Hobos With a Good Heart

Bums. They’re everywhere. Big ones, small ones, some get in the way while others keep themselves to themselves. Some are brash, others loud, but at the end of the day, they’re all bums. Playing Virtual Beggar on my iPhone brought them to my attention. It’s a game that has you helping a homeless man get by, by donating money to him, helping to furnish a garage he later lives in, improve his clothing range, etc. Naturally, like most phone tapper games, he ends up a billionaire of sorts but for a short time it was kinda fun being able to virtually help this poor man out. It got me thinking about hobos across the gaming spectrum. I suddenly recalled a lot in a fair few games, and they were always actually quite involved within their gaming universe.

The Virtual Beggar, doing what he does best

Rockstar Games seem obsessed with homeless people. They feature in the Grand Theft Auto series, Manhunt, and Bully, and no doubt I’ve missed other games they developed which feature everyone’s favourite smelly vagrants.

The character of Darkel is probably the most interesting instance of a hobo in a video game, or not, in this case. He was meant to feature in Grand Theft Auto 3, seemingly as some kind of demolitions expert who would provide you with missions which would see Claude, the main protagonist, cause various amounts of mayhem. He was used in the hype by Rockstar Games to promote GTA3 and he came across as a very unique character. However, he was suddenly pulled from the game before its release and Rockstar offered no explanation as to why. The game was delayed in September 2001 immediately following the September 11th attacks, and small changes were made, including amendments to the script, some changes to the missions, and references to terrorists removed.

Darkel, in all of his un-used glory

Darkel was also cut from the game, but according to Dan Houser, president of Take-Two games who were responsible for the publishing of Rockstar’s games at the time, Darkel had been removed months before the 9/11 attacks. He also dismissed the rumour that one mission involving the character featured the bombing of a school bus loaded with children. Instead, Houser admitted Darkel was removed simply because he did not fit with the rest of the game. You need to remember this was at a time in the GTA series when characters didn’t include UFO obsessed hippies, rednecks who would steal celebrity mementos for an aging British couple, and missions involving the mass eradication of clowns wielding automatics. Today? Darkel wouldn’t raise an eyebrow, but they were different times. Some would argue better.

Manhunt, another Rockstar game, also used the homeless as part of its storyline. The storyline goes that Starkweather, the director of the snuff film you’re unwillingly participating in thinks you need an on-screen partner. He provides you with the The Tramp who you then need to escort from A to B. A notorious escort task. Even Cash, the character you play as in Manhunt isn’t happy about this, and it’s a laborious task to get the bum through the level without being caught by the enemy group of the Innocentz. I haven’t done a full playthrough in about 10 – 15 years of Manhunt, but this particular moment in the game stands out in my memory for all the wrong reasons.

The character isn’t totally without backstory however. It’s possible within the lore of Manhunt that The Tramp is a character who featured in another of Starkweather’s snuffs, as there is one such movie listed in the game manual called ‘The Tramp Who Knew Too Much’. The Tramp is an alcoholic who is a beggar, and constantly moans about being ordered what to do. There was also a cut character who went by the name of The Scarecrow who some peeps believe would have used the character model which would eventually go on to be The Tramp. What isn’t true however, is the idea that The Tramp uses Darkel’s character design. What IS very likely however, is that his model was used elsewhere in the Rockstar Games catalogue, as Bully / Canis Canem Edit also features hobos in its town location which look very reminiscent of The Tramp.

More recent games also big up the homeless, in a very unique way to be found in The Binding of Isaac. This game is screwed up enough as it is without having to explain how beggars within the game help you out. A naked child escaping through ever deeper levels of his hellish basement because his mother’s looking for him with a knife after God told her she needed to sacrifice him as a sign of her devotion to the almighty one. You won’t catch this on HBO anytime soon, though even Nintendo have allowed for its release on the Switch…

Anywho, the Beggars. Not your usual side of the street beggars, just odd little characters who will take certain items off you if you don’t want them. Let’s see here, we have the straight up Beggar who expects coins from you. It’s not without reward, as depending on how he’s feeling, the little grey guy can provide special pickups and trinkets for your generosity. We then have Key Master who instead of coins takes keys. Like Beggar, he can be rewarding. Next we have Bomb Bum, the little bastard. He takes bombs of course and while he will sometimes reward you like the other two scroungers, sometimes you’ll get a troll bomb up your ass for your troubles. He’s even pulling a face so you know he’s a gobshite. Lastly, we have Devil Beggar. This guy is a lot more demanding, and affects other parts of your run depending on how you treat him. Keep feeding him your hearts (yes, that’s your life), and he can gift you, but it also shows your allegiance to the Dark Lord, so the wonderful items that the angels can provide you will be a lot rarer.

Trolling between beggars

Or, you could just bomb the little sod. And so show your loyalty to the Almighty One!… who currently has your mother chasing after you with a knife. Killing the beggars can also provide you with random bits and bobs, so they can be quite important in terms of providing you with help, but can be just as equally damaging. You can also acquire bums who look just like the beggars, and they’ll follow you around through the game, trying to steal items before you do.

Finally, let’s talk about the more positive side of how to deal with the homeless. Skyrim allows you to adopt homeless children as your home!Yes, if you want to be a true samaritan, you can take the pesky little buggers under your wing and lead them down a sordid life of violence and debauchary. Or just play some tag instead. This isn’t just a throwaway act mind you, your character can be buffed as a result of your kind-heartedness. You also get to see the little darlings squabble if they get into it with each-other. “I’ve seen mudcrabs that’re smarter than you!” GET TO BED!!! However, if you have the children of the corn to deal with…

Sticking with Bethesda, Fallout 3 / New Vegas / 4 are littered with homeless people but for a very good reason. As anyone who has played these games know, the storyline follows the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust which physically ruins just about everything in the areas you play in the games. Naturally, homes have become scarce and so you will regularly see homeless people wandering the wastelands. A lot of the time these wanderers are minding their own business, travelling onward to the next nothing in their lives. Other times, these scroungers can turn on you for no particular reason other than that you are a walking source of anything. Sometimes you can provide help, other times you can even go as low as pick-pocketing the poor sods if you really feel you have to.

The homeless are everywhere. The Metro series. World of Warcraft. Beyond: Two Souls. Sim City. And of course, the homeless game to end all homeless games… Hobo: Tough Life. We like hobos, and seem to enjoy playing with them every day. They get a bum rap *rimshot* for their just being ‘there’. But they’ve contributed a lot in video games. They rarely seem to be used as a negative, instead offering a lot of help for little in return. Sure they’ll require money sometimes but let’s be honest, who’s short of money in videogames? I like hobos, and their place in the virtual world. It’s nice to see a game like Hobo: Tough Life actually focus solely on the struggles of what the homeless go through… albeit in a no doubt extremely violent fashion.

All light-heartedness aside, it can be heart-warming to see that whilst some games may represent the hobo as a useless individual, others portray them in a more human light. Even in Bully, the homeless guy initiall comes across as your stereotypical drunken fool as we always seemed to see in 80s movies. Stick with him a couple of minutes however, and you find a guy who fought for his country and who wants to help out young Jimmy in taking on the bullies. He’ll teach you new moves which expand Jimmy’s move-list and ultimately helps you become a true bully ass-kicker. It’s rare to find the homeless represented truly poorly in video games, it’s just a shame that we should harbor such resentment against them in society. If you can ever spare some change for someone living rough, go for it. That 50p isn’t ‘keeping them on the streets’ as some narrow-minded idiots might have you believe.

Catch me wishing Darkel would show up in GTA5 @Auto2112