Some of the side missions in Cyberpunk 2077 stand out for their writing and among them are a short series of missions revolving around Brendan, the friendly neighborhood Spontaneous Cravings Satisfaction Machine or S.C.S.M. for short. He’s pretty much just a fancy vending machine on the surface but there is more to Brendan than meets the eye.
He appears to talk and respond to the people around him much like a real person, leading the player to believe that he is in fact, a sentient AI. This doesn’t turn out to be the case, as Brendan’s hardware wouldn’t have enough processing power and storage to house a full AI. Instead, Brendan is equipped with a human speech algorithm to make him appear more relatable to prospective customers, with the intent to sell more beverages. Things took an unexpected turn and Brendan started to develop something resembling a personality.
The four part mission leads you to meeting Brendan, to meeting Theo, a young lady who sought friendship from Brendan, to stopping a vandal from spray painting on Brendan, to finally rescuing Brendan before his firmware is updated and his current version is lost. Unfortunately, Brendan cannot be saved no matter what the player does and becomes a normal S.C.S.M. The sad news is brought to Theo who is visibly distraught at losing Brendan.
This brings up the question though, was Brendan a real “person”? It was made clear in the game that he was not a sentient AI and merely had a human speech algorithm. He had no actual free will or thought of his own. To Theo though, it did not matter as he helped her through a dark period in her life. Brendan was more real to Theo and more important than most of the humans surrounding her in Night City. This brings up many questions about the current state of society in Night City such that a programmed S.C.S.M. can appear more humane than a real human being. It is sadly just an illusion in the end, as Brendan has no self awareness or free will of his own.
Can such a being substitute for a real relationship? The title of the mission “Coin Operated Boy” references the song of the same title by the Dresden Dolls. The lyrics go over the same line of thought where a girl wants to replace a real boy friend with a coin operated boy so she doesn’t have to go through hardships with a real person. The oftentimes messy and troublesome entanglements that come from relations with other humans are part of what make it worth having. Theo wanted Brendan to be real but in the end, he was just a coin operated boy.
What are your thoughts on this matter, was Brendan a real “person” or not? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!