I Feel Bad for Game NPCs

Trapped forever, glued to the floor, wearing a low detail hat

Alex Rowe
6 min readJun 23, 2024
Thok, one of hundreds of NPCs in Horizon Zero Dawn, waits on the ground near some grass and trees for Aloy to help him.
Screenshot taken by the author.

Look at this poor dude from Horizon: Zero Dawn. He’s just lying there, motionless, unable to do anything other than call out for help. His name is Thok, but that’s not really important. Tutorial Area Younger Aloy won’t care a single bit about him unless I make her run over there and talk to him. She’s free to breeze right by, collecting plants and smashing robots to her heart’s content. He’ll stay there on the ground for the rest of eternity.

Even if I do decide to talk to him, I could then cruelly tell him I don’t want to help him. Sorry, I’m too busy. Sorry, I’ve got other things to do. I’d rather go on quests for other more interesting people who are standing in one spot forever instead of lying in one spot forever.

NPCs are supposed to be the soul of video and computer games. They’re what make the game world seem more alive. They’re stand-ins for other actors, for a live dungeon master, for friends. Game worlds would literally be lifeless without them — yet studios often struggle to make them seem like they’re anything close to dynamic.

These non-player husks do their best work inside the story and cutscenes. They’re brought to life by motion capture, and voices. Your average video game townsperson would love to star in…

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Alex Rowe

I write about gaming, tech, music, and their industries. I have a background in video production, and I used to review games for a computer magazine.