My hands gripped the controller as a cut-scene crashed onto my screen, a reprieve from the tension I’d been clutching in my jaw. I released the left trigger that had kept me locked in combat position, and sat back – watching the results of my “hard work”.
Adam Jensen, the protagonist of Eidos Montreal’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution, opened the final scene I had chosen with a quote from Albert Einstein:
Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal.
Though released two years ago, the game’s central themes continue to
reverberate throughout today’s concerns, successes, and failures. Set in 2027, the game takes you through the conflict multinational corporations have wrought on people suffering from economic and biological poverty. DE:HR thrusts one into a world where national governments have no control over nanotechnology and human augmentation – the very same technology that enables mortally wounded soldiers a second chance but disables the impoverished from advancing beyond their “lower” class status.
Eidos Montreal’s work has been lauded for its graceful emphasis on social interaction, and rightfully so; at the same time, I found myself wondering if the impacts of decisions made in a virtual world were themselves realized in our reality.
I, for one, find myself running headlong into the intellectual bridge to scientific exegesis (nanotechnology that enables me to survive explosions? SOLD!); however, the divergence of thought between the virtual world and the one we live and breathe in aren’t dissimilar. Video games are often so fantastical they seem as if an alternate reality – but the game is only set 20 years from now.
We struggle with corporate negligence as the abuse of innovation spirals out of control; we deal with dependency on expensive pharmaceutical drugs that are band-aid solutions to recurring, societal crutches; we struggle with regulation, the right to free speech in a world toeing the line between transparency and fear mongering.
Unlike the virtual world, there are more than four endings to choose from; if we chased the dream of progress in reality like we do in video games, where could we end up? In this sense, video games allow us to explore the issue, dare to face the fear of unpredictable movement and challenge risk.
Not all of us will have a unique genetic structure, like Adam Jensen, that will enable us to adapt to human augmentation, but each of us will have a unique imprint that will affect how society will react and change. The question the Plug Me In series will continue to pose is: given the choice, what would you choose?