There are traffic rules in Los Santos, but almost no one follows them. People ignore stop signs, fly through red lights. I almost never see players use their cars’ blinkers or high beams — most citizens don’t even know how to use them. All over the city, drivers are crashing their cars into other cars, launching off bridges and into buildings. Cars can reach speeds upward of 100 miles per hour easily, and they often do, which means that not only are drivers crashing their cars, but flying out of them, too.
Los Santos, specifically in the Grand Theft Auto 5 role-playing server called NoPixel, has a driving school where players can learn to drive and wipe points off their driver’s licenses — something that many drivers in the city need. Tessa Lamb, played by a Twitch streamer called Nakkida, is one of the city’s few driving instructors, one of the very few Los Santos citizens that follows traffic laws, and encourages others to do so, too. And I love her, despite recently finding out that she’s not exactly who I thought she was. She’s actually a serial killer.
I started watching Grand Theft Auto 5 role-playing, specifically on the NoPixel server, a few months back, slightly after what role-players call the “boom” — a period of time where Grand Theft Auto 5 role-playing got very popular on Twitch thanks to big name streamers participating — had subsided. There are multiple fan-made servers for role-playing, but I stick with watching NoPixel streamers; I follow a few different streamers and watch the world unfold from a bunch of different angles. It’s like a living TV drama that unfolds even when I’m not there, operating in cycles as the global players log on and off throughout the day.
My favorite Grand Theft Auto 5 streamers are the ones who do normal, everyday jobs. I like watching Brenda, the moody hospital receptionist, and Rose, a freelance interior designer. (As I write, I’ve got Twitch on in the background, with a streamer role-playing as an IT administrator; she just installed SimCity 2000 on a courthouse computer.) But the Grand Theft Auto 5 role-play character I love the most in Tessa, the driving instructor.
Tessa’s important because she can help wipe points off players’ drivers licenses. Los Santos’ license system works like ours; if you get pulled over and are convicted of a driving violation, you’re docked points on your license. In Grand Theft Auto 5’s role-playing servers, points add up fast. (Like I said, no one follows traffic laws.) Too many points and you’ll lose your license, and driving without a license can land you in jail. Tessa’s driving tests are particularly thorough; she’s got a clipboard where she’s able to knock points off her students’ tests. Negative two points for making illegal turns, negative five for illegal passing, and an immediate dismissal for running from the police. If players pass, they can get points off their license. If they fail, they’re out of luck.
But Tessa is Los Santos’ nicest citizen, someone who’s trusting and kind. She never breaks the law, but she is willing to overlook small mistakes students make on their driving tests. After all, it can be a nerve-wracking experience — something I know all too well. When I was 16, I failed my driver’s license test twice.
I watch her day after day, for hours, as she meets with people in the city, doing everyday things in her everyday life.
Tessa is so nice that even the city’s criminals, of which there are plenty, feel bad kidnapping her. (Kidnapping happens all day, everyday. Criminals use hostages as bargaining tools for the many, many robberies that happen each day.) But Tessa has a secret that almost no one knows about, something I didn’t realize despite spending hours watching her. Tessa Lamb is a secret serial killer — she has a violent alter-ego called Mary Wolf, who attacks and kills people that harm animals in front of her. Finding it out, well, was a shock.
I realized that Tessa wasn’t exactly who I thought she was when I stumbled on a random clip called “victim 3,” clipped in early September. It’s in black and white, with a red glow around the edges. Tessa — who I now know was Mary at the time — is driving a dune buggy up a mountain. Another role-player appears to be handcuffed and is screaming as a mountain lion approaches; Tessa is just watching and the player gets mauled. With a cougar snarling in the background, Tessa finally speaks: “If that’s not justice, I don’t know what is,” she says in a demonic voice, very different from sweet Tessa.
When I saw this clip recently, I knew something was up. It was so very unlike the Tessa I knew. I went back to Nakkida’s clips pages and started scrolling. That’s where I found the clip that appears to have kicked it all off: A character called Young Dab hits a bird during his driving test. Young Dab, played by variety Twitch streamer moonmoon_ow, is clearly distraught when he hits the bird, but Tessa remains silent. Her eyes go red — you can see a demon inside her starting to creep out — and all color fades from the world. She instructs him to continue driving to a remote area of Los Santos. Forty minutes into the driving test, she tells him to stop, forces Young Dab out of the car with a gun, and leads him into an abandoned mine shaft to murder him.
Tessa Lamb is a serial killer, blood for blood, defending animals. (Before she leaves the shaft, though, she does tell Young Dab that he passed his driving test.) Once Young Dab is taken care of, Tessa (or Mary?) drops the knife in a river and “wakes up” from her alter-ego, unaware of what happened.
I still haven’t seen Mary Wolf come out while watching Nakkida stream as Tessa, though I have noticed that Tessa’s alter-ego was listed in her Twitch channel’s description all along. Finding out this way, though, by accident, just feels right.
I still love Tessa Lamb, but now I fear her, too.