Monday, 30 December 2013

Well-Rendered's Games of the Generation #10: Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Square Enix/Eidos Montreal (2011)

In most media, science fiction stories often suffer from placing concept ahead of character. Because the genre - which also goes by the name of speculative fiction - is devoted to the exploration of ideas through alternative and future universes, this is not surprising. It is difficult to deliver compelling character-driven narratives when characters must necessarily exist as representatives of certain demographics or viewpoints.


This is a problem because in most narrative media, empathy is required for a story to have any impact because the reader/viewer/listener is a passive participant whose only way in is through the characters. 

In video games this is not the case. A player can be wordlessly inserted into a world and set free to explore it at their own pace, absorbing its details without having to be strapped into a windowed carriage and forced to watch events from the outside. Because of this, games are an ideal delivery mechanism for science fiction, since they don't need narratives at all.


Deus Ex: Human Revolution has a narrative, but it is one which is subtly seeded through a intricately detailed world that it is up to the player to explore. Eavesdropping on conversations, hacking into e-mails and watching news reports all contribute to an understanding of a turbulent future where biomechanical augmentations throw everything humanity once understood into question.

The incredible art direction uses a future renaissance aesthetic to create a parallel between the events in the game and all periods of world history where technological advancements have threatened the status quo as the currency of power shifts.


At the heart of the story is the question of whether augmentations should be regulated, and if so, by whom. There is no right answer because the point of the game is not to deliver a lesson, rather present the player with a vast and complex scenario and allow them to make up their own mind.

There are few science fiction worlds that have captivated me as much as Deus Ex: Human Revolution, in any media. It demonstrates the potential for video games to transport players to complex, multi-faceted science fiction universes that do not rely solely on linear narrative to communicate ideas. I hope it is not the last of its kind.

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Lest we forget that this list is ordered according how much I loved the games, not just how good they are, I'd like to remind you (lucky you) of my affection for for a) Frank Pritchard (I like programmers) and b) the incredible fan-art people have been inspired to produce for this game. To this end, here's a Character Select article I wrote about Frank and fan-fic, a Well-Rendered post about sexy Frank fan-art and a longer piece about the value of fan-art that touches on the Icarus theme running through Deus Ex: Human Revolution.






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