With the release of version 3, I want to talk about some of the new quests, which are a bit experimental at times, and perhaps require some discussion. The first of which is Idle Dreams, a quest I’m fond of much in the same way I’m fond of The Paper Mirror, but I’m not sure how well it will be received.
SPOILERS CONTAINED BELOW. If you haven’t played the quest, which is highly likely given it’s new, then I suggest you do that first, as this will make even less sense than it already doesn’t.
The word addiction is never meant to be a positive. Regardless of the consequences, it essentially amounts to a lack of control. An addict isn’t an addict because he uses. He’s an addict because given the choice, he can’t say no.
Amicus is an addict, and his choice of drug is a soft pillow and a warm bed. He spends every night and half the day in his own world, and shows no concern for the waking one. When he does manage to open his eyes, he directs them straight at a noble’s coin purse. When you first wake him from his slumber, he nearly throws a fit. He gets angry at Haelga despite the fact she’s providing him with room and board. Amicus doesn’t care about the needs of others. For him, the only world that matters is his.
When Vaermina turns his gift into a curse, the larger metaphor is obvious. He is trapped within the walls of addiction. However, it’s his self-absorption that manifests itself first, in the form of a warrior coming to rescue him. Like the Falmer in the dungeon, the warrior wears his face, and moreover is Amicus’ betrothed. In this dream, he is literally making love to himself, over and over again.
When this realization hits him, with perhaps an assist from the player, Amicus tries to picture someone other than himself. Yet all he can think of is Sadrin, who predictably, cares only about Haelga. In the second chamber of his dream, it’s evident Amicus not only fails to make lasting and meaningful relationships, he can’t even fake them.
In the third and final chamber, Amicus retreats to his child-like fantasy of wanting to be a jester. The clowns once again wear his face, but the larger theme is that of immaturity. Amicus is a grown man who spends all his days in a child’s world. He enables this behavior by stealing from hard-working folks, and yet justifies it by saying his dreams hurt no one. When you speak to him about the doors, he will tell you he never managed to solve the riddle. That’s because Amicus has trouble growing up. He can’t find his way out.
Now, I’ve been asked, and with good reason, about the emotional aspect of this quest, or lack of it. In other words, do we care if Amicus overcomes his addiction?
For instance, in another quest, I gave the main character a wife and a child to add an emotional component to his behavior. That way, even if he continues his current path, the fact that someone loves him provides a measure of tragedy or success depending on the outcome. The player is given a reason to care, if not for the character, for his fate.
So it’s safe to say I took a risk when not doing the same with Amicus. Amicus has no family. He has no friends. He is completely lost in his own world. Which is sort of the point. I don’t know if there’s a reason to care about Amicus, but your concern for him wouldn’t be a solution. In fact, it’s part of the problem.
You see, in this quest the player is the enabler. Rather than overcome his childish behavior on his own, Amicus cheats his way out of the nightmare by enlisting the player’s help. It’s unclear, however, if he even has the mental fortitude to escape, as allowing the warrior to take him will have him shuddering in a corner for the foreseeable future – but I stress that that is a future I’ve left open-ended. It is not necessarily a bad ending. It’s also unclear whether helping him will cause him to re-evaluate his behavior. He seems intent on returning to his dreamworld, but it’s possible that if he doesn’t change his ways, the nightmares will continue. After all, it’s his self-absorption, his indifference, his dream. He owns it until he proves otherwise.
Do we care if Amicus overcomes his addiction? The real question is, does Amicus?