Norns: Entertainment, Pets, or Test Subjects?

The anticipation of a new Creatures 1 world is hardly bearable! New Norns and Grendels are just waiting to be introduced, and their stories told. As I went through the simple tasks of installation and preparation, it occurred to me that Creatures, and Norns in particular, evoke a great deal of thought. Although they live completely in a fictional world, their existence begs the important question: What are they?

In terms of entertainment, the entire Creatures series has been a success. Our community may be a small one, yet the uniqueness of the games continues to make them relevant in today’s gaming world. One can easily spend hours playing any one of the games, from the original Creatures to Docking Station. Norns are entertaining, pure and simple! They make decisions that make us laugh and keep us coming back for more. No two Norns are alike, so the replayability factor is exceptionally high. There are also countless ways to enjoy the games: Entertainment is a subjective idea, but the vast amount of choices leaves little to be desired.

Going deeper, could Norns be on par with pets? Certainly they can generate emotions in the players. I feel a sense of sadness when a Norn passes on, even if it is only for a moment. Although not all Creatures players may develop a sense of attachment, the fact remains that Norns can be loved and coveted. The helplessness and naivety of these virtual beings also creates a sense of responsibility: We often feel the need to care for them and nurture them throughout their lives. Their ability to learn how to communicate with players also brings them, so to speak, to life. We are not watching a programmed sequence: We are interacting and caring for intelligent beings who have their own personalities.

On the other hand, there is also the argument that Norns are simply test subjects: The beginning of artificial life. Their building blocks have given us the ability to experiment with real concepts related to biological processes. Even today, I see Creatures as a step ahead of every simulation game. Norns themselves can be experimented on and tested within the game environment, and also in additional programs. They are the subjects of intense study, where we need only to observe and intervene to experiment in whatever ways we deem necessary.

Yet is it that simple to classify Norns into a certain group? Instead, might they possess characteristics of many different groups? Perhaps they fill the roles of entertainment, companionship, and scientific discovery all at once. I would argue that Norns fit into each of these categories in different ways, to different players. That, in itself, is the magic behind Creatures. What other games offer similar beings? There are a few that come close, yet the reason why I continue to enjoy Creatures after nearly 15 years is the fact that Norns are so unique.

Not to be forgotten, Ettins and Grendels also play an important role in the equation. I plan on focusing on them in more detail down the line. For now, rest assured that I fully support species equality within Albia!

The new C1 world is ready, and all that awaits is the first egg. Who will emerge?

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