On a sunny New York street, Spider-Man is eavesdropping on a pair of nannies. One confesses she’s new to the job and terribly out of her depth. The other offers up some advice: Keep the baby alive. Keep it clean. Use petroleum jelly when changing diapers. The first nanny is shocked. “I’m so sorry, we’re putting gasoline on these children?”
Chatter among NPCs is not new to games by any means, and Insomniac Games’ Spider-Man 2 is full of phone calls, awkward first dates, chatty mascots, and more. It’s background noise that makes a world feel full and alive as the player moves through it. Two childcare providers chatting on the street is a tiny moment between a pair of nameless characters that could easily get lost in favor of Spider-Man’s far more pressing adventures; whether or not any baby is being doused in gasoline is probably out of the hero’s purview, unless it’s a Green Goblin special. In a world without social media like TikTok—where a clip of the nanny chat first went viral—the conversation may have never surfaced for many players at all, and certainly never risen to reach a non-gamer audience either.
In this world, though, the voices behind those nameless, chattering avatars get their 15 minutes of internet infamy.
Krizia Bajos, who voices the gasoline-obsessed nanny and teaches voice acting lessons, found out the clip had taken off on TikTok when one of her students brought it to her attention. Another student streamed themselves hunting for her character in-game on Twitch. Bajos had mostly forgotten about the scene’s existence, which she said was recorded at least a year ago. “It's a testament to Insomniac and how detailed they are, how much they care about making a whole world and an in-depth game that's not just the A-to-B storyline,” she says.
For those wondering, Bajos’ nanny gets set straight about the differences between gasoline and petroleum jelly. The rest of the scene plays out with the advice-giving nanny frantically explaining not to use gas, or coconut oil, on a baby’s diaper zone, while Bajos’ character puzzles over what to slather on her tiny ward.
The scene sticks out, as opposed to other NPC moments, because it feels both hilariously deranged for a video game and somehow completely organic—dialog that believably could have been faked by a content creator with a dark sense of humor. On X, developers marveled over the scene. “I need someone from [Insomniac] to DM me if this stuff was all written or if you folks put improv performers in the booth with each other for these moments,” wrote John Wick Hex developer Mike Bithell. “Either is impressive. The latter doubly so from a pipeline and approvals perspective.”
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It feels natural because in a sense, it was. Bajos and her scene partner, G. K. Bowes, completely improvised the conversation. Dialog director Patrick Michalak asked several of the actors voicing the game’s NPCs to do “an atmosphere session”—a way to infuse the game’s world with more life as players swing through the neighborhoods. Their directive: two nannies on the corner of the street. That was it. Bajos had to quickly decide who she was—incompetent? Experienced? What other quirks? She landed on a woman who stumbled into the job and was desperate to talk to someone she could be honest with.
Bajos and Bowes recorded together, though in different soundbooths within the studio. “Covid restrictions,” Bajos says. “She was in my headphones.” That allowed the pair to be “right on top of each other, audiowise,” which helped give the scene a real-life cadence. “I don't do a heck of a lot of thinking,” Bajos says of her improvisation strategy.
There were some guidelines actors needed to follow, Bajos adds. No brand names, for one, which is why the actors say petroleum jelly instead of Vaseline. Bajos’ first language is Spanish, which she credits as a possible connection that gave her the now infamous line: “I thought petroleum—oh, as in gas,” she says. “We didn't do a lot of takes.”
Spider-Man 2’s improv NPC dialog is a rarity in media where scripted moments take priority over an actor’s ability to banter. (Even the surreal skit show I Think You Should Leave, which feels entirely like improv at times, is strictly scripted.) It works because it sounds like real people talking. Amid Bajos’ hilarious lines about dousing babies in ill-advised substances, Bowes pulls off an incredible feat of her own: talking about childcare—believably!—in a video game. In another NPC conversation, Bowes (as a different character) gives advice to a husband and new father trying to keep things spicy in the bedroom: “The woman just had a baby! Three months ago!” She talks about hormone levels post-pregnancy and nursing while advising the husband to make sure the wife is getting sleep.
The specificity of these conversations, even the subject matter itself, is a slice-of-life that video games just don’t play with. In another scene, Bajos can be heard talking down a father who seems to be daydreaming an awful lot about chucking his screaming newborn out the window. Spider-Man, slowly discovering a plague of exhausted parents—that’s the kind of thing you can’t write.