Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Imp of the Perverse

Last weekend, Your Critic and her spouse had an adventure.  We went to IKEA, south of DC, and were heading back up I-95 to take our (heavy) furniture home.  As it was a weekend, we were able to use the gated HOV lanes.

"Sometimes," I mused from the passenger seat, "I wish I could just be in, like, a big 4x4 truck, and ram through those wrong-way barricades.  I don't want to go the wrong way up the other side... I just want to splinter barricades."

"They should put that in the next GTA," my husband replied.  Then, after a pause:  "This is why we have movies and video games."

We -- all of us -- get in life impulses that we know are wrong, that we know are foolish, and that we would never, ever actually do.  But some little misfire in our brains says, "I kind of want to..." or, "I bet it would be fun if..." and we idly muse for a brief moment on our Oh Hell No moment.  A regular for me is wondering, when we drive under the Key Bridge,"I wonder if I could climb up that small mystery ladder and rope..."

We don't, in daily life, generally give in and do the wrong thing.  Nor do we (once we get past our adolescent years, at least) generally do the insane things that pop into our heads for a moment.  We have good reasons: most of these ideas are dangerous or harmful.  We've learned to filter out Bad Ideas.

But Your Critic's spouse had a good point: more than once I've saved my game very carefully and then done something incredibly stupid just to see what happens.  In EQ2, I've leapt from the islands in the Stonebrunt Highlands just to see if I could land on the lower ones. (Yes, with the right cloak on.)  In Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas and Divinity II and every other open-world game I've played in the last few years, I've often saved my game before turning in a quest or opening a door or climbing a tall thing, because I know it's a bad idea.  I know it will result in my character's demise, or in a negative consequence, or in something I don't want to happen.  It's not what I want to do.  It's not what I'm really doing.

What I'm saying here is, just... don't leave me in a room with a big red button.  Like, ever.  Unless you're really interested in an accidentally-triggered armageddon... 


  1. A friend of mine once had a button that said:

    "I am the imp of the perverse. Knowing this won't help you."

  2. Yeah but it bleeds over the other way too . . . I have a class on the fifth floor and every I'm walking towards Mendel Hall I reach for my grappling gun.

  3. Make your choice, adventurous stranger; Strike the bell and bide the danger,
    or wonder, till it drives you mad, what would have followed if you had

  4. don't leave me in a room with a big red button. Like, ever.

    Especially one that says: DO NOT TOUCH!

  5. I know people who, if left alone in a room with a big red button that they have been told will cause doomsday, would say, "Oh. Well, doomsday is bad," and happily ignore the button and go along their day.

    I'm not sure I trust these people.


  6. I suppose it would depend on how the button was decorated.

    Is it surrounded by protective "BREAK IN CASE OF" glass? Maybe in that case I could just get by with breaking the glass. Then, you know, the button would be really easy to hit if I needed to. Or wanted to.

  7. The temptation to push things that were built to be pushed is inordinate.
    Sure, maybe they were only built to be pushed *once*... but someone has to do it!