One of the things I loved seeing in my bit of London was the flocks of green parakeets who had made themselves at home in local parks. They were a weird splash of exotic colour which had made itself at home. Their screaming and screeching felt appropriate to the city’s abrasiveness and I’d watch them squabble in the trees near one of the playgrounds as winter drew in.
I saw them again the other day on a visit to Kew Gardens – that’s where the picture above is from – and it made me wonder whether I would find them an exciting oddity if I encountered them in a game set in a city or whether they would stick out too much, sending the game into some magical realist or dreamlike territory.
There are several competing explanations for how non-native parakeets came to make themselves at home in the UK, so there isn’t a consensus you can point to when pondering an explanation for the birds. Nothing canon. They just /are/. They flock to trees, screaming and flapping. Leaves fall as they sidle along branches, picking around for ripening nuts. Sometimes you’ll hear the whoosh of foliage and feather as they do that parroty clambering to get to a lower branch which is a combination of grabbing and falling.
But if they had come up in a game – say, if a flock of parrots suddenly appeared in an otherwise faithful recreation of a British city – what might that do?
I’d hope they would still be a curio that made me smile, so long as the developer or animator made them seem totally at home. But would a community then go nuts, trying to work out the parrot ARG? I mean, I assume that’s what would happen if this game I’m imagining was by Blizzard.
For a meticulously researched game it might stick out, prompting questions about the studio’s competence, and thus leading to many an explanatory article about London’s parakeets and their attendant mystery.
Maybe they would be a clue or a motif like the cardinal bird you see in Virginia. Green birds to signify hidden routes or particular terrain.
Perhaps they would end up with their own cult following. Little subreddits and maybe the odd bit of game-reference jewellery on Etsy.
I think I would be more inclined to search for meaning in them if this was a game because of the obvious reason that games are created by humans and everything that’s present is present because of a choice a person made. I’d look for meaning because there would necessarily be one, even if it was “I like parrots” or “We made a game about London and London has parrots”. When they show up in the park I get to step away from the “Why?” and just enjoy them being near.
I don’t have a larger point with this, but sometimes I want to use these supporter posts to write down thoughts before they slip away.
This article was originally written for the RPS Supporter Program.