I will deal with it. Okay? You do nothing.
Hey, Paul. How you doing?
Don't know. Depends. Are you going to try and fight me?
I deserve that.
No. I came to apologize, actually.
Walk with me.
Look, man. I try to think of myself as an evolved human, but...
I find myself in these patterns of toxic masculinity and... honestly, it's just not cool.
It's not your fault that I'm insecure about your physicality... or that I'm threatened by... your war record, or, quite frankly, all of the things that make you such an amazing man. So...
Wow, Ian, that's very noble of you.
I really appreciate the gesture and the apology. Thank you.
The truth is, I've been so impressed with you that I have given you a promotion.
Wow. Thank you, Ian. What does that mean?
It means you get a new office.
Yes. Down next to Sue, our community manager.
There's your new key card.
Wow, Ian. Thank you so much. I really appreciate this.
Careful with that card. It is a little bit finicky.
But it will get you down to the basement and keep you there forever.
Sorry? Keep me there? I'm not sure--
"Toxic masculinity," my ass.
Fuck you, you big bitch.