The Worst People In The Universe

The universe of Star Control is and I say this with a sort of modified care, sizeable. It’s a space travelling adventure game and space, if you weren’t aware, is bloody huge, like, it’s so big it’s where we keep everything else (except some stuff we don’t keep there, don’t ask me, ask a scientist, they’re still not sure where it all is), but almost all videogames that have ever been set there have avoided depicting that, because, uh, being that big is really boring.

Your typical space videogame is not very varied or complicated. Doom is technically, a shooter set in space, but you might notice that the vast majority of it is set in ‘hell,’ and ‘base that is becoming hell.’ Videogame space tends to be small, to make it manageable, and videogame space cultures tend to be A Guy. Like, any given alien culture is not likely to give you multiple representatives with wildly competing personal tastes on things, you’ll instead be dealing with The Collective Will Of The Culture, as if cultures are these big unified stomping things. The result then, is that for all that you may have a relationship with The Pkunk, the Pkunk are really one guy, and he’s just a little guy.

The Star Control cultures are therefore, just some guys. The best of these characters are guys who you can sympathise with (the Supox, the Ur-Quan, the Androsynth), guys you can make a joke with (the Umgah, the Orz), guys who are just trying to do their job, man (the Humans), Scared Weird Little Guys (The Spathi, the Zoq-Fot-Pik) and The Guy Who Spent Too Much Time Studying The Blade (the Shofixiti, the Yehat).

But one thing that let the setting hold together reasonably well is that some of the guys in its space sucked (the Druuge, the Thraddash, the Ilwrath, the Chmmr), meaning that their interactions and behaviour were in some cases fantastically unhelpful. Yet, even then, there was another: One culture that didn’t even get a spaceship to their name, let alone planets.

The culture that was, at the point you deal with them, reduced to just one guy.

And that guy is probably one of the Worst People in the Universe.

The Dnyarri are a slow boiler in the ghost-house introduction sequence of alien cultures in Star Control 2. If you just follow the basic prompts the game gives you, you meet the Ilwrath, Humans, Spathi, Slylandro, Melnorme and then probably the Ur-Quan or Umgah before you’ve ever really started making lots of decisions. From there, you’ll start branching out, looking for clues of other cultures – I’m used to the introduction to the Orz or Mycon around this point, and sometimes I’ll go out of my way to find the Pkunk, because their ships are great and it also gives you a doorway to the Vux and Yehat. You get to meet a lot of people real quick, is what I’m saying.

What the game doesn’t make a fuss about at first, at least not until you’ve done a few things and even chatted to some of these cultures multiple times, is that you’ve already met the horrible little toad this article is about, the Dnyarri.

They’re not known as the Dnyarri at first. They’re known as the Talking Pets, which the Ur-Quan use to communicate with you, because using communication technology to directly speak to people doesn’t work out well. I don’t remember the excuse they give, but one third-party lore explanation I remember and found fun was that the Ur-Quan mostly never communicate directly with anything, because they’re so immensely territorial that someone to talk to quickly became someone to fight, and when you’re ten meters long and two meters across, that’s not desireable in outer space. It creates the image of the Ur-Quan ships as being like ant runs where everyone’s in what amounts to a cubicle inside the vast ship, and everyone just texts everyone else.

You learn that the Talking Pet isn’t just a Talking Pet when the Umgah uplift one they found in a crash. Their stance, at the time, and at all times, is, come on, dude, it’d be funny, and as a direct result they wind up enslaving their entire race as they enable a powerful telepath capable of faster-than-light mind control and with the moral compass of a Batman villain.

See, the Talking Pets are an entire species of creatures known, originally, as the Dnyarri, and they were responsible in the past for the collapse of what was one of the first peaceful multi-species coalitions across space. This story intersects heavily with the Ur-Quan (as you’d imagine), and the tragic end of the Taalo. I’ve told that story, and it’s a good story, and it’s a sad story. It’s not important to this though.

What’s important here is that the Dnyarri, a lone Dnyarri, when given freedom to use his powers, immediately turns out to be a complete and utter bastard, with no moral justification for what he’s doing. He’s just an immense prick, and he’s cruel and savage and enjoys punishing and hurting people for no good reason, at all, ever.

There’s no cultural reason for it. No heritage or background, no abusive childhood this Dnyarri has. He lies about those things, because it’s convenient to do so, but the guy in question, then also makes it clear when he thinks he can get away with it, that he absolutely does not regard you as a person and considers your genocide and the genocide of everyone you know as merely interesting and perhaps an outcome worth playing with like he’s smashing toys together.

And maybe that’s a lesson we can take away as we consider how space works, when you populate it with just a bunch of guys.

Don’t forgive videogame assholes who do genocides.

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