Hey, I am back with another post! Sorry I was afk (I was diagnosed with writer’s block with a touch of Life and massive bouts of existential crisis intervening in the most inopportune moment) but hey I am back, now on with the show!
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Recently, I was sucked back into Deus Ex: Human Revolution, another game in my library of favorite games that has blown me away.
Yeah, I know it is a sexy shirt less man, just calm down, jeez. So shallow…
Other than that lovely fine specimen staring through the floor before him, this picture aptly encapsulates the struggles of Adam Jensen, the protagonist of this game.
With every puff of a cigarette and a sip of his whiskey, his perfectly enhanced body, a culmination of cybernetic and biotech art, regenerates back to peak health in seconds to minutes. He may still enjoy the taste of his dry whiskey, but he will never feel the long buzz, the fuzzy happiness or even the dreaded hangover ever again. He may take a few deep puffs of his favorite tar-heavy cigarette, but now through some filtration system installed into his lungs, there was no more phlegm-induced coughing, the tar did jackshit and the nicotine, the sweet nicotine that helped him take off the edge in his SWAT days or now directing security at Sarif Industries – it did nothing, he felt nothing. He knew there was no point in enjoying his two favorite earthly poisons anymore with his body erasing almost any trace that made him pathetically weak and human. However, he will continuously and stubbornly indulge in his two earthly and human delights to remind himself that he is still human.
A very quick and spoiler free summary (I’ll try, but don’t crucify me if I spill some info) of this video game. This game was published by Square Enix (Final Fantasy franchise and more) in August 2011 and developed by Eidos Montreal. It’s a first-person shooter with options to play by stealth or guns-a-blazing, kinda like Assassins’ Creed but set in a cyberpunk dystopic world. The game is set in 2027, mega corporations took over the world creating and selling their cybernetic and biotech enhancements to the human population, creating an eltist race of superhumans. Naturally, it created a divide in the social and political sphere, raising very fascinating questions and opening the Pandora’s box of ethics, morality and a lots more.
The main character, Adam Jensen (shirtless man above) is a former cop that rose the ranks to ex-SWAT working as the Director of Security in one of the pioneering Biotech/cybernetic firms in this dystopic world set in Detroit. Of course, he falls for a neuroscientist who works at the same firm… I have no fucking clue why he chose her and why was he so smitten with her, maybe it was the way she did her smokey eye make up, I don’t know.
Great news and I don’t give a shit about the spoiler, but they broke up, so meats’ back on the menu boys!
Either way, through some unfortunate series of events trying to save his ex-gf, he lands on the operating table on the verge of death looking like road kill and his Boss, conveniently the CEO of Sarif Industries, David Sarif, decided to turn him into Robocop.
To augment or to not augment
As a writer and a romantic with penchant curiosity and love for mysterious male characters that have some tormented/tragic side, like Adam Jensen. This man hits that critical spot with what he has gone through and what he brings to the table in this story.
Of course, additionally, the immersive and atmospheric environment, the most random dialogues you hear in the streets, buildings, apartments, etc. helps deepen the understanding of this cold industrial-metropolitan world.
What I enjoyed the most in this game other than the obvious *cough* Adam Jensen *cough* is surprisingly its relevant topics. Normally, I am not the kind to enjoy something that is too close to home or too real, I mean I wrote a blog post about my love for the fantasy game Skyrim set in a pseudo-mythical Viking age.
BUT this game! I don’t know what it is that pulls me back in all the time.
Anyway. For me this game is a master piece, I am a sucker for awesome visuals and atmosphere that is woven tightly with interesting characters, dialogue and a believable environment. I am willing to make an exception to ignore the plot but that highly depends on how much I like the game itself (its world, characters and such) and this game has some flaws naturally because nothing is perfect.
However, don’t let that scare you away from trying it, it’s available on Steam, or even just watching the cutscenes.
Topics, themes and its revelance
Despite its use of conspiracy motif throughout the game (which I know some might roll their eyes at the nature of conspiracy theories in general), yet many fascinating questions and topics are brought up which is quite uncanny and to some degree relevant to how our society is progressing towards the future.
And yes I am aware, this is a fictional dystopic game set in the 2020s, but I am just saying there is a lot going on, so hang in there with me.
What if science dominated the human mindset?
I know, might as well shoot me in the foot with this but pushing aside the controversial and antagonistic nature of this question, let’s just approach it with our imagination and logic like, uhm, writers of all fields. Many hate that question, because obviously it is a waste of energy, time and serves no purpose other than to impede ones productivity. HOWEVER, if you have the imagination like that of the game designers and writers of this game, then it is a fun hypothetical question to tackle.
What if humans pushed the limits of science? What if we decide to enhance ourselves, to become stronger, resilient, smarter and reverse aging? It honestly doesn’t sound new because I am sure as we’re speaking, scientists are working towards that, check any websites with any latest science/technology discoveries and thousands of results will show up on google. I’ve inserted a link to LiveScience if you are interested in the latest developments in technology or sciences.
My point is, humans are consistently making technological, scientific advancements and we as a species are growing smarter and more capable as time passes. Now, Deus Ex: Human Revolution attempts to paint a picture of the future (albeit a more dystopic one) and attempts to answer these philosophical questions, the good and the ugly. How far would we push the boundaries of humanity, will we ever stop developing or even evolving as species and more importantly will we ever be satisfied with what we have?
This game also goes ham on how these mega bio-tech/tech companies like Sarif Infustries and Tai Yong Medical advertise their goods in the street. I mean it is as comparable (and unpleasant) as going to Time Square and being bombarded with neon lights and advertisement.
However, these ads also send the message to the population (like all ads in real life really) that being cybernetically advanced makes you look cool, sexy, trendy and all that jazz (really sounds like a cigarette ad or high school all over again). Even as you play your main character, Adam Jensen, you will hear civilians openly discuss with friends and coworkers how they are excited to get implants or are strongly against it. You will see people walking around with cybernetic limbs and pretty much no questions are asked, everything is chill and at times you will get comments, compliments and stares by passing civilians. It is as comparable (and I mean on the surface) as cosmetic surgery, people will notice and they may comment or just stare at it (and silently judge you).
When is it too much?
Now for the interesting part of this game, the question of ethics. I asked how far humanity would push itself to evolve, to improve their life and advance civilization, but I did not address how far or at what cause.
You don’t realize this right away as you play the game for the first time (it took me a few playthroughs) but Adam Jensen had no say in this operation. Yes, his boss might have saved him from certain death, but you can safely say his boss was motivated by his ambition and scientific mind more than human sensitivities. Unnecessary limbs were cut off, 40~50% of his body was replaced by cybernetics which leads to the all important questions that even Adam Jensen asks throughout the game For what purpose and was it necessary?
However, despite his unfortunate situation, Adam shows admirable strength, determination and tenacity as exemplified while he is under the knife. When Adam arrived on the operating table floating between life and death, he was dreaming of moments of passionate bliss with his former neuroscientist girlfriend which I have to say was brilliantly captured and executed (I think parts of it were shot with actual actors). Together with the music accompanied by vocal clips of human sighs, because we gotta be reminded that Adam Jensen is thinking about sex with his loved one on his dying bed, because I guess that’s how humans function?
No, in all seriousness, that scene, made of snippets of Adam remembering the operation of tools piercing into his skin, wires connecting to his body and zapping him juxtaposed to flashes of sexual intimacy and his ex-gf’s voice – it showed how he was tightly grasping onto his humanity by remembering the intimacy with his then girlfriend, his emotions and his ability to feel while his body is turning into a robot.
Take a gander at that operating scene. Disclaimer: His attempt at saving his ex-gf is included and also his grisly injuries are in sight, so warning, spoliers-ish, blood, uhm, lots of blood and violence by cyborg terrorists.
Is it necessary?
This Chinese man above had all limbs, internal organs replaced and many other functions replaced that made him a typical fleshy human. Two things happened here, one he became a new specie that is superior maybe in intellect and physical abilities to his human counter parts, he is now an recognized as an aug (augmented – basically robo cop). He and many others who went under the knife inadvertently created another race that has to become recognized and accepted and with it this opened up another whole spectrum of potential political and social factors that may becomes issues. The sequel to Human Revolution Deus Ex: Human Divided addresses these issues after a major anti-aug fall out occurred by the end of Human Revolution.
Secondly and this is the most striking point in this game, this man who possibly works a simple but well-paid desk job with clean bill of health who maybe went to the gym 5x a week, who ate as clean and healthy as humanly possible and yet went out of his way for a massive life changing upgrade from human 1.0 to Robo 9000 with a system overhaul including cybernetic arms and legs and I am not even sure if it supports java or python.
So, the question becomes is this really necessary?
These people that go into the LIMB clinic to get a robo-makeover are not only disgustingly rich to afford these operations but are actually driven out of vanity (excluding the armed forces, war vets, victims of accidents, Michael Jackson, etc) to cut off perfectly healthy arms and legs.
However, there are cases where operations were being performed without consent, I don’t need to mention the elephant in the room. When you listen to some dialogue exchange in a brothel in Hengsha, young girls of unfortunate background were getting these operations against their will because of the new wave of aug-grabby clients.
Nevertheless, once you have been converted into tin man/woman, your fate is sealed into permanent dependence on a medication called Neuropozyne. Much like any organ transplant recipient in the 21st century, they have to take medication to teach/fool the body into accepting this new organ, this applies too with the cybernetic augmentation in the 2020s. They will have to take this for life and if they don’t they may go into extreme withdrawals that may turn them violent or more like deranged-deprived killers.
The growing problem in this game is when you encounter many homeless augs who can’t afford medication. Neuropozyne is obscenely expensive that your average aug-joe cannot afford it. So, of course, this churns out cheaper, black market shitty grade neuropozyne to circulate in the streets, causing more bad than good and exploiting the weak and desperate.
So, as long as your rich or have a genetically predispositioned body like Adam Jensen to accept augmentations without a single shot of neuropozyne, then y’all good. Oops, my bad, spoilers!
Humans vs. Augs
As you progress in the game, the debate between “To aug or not to aug” grows more prominent as you confront many augs that look like Adam Jensen loitering about in back streets, getting into gangs and even causing riots in the street.
Annoyingly, the bad guys or shady guys in general in that game tend to have the augmentations, which naturally perpetrates the stereotype that all augs are evil or worse a bunch of mindless terrorists.
Civilians grow louder in their anti-aug opinions, protests erupt in front of the LIMB clinic at one point. People shouting that you shouldn’t mess with what “God gave you” or with nature. Innocents get pulled in. Political factions grow that are anti-aug, for aug and for humanity, etc. It becomes a mess which in the next game Mankind divided explains further, but in Human Revolution it shows only the beginning of factionalism.
In essence, augs get lumped into one thing and the humans get lumped into another which are fueled by personal feelings, politics and violence.
Adam Jensen is also in the middle of this, fighting his own personal battles to accept what he has become, finding a place where he belongs and also trying his damndest to preserve whatever humanity he has left not only in his mechanical body but in his surroundings as well.
This is why I love video games
Human Revolution touched something in me that I find hard to put into words, but I hope it was somewhat clear in this blog post.
If a game can sweep you away into a world that is immersive, believable and ultimately poignantly real, then count me in. Human Revolution leaves me pondering about life. It has compelling characters, interesting and funny dialogue, pushes the boundaries of imagination with how it envisions humanity in the future and its technological and scientific advancements and I overall enjoy a character that suffers his way into accepting himself or suffers to better himself and his situation.
The human element is probably what drew me in and the game’s philosophical questions that it throws at its players.
How much of your humanity would you sacrifice for vanity or for advancement?
I leave you with some videos and trailers of the game I talked about.
Sarif industries video ad on the benefits of augmentation.
Purity first, propaganda anti-aug video.
Here, a bonus trailer of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided tackling the factionalism of society.
Thank for your patience and see you soon in another blog post.