Why is parkour still a thing in video games now? It was a key component in Assassins Creed and Mirror’s Edge, and it should have stopped there. (I’ll accept inFamous, too, because at least it’s fun then.)
But, here we are, still climbing up the sides of buildings. Like, EVERYONE can climb the sides of buildings so easily. Doesn’t that seem like a really hard thing to do? That didn’t used to be a thing. In older video games, when we came to a wall we were like, “Well, I guess we better find a way around it.” But now everyone’s trying to just climb over it.
It’s a cute idea, but you can’t put that genie back in the bottle. In the old days the question was, “If I have a grenade launcher, why can’t I explode that locked door off its hinges?” Now it’s, “If I can climb THAT wall, why can’t I climb EVERY wall??” It’s funny. As aesthetics get more realistic, the occasional inconsistencies with video game verisimilitude become more insufferable.
But then, hey, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised parkour is so present in a French game. A French sci-fi game. About memories. Called Remember Me.
The Ghost in the Shell series was a very dire and realistic meditation on the nature of technological progress and its influence on politics, the planet, and the self. It’s a crime drama first, but the themes of memories and identity run throughout all of the proceedings.
Meanwhile, Remember Me opens like, “You lost your memories! Because a company called Memorize decided they could do whatever they wanted with your memories! Now take ’em down, so we can all have our memories back! Even if you have to mess with other people’s memories! And remember to remember to memorize memories!”
Now, isn’t it kind of obvious that the big twist is gonna come when you get your memories back? I know it’s a sci-fi, but it feels really silly and regressive to just make your plot actually involve what your game is thematically addressing.
Maybe I’m getting stuck on this, but… You’re supposed to use the plot to convey the point, the same way you use a frying pan to cook a steak. You can’t take the meaning of the game and then build the plot on that. You can’t cook a steak with another steak.
To be fair, there is other stuff going on in the game: the haves vs. the have-nots. The rich can afford to relive their own happy memories, while the impoverished can only scrape together the memories of others and go nuts in the process. There’s even a character early on whose decision to do something drastic is based on a very expensive hospital bill she has to pay. It actually feels just barely relevant at times.
But it’s not just plot and aesthetics you use to convey meaning: it’s mechanics. The script seems to be telling us that the game is about the malleability of the human psyche, and that my character is a genius hacker. If that’s so, how come I spend less time rewriting people’s memories – which is, in fact, a very neat and juicy bit of the game – and more time punching junkies and climbing up and down the sides of walls?
The thing is, Remember Me isn’t the first game that’s about running toward a glowing waypoint or climbing and punching things like a drunk amnesiac baboon. But it’s the last one I deign to play.