Fictional companions and goth concerns.
Have you ever wanted to be friends with a talking alcoholic skull? I know I have.
Graveyard Keeper – a game so goth it’s absolutely shocking I haven’t yet written about it – lets you do just that. Described by its creators as “the most inaccurate medieval cemetery sim of the year,” Graveyard Keeper puts you in the role of a medieval sexton tasked with maintaining a thriving cemetery outside a small town. You bury bodies, craft tools, extract blood, meet with wizards, trade with locals, explore dungeons and do plenty of other extremely normal sexton stuff. And how do you learn the basics of the game? Gerry tells you. And who is Gerry? The aforementioned talking alcoholic skull.
When you, a bearded man from the modern world, mysteriously find yourself in a medieval cemetery, your first task is to dig up someone named “Gerry” (in the brief cut scene intro depicting the modern world, someone with the name tag “Garry” bags your groceries). After exhuming a shallow grave, a skull bounces out of the earth. He’s unsure of who he is, who you are, or where you are. He’s not just a disembodied talking alcoholic skull, he’s an amnesic disembodied talking alcoholic skull (with a very charming mobility style: he bounces along the ground by opening and shutting his jaw). Nevertheless, he’s your only hope, and you begin to follow his instructions as he starts remembering them.
Pick up a corpse from a donkey? Okay. Slice some flesh off the corpse? Sure. Talk to the Bishop? I guess. Bring Gerry some beer? Wait . . .
Gerry’s affection for liquor quickly becomes apparent. Fairly soon after being disinterred, he says, “Alcohol, hm . . . I sure used to like it – a lot!” It’s a relevant sticking point in the early game: you cannot progress unless you bring Gerry what he wants. First, beer. Next, a bottle of wine. Then, cognac. It makes me think of the terrifying scene in The Last Unicorn, when a silver-crowned skeleton (voiced by the late René Auberjonois, R.I.P.) demands a wizard bring him wine in exchange for information. “You’re dead – you can’t smell wine, can’t taste it!” says the wizard. The skeleton replies, “But I re-mem-berrrrr!” The wizard gives the skeleton an empty bottle of imaginary wine; the skeleton drinks deeply and is fulfilled. I’m not sure what aspect of the scene scared me more: the skeleton’s intense but clearly irrational desire, or the way his zygomatic bones turn red when he “drinks” the nonexistent wine.
Gerry would suffer no such deception. So you have to deliver a letter for a blacksmith, and he’ll give you beer. Then, you have to grow grapes in the vineyard, press the grapes into juice and age them in a barrel. Later (in the Stranger Sins DLC), you dig up several earthen mounds in an attempt to find Gerry’s long-buried cognac, only to discover a strange machine, get interrupted by the same blacksmith who made you deliver his mail earlier and told you must be a landowner in order to dig in the village. You talk to Gerry again; he tells you his plan to open a tavern (shocking) as a front for using the machine, and onward you go in your quest to appease a talking skull. Does all this effort seem worthwhile to get liquor for said talking skull? I don’t know, but then I think about how endearingly Gerry bounces along the cemetery path and I still want to appease him.
I would never have wanted to appease the talking skeleton in The Last Unicorn, because he’s not even kind to the wizard and his fellow-travelers – he snitches on them, in the end. I don’t believe that Gerry would ever do that. Gerry may be overly fixated on alcohol, and he may be dead, and he may have other faults that we never learn enough about his backstory to know, but he’s a straight shooter.
During your tutorial, Gerry hops up on a counter in the morgue, enshrouded in darkness but chipper nonetheless. You, a blockhead from the future, ask him question after incredulous question. Finally, Gerry says, “Talking skulls never lie!” It’s only fair that you offer him the same courtesy. He’ll be in the morgue, waiting for his beer.