Invasion of the Boardsnatchers

So anyway, I’m still playing Skate 3. At this point I have pretty much every achievement you can get on your own, barring a couple of super dull ones that involve designing skate parks, something I’m utterly uninterested in. The rest of the game is in the online world, which is a whole other thing. Only, to participate in that you more or less need to have friends playing that game. Problem.

Well, except that I do have one friend who plays Skate 3, oddly enough a skating friend from way back in my early teenage years who I more or less haven’t seen since then. We “made friends” in the world of Skate 3 and that means, in a Facebooky kind of way, that I can see when he’s online, “call” him to come skating with me, and all that sort of business. None of which I’ve availed myself of as yet.

But here’s a creepy thing. Once you have Skate 3 friends, the game decides that you probably miss them real bad when they’re not around. So you’ll be rolling along in your hermetically sealed personal skateboarding world, perhaps attempting a challenge, and somehow your friend will skate past you. Cue the double-take.

When you look closer at this skateboarder bearing your friend’s name above their head, you notice that in parenthesis after the name is “AI”. The game has spawned an AI version of your friend into your single player world. This creepy simulacrum will then proceed to skateboard around you, not interacting socially or anything, but just coexisting in the space that you’re in. It flies past doing all sorts of fancy tricks, but is also mute and impassive if you go anywhere near it.

It’s deeply strange to me that the game has this as a built-in feature. For one thing, why would we even want a simulated version of a person we know skateboarding around in our little virtual world? For another, I personally don’t like the idea of there being a simulated version of me skateboarding with my friend while I’m asleep in bed. It’s like finding out that while you were busy doing something else, a fake version of you was chatting to your friends on Facebook, perhaps running the ELIZA program and giving them some therapy. I’m not well-versed in any of the current thinking on identity in video games, but this seems like a really interesting and squicky edge case.

So, if you see me doing an awesome nose manual down the road, make sure it’s me before you say hi.

23 January 2011
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