Star Wars has plenty of instances where the protagonists interact with their droids. Most of the time, it’s with barely restrained annoyance and a great deal of impatience, or the same way you’d deal with a slightly quarky microwave.
Then there’s those heroes who actually seem to give a crap. In a world where droids are usually treated as talking appliances with annoying habits, I’m still surprised at how much effort Chewbacca put into reassembling C-3PO in Empire Strikes Back, considering how Threepio is almost certainly the least loved of all droids by the inhabitants of the Star Wars universe.
Then there’s Poe.
Poe has this tiny orange and white beach ball of a droid. BB-8 is so small that R2-D2 has to bend over to look down at him. And yet, Poe kneels to talk to BB-8 every single time. Every. Time.
Let’s think about that. He kneels to talk to a droid, to get on its eye level. The way you might take a knee to talk to a child. And he calls him “Buddy.” (He calls Finn buddy a lot too, and I have every intent of talking about Pinn or Foe or whatever the whole Poe/Finn ‘ship is called in a future post.)
It says a lot about a person when they treat a voiceless mobile nav computer (which is what BB-8’s main role really is) with decency and kindness. Poe wouldn’t ostensibly lose much by treating BB-8 the way Han treats every droid he meets (read that: poorly at best), but he still goes out of his way to be nice, to be respectful.
I love it.
In Blue Wing, my upcoming tabletop RPG about starfighter pilots and their mustaches, every pilot will have a companion robot called a KEG that helps them fly their starfighter (clearly inspired by Star Wars’ astromechs). And their relationship with their KEG will be as important to their success in the game as their relationships with their fellow pilots. KEGs will exist as an extension of the character as micro-characters in their own right.
I’ve always enjoyed interesting mini-companions in RPGs. D&D’s familiars, or as a more extreme example the Shadows in Wraith: the Oblivion. They provide additional tools for a Gamemaster to inject conversation or interaction into a game session, provide alternate views on the world, or often provide a moment a levity or laughter in a scene that’s become too dark.
There’s a lot to be said about how players treat their companions/minions/etc, as well. I’ve found that, in general, those who treat them as targets for abuse because “Hey it’s just a game” are almost certainly people in the long run that I don’t want at my table, or in my life. Because as with how Poe treats BB-8, I believe how we treat non-human entities, even fictional ones, can say a lot about who we are as a person and our capacity of empathy or cruelty.
I’m not saying we need to go out and thank a microwave or ask a vacuum cleaner how its day has been. But, really, I’ll take excessive empathy, even when it’s mildly eccentric, over any volume of cruelty every day.
Be more like Poe.