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    huh's GameLog for Nier Automata (PS4)

    Thursday 30 August, 2018

    August 30

    2B and 9S are sent into the desert to root out and destroy a population of machines. The quest seems simple enough: enter a zone, kill everything as it jumps out and attacks, and repeat. Only when you reach the last little zone, one lone machine turns around and flees. Up until this point, the player has learned that all the machine enemies are fairly generic and single-minded. They will idly wander about until the player wanders too close. Then they charge and attack until either you or they are dead. Occasionally some machines appear to malfunction and only attack if they are attacked first. But they never flee, until now.

    That moment, when the lone machine turns and runs, is so striking because it goes against the mechanics that the player has come to expect from this game as well as from stylistically similar games. The gameplay typically revolves around fighting a horde of enemies and demands the player learn to combo, dodge, and parry effectively to survive. Part of what makes the game so exciting is assessing the oncoming enemies and weighing the potential to land an attack without opening yourself up to attacks from other angles. So when the machine simply turns and runs, it feels like a violation of the basic mechanics of play.

    Other small details begin to suggest a shift in the game's direction. The machines are found wearing clothes. Some begin to speak simple phrases. They seem to demonstrate a sort of rudimentary intelligence now, whereas before they were only the most generic enemy forces. It all culminates in a final arena buried deep in the ruins of ancient buildings. There, a couple dozen machines sit about performing actions that are distinctly human (though not effectual): rocking a crib, imitating sex, etc. At this point, 9S argues that they still are only machines and are only imitating humanity, but I couldn't bring myself to attack them.

    How does one define life? A machine can perform any action it has been programmed to carry out without being "alive". Perhaps their programming (or else some small glitch in their software) led them to pick up the odd human trait and replicate it. But still I doubt most players would consider that to be living. Even if they had picked up and replicated every little aspect of being a living human, could we ever truly call that life? The question shows up again and again in scifi works like Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Blade Runner, and Ex Machina, but this game presented it in a slightly different context. Those machines, along with about a hundred more that began crawling from the surrounding ruins, linked together to apparently transfer all their combined learnings into one being which then dropped down with birth-like imagery.

    This new creature (which I believe will come to be named Adam in the game) possessed the same white hair and human physique as 2B and 9S. I had unconsciously already decided that the two YoRHa androids were alive, by my standards. But the game forced me to directly challenge this conception by literally breaking down the elements that went into the creation of Adam and forcing me to question whether or not that was enough to be "alive". And I can't quite say for certain what I believe.


    Great job Chris! You bring up some super interesting points, both from a design perspective and from a philosophical/ethical one. It sounds like you've got a lot of ideas to work with, I look forward to seeing what you choose to focus your OPA on.

    Wednesday 5 September, 2018 by Light
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