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LONG BLOG

Character through Quote: Krieg the Psycho

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Warning: Frank discussion of mental issues ahead again. Reader discretion is strongly advised.

Disclaimer: This is going to be the last article of this kind for a while. I don't want to limit myself to being "The Borderlands Guy", nor do I desire the perception of being a shill for Borderlands 3. I'm probably getting that game at some point because I like the series, but Gearbox and their employees are not relevant to the discussion.

That disclaimer out of the way, let's rock.

In the context of the larger Borderlands universe, a "psychopath" is not something based on a specific mental illness so much as an enemy faction of people with various neuroses who all wear very similar masks. Said masks are a symbol of worshipping "The Vault", one or more legendary treasure hordes. The psycho faction effectively form a commune of the mentally ill, but rather than support each other into being better, the "Psycho"s effectively feed each other's worst impulses.

Often, they are little more than bandits, not to be confused with Capital-B Bandits. Their mental issues are played largely as black comedy, with few such characters in the faction getting actual development. Bosses tend to, but the rank and file? Not so much, most of the time. Their suicidal tendencies are in fact played for comedy / dramatic effect on more than one occassion, including the box art for the games and a very memorable side quest in the second game.

Box Art 1Box Art 2Box art 2.5

(All box-art images via borderlands.fandom.com)

Enter Krieg, Borderlands 2's other DLC character, his counterpart being the previously discussed Gaige the Mechromancer. Where Gaige was risk/reward regarding accuracy, Krieg is risk/reward regarding health. Unsurprising, for one who is both able an willing to use borderline suicidal tactics like dynamite on an axe blade. Many of Krieg's abilities are channeled to being an extreme form of glass cannon, as a reflection of his own instability and lack of self-regard.

Krieg Promotional Render

That alone would merit describing Krieg as complicated, but there is more. Krieg hears voices. Mentally, Krieg is brilliant; his internal monologue is calculated and precise, soothing even. However, what comes out of Krieg's mouth is something else entirely. He has no control whatsoever of this, and the brilliance of his mind is hidden behind issues beyond his reach. Despite this, his fellow vault hunters learn to appreciate Krieg's intent and actions differ greatly from what those actions result in. His different brand of comedic sociopathy isn't treated as lesser, only unique. For a game about ridiculous guns and ridiculous characters, Krieg is treated with a surprising level of even-handedness and respect.

"Krieg's inner voice: This is me.

Krieg: I'm ready for a spine-tingler!

Krieg's inner voice: Yeah, great. Hey, remember back when we were sane?

Krieg: She can taste the bloody hatred!

Krieg's inner voice: Guess not. Still can't hear me, can ya? The little voice in your head trying to remind you of a time we could go hours- days, even- without screaming about our desire to ride bicycles made of meat? I don't even remember.'" (Partial transcript of Krieg's intro, once again via said wiki.)

Krieg is clearly not in his right mind, but neither is he in any way stupid or foolish, only suffering from things he cannot control. That's an important lesson, I think, in-game or out of it. People are complicated, and no amount of studying patterns of behavior makes them entirely predictable. Neither is it safe to assume their intentions, bar the sudden onset of practical psychic powers. It is common, in fact, to judge others by the result of their actions and ourselves by intention. This is called the "fundamental attribution error". 

Krieg is a perfect example of that, though an extreme (and extremely violent) one.

"(Krieg is walking on a train track)

Krieg's inner voice: This is me.

[...]

Krieg's inner voice: Yeah, great. Hey, remember back when we were sane?

[...]

Krieg's inner voice: Guess not. Still can't hear me, can ya? The little voice in your head trying to remind you of a time we could go hours- days, even- without screaming about our desire to ride bicycles made of meat? I don't even remember.

[...]

Krieg's inner voice: Oh, god. She's [Maya is] armed with a Maliwan SMG. She's a Vault Hunter. She's a Siren warrior who can kill me with her brain.

[...]

Krieg's inner voice: She's the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. Tell her she's as gorgeous as a thousand sunsets. Tell her you need her help. Tell her to rescue you, and care for you, and, whatever you do, do not scream the word "poop" at the top of your lungs.

(Krieg points his finger at the sky and waves his buzz axe)

Krieg: I'm the conductor of the poop train!"   (Same transcript, same source).

Eventually, Krieg is tolerated by his fellow vault hunters, if not outright accepted, despite or because of his differences. I hope one day we're in a world where all are so lucky. But until then, we just do what we can, and show each other the respect we are owed, not as mentally ill/disordered people but as human beings.

That's all from me for now. Silva/Michael out.

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About Silva Blaineone of us since 7:33 PM on 03.11.2016

Hello, my name is Silva, or Michael, whichever you prefer. My identity isn't a secret exactly, just something I don't go out of my way to broadcast at the moment.

I'm a mixed media artist, leaning significantly more toward digital art over pencils on paper.

I've been writing and drawing in some form for most of my life, though with periodic hiatuses as my motivation waxes and wanes.

Not sure what else to say. If you have questions, I'm most likely willing to answer them, and I'm virtually always willing to provide constructive criticism (or receive it).

Oh, right: I'm also willing to take book and music recommendations at any time. Never can have too many options on either front.