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Roger Wilco as an idiot


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One of the funniest aspects of the SQ series is it's treatment of it's protagonist, Roger Wilco, who we all know is slightly inept, and a bit of an idiot. But was he always?

 

Space Quest 1 portrays Roger as a lazy, clumsy janitor who would much rather nap in dark closets than do any actual cleaning, the jokes seem to be on how you, the player are the idiot, rather than Roger himself.

 

The same can be said of Space Quest 2.

 

Space Quest 3 has a few cracks about Roger being clumsy and a bit of a wuss, but not really shown to be an idiot. Just a guy who gets very lucky without really trying

 

Space Quest 4 has a few cracks about Roger being slightly dimwitted, courtesy of our friend Gary Owens, but again, most of the cracks seem to be about Roger being a clumsy wuss.

 

Space Quest 5 shows Roger to be sure of himself, a bit cocky, and even intelligent at certain moments, however, still very clumsy.

 

Space Quest 6 is where we really see "idiot Roger", and he's entertaining and fun, but does he seem like the same guy who defeated the Sariens, Vohaul twice, pulled the plug on the pukoids, and infiltrated ScumSoft?

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If what you say is true, then it can be argued that Scott Murphy had a great influence on the perceived wussiness of Roger's character. For instance, SQ5 was a solo project by Mark Crowe, where as you say Roger is seen at his best. SQ6, however, saw the (dis)joint efforts of Scott Murphy and Josh Mandel. All of the prior games in the series had the Two Guys working together, so perhaps Mark saw some good in Roger that Scott didn't.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've never thought of Roger as an idiot. A bit slow, yes, but not a brainless klutz the way some fans depict him. Moreover, I think he's well-aware of the fact that he's not the brightest bulb. It's been awhile since I've played Space Quest 6, but I don't recall anything in the game that made me think he was an idiot. Quite the contrary, Roger came off as a sarcastic, slightly depressed guy, much more so than in the previous games. This makes me think he knows more than he lets on and to be quite honest, when we look at his life, he's got plenty of reasons to act that way.

 

Alternate character interpretation, perhaps? :|

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I've contemplated this aspect of the games from time to time. I even wrote a short story attempting to explain how Roger, who isn't a complete idiot but still isn't exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer, could possibly survive the various life-threatening situations and brain-boggling puzzles over the course of the SQ series.

 

I once read a story that took a different approach, describing how Roger is tormented by the terrifying moments from his past adventures, and is filled with anguish that despite his countless victories, he is still seen as merely a bumbling idiot with incredible luck. While the story was very well-written, it's not the way I personally picture Roger's mentality.

 

Now that I think about it, most of SQ6 featured the narrator calling Roger an idiot a lot more than Roger actually acting like an idiot. Lots of Roger's lines were actually pretty witty, though he did occasionally have his "slow" moments (the "Oh, hi Stellar! What are you doing here?" situation springs to mind).

 

Your actions as the player also effect how much of an idiot Roger is as well as how much the narrator verbally abuses Roger (and you as well, to an extent). For instance, if you try touching the frozen endodroid, causing Roger to get frozen in a pose reminiscent of John Travolta in "Saturday Night Fever", the narrator mutters, "This may just be your dumbest moment ever. It's hard to tell -- you've had so many."

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  • 1 year later...
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In the early games the narrator made fun of you the player for being so stupid. In later games it was simply directed at Roger.

What's the difference? ;) The key to understanding the narrator's treatment of Roger is realizing that, for all intents and purposes, Roger and the player are the same entity.

 

In the early games, there basically was no "Roger", at least not as we know him now. He had no dialogue and no real personality beyond what characterization the story events (such as napping in the closet) and the narrator put on him. Although he started getting a little more characterization in SQ3 (mostly due to the increasing snarkiness of the writing around that time), it wasn't until SQ4 that Roger got any actual dialogue and personality. Up until that point, "Roger" was little more than an AFGNCAAP - an avatar for the player, with no real character of his own.

 

It's a holdover from the days of interactive fiction, where virtually all games spoke directly to the player as if they were the one personally interacting with the game world. It wasn't until adventure game protagonists started graphically appearing on-screen that designers realized they had to start defining certain basic attributes (gender, appearance, etc.) for the sake of designing character sprites. Over time, the trend continued, until adventure protagonists became their own entities.

 

Thing is, the second person narration ("You can't get ye flask!"), using "you" to refer to the main character, kept being used. Superficially, this would seem to indicate that the narrator is talking to the main character somehow - which of course is where the backtalk-the-narrator humor in many games (SQ6, the later LSL games) comes from. But on a gameplay level, the narrator is still talking to *you* - the person at the keyboard - which carries certain implications. ;)

 

Basically, when the narrator is snarking about how Roger is stupid, clumsy, useless, etc., he's not talking about Roger - he's talking about Roger as controlled by you. Think of Roger as a puppet (or a mech suit, if you're more of an anime fan) with you in the driver seat - everything he does is ultimately your doing. If Roger does something brainless (such as blow himself up with an unstable tank shell), it's because you were being stupid. If Roger blunders off the edge of a cliff, it's because you weren't paying attention or didn't have the finger dexterity to guide him around it. Akril's fanfic isn't far off the mark - it's basically a cute way to personify what would otherwise be an abstract game concept, impossible to portray in normal fiction.

 

Gary is ripping on Roger, sure, but only because Roger has the misfortune to be stuck with a shmuck of a player leading him around. ;) Arguably, if we were able to percieve a version of Space Quest where Roger acted of his own accord - one where there is no player, and no narrator - then we'd see him in his "natural" state - that of a lazy, clutzy, somewhat cowardly, but ultimately well-meaning average joe who's more dopey than he is dumb.

 

Then again, without the player's intellect to give him those sudden bursts of McGuyver-esque ingenuity and puzzle-solving insight, he'd probably have been blown up way back on the Arcada... <_<

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And Interactive Fiction gets its second-person perspective from D&D style role-playing games, where the player is definitely the character in the story. We take on the role of clumsy janitor Roger Wilco as we play, yet the narrator is definitely talking to us, the player. So yes, I agree, when Roger Wilco is an idiot, we the player have been the cause, even if we were an idiot on purpose to see a great death sequence.

 

It is interesting to note that in the later games (SQ6 comes to mind) the first-person is used, as Roger will talk to you, the player, if he doesn't agree with your command. So while we are still acting the role of Roger as we play, Roger himself is aware of our instructions in his life that we expect him to carry out.

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Roger also has a number of (heated) exchanges with the narrator in SQ6. My favorite one which was left out of the final game was where Roger asked the narrator to shut up and that "there are other narrators who wouldn't mind hooking up with this series", to which Gary Owens - sarcastic and in-character as ever - cites having a union contract. You can tell that Josh Mandel was having loads of fun writing the game's script (he does this a few times in Freddy Pharkas, too).

 

"It's the door to your pharmacy." "I knew that!"

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Actually, I thought the Space Quest games were funnier in the SQ4 era, when Roger couldn't actually hear the narrator. I thought it was much funnier when he was actually narrating the game, like a separate entity from the plot, instead of directly involved like a voice in our character's head. I don't know -- the "what is that voice?" stuff at the end, and the arguing with the narrator inside Stellar's stomach, both in SQ6, just seemed sort of contrived to me.

 

I really shouldn't talk, though. My own game is full of "arguments with the narrator" stuff.

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I thought it was great. I actually think SQ6 was one of the funniest in the whole series. Including the whole Roger/Narrator exchanges. Some of the lines just crack me up. For instance:

 

Roger: "Hey, what the..."

Narrator: "While we await a fully formed thought from Roger, it should be noted that there is an unidentified gas filling the room from the ventilation system."

Roger: "Hey! There's an unidentified gas filling the room from the ventilation system!"

 

Yeah, it's a simple joke, but the delivery was just excellent. First time I heard it I actually laughed out loud. I rarely do that to a game. Smile maybe. At most chuckle.

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I really shouldn't talk, though. My own game is full of "arguments with the narrator" stuff.

 

Well, of course there is! It's different because it's your game, so in that case you are the narrator. Who wouldn't write in Roger arguing with you in your own game?

 

I think that "appeal to temptation" is a completely valid defence here.

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I go by the opinion that Roger is actually extremely intelligent but also exceptionally under motivated. He's like one of those kids who was bored out of his mind in school because he was cronically underengaged, and rather than figure out that there was more to him, due to the extremely corrupt, shallow, and apperence obsessed nature of the SQ world, he was labeled as an idiot. And thus, he became an idiot, or at least an extremely convincing facsimile thereof.

 

I think his greatest problem, the one that lead to his fall from grace between SQ1 and SQ2, and again after SQ5 is that he really is not the hero the universe wants. He's awkward, not well spoken, and even if he's not an authentic idiot, he's still authentically bumbling. The the kind of hero the SQ world wants is QUIRK. He's superfically suave, superfically dashing, superfically chrismatic, and probably superfically brave. He's as real as his hair, but as long as he looks good on TV he's just what they wanted.

 

The very idea that a lazy, il-educated, bumbling janitor could be the greatest hero in the Galaxy is simply too offensive to bare and rather than face the fact they're wrong, they try and make him what they expect. Hell, the only character in the entire series who ever saw Roger for what he really is is Stellar, and I think the annoying irony is that she's a far better match for him than Bea who in SQ5, and even in the fangames, was never able to get past that bias.

 

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/AlternativeCharacterInterpretation/VideoGames

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/ObfuscatingStupidity/VideoGames

 

I like his entries here.

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PsyckoSama, that's a really great analysis, especially with regards to society's view of what makes a hero. I wouldn't go so far as to say that Roger is highly intelligent, though; often, like the player, he stumbles upon rather ingenious solutions to problems. Roger behaves quite cluelessly in SQ5 (the first game where he has any real dialogue). But he's got tenacity going for him, even if it is fueled primarily by a desire to find somewhere to go back to sleep.

 

Seriously. I just found another reason why SQ2's ending is so poetically beautiful. It finishes where SQ1 started: by Roger, "taking a nap." Ok, it's official. SQ2 has the best ending of the series. ;)

 

Oh, and my own game wasn't a SQ game. So I have no excuse. ;)

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PsyckoSama, that's a really great analysis, especially with regards to society's view of what makes a hero. I wouldn't go so far as to say that Roger is highly intelligent, though; often, like the player, he stumbles upon rather ingenious solutions to problems.

I disagree. You see, Roger in game wouldn't have the power of loading after a death or having done it all before. He's basically the equivilant of someone who played through all six games. Perfectly. On the first attempt.

 

Now, I know a chunk of that is his famed dumb luck, but on the same note... Once is conicidence. Twice is deja vu. Thrice is enemy action. There's more between those ears than anyone, especially Roger, has any idea of.

 

Roger behaves quite cluelessly in SQ5 (the first game where he has any real dialogue). But he's got tenacity going for him, even if it is fueled primarily by a desire to find somewhere to go back to sleep.

I'd say Roger is extremely intelligent which only shows when he's under pressure. Unfortinatly the rest of the time he's a compelte and total bumbling ditz with cronic procrastination problems, and serious self-expression issues.

 

Seriously. I just found another reason why SQ2's ending is so poetically beautiful. It finishes where SQ1 started: by Roger, "taking a nap." Ok, it's official. SQ2 has the best ending of the series. ;)

I kinda like the ending of SQ5 myself. It was Rogers brightest hour.

 

Oh, and my own game wasn't a SQ game. So I have no excuse. ;)

 

Oh really...

 

:P

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I disagree. You see, Roger in game wouldn't have the power of loading after a death or having done it all before. He's basically the equivilant of someone who played through all six games. Perfectly. On the first attempt.

 

Now, I know a chunk of that is his famed dumb luck, but on the same note... Once is conicidence. Twice is deja vu. Thrice is enemy action. There's more between those ears than anyone, especially Roger, has any idea of.

That's a perfect example of what I think is the genius of his character design. His pure dumb luck. :) In that way, the player IS his dumb luck. He couldn't do this on his own to save his life, hence the "help Roger" standpoint and narration of the first couple games. The game made fun of you instead of Roger because Roger couldn't do it anyway. He was merely a pawn to the multitude of abuse the player inflicted on him. The level of Roger's intelligence may have shifted in the later games (I think it did), but certainly in the early games I think that was the intent. At least, that was my impression.

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Even an SQ2-hater like me will have to admit the ending is beautiful. But I also like the poetic nuances of the whole hypersleep-thing, like in "2001: A Space Odyssey" and the "Alien"-films.

 

Oh boy, if only SQ2 could end with the

(which was also used in "Aliens"). Seriously.
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That's a perfect example of what I think is the genius of his character design. His pure dumb luck. :) In that way, the player IS his dumb luck. He couldn't do this on his own to save his life, hence the "help Roger" standpoint and narration of the first couple games. The game made fun of you instead of Roger because Roger couldn't do it anyway. He was merely a pawn to the multitude of abuse the player inflicted on him. The level of Roger's intelligence may have shifted in the later games (I think it did), but certainly in the early games I think that was the intent. At least, that was my impression.

 

What Brandon said.

 

I agree, though, the distinction between who got made fun of blurred in later games. In a broader perspective, this also ties into how the series lost its "meta-ness" prevalent in the first four games. I agree, the narrator was on your case, at least for the first two games (and most of 3 and 4), not Roger's.

 

I'll concede, though, that it's a matter of opinion what you prefer. ;)

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I disagree. You see, Roger in game wouldn't have the power of loading after a death or having done it all before. He's basically the equivilant of someone who played through all six games. Perfectly. On the first attempt.

 

It's kind of like playing a video game on an emulator, and reloading the save state every time you mess up, let alone die, resaving after passing every small obstacle. As far as the game is concerned, you are the most incredible player ever, truly worthy of being immortalised on the Twin Galaxies Scoreboard, and featured in the movie The Wizard. It's the same for Roger Wilco; he's able to maneuver through the Earnon system and beyond with perfect precision to thwart his enemies and save the day. Though it's both a combination of skill and luck, I believe. I really like your analysis that his environment is not capable of recognising him as the hero he is, as he doesn't fit the mold of what they expect a hero to be.

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It's kind of like playing a video game on an emulator, and reloading the save state every time you mess up, let alone die, resaving after passing every small obstacle. As far as the game is concerned, you are the most incredible player ever, truly worthy of being immortalised on the Twin Galaxies Scoreboard, and featured in the movie The Wizard.

 

It's the same for Roger Wilco; he's able to maneuver through the Earnon system and beyond with perfect precision to thwart his enemies and save the day.

A yep!

 

Though it's both a combination of skill and luck, I believe.

I'll agree with that. Though at least in the beginning, less skill and more natural talent. By the end I'd say skill.

 

I really like your analysis that his environment is not capable of recognising him as the hero he is, as he doesn't fit the mold of what they expect a hero to be.

 

Thank you.

 

To move on from it I'd say there's the old Warthog vs. Gazelle comparion they used in the speical forces to discribe trainees.

 

A gazelle is someone who does things effortlessly and well. They're smart and talented. Everything comes easily to them. But the problem with gazelles is that once they go down, they're down. Get them in the mud and the hyenas are all over them. They do great when things are going fine. But when things are going way too wrong and everyone needs to pull together to survive, the gazelles will give up and not fight their way out. Not because they're weak or inferior, but because they've never had to dig deep, they don't know how to do it.

 

A warthog is someone who has had to fight for everything they've ever had. They can be smart, they can be talented but in the end they had to work for everything they've got because things don't come easy to them. While Gazelles jump over obstacles, the warthog has to crawl through the mud and barrel through them. Sure, when things are going well, they’re not as impressive as the relatively effortless gazelle, but its when the going gets tough, when they’re in the mud with the hyenas all over them, it’s just another day at the job, because they’re used to fighting for everything. They don’t give up because they’ve never given up, because if they were the type to give up they’d have thrown in the towel long before.

 

Roger is 150% Warthog. He's smart, he's talented, even if its hard to see, but that doesn't mean things come easy to him. It's only when he's under pressure that he shines and he lives in a society that loves their pretty prancing gazelles (Quirk) and can't see the ugly, stuborn old pig that never gives up as being worth half a damn.

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I love your animal analogy. I just disagree with it applying to Roger. :)

 

Roger never struck me as stubborn or particularly dogged. He struck me as someone who is thrust into a situation he has no business being in, and has no real interest in, either -- except for his desire to somehow get out the other end unscathed and get back to whatever it was he was doing (in this case, sleeping in a closet).

 

Roger's only tenacious because he has to be in order to survive. He's the best kind of lazy: the kind that's so committed to being lazy, they'll go to often ingenious lengths to remain lazy. :)

 

But I think it's safe to say we're getting into personal interpretation territory here, though. ;)

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Roger never struck me as stubborn or particularly dogged. He struck me as someone who is thrust into a situation he has no business being in, and has no real interest in, either -- except for his desire to somehow get out the other end unscathed and get back to whatever it was he was doing (in this case, sleeping in a closet).

Roger's only tenacious because he has to be in order to survive. He's the best kind of lazy: the kind that's so committed to being lazy, they'll go to often ingenious lengths to remain lazy. :)

 

+ 1 Agree.

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