This last week I finished an Xbox 360 game, called Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
I loved it for a variety of reasons which I’ll get into later. For now, here’s the setting:
In 2027, medical corporations have made significant advancements in prosthetic technology. In fact, people can receive surgical augmentations that make their bodies more powerful than what’s natural.
Adam Jensen is the security coordinator for Saris Industries, a leading company in the augmentation industry. Just before Adam’s girlfriend (who also works at the company) is going to publicize a significant breakthrough in the technology, the building is attacked by terrorists. Adam is almost killed, and his girlfriend along with the major research team is killed.
In order to keep Adam alive, he is given all of the latest augmentations and even some prototypical ones. Upon his recovery, you play as Adam, trying to unravel the mystery behind the attack and the debate concerning these augmentations.
What impressed me the most about the game was the variety of ways you can play it. Since Adam has received these augmentations, he can sneak past people without detection, he’s gained better persuasive abilities, he’s excellent at wielding a firearm, and he is also able to run and jump with ease.
So consider this scenario: Adam needs to find some evidence from a crime scene that’s been locked inside the police station.
You can walk in the main entrance and convince the guard to let you inside. You can sneak past the guard and hack into the security system to disable the cameras. You can also talk to people around the town and discover there’s an entrance to the police station basement connected with the sewers. You could go around to the back alley, climb up the fire escape, and crawl through a ventilation shaft to enter.
Lastly, since the game is also a first-person shooter, you could just run inside, guns ablaze, and kill all the guards in order to get to your destination.
I chose to persuade the guard to let me inside.
I entered that way because there’s an achievement you can get if you play the entire game without killing anybody.
Wait. What? A video game where the main objective is neutralizing the bad guys and you can beat it without shooting anybody? How does that work?
Although it’s very difficult, it is possible to play through the entire game and save the world from the heavily armed terrorists without killing a single person. There’s even a scene where multiple soldiers and robots are shooting at one of your allies. It’s possible to sneak around and knock out each enemy, and then blow up the robot so that your friend is saved while nobody has been killed.
But it’s a lot harder.
It’s really frustrating at times because you have to play through the whole game perfectly. If you mess up just once, you need to redo that section until you get it right. You have to learn enemy patrol patterns, you need to build up your computer hacking skills, you need to knock out the enemies at the most opportune moment. Because if the guards see you, it’s almost impossible to progress further without killing them. So playing this way is really tough, even grueling at times.
But it’s also a lot more rewarding.
A friend of mine spent three hours trying to beat the one scene where he had to defend his teammate without killing any enemies. After finally beating that section, he said it was his most proud moment in gaming. And that says a lot because he’s beaten a lot of games, tough ones, too (and some easy ones that I give him a hard time about).
Deus Ex offers something extremely valuable in its diverse play style. It gives gamers a better picture of real life.
Even though it’s a game that has the potential to immerse the player in violent scenarios (like many modern games), it also rewards the player for doing the hard work of discovering creative nonviolent solutions.
It contains all the same action, role-playing, strategy, and espionage elements of other big-name video games, but it allows the player to have those without killing a bunch of people.
Deus Ex helps us understand that the easiest or most straightforward choice isn’t always the most rewarding or beneficial. I have found this to be true in my own life time and again.
- It’s easiest to let Sara do most of the childcare with Lylah. However, in so doing, I miss out on a special time in her life that I won’t ever have again.
- It’s easiest to sleep in late on a day off. However, in so doing, I miss out on the opportunity to accomplish a few of the things that have been nagging at me for a while.
- It’s easiest to eat junk food when I’m tired and I come home from a long day at work. However, in so doing, I miss out on years of good, vibrant health and the energy to do what I want.
What’s easiest in your life, but makes you miss out? How might you find fulfillment in rising above the temptation for what’s easiest?