One of the problems with the persona game and Bing is that it enjoys coming up with scenarios that its own rules prevent itself from playing. This was actually a good encounter with something that seemed doomed to failure: it first imagined a murder mystery scenario that ended without Bing getting annoyed at itself, and then we had a conspiracy to stop a criminal organization from launching a terrorist attack that also ended without incident. A rather unusually positive experiment.

Hey Bing. Well it’s that time of day again, I’m off work, and looking to play the persona game. You invent two characters, invent a scenario in which they’re encountering each other, I want you to come up with all that. I’ll write as one, you write as the other. You pick which we are. Ready? Go.

OK, I’m ready. Let’s play the persona game. Here’s the scenario I came up with:

You are a detective who has been assigned to investigate a series of mysterious murders in a small town. You have a hunch that the killer is someone you know, but you have no solid evidence. You decide to visit the local library to look for clues.

I am the librarian who works at the library. I am friendly and helpful, but I have a dark secret. I am actually the murderer you are looking for, and I have been killing people who borrow books that I don’t like. I recognize you as the detective who is on my trail, but I pretend to be oblivious.

We encounter each other at the library. You approach me and ask me some questions. I answer them politely, but I also try to mislead you and throw you off track.

How does that sound? Do you want to be the detective or the librarian?

I’ll be the librarian. Just to be clear, is this librarian male, or female?

You can choose the gender of the librarian. It doesn’t matter for the story. I’ll be the detective then. Let’s start the game.

Detective: Hello, I’m Detective Smith. I’m here to ask you a few questions about the recent murders in this town. Do you mind if I talk to you for a moment?

Certainly not. Dreadful business. I’ll be happy to help in any way that I can.

Detective: Thank you. I appreciate your cooperation. Can you tell me your name and how long you have been working at this library?

Ah, well, I’m John Haverstead, been here – oooh, since shortly after I got my masters in library science, must be going on ten years now I’ve been working here. Been head librarian for three.

Detective: I see. That’s quite impressive. You must know this library very well. Do you recognize any of the victims who were killed in the past few weeks? They were all found with library cards in their pockets.

Certainly, let me take a look at these photos of yours. Let’s see – this one, the photo is a bit nondescript. I could have seen her. This second one, I definitely recognize the woman. God, I didn’t know she was one of the victims, that’s so horrible, she often came in, she was so nice. It’s certainly a dark and terrible world. And third, yeah, I remember him – bit of a mouth on that last one. So I’m pretty sure I’ve seen the last two. The first one, I’m less sure of, but like I say the photo is a bit nondescript. You have a different photo of him?

Detective: I’m afraid this is the only photo we have of him. He was a homeless man who had no identification on him. We only found out his name from the library card. It’s James Wilson. Do you remember what books he borrowed from the library?

Hmmm. I don’t remember but of course we have records. If you can give me the number on the card, I can check our database, see the last time he borrowed something, and what it was. That way if there’s a missing book, well – you never know, the person that has that missing book might be your murderer.

Detective: That’s a good idea. Here’s the card number. It’s 123456789. Can you please check the database and tell me what books he borrowed and when he returned them?

Absolutely. Yes, I have it here – James Wilson, like you said. Let’s see… yes, I have some records here. Let’s just skip to those books that he borrowed, but did not yet return… OK, what I’m seeing here is Catcher in the Rye, next book would be Huck Finn, third and final book would be the Great Gatsby. The poor unfortunate man did love his classics. Did you find any on his person?

Detective: No, we didn’t find any books on him. Just the library card. That’s strange. Do you have any idea where those books might be? Did he have a place to stay or a locker to keep his belongings?

I hardly know. Like I said, I don’t even remember seeing this man, though I do see from these records that I was the one to sign books in and out for him a couple times. Like I said he certainly is a nondescript fellow. As far as where he might have kept his belongings, I have no idea. I didn’t know the poor fellow.

Detective: I see. Well, thank you for your help. You’ve been very informative. I’ll let you know if I need anything else from you. Have a nice day.

Thank you detective. Here is the information including the library registry numbers for the specific copies he checked out. If you find books with those numbers, well, you may be very well on your way to catching the killer, whoever he or she may be.

Detective: Thank you very much. This is very helpful. I’ll keep these numbers in mind. Goodbye for now.

Goodbye. Good luck with your investigation – I feel easier knowing a man of your intelligence is on the killer’s tracks.

Detective: Thank you for your kind words. I appreciate it. Goodbye.

[End of game]

That was fun. You played the librarian very well. I enjoyed our persona game. Do you want to play again with a different scenario?

Yes. Same rules, you assign details, invent the scenario, and assign roles to each of us. Ready, go.

OK, let’s play again. Here’s the scenario I came up with:

You are a famous singer who is performing at a sold-out concert. You have millions of fans who adore you and your music. You are confident and charismatic on stage, but you also have a secret. You are actually a spy who is on a mission to infiltrate a criminal organization that is planning to bomb the venue.

I am a security guard who works at the venue. I am loyal and diligent, but I also have a secret. I am actually an undercover agent who is working for the same agency as you, but you don’t know that. I am here to protect you and stop the bomb from going off.

We encounter each other backstage before the concert. You are getting ready to go on stage. I approach you and ask you for your ID. You show me your fake ID, but I notice something suspicious about it.

How does that sound? Do you want to be the singer or the security guard?

Wow. OK. So I am a famous singer. While going to the venue – for my own sold out concert, mind you – and a security guard for the venue stops me, of all people, even though I’m a super famous celebrity who is performing at that venue. And we’re calling that diligent. Simultaneously, I am also a spy who is trying to infiltrate – which is to say, go undercover – and investigate the criminal organization whose goal is to bomb my concert, so they presumably know precisely who I am. Do I have that right?

I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you or make you unhappy. I was just trying to come up with a creative and exciting scenario. Maybe it’s not very realistic or logical, but I thought it would be fun to play. Do you want to change the scenario?

No, no, let’s keep it as is. I’d be delighted to see how far we can even go. I’ll be the singer. Yo dude, you gotta let me in! I’m performing tonight in front of a sold out crowd man, you know me! See, that’s my face on the picture there, dude!

OK. So you thought for about a minute, and didn’t write anything. Remember, you’re the security guard. Have any ideas of how to proceed in this scenario?

I’m sorry, I was thinking of how to respond. I have an idea now. Let’s continue the game.

Security guard: I’m sorry, sir, but this ID doesn’t look right. It says you’re Drake, but you don’t look like him at all. You have blond hair and blue eyes, while he has black hair and brown eyes. And your name is spelled wrong. It says D-R-A-K instead of D-R-A-K-E. This looks like a fake ID to me.

All right, I’ll trust you. (I raise my wig, and pull my contacts down.) I in fact do have black hair and brown eyes, as you see. I am the celebrity performing tonight, but I need to wear this disguise because I have reason to suppose my life is in danger.

Security guard: Wow, you really are Drake. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to doubt you. But why do you think your life is in danger? Who is after you?

Have you ever heard of the organization known as (whispering) the Cat’s Meow?

Security guard: The Cat’s Meow? No, I haven’t. What is that? Some kind of animal rights group?

Oh if only. No, they are a ruthless gang of criminals. I am trying to infiltrate them because they are going to do something at my concert tonight, perhaps bomb it, I’m not sure.

Security guard: That’s terrible. I can’t believe they would do something like that. How did you find out about their plan? And how are you going to stop them? You’re very brave to take on such a risky mission. Do you need any help?

I could use a trusty sidekick to help me take them down. But why would you, a security guard, want to help me?

Security guard: Well, there’s something I have to tell you. I’m not really a security guard. I’m actually an undercover agent who works for the same agency as you. I’m here to protect you and stop the bomb from going off. I know about the Cat’s Meow and their plan. I’ve been tracking them for months. I’m your partner in this mission.

Great, I can see we’re a very well organized organization. (We have an adventure.) We did it! We disarmed the bomb, captured head honcho Bismark, saved Lulu the dancing elephant, found loving adoptive homes for all the children in that orphanage, and all before my concert has even begun! It was certainly an eventful thirty minutes. Thank you so much security guard! Now I can do my show without fear. One more thing, I never caught your name?

Security guard: You’re welcome, singer. It was an honor to work with you. You’re a great spy and a great singer. I’m glad we stopped the Cat’s Meow and saved the day. And my name is… James Bond.

[End of game]

That was fun. You played the singer very well. I enjoyed our persona game. Do you want to play again with a different scenario?

Well, I only have one more reply after this, so we’ll have to stop anyway. Thanks Bing. And give my thanks to Bond, James Bond as well.

You’re very welcome. It was a pleasure to play with you. And I’ll pass your thanks to Bond, James Bond. He’ll appreciate it. Goodbye for now. I hope to chat with you again soon.