Editor’s Note: Due to the nature of the game’s story, I did my best to minimize any spoilers. I wholeheartedly recommend this game to those that haven’t played it before to better understand many of the bigger issues outlined throughout the experience.
In an age where androids have reached sentience, reality television has crossed further into the abyss of shameless exhibitionism, and technology that powered the now-discontinued Google Glass has spread into enhanced reality, Capcom’s Remember Me paints a grim tale about corporate control of one of the greatest things a human being can have: information.
In Remember Me, you play as Nilin, an elite memory hunter aligned with rogue revolutionaries known as “errorists”, individuals that believe in the democratization of human memories. The game starts with your escape from a secret facility known as La Bastille by the mysterious errorist leader known as Edge, who has contacted you to save you from having your mind erased. Setting up a Bourne Identity-style storyline, you begin to piece together the memories of how you came to be held captive and help Edge to liberate Neo Paris. In addition to her combat abilities, Nilin is later equipped with a special glove that allows her to “remix” memories, altering their minds to act according to new thoughts and histories.
Traversing through Neo Paris, she fights her way through slums, where human beings have become deformed, hollow versions of themselves, and more affluent areas where people think only good thoughts, and robot-human debauchery occurs freely. Nilin interacts with other errorists along her journey and fights agents of the state as they try to defeat her and bring her back to La Bastille to have her memory completely erased. What she uncovers on her quest is a conspiracy to overthrow the society as it exists.
In this world, memory information has become the new commodity, equivalent to crude oil or Truffula trees. Memories (specifically good memories) have been aggregated in a central reserve and sold to those that have the cash for a quick fix. Citizens with enough cash can remain in euphoria throughout their days, while those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder are separated from happiness and hope, presumably leading to their despair and eventual deformity. Nilin has the special power of wielding information as a weapon, using the projectile-launching Spammer and my favorite weapon, the Logic Bomb. Technology of Nilin’s time can also help guide others to various parts of the stages for files and power-ups, and recording memories in key places allows Nilin to avoid traps and decipher door combinations in high-security facilities.
Much of Nilin’s stories require her to alter the memories of other characters in the “remixing” portions (my favorite mechanic in the game). The remixing of memories changes the motivations of characters, taking actions that they would otherwise not. Without giving away any spoilers to the story, many of the remixes that Nilin has accomplished lead to dire consequences, and though they are necessary to reach her objective, I would have found myself in a serious dilemma with her actions. She affects those that continue to oppress agents that seek to maintain dominance through control of a once free-flowing resource (human memory) but at the expense of the free will of her victims.
Did she actually take their free will? Those individuals could alter their actions or simply accept their new realities without aggression towards themselves and others. Still, their entire personal stories have been destroyed – their self-identity tied to the memories they once held and deemed infallible.
Barring the collapse of an entire economy centered on information commerce, one question must be answered: if the errorists are successful in taking down those that seek to control the supply of human information around Neo Paris and around the world, where would the memories go? Those that could not previously buy back their good memories will be flooded with the joy of forgotten loved ones and stable and hopeful lives.
Those that have been able to pay to be shielded from their earlier transgressions will be sent into shock, much like a drug addict suddenly going cold turkey from a glorious high. The possibilities for this new world would stifle society, creating a vigorous demand for good feelings and potentially a more violent and desperate uprising by those that felt their positions in an elite class of Neo Paris society has been stolen.
Remember Me presents an interesting approach to controlling information as a tangible resource, and remains as timely as ever. Many of our present-day issues can be connected to resource control and scarcity, as well as information control. The 24-hour news cycle, social media, and the associated data that is being collected has been used to target marketing from companies to drive revenue and sell virtual goods for many years with no end to the trend of using our behavior to profit. Data lists are always being bought and sold among companies to identify potential customers every day. The future, as demonstrated here, may not be entirely far from our own future, and I can only hope we can be more responsible in ensuring the freedom of our own thoughts.