Conjecture: starting every article about HK-47 with a noun is predictable and lazy. Assertion: I don’t care, because Knights of the Old Republic is 13 years old today, and it’s the perfect opportunity to celebrate my favourite whirring, wound-eyed doombot.
Let’s slow down, though. There’s a problem. I played KOTOR as the Jedi Jesus, pootling from planet to planet in the Ebon Hawk, solving even the most mundane problems free of charge. I should have hated HK-47 and his pre-programmed indifference for human life (or, at the very least, huffed and said grumpy judgemental things to other Jedi behind his back).
But I didn’t. We were buddies. I loved the process of fixing him up, recovering his memories, improving his dexterity. I loved exceeding his (admittedly very low) expectations. But most of all, I loved dragging him on my altruistic adventures through space, making him stand there like a sad bronze mannequin while I made choices he hated. “Would you like me to blast him, master?”, HK-47 would ask, hopefully. “No thank you, HK-47,” I’d laugh, like a sanctimonious prick. “All life is precious. Or at least, all story-related life is precious. I shall resolve this via peaceful negotiation and judicious use of my Jedi powers!” If HK-47 had lips, he’d have snarled.
His red-eyed devotion to evil helped frame the wonderful paradox I created. The artist formally known as Revan the Butcher was now helping Twi’lek strangers pass dance auditions. HK-47 was expecting murder, force-choking and vengeance - instead, he got the Light Side Dalai Lama. A man who cheerfully crossed time and space to rehome Gizka. Looking back, it must have been an special flavour of hell for HK-47. He knew Revan when he was the Dark Lord of the Sith. It was like the worst kind of jock reuniting with his childhood bro, only to discover he’d started an organic Kombucha bar called Teasy Lover.
Best of all, he helped me see a side of the game I was afraid to experience firsthand. I feel guilty about even the smallest moral transgressions in videogames. Every attempt I’ve ever made to play a Bioware game as a smouldering badass has ended in self-loathing and failure. I tried to go Full Bastard on an alternate KOTOR save, but I barely lasted an hour, and I still feel guilty about forcing a Wookie who owed me a life-debt to murder his best friend (I’m sensitive like that). By hanging around with HK-47, I could peer through the letterbox of the Dark Side, pretend to remember the awful shit that Revan used to do, and never actually feel any guilt.
That’s why I love him. HK-47 is Bioware’s best bad character because I don’t need to worry about reforming him. He won’t leave my party if he disagrees with me. He won’t feel sad if I’m too nice. He’s a trashcan of malice, incapable of any emotion other than hate, so I never need to feel pity for him. He can grump along with every Light Side act and it won’t affect our friendship. I can take him on missions to snark at Bastila and Carth, and I can snigger under my breath without saying anything. He’s a machine designed for murder, who also manages to be passive-aggressive. But most of all, he’s a metric that made me feel even better about being the Nicest Man in the Galaxy. Happy birthday, HK-47, you beautiful, evil bastard. You made me feel great.