Deus Ex: Human Revolution Is About DRM

By Kieron Gillen on September 6th, 2011 at 1:23 pm.


The new Deus Ex is about many things, but ranking high amongst them is DRM. I’m not even joking. (The following article contains spoilers to the very end of the game.)

Human Revolution is a meditation on technology’s ability to make us more than human, and the dangers (both perceived and actual) herein. This is a universal, perpetual theme that’s interwoven with civilization. We have been made more than human since our greatn ancestor chimp picked up a rock and bashed the living shit out of something that was trying to kill it.

I’m a cyborg. I am able to write this today because the technologies of antibiotics and surgery were able to remove a malfunctioning organ when I was 24. If this was 200 years ago, I would have died from the common appendicitis. Now, I sit with a hole in my belly, my physiology altered for the better as much as any of the cyborgs in Human Revolution. Equally, unless you’re crouched in the corner of my room, watching over my shoulder, you’re reading this via an internet technology developed to avoid the hammer-footsteps of nukes instantly removing the military’s ability to scream “Fucking hell! We’re fucking fucked!” at each other when the bombs started wiping them out. You could be in an office, or a beach, or a packed train or wherever, and my thoughts are being projected directly to you. And that in turn rests on the technology that made us more than human several thousand years ago, able to transmit thoughts across time and space. The written word allows Plato – 2400 years dead – to project his thoughts directly into the mind of anyone who bothers to read him.

And as technology changed what it meant to be human, people question its merits. Let’s take Plato’s thoughts – through the mouthpiece of Ammon in his dialogues – talking about the very technology that allows him to reach us through the years:

“If men learn this, it will implant forgetfulness in their souls; they will cease to exercise memory because they rely on that which is written, calling things to remembrance no longer from within themselves, but by means of external marks. What you have discovered is a recipe not for memory, but for reminder. And it is no true wisdom that you offer your disciples, but only its semblance, for by telling them of many things without teaching them you will make them seem to know much, while for the most part they know nothing, and as men filled, not with wisdom, but with the conceit of wisdom, they will be a burden to their fellows.”


Technology gives us power. And some of us always fear that the technology that is providing this power will also reduce us, to the point of ending us.

Right now? We’re all superhumans. And as time goes by, at least in the industrialised world, we’re all increasingly superhuman. It’s almost impossible to over-emphasise how much technology has made us titans. It was said, the Colt is the great equaliser. For the last century, I would favour your gran with a gun over any martial artist in the world. Today, I’d favour anyone with a basic understanding of Google over pretty much any scholar in matters of general knowledge. Frankly, after a prompt from Dan Griliopoulos, the previous two paragraphs are pretty much evidence of that. I appear more learned than I actually am by the power of a Google search. And that power is only going to increase over time.

Communal sighing for the loss of human achievement is misplaced. This is the fundamental story of humanity. We’ve only ever been what our technology has made us. And if it made us, will it destroy us? That’s been the story since Prometheus, and if we observed humanity from a distance, I suspect it’s the story aliens would tell about us. “Humanity: an animal on a little muddy ball with a nasty addiction to the steroid of technology”.

We live in the shadow of Oppenheimer. Nukes have the ability to annihilate human society in an eye blink. But nukes are nukes, held by larger bodies. What happens when people can turn themselves into something with the ability to alter society as much as a nuke? What happens when the technology means there is absolutely no need to pay anything but lip service to the society in which you find yourself?


It’s the end of the world. Even for people who are in favour of the eternal acceleration, it’s the end. The geek rapture of the Singularity is nothing if not an ending.

Human Revolution is about reactionary forces trying to put that genie back in the bottle.

Human Revolution methodically takes us through a host of aspects of how an emerging technology is changing society. By doing so, they’re using a science-fiction filter to show how technology effects any society. Take, for example, the memorable plot in Shanghai where a trader from a poor background is in debt to a money-lender to pay for the cybernetics that allow her to play on an equal playing field with everyone else. People who come from backgrounds which can afford to pay for it. Even away from that particular incident, the wealthy draining money from those who buy the advantages they need to prosper is all too visible in the world’s initial set-ups. While medically necessary, the anti-rejection drugs you’re on for life if you become a cyborg are fundamentally an endless mortgage on your life. You do not pay, you die. But if you don’t get the cybernetics, you sink to the bottom of society. What choice do you have but to become as much meat as metal. Technology is the key to temporal power which is the key to economic power with pays for the technology. It’s a vicious circle. And when bought-for-advantages entirely outstrip anything a lucky genetic throw of the dice can give you, those towards the bottom of society are perpetually annihilated.

Of course, strip away the metaphor, and it’s already leaning like that. As a child, in a Midlands town, I was never aware of class on a day-to-day basis. It’s when I went to work at PC Gamer and realised that I was the only person on the magazine who went to a comprehensive rather than a private school that the penny dropped. In the decade and change since then, it’s got worse for young writers. Not willing or able to work as an unpaid intern? You may just be screwed.

Human Revolution’s point: the more technology advances, the more advantages it buys, and the more those unable to purchase it suffer.

There’s a flip to it though. While the bleeding edge of tech – what lets you operate as the best in the world – is beyond most, whatever’s lagging behind becomes more available. And older tech is still, in its own way, power beyond what you would have “naturally”. And to return to my nuke metaphor, when the gap in earnings and societal respect becomes a chasm, having a large underclass with access to even the original generation of nukes is a recipe for the aforementioned end of the world.


In Human Revolution, Hugh Darrow – Augmentation’s Oppenheimer – sees the world he’s created and can’t help but think it’s doomed. He does not trust people with the power he’s given them. Moreover, he doesn’t trust those who have power over others to act correctly. He knows what the Illuminati were planning – the ability to prevent anyone in the world mis-using the nukes beneath the skin. While we can easily say his bitterness is because he’s physically incapable of accepting augmentations himself – therefore, is always going to be left behind by progress – he does have a point. This is what technology allows people to do, both the masters and the serfs. You are deluded if you believe by putting technology into your body you make it yours. It is still theirs – and putting it into your body, makes you theirs.

The Illuminati’s original position doesn’t really care about that. It thinks the masters are best for the people. If people are free to just do whatever they want, they’re going to destroy the society. If everyone has a nuke, even if the vast majority can use it responsibly, it only takes a tiny portion to decide to mis-use it to bring ruination. So, by fair means or foul, there must be a way of enforcing discipline. By killswitching this world-ending they maintain control. They have added entirely unnecessary functions to a piece of technology because they distrust human nature to use it responsibly and maintain a societal order.

At which point you see the DRM metaphor. The Illuminati’s plan is to put DRM into every piece of cybernetics to ensure that it’s not misused – or, if it is misused, it can be prevented from causing wide-spread harm. Darrow’s murderous critique isn’t just that augmentations are dangerous – but that augmentations will leave you open to something like this. His problem is both what the augmentations let you do (“I can tear that dude’s head clean off if I feel like it”) and what they make you do (“They can make you feel like tearing that dude’s head clean off if they feel like it”). Some technology is just too dangerous for anyone to allow it to exist, because the safety-locks you “have” to add to it are just as rife for abuse as the technology it exists to control.

David Sarif’s one of the most interesting figures in the game. Making a corporate head sinister has been a cliché (if an understandable one) for decades now, but Sarif has a Steve-Jobsian charisma to him. Of all the leaders, I like him most. Of all the leaders, my best instincts wish he was right. He believes we can trust people to push this tech as far as we can, because it’ll turn all right in the end. Those who are worrying about it are just old people. The old always say the young are changing us for the worse. The young always say the old never understand. However, I find myself thinking, just because this will always happen – and has always happened – as long as there are young and old, does not mean that at different times one side is always righter or wronger than the other.


As much as I like Sarif, I don’t trust his successor or his peers to act like him. And I don’t trust Sarif in five or ten years time, because time changes people. By then, he could be just like one of the Illuminati, looking for ways to maintain control. Or, to look at the world we live in, just because Google have been relatively lovely up to now, we shouldn’t necessarily assume that they’re not going to decide to be Doctor Doom in two weeks time and simultaneously blackmail every Google-account-owning person in the world.

How time changes people preyed on my mind as I finished Human Revolution. A decade ago, with the first game, I went with Tracer Tong and burned down civilization for hope of a more equitable, better world tomorrow. This time around, I sided with the people who wanted to put a DRM-chip inside every consumers’ head.

Yeah, I went with the Illuminati. How the young radical has changed, eh?

After seeing the world of Human Revolution, I simply saw a disaster. I was too in love with the concept of progress to go for simply nailing the door shut to the future that Darrow offered. Equally, Sarif’s tech-utopia was mediated by corporate bodies. I trusted Sarif. I don’t trust the immortal, perfect soulless machine of a corporation. And to leave it up to humans? My second choice. My idealistic one. This is too big for any one man, especially me. However, in a world where bodies with no responsibility to the public wield so much money and power, I couldn’t see how what the world would decide would be anything other than what the corporations told them to think. Or, at least, until it was too late.

To cite Plato’s famous peer Uncle Ben, with great power comes great responsibility. The anarchist in me would like to think that in times to come people would learn to live without the controls. But whoever I am today thinks that without some enforced restraint, the dark future of Human Revolution simply becomes no future. I simply don’t believe that enough people in Human Revolution’s world would do the right thing. Not Yet. Maybe ever.

So I guess that’s my confession. Human Revolution convinced me that in certain situations, to prevent a certain abuse of technology, I’m totally fine with the sort of draconian DRM that even certain major PC publishers would think a trifle harsh.

I’m one of them now. Shit.

, , , .

194 Comments »

  1. Bilbo says:

    “I’m a cyborg. I am able to write this today because the technologies of antibiotics and surgery were able to remove a malfunctioning organ when I was 24. If this was 200 years ago, I would have died from the common appendicitis. Now, I sit with a hole in my belly, my physiology altered for the better as much as any of the cyborgs in Human Revolution.”

    Come on, now. They’ve got swords for elbows and shit.

    • Balobam says:

      I don’t know about you, but I wish when I had my tonsils removed they’d replaced them with tiny flamethrowers.

      I look forward to the future.

    • Premium User Badge bglamb says:

      We’ve been living in the future for ages now. It just creeps up on you so you don’t notice.

      Lovely piece of writing Kieron. Thanks for that.

    • MCM says:

      You probably wouldn’t have gotten appendicitis 200 years (or longer) ago. Rates of appendicitis in developing countries are like 1% of that in developed countries.

      We shouldn’t make the mistake of assuming that what happens in the first place is “natural” and that our solutions are “artificial”.

    • WPUN says:

      You think Deus Ex is science, but it’s not. It’s pure fantasy! This is way it would really be:

      Thank you for purchasing a General Products Replacement Appendix, Part of Our “Bin and Win” Line of Budget Replacement Organs! Before you can use your new General Products Replacement Appendix, please read and acknowledge the End User Licencing Agreement (150 pgs.) , the Terms of Use (25 pgs.), and the FAQ (1/2 pg.).

      Please be aware your General Products Replacement Appendix will only stay under warranty as long as you select modification and upgrades exclusively from the General Products Replacement Organ ModShop(tm). We may also require your General Products Replacement Appendix to upload firmware changes that may remove previously available functionality as General Products or Third Party Providers deems necessary.

      *Popup* Hey, I’m your Mod Licencing Manager intelligent assistant! I wanted to alert you that I’ve only been able to download half of the upgrades required for your General Products Replacement Appendix. Please be aware some activities may not be protected by your Comprehensive Mod Liability Coverage until all upgrades are installed. Thanks, have a nice day! OK.

      *Popup* Ling Standard “Give ‘em the Toe” Big Toe Enhancement tech note 9p8y45: We suggest turning off anti-fungal subsystems if you have recently installed a General Products Replacement Appendix, versions 2.3 to 3.7 inclusive. OK. Message Boards. Cancel.

      *Popup* Your General Products Replacement Appendix has been successful installed, Do you wish to restart your limbic system? Yes. Later.

      *Popup* Would you like to fill out your General Products Replacement Appendix warranty card now? Yes. Later.

      *Popup* Your General Products Replacement Appendix has been successful installed, Do you wish to restart your limbic system? Yes. Later.

      *Popup* We’re sorry, you can’t restart until you complete the General Products Replacement Appendix warranty card. OK.

      *Popup* The General Products Replacement Appendix warranty card cannot be used right now because the system is shutting down. OK.

      *Popup* We’re sorry, you can’t restart until you complete the General Products Replacement Appendix warranty card. OK.

      Care to guess where the master reset switch is?

      Yeah, I thought you’d figure that one out.

    • Mr_Hands says:

      @WPUN: This sounds about right. Deus Ex (for the sake of dramatic tension) rather overstates the impact that technology has on social systems. It’s easier (and typically more fun) to articulate an extremist/technological determinist view in which technology is essentially a tyrant that forces its will upon a gormless populace. The reality is (as always) a lot more complicated, as social structures and regulatory bodies enact a dialogic relationship with emergent technologies.

      I imagine, had Deus Ex had a more moderate tone, of course, it wouldn’t have done so well. Or at least required a stupendous amount of philosophical debate (enough to choke a horse with an augmented epiglottis) to coherently get the point across. Which, had they made THAT game instead, I’d have been pining for the dystopian cyberpunk madness where all I need to do is skim an email for an access code (that I soundly ignore and hack the keypad anyways.)

    • outoffeelinsobad says:

      @WPUN: Glass half-empty much? Not every user interface needs to be Windows ME, thanks.

    • Sweetz says:

      Unless your appendix was replaced by a machine counterpart, you’re not a cyborg. Having an organ removed does not make you a cyborg.

      Couldn’t be bothered to finish article after opening paragraphs. Author needs to be a bit less infatuated with his self-supposed cleverness.

    • Grygus says:

      @Sweetz I think your definition is too narrow, practically speaking. Check this out.

    • rufflove says:

      “Come on, now. They’ve got swords for elbows and shit.”

      Innit. Bladerunner it ain’t.

      The story struck me as a rather hackneyed, cyberpunk-by-rote affair, which exhibited little more than a cursory ambivalence towards the Clint-meets-Neo augmented coolness of its protagonist. I suspect all the waxing lyrical about the game is as much a product of its seductive powers, as it is á product of the game’s more thought provoking moments. Ahhh, the PC Gamer days… I still remember your Homeworld review, Kieron. Still a great game with an affecting story. Shame about the review!

  2. Hexanol says:

    My New Games Journalism is augmented.

  3. jon_hill987 says:

    I am a Cyborg. Due to a serious ear infection/cyst I have had the bones in my middle ear (just in the left one) replaced with a lump of plastic.

    Can’t hear for shit with it though but it is much better than nothing at all.

    • Stuart Walton says:

      I am a cyborg. I had my chest cut open, heart stopped, heart cut open, valve repaired (with sutures) and hole patched (with an autograft so no drugs needed for the rest of my lfe). Then closed up with steel wires holding my ribcage together. Also, my iPod and netbook are constantly at hand.

    • jon_hill987 says:

      Maybe one day I’ll be able to have my ear replaced with one that works like an owl ear and you will get a super roboheart that is twice as good as a regular one and makes you have regenerating health or something.

    • nrvsNRG says:

      Maybe one day I’ll be able to have my ear replaced with one that works like an owl ear and you will get a super roboheart that is twice as good as a regular one and makes you have regenerating health or something.

      aawwww!bless your cotton socks :)

    • jon_hill987 says:

      I am quite serious, granted my suggestions for improvements were not but when and if it does get to the stage when artificial replacements for our broken squidgy bits are better than the real thing why should those of us who have had such work don in the past not go under the knife again to get it put right?

    • The Innocent says:

      I am a cyborg too.

      When I was a wee baby, I had one of my kidneys removed.

      They put in an Icarus Landing System in its place.

      I wish that second part were true. =(

    • Oak says:

      My vision is augmented by spectacles.

  4. JackDandy says:

    Nice.

    DRM still sucks, tho!

  5. wccrawford says:

    You aren’t a cyborg. You had something removed, not replaced. People with fake hearts are cyborgs. I’d even go so far as to say those with pacemakers could be considered cyborgs. But not people that are just missing something.

    As for the rest of it… You’re trading your freedom (and mine!) for the illusion of safety. So yeah, you really ARE one of ‘them’ now. Just because your chip is ‘safe’ because it has DRM doesn’t mean that the criminal’s is. In fact, I’d bet that it isn’t. And that his chip is quite a bit better than yours because of it.

    This isn’t really even about DRM. It’s a gun ban. “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.” You can’t prevent the outlaws from having guns. That’s impossible. They don’t care about the law. You can, however, make sure that normal people can defend themselves against outlaws. That not only gives them protection, but disincentivizes the outlaw’s illegal actions in the first place.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Your definition of “cyborg” needs to be augmented. I suggest reading this: http://50cyborgs.tumblr.com/

    • Richard Beer says:

      I think Kieron’s parallel of DRM is slightly flawed, and that wccrawford’s suggestion of gun control is better.

      When you walk down the street, you’re in no danger from someone who’s illegally downloaded a cracked copy of a game.

    • Richard Beer says:

      Although I disagree with his stance that gun-control can’t work!

    • Jacques says:

      I think I agree with wccrawford definition, but it does appear that we need a new name to talk about mechanically enhanced post humans.

      I’d lean towards body hacking as the term, which Quinn Norton mentions elsewhere, but without mentioning the originator of the idea, Lukas Zpira.
      http://www.sterneck.net/ritual/zpira-body/index.php

      Interestingly, Zpira is also working on some rather cool looking implants that create metal pockets in the skin, to, for example, hold an ipod.

    • Baboonanza says:

      ‘This isn’t really even about DRM. It’s a gun ban. “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.” You can’t prevent the outlaws from having guns. That’s impossible. They don’t care about the law. You can, however, make sure that normal people can defend themselves against outlaws. That not only gives them protection, but disincentivizes the outlaw’s illegal actions in the first place.’

      That’s the same bullshit argument that gets trotted out every time by the pro-gun lobby. If it was true then everyone in the UK would be living in fear of gun-wielding criminals, totally unable to defend ourselves. In reality we have a very, very low gun-crime rate while the US has a tragically high one (I suspect the per-capita rate of accidental shootings alone in the US is still higher than the overall rate in the UK but I don’t have the stats).

      In other words the facts directly contradict your statement. It should read: “If guns are outlawed, less people get shot.”

    • karry says:

      “You can’t prevent the outlaws from having guns. That’s impossible. ”

      Absolutely possible. Stop producing the fucking guns. There. Done. You’re welcome.

      “we have a very, very low gun-crime rate while the US has a tragically high one”

      Dont forget the monthly school-shootouts. Never a dull moment in US.

    • Jumwa says:

      I suppose gun control could work absolutely if the police and armed forces were willing to hand over their guns. And we lived under a global government that could enforce that universally.

      But seriously, plenty of countries with high legal gun ownership rates have extremely low gun violence rates. Canada for instance. My home corner of the country has a homicide rate lower than that of any nation, but an extremely high rate of gun ownership. And homicides committed with a gun are almost unheard of, they’re almost exclusively accidental deaths from drunken bar fights.

      A more apt comparison here to piracy would be that: your culture surrounding a product will shape use of the product–legal or otherwise–more than laws or rules surrounding it. Formalized restraints on human behaviours in the form of laws (or in this case DRM) have always been rather blunt and inexact methods of regulating human behaviour.

    • Berzee says:

      @karry: because outlaws could never make their own gun!

    • Sheng-ji says:

      Total Firearm related death per 100,000

      US 15.22
      England 0.46

      Looks like giving everyone guns really dissuades those criminals huh!

    • Theory says:

      @Jumwa: Don’t make the mistake of filtering your sample like that. As Kieron points out there will always be lots of people who behave sensibly. The problem is that we have technology which creates change so acute (nukes, shooting sprees, bomb vests) that even a tiny handful of abusers can create huge amounts of misery.

      Edit: FYI, Canada is the fourth-worst industrialised nation for firearms murder after the USA, Italy (mafia violence?) and Finland.

    • JackShandy says:

      Basically, if you make it harder to get guns, guns are used less.

      It’s crazy, I know, but give it a chance.

    • PoLLeNSKi says:

      To go back to the DRM comparison – supplying people with easily copied versions of software means that people ‘may’ be more tempted to pass on those copies.

      I remember when I was still at school it was very usual for people to be handing around floppy disks of the latest games, maybe sometimes raiding the school-photocopier to copy the piracy protection of the ‘DRM’ which accompanied them.

      If that opportunity was still about nowadays with the internet to advertise and distribute pirated games using a simple PDF file for the manuals/codewheels, it’d be likely that on day 1 there would be copies flying around the internet. (Also it’s FAR less hassle for most consumers to register a game through Steam than to have to look up the word on the 50th page, 2nd paragraph, 3rd sentence each time they want to play – I make no excuses for Ubisoft though who use their idiotic always-on DRM).

      EDIT @Theory: 4th after USA, Italy and Finland.
      So N.Ireland, Switzerland and France aren’t Industrialised? Also according to your link, Italy has fewer incidents. Interesting ^^

      RE-EDIT:: Was looking at suicides included as well – you still missed out N.Ireland tho

    • Theory says:

      @PoLLeNSKi: I’m sorting by homicide. Sorting by total deaths includes suicide, which doesn’t seem like a fair point of comparison.

      I also excluded NI because it was more or less a warzone when its figures were taken.

    • PoLLeNSKi says:

      I found this while looking for ownership against homicide rates:: http://www.gun-control-network.org/International.gif – the hosting page http://www.gun-control-network.org/GF01.htm has more stats on there as well.

      I was surprised to see Canada nestled in amongst all the other countries – I had heard that they would be an anomaly :)

      I did notice it says ‘Intentional’ in the y-axis, so there is a possibility that including ‘accidental’ incidents skewed the data somehow.

    • Binho says:

      @ Sheng-ji

      Those statistics are meaningless. In Brazil, where guns are illegal, the gun-death rate is 14.15 per 100,000.

      Also, if you look at the statistics, half the gun related deaths in the US are suicides. Brazil, where guns are illegal, has a higher homicide rate.

      France, where guns are illegal, also has a higher gun-death rate than Canada, where guns are legal.

      Gun related deaths are very much related to illegal organised crime and cultural issues. End of. School shooting happen here in Europe as well. England has had a historically low gun crime rate, even before harsher controls on guns. Not that it is particularly difficult to get one here though. Do you know you don’t have to give the police a reason to own a shotgun here, if you have a certificate? And you are allowed to own as many as you can safely store?

      And I don’t think the DRM comparison is entirely correct. Games don’t give you any advantage in life. They are not dangerous. You wouldn’t put DRM chips on board games or D&D, would you? What’s the difference? Is it just because AAA studios spend millions, that they somehow deserve to have people buy their game?

      And I wouldn’t want a kill-switch either. What’s to stop an irresponsible corporate moron, or a group of terrorist hackers from finding a work-around to the kill-switch and holding people’s life hostage? Or from killing you from afar to rob your house? So you would rather have your life perpetually held hostage by the powerful, or the possibly incompetent? Just because some one else may be a threat?

    • Jumwa says:

      @ Theory

      You’re not comparing homicides to homicides-with-firearms though. You’re just saying “Look! People are committing homicide with guns!”

      Does it actually increase the homicide rate?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate#2000s

      Looking at actual homicide rates, even with the influence of our very hostile and violence-ridden neighbour to the south so strong here, Canada’s over all homicide rate ranks in the second lowest tier. With my own province ranked at a 0.20 despite high ownership rates.

      The culture of violence down south permeates Canada a great deal, but I don’t think you can blame their violence on gun ownership either. Switzerland, last I checked, had a high gun ownership rate and a lowest tier homicide rating.

      Edit to add: Yes, Switzerland is ranked higher than Canada in gun ownership, but lower in deaths. So obviously gun ownership doesn’t explain everything, or even seemingly most of the picture.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_gun_ownership

    • Theory says:

      That’s a good point, but tellingly my initial claim still holds a lot of water. Removing the developing world from that list leaves us with:

      USA
      Liechtenstein (WTF? Might be page vandalism)
      Finland
      South Korea
      New Zealand
      Israel
      Belgium / Canada equally

      That’s still pretty damn high.

      It’s also very simplistic to merge gun murder into general murder when firearms make killing so easy. I doubt there have been many drive-by stabbings in history, and you don’t often find bystanders stabbed in the crossfire between two gangs.

      What we really need to look at is how many murders would not have been committed if guns had not been involved, which isn’t something that tables of numbers will ever give us. As you can see in the paragraph above, I think the answer is “plenty”.

      Edit: I have never claimed that there is a simple link between lots of guns and lots of deaths. Only that reducing the easy routes to murder reduces the number of murders taking place, and that cherry-picking samples isn’t helpful.

      Edit 2: I can now see an amusing morbid parallel with piracy arguments. On the one hand “they wouldn’t have bought it anyway”, on the other “they would have killed him anyway”. Both of which only hold true if you focus on favourable examples.

    • Jumwa says:

      Sure they make things easier.

      I’ve never argued that there’s no relation at all, but the correlation is low. And when you realize the fourth highest gun owning nation is one of the safest, it’s obvious the correlation is low. If the discussion is: does gun ownership have zero relation to homicides at all or not? Then that’s a silly and pointless discussion. Of course they do. Owning a car makes it easier to kill people too, it’s why we regulate their use.

      But even insightful regulations don’t hold a candle to a culture of non-violence that lacks the socially accepted concept of blood-vengeance and personal retribution.

      If we want to lower gun-related homicides, let’s cultivate a culture where such things are taboo. Strip our police of such weapons as a first step, and get away from glamourizing such violence in our movies and games. The latter not as legal steps, but as just socially responsible actions motivated by activism.

      Also, let’s not forget to address poverty. That will be a key step into alleviating almost all forms of crime.

      Just to reiterate though, on the original topic, I don’t see how such arguments really relate to DRM. There’s really no relation between a powerful tool and some bits of harmless code.

    • jimjonescult says:

      @theory

      there is no statistical evidence that gun control laws influence crime rates.

      http://www.guncite.com/gun_control_gcgvinco.html

    • Binho says:

      @Theory

      So Eastern Europe, Brazil, Russia and Mexico are the developing world? The latter two have 3x the homicide rate than the USA. The former, has 4x the homicide rate – though less total gun-deaths (Even though more of those are homicides), and is one of the top 10 world economies.

      You can’t be that selective with your evidence. What the evidence suggests to me is the US has some hardcore social issues. And I would agree, from what i’ve seen. I’m sure most of the gun related deaths occur in the poorer communities of the USA. I’m pretty sure the gun crime around the rich WASP’s is as low as in the UK.

      Not to mention the UK has a higher overall homicide rate than Italy, which has a significantly higher total gun-death and gun-homicide rate and stricter gun laws.

    • Theory says:

      If we want to lower gun-related homicides, let’s cultivate a culture where such things are taboo.

      I agree entirely. You’ll notice that I’ve not made any claims about how guns should be weeded out of society up till now. :) This should also answer jimjonescult and Binho.

      This, to start another thread of discussion, is the problem America has. Gun ownership was enshrined in its written constitution hundreds of years ago and has ended up an indelible part of their culture, despite technological advances making it ludicrous (ages-to-reload muskets then, automatic rifles now).

      And when you realize the fourth highest gun owning nation is one of the safest, it’s obvious the correlation is low.

      It isn’t. It’s the joint-seventh worst. Again, you are projecting your own personal experience onto a much larger canvas. (Perhaps I’m sensitive about this because I realised I’d made the same mistake after this summer’s riots.)

      @Binho:

      So Eastern Europe, Brazil, Russia and Mexico are the developing world?

      I would say so. They certainly don’t belong with the countries I did rank. Insert your own term if “developing world” means something more specific to you than to me.

      Not to mention the UK has a higher overall homicide rate than Italy, which has a significantly higher total gun-death and gun-homicide rate and stricter gun laws.

      Just to reiterate: I have never said anything about laws. Laws are an abstraction that need not have any bearing on reality.

      Since I live in a country that already has gun control, gun laws are a non-issue to me and you can assume I am not thinking about them.

    • Jumwa says:

      @ Theory

      I find myself worrying as I grow older about the influence of our violent culture, such as in video games.

      No, not in the absurd notion that we’re all blank tablets walking around being imprinted upon by movies and games to become violent killers. I think that’s absurd. But we are normalizing violence and notions of blood-vengeance and war. We play games that trivialize and celebrate war, and I can’t imagine that doesn’t influence to some degree peoples political perceptions on the frivelous violence our nations inflict on others.

      At the same time, however, I don’t care to monopolize control of force of arms in the hands of governments I don’t trust to act on our behalf.

      I see it as a multifaceted issue that needs a broad, across the board addressing. I’d be up for seeing a non-legal decline in the number of violent games and movies to see it come about, but it’s not up for me alone to say.

    • Theory says:

      We play games that trivialize and celebrate war, and I can’t imagine that doesn’t influence to some degree peoples political perceptions on the frivelous violence our nations inflict on others.

      This has always happened, right back to the dawn of man, yet we are a more peaceful species now than we have ever been. I am glad to be alive today and not in 1913, when I would have likely been so ignorant of war and violence that I would have happily joined my friends in marching off to the trenches with a cheery smile. Violent images will inspire a few, and modern technology makes them more dangerous than ever, but still horrifies and teaches the vast majority.

      In fact this is a connection I’d not made before. Perhaps the shift from nations going to war to individuals going on tech-enhanced killing sprees is down, on one side, to the electorate being so much better educated.

      At the same time, however, I don’t care to monopolize control of force of arms in the hands of governments I don’t trust to act on our behalf.

      I’m afraid that the citizens-resisting-army idea is pure fantasy. We already know what happens in that situation: look at Iraq or Afghanistan. I’d rather be invaded peacefully, thanks.

    • Jumwa says:

      There is a stark difference between depictions of war that are realistic and impactful, and depictions of war and violence which trivialize and make light of. You’re acting as if there is and can be no difference.

      Certainly, war is less of an issue now than it was in past times–though a single war between majour powers with modern technology would change that immediately–that doesn’t mean we give up on progress entirely or treat what we have as the best.

      Note that the homicide rate now is much lower than it was in centuries past. If you’re sincerely using that as an argument to say nothing needs to be done about the trivializing of warfare than you’ve just refuted your own argument about gun violence.

    • Drinking with Skeletons says:

      I’m an American who lives in the rural south (although North Carolina is hardly the paragon of southern culture it used to be) and I have to say that Europe seems to have an odd view of the U.S. My family took a trip to England once, and I recall seeing an episode of a show that focused on wild police chases and criminal behavior. We have those here as well, and in fact I seem to remember recognizing some of the footage from American shows. However, the British show painted a picture of America as some kind of lawless frontier, a Hollywood Wild West transplanted across time and the boundaries of fiction to appear in the present day.

      The truth is that we Americans mostly leave each other alone except when circumstances force us to interact. We are very far from a monolithic culture, and we have a tendency to compartmentalize ourselves based on social class, geography, interests, and more. Gun violence occurs more frequently in specific subsets of the population as a result of these cultural differences. For example, and at the risk of offending someone, the African American population of the U.S. contributes to far more “everyday” (for lack of a better term) gun violence than any other group. The white population contributes far less, despite the fact that the gun-worshiping, militia-forming, NRA mindset that is so often associated with the U.S. as a whole is almost exclusively a white phenomenon.

      I could go on in more detail (and I might in another post), but I’m worried about the length of my post. It just bugs me–as I’m sure it does everyone else–when outside observers make sweeping generalizations about my nation and its character.

    • Theory says:

      I keep trying to write a comment here, but the site thinks it’s spam. So here it is on Pastebin.

      @Drinking with Skeletons: Telly is crap, what can I say? I’m sure we get the same treatment on US programmes.

    • Jumwa says:

      @ Theory

      I wasn’t separating homicide between state-sanctioned and non-state-sanctioned as is most common. I would like to see both lessened over time. Law enforcement that uses force beyond what is absolutely necessary loses its legitimacy and becomes an agent for promoting violence.

      My remark about those movies and games which trivialize or glorify violence and warfare in particular was not a call for criminalization or even legal restraint, as I stressed. I just think we could do with less of them, and an enhancing of a taboo upon violence of every sort. To encourage the path towards treating those subjects more seriously when addressed.

      If that’s the path we’ve already been going down, I can’t help but think encouraging further would only be a good thing.

    • Drinking with Skeletons says:

      @Theory: “I’m sure we get the same treatment on US programmes.”

      Not really. I recall watching an episode of My Hero (I think; can’t really remember what it was called, it was a decent enough superhero comedy) on BBC America which had a character proclaim that George W. Bush was a terrible president. I was shocked, not because of the statement–which wasn’t and isn’t uncommon in the U.S. and one that I think is basically correct–but that it was coming from a foreign citizen.

      In the U.S. we largely believe in minding our own business. Despite the shenanigans from certain factions within the government (mainly the CIA and the Executive Branch) and the busybody media, the average citizen doesn’t see it as his place to get involved in foreign affairs and certainly doesn’t publicly criticize or comment upon foreign powers except in direct comparison with ourselves (often to highlight our own shortcomings, I might add). For example, despite the cheerleading going on recently in the media regarding the situation in Libya, the response from the public has been lukewarm at best. We have our own problems, and Khadafi wasn’t one of them. Trying to solve other people’s problems is a quick way to make them bigger and, worse, ours.

      More often other nations are spoken of with gushing praise: beautiful scenery, delicious food, friendly people, and charming accents. Intelligent Americans who travel enough realize that many nations–including our allies–have a deep-rooted loathing of Americans stemming from many poorly thought-through government decisions over the past century or so. Most others, however, have a difficult time comprehending this, as our view of other nations is so positive that it’s hard to understand why the feeling wouldn’t be reciprocated.

    • Ultra-Humanite says:

      @Drinking with Skeletons: I’d stay away from broad generalizations altogether. It doesn’t take much digging to find American snark towards foreigners.

    • kanine says:

      The US may have a higher amount of gun related incidents but Ill take that any day over the UK’s crime rate.
      “The most violent country in Europe: Britain is also worse than South Africa and U.S.

      Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1196941/The-violent-country-Europe-Britain-worse-South-Africa-U-S.html#ixzz1XEJZvDw7

      Now I don’t assume that really has that much to do with there anti gun laws just trying to prove how easy it is to spout out some sensational crap. When in reality these are complex issues with no single cause.

    • DoucheMullet says:

      @ultra-humanite

      Uhhh no, sorry.

      Most of us have great for Europe and admire it’s many countries. At the most we bad talk the French, but who doesn’t? We treat all foreigners with respect and class, which is more than I can say for how I and my friends and family have been treated when visiting foreign countries.

      In regards to the gun debate, some cities with the lowest crime rates in the country are in states with lax gun laws, while for example Camden is the most dangerest city in the country and is located in New Jersey which has very strict gun control. Throwing out random bullshit statistics are pointless.

      I also find it highly ironic how my fellow American here said a TV show made Americans look like the wild west, as the wild west was actually incredibly safe with an incredibly low rate of gun violence.

    • vagabond says:

      @Theory
      Liechtenstein has a population of ~35,000 people. When you are dealing with statistics that are measured per 100,000 people, a single incident can distort the figures and make them look pretty bad.

      If you look at the page linked above with intentional homicides for the years 2000-2009 my reading is that they had one person murdered in 2004 and another one in 2009. Pretty good really.

  6. TooNu says:

    A Kieron Gillen article on Deus Ex!?!…I think I shall read this twice!

  7. John Connor says:

    I went with Sarif because he had great hair.

    • Teddy Leach says:

      This. And that arm was COOL.

    • Devenger says:

      Let’s not forget that, even though you only needed chest and arm repairs/replacements after the incident (according to one thing I found somewhere in the game), he threw in complete replacement of the other arm and your legs, absolutely free. That’s service for you!

    • unangbangkay says:

      I couldn’t help but wonder if Sarif decided to augment Adam’s junk as well. Since Adam always wore pants (one wonders why he’d fully expose his amazing arms, while still limiting his movement with archaic pants.

      Also Malik.

    • Makariel says:

      I went with Sarif because you can win against a machine, but you cannot stop progress.

    • bionicsheep says:

      @unangbangkay

      During the opening credits, you hear Sarif’s voice saying “He doesn’t need that”. It’s up to you to speculate where exactly Sarif decided Adam didn’t need augmenting, considering how nuts they went on most of him.

  8. Nihi says:

    This remind me of the reverend in Clockwork Orange.
    He said what makes us human is the ability to chose to be good or evil, when you take someone’s freedom of choice, you take his humanity.

    • Mirqy says:

      By that argument, games with no player choice make the player inhuman. Which is I guess the point Bioshock was trying to make.

  9. Will Tomas says:

    I’ve missed Kieron’s articles contextualising games in wider culture. No one else writes them anywhere near as well. Great stuff, thanks for writing it.

  10. The Sombrero Kid says:

    I couldn’t believe John said it didn’t make him think, given the other major theme running parallel to this one is the effect video games have on people and the way they are treated by the mainstream media.

    EDIT: there’s also some musings on the state of game developement culture too.

  11. Dawngreeter says:

    Don’t trust anyone over 25.

    I’m 30, by the way. I don’t trust myself.

    • Balobam says:

      Okay, I suppose I shouldn’t tru…. Or is that your plan?! Maybe I SHOULD trust you…

      Damn you and your mind games! WHAT AM I TO DO

    • Makariel says:

      I don’t trust anyone above 30.

      I’m 31.

  12. Kefren says:

    A thought-provoking article. However there is a difference between someone having hands that can rip my head off, and someone who would never have bought a game anyway ripping that off. In the latter scenario lives aren’t shattered. And the issue with DRM is that – via various effects, some unintentional – it stops people buying your game, or coming back to buy your next one. Those are the customers companies should focus on, and they will only succeed by offering an organism that can survive on its own in the wild, and won’t die when they switch off their servers. Their technology leads to the opposite of what they intended. What a shame.

  13. Ringwraith says:

    First of all, this article really needs a spoiler warning, so very badly.

    Anywho, although I went with all the endings to just see what the monologue was, I think I agreed with the decision of not making a decision the most, although I couldn’t really bring myself to actually accept it, as it would mean two of the best characters, Sarif and Jensen himself, would cark it, which I simply couldn’t do to them. That and Hugh Darrow would escape with his death, which I felt was too lenient a punishment after what he caused.
    As such, I would probably lean towards Sarif’s plan a bit more, as cutting off the world from the technology that helped so many people would be almost selfish, and having merely one group in control of the entire human race is a position that is far too easily abused, as there’s a reason why monopolies are heavily avoided in business for the sake of everyone but the monopolist. So I thought letting it progress naturally would be the best course of action, as it’s what happens with every new piece of technology, the good and bad sides rear their heads until it reaches a happy equilibrium where the benefits outweigh the harm. Although the inequality gap would get larger, I felt that removing it completely would be a greater loss.
    Of course, I could simply be a sucker for Sarif, who has such a convincing, optimistic view of the future.

    • PleasingFungus says:

      “(The following article contains spoilers to the very end of the game.)”

      (Of course, I suppose this may have been edited in… but I doubt it.)

    • Ringwraith says:

      It was edited in some time after I posted that. ^^

  14. Premium User Badge daphne says:

    A society that has the ability to graft nukes on ordinary people that pay the cost probably deserves a good scarring. Roll on!

  15. Jumwa says:

    So the story in a nutshell: large company makes game about a dark scary future where technology threatens much of existence, games journalist finds it a convincing tie in to mediocre petty theft issue of piracy!

    I hope that didn’t come off too glib, it just seems like an amazing stretch to compare DRM to anything of importance. With plenty of DRM-less games flourishing, and the only anecdotal evidence of DRM even remotely succeeding in doing anything other than ticking off customers being Ubisoft claiming that it’s always-online DRM reduced piracy (but not that it increased sales, oddly enough) where’s these doom and gloom comparison come from?

    Why are we treating piracy as anything more than a red herring for investors to throw them off the scent of poor management and lack of competitive distribution models? Give your products to the people in an efficient and accessible manner at a price that’s not absurd (I’d say reasonable, but people prove time and again they’re willing to pay well beyond what’s reasonable as long as it meets the first criteria) and you can make a go of it.

    Piracy is one of those things companies toss out there to convince their shareholders not to analyze their companies products or processes too closely. “Don’t blame us! It’s the pirates!”

  16. Premium User Badge unitled says:

    A lovely article. Having done a mechatronics degree I have more than a passing interest in transhumanism and thought that DXHR had a very good, balanced portrayal of the issues and opinions.

    Humanity has been using technology to improve itself since the first time a proto human picked up a sharp bit of rock and attached it to a stick in order to crack open a nut. I don’t believe there will be a step change so we end up with an augmented socciety as portrayed in the game, but technology will inevitably advance to the stage where it, well, to coin a phrase, will be indistuinguishable from magic.

    For the record, I went with the destroy all evidence ending. I didn’t believe Adam would dictate the future of the world, and he would believe in humanity’s ability to make the correct decision to continue our survival.

  17. karry says:

    “for by telling them of many things without teaching them you will make them seem to know much, while for the most part they know nothing”

    There was this short story about a guy from our time sent back to the vikings, where he found out all his knowledge to be next to useless. He needed to make tools, to make tools, to make tools, and he couldnt make the initial step in anything he turned to.

    • Premium User Badge Harlander says:

      The moral of this story? Learn how to knap flint in case you ever get timewarped back to the Paleolithic.

    • Dawngreeter says:

      Any man placed outside of the framework of his society is useless. A man from the past sent to the present suffers as much as man from the present sent to the past. All knowledge is useless without its assumed framework.

      Of course, given enough knowledge, your framework can be wide enough to encapsulate any given situation. A human being can not have this knowledge. But a posthuman being can.

    • karry says:

      The moral is that the current education system is such, and the amount of knowledge amassed is such, that in the very near future, a situation will be possible where a technological process becomes so complex, that nobody really understands it anymore, and can only sustain let’s say a factory until the equipment gets worn down, and then it will require decades to reach the same level again.

      If someone bombed all the world’s microchip factories tomorrow, and killed all the main engeneers, how long would it take us to get back to the current levels just from books and manuals ?

    • Dawngreeter says:

      26 days

  18. Berzee says:

    You were already beautiful…
    you poor man.

  19. HisMastersVoice says:

    I gave people the truth. All of it. Truth empowers. Yes, it gives the power to do both good and evil, but that’s the point. If you don’t have that choice you’re not human. I didn’t find myself arrogant enough to play God again, like I did in DX when JC merged with Helios.

    On a related note, the fourth ending makes absolutely no fucking sense.

    • John P says:

      None of the endings make much sense because you’re not actually doing anything significant. We’re supposed to believe that sending one worldwide news broadcast is supposed to magically convince everyone in the world of … something. It’s silly.

      Darrow’s ending even says ‘This may make people turn their backs on science and technology’ or something. Seriously? People are going to give up on science because of a random news report from some guy?

    • Olivaw says:

      Actually it’s more of an in-depth news report from the only global news network left in the world of the worst civilian atrocity in modern history using the current bleeding edge popular technology (that a lot of people require to live), which was itself created by the man who orchestrated and perpetrated the entire attack.

      You don’t think that if everyone in the world saw that, after they were already rioting in Detroit over a “super soldier” program, that they wouldn’t just start flipping the fuck out?

      It’s like if CNN were the only news network in the entire world, and then all of a sudden the man who invented the MP3 player comes on CNN and says that every single device, iPod or generic, ever purchased has a bomb in it and he just flipped the ‘detonate’ switch.

      You can bet that no one in their right mind would ever purchase an mp3 player for a very, very long time.

    • John P says:

      Not buying an MP3 player is a bit different from turning your back on all technology. It just doesn’t work like that.

      (Could I also suggest that there being only one news network in the world is also ridiculous, so that whole premise about the Picus Network is silly too?)

    • Olivaw says:

      Sure it doesn’t work like that. They’re not giving up all technology, fer fuck’s sake. Just augmentation, and the general philosophy of “technology is inherently a good thing” that we’ve had since we invented the light bulb. Of course it’ll eventually come around again. The idea is that maybe the second time around we’d be more cognizant of the dangers instead of prancing around in blinged out golden arms going “THIS SHIT IS SO CASH YOU GUYS”

      And yeah, the Picus News Network being the only global news network left is a tad far fetched. But those are the facts within the fiction, and you wanted an explanation, so I gave it to you.

    • HisMastersVoice says:

      @ John P – Well, I assumed, perhaps a bit naively, that the broadcast would be more than Eliza saying “derp, Illuminati did it!1!” and calling it a day. If that would be the case, then only Sarif/Illuminati endings make any sense.

    • Grygus says:

      All of the endings are incomplete because they all lack nuance. They’re all ideologically pure, which makes them all necessarily wrong.

      I think it was Sarif himself who pointed out that nobody would believe the Illuminati did it, so the truth isn’t setting anyone free; it would just be a blow to Picus’ credibility (which is already called into question throughout the game.)

      Sarif’s idea is to just keep doing what already didn’t work.

      Taggart wants to regulate the industry, as if it isn’t already flouting law and convention whenever it likes.

      The nihilist option makes everything you’ve done nearly pointless; nobody knows what you did, and you’re keeping it that way. I chose this option because I felt the entire point of the game was that few people making decisions for the many will inevitably turn out badly for the many, and so did not wish to continue that cycle, but obviously this won’t stop it from simply happening again and so isn’t a solution at all.

      A sensible solution would have included idealism, pragmatism, regulation/transparency, and justice. You can’t pick them all, though.

    • Hidden_7 says:

      I actually loved that all the endings had something good and something bad about them. It was a hard choice because there was not one ending I agreed with entirely, and also none that I could dismiss out of hand.

      I liked Darrow’s because that involved telling the truth; I wasn’t down for any covering up or story spinning. I disliked it because of the scared Luddite principles it espoused.
      I liked Sarif’s because I liked Sarif. His idealism was infectious, and an ideal I could agree with. I disliked it because it involved lying, and was based around the idea of unchecked unregulated corporate machinations.
      I liked Taggart’s / The Illuminati because I believed in principle that with augs as potentially dangerous as they were, there ought to be some sort of regulations on the books somewhere, that should be a discussion that is had. I disliked it because the method they were proposing was monstrous and the Illuminati were terrible people seeking to control humanity from the shadows because they thought they knew best.
      I liked the Blow Everything Up option because it didn’t involve Adam deciding that he knew best for the world. It involved the least ideologically spun story (possibly even including the truth), and put the decision in the hands of those who should be making it, the people. I disliked it because it involved killing a lot of innocent people as well as myself, and was also a sort of cover-up.

      It took me quite awhile to decide, because whenever I had decided that the benefits of one path outweighed the benefits of the others, I was reminded of the terrible shortcomings of that path, and the whole decision process would start all over again.

  20. aronbarco says:

    Our times are of the leap of faith in technology. The paradigm of this century is: technology makes us better, and with the correct one we can solve any trouble we have – ensure a becoming better, an incredibly bright future. Against this, I say with vehemence: all the damage we have caused [to our planet and other life forms] will not be solved if we keep the same posture to them, the same behavior that provokes the problems in the first place. We urgently need to stop (and I mean stop everything) and rethink our own being-in-the-world. We need think more on were we are going and if we want to go there rather than just keep going, blindly. Maybe rediscover some extinct world views of the societies who were slaughtered by this civilization.

    As much as we have communication speed, cleaner environments, more sharp drugs, or even augmentations, in the end death still haunts our houses, existence still harsh and needs a lot of hugs, and we remain innocent before our own paradigms carefully constructed over time by the quicksand of tragicomedy that is being and being aware of it.

  21. The Tupper says:

    That paragraph about joining PC Gamer is truly shocking. I mean…you’re from the Midlands!?! The horror!

    I’m from the frozen northerly wastes myself and, up here, we live our lives ignorant of the rampant class disadvantage that still permeates the UK. The penny dropped personally when I worked in London and found the kind of people whom I’d previously assumed were anachronistic cliches of incompetent poshos to be real and in positions of well-remunerated responsibility.

    • Cinnamon says:

      Those people live in a different world and kids don’t generally want to believe how class ridden and regionalist the country is until they see it first hand. I would say that economics and politics are more to blame than technology. It’s the same old rackets of real estate/business cycles and political/social connections.

  22. Jonas says:

    I’m going to go ahead and side with the people pointing out that you can’t really compare DRM to human augmentation (or gun control, as somebody else pointed out). I realise it’s just perspective, but that final twist of the words went a little overboard with the parallel I think.

    Anyway… I figure the Illuminati ending was the one that fits best with how everything ends up in Deus Ex 1 either way. I still went with Sarif though, because I couldn’t stand Taggart’s smug face and because Darrow was a murderous psychopath. I realise this is essentially no different from the Americans electing whatever presidential candidate they most wish to have a drink with, but I’ll just have to live with that.

  23. Jarenth says:

    Mr. Gillen, after reading your article I was left with a question.

    You say you want to trust Sarif, but you can’t, because people change, and people change, so the Sarif you trust now might be a different person in five years, or he might not even exist anymore. And, fair enough, I agree there.

    But why, then, would you trust the Illuminati in any respect? It’s the same for them: they might actually have humanity’s best interest in mind with their kill-switching idea now, but who’s to say how they will act five years from now?

    What makes the Illuminati’s DRM-locked future preferable to Sarif’s corporate utopia?

    • Theory says:

      This is my response as well. The Corporate and Illuminati endings are exactly the same. In both cases a tiny group of unaccountable people control humanity’s future, and as we can see from Deus Ex they will end up being the same people.

    • unangbangkay says:

      I wouldn’t say that the Sarif and Illuminati endings are EXACTLY the same. Though Sarif clearly has the good of his company as the primary motivation behind his proposal (namely hiding the truth so as to make augmentation more prolific/demanded/profitable), his reasoning also smacks of an idealism Taggart clearly lacked.

      I believe (or I’d like to believe) that Sarif really IS the sort of “don’t be evil”-slogan Google-type-person Kieron believes he is (at least initially). Sarif’s reasoning is that the proliferation of augmentation, rather than its limitation, would be the best path, both for Sarif and the world, and by his words he might even go so far as to hand out augments for free, like Valve might drop the price of a game to $0 for a weekend.

      Sarif is laissez-faire where Taggart is full “big government”.

    • Theory says:

      Eh?

      1) As the article points out, you are handing power not to Sarif but to whoever is the dominant seller of augs at any one time. That is certainly not Sarif Industries. The illuminati are clearly the most ruthless group out there, and they *already* control the biggest corporation. It’s them.
      2) Giving everyone augs makes everyone manipulable in the same way. The whole story centred around that happening in front of your eyes. Augs are not games, they are literally people’s bodies.

      Meanwhile, we know from the rest of the series that “big government” is controlled by the illuminati. Hence the outcome is the same.

    • Jarenth says:

      While these are good points, what I meant was less that they’re exactly the same, and more that the intent seems to be the same. In both cases, you hand off the power to a specific group of people; people that could change or go away in the future.

  24. The Dark One says:

    I think you guys are missing the game’s greatest achievement- a joke that combines the infamous ’77 Pink Floyd concert at the Olympic Stadium and that large chunk of concrete that fell off its side in ’91.

  25. JackShandy says:

    Man, you’re crazy! Giving a small group control over the bodies of a large amount of the population just isn’t going to turn out well. The Illuminati would give augmentations only to the people they like, and thus create an upper-class of super humans that all owe them favours. And that would only stop armageddon if the Illuminati can completely control the tech. The Harvesters and back-alley chop shops would mean we’d still see plenty of unauthorised auged terrorists.

    I felt like the only real options were to destroy the technology completely, or let it run free. Like you, I loved progress too much to ban them completely. I felt like things would be ok if everyone could have a chance at getting augs. Make it not controlled by any one body, no one group could control the entire population of post-humans.

    • Kestrel says:

      Actually wouldn’t it make more sense for the Illuminati to give augs to everyone? In terms of control – creating an augmented elite is less effective than having a backdoor to the entire population, especially with the anti-rejection meds. Shanghai pimp side-quest writ large.

  26. Premium User Badge MonkeyMonster says:

    “To cite Plato’s famous peer Uncle Ben, with great power comes great responsibility.”

    As ever KG a brilliantly crafted piece. The hivemind’s augmentations are truly remarkable to produce such prose as if from different people hour by hour. Tentacles to type with too!

  27. Blackcompany says:

    Excellent write up. So good in fact that I will be buying this game this weekend. I will barely make it through between finishing up New Vegas and then going immediately to the upcoming Rage, which I have already ordered.

    However, it seems this game is worth the playing. Apparently the story is amazing, and so is the world building. Thanks for writing this, and for convincing me to finally get this game. It sounds as if it will be worth the playing.

    • John P says:

      Well I hope you enjoy it and all, but don’t expect much thematic depth. The game is lacking the wider contextualisation that Kieron has put into this article, and that was one of the disappointing things about it.

    • JackShandy says:

      How do you mean, John P? The game has a bunch of conversations, emails, other context – one conversation even directly compares Sarif and Steve Jobs like Keiron does in the article.

    • John P says:

      Probably the main area I felt it was lacking is putting this whole augmentation business in context. It’s not a new thing. It’s just a continuation of the human project of self improvement. HR treats mechanical augmentation as, well, a revolution. But it’s not, and I think placing it in historical context would allow the game to resonate more than it does, as more than just a self enclosed work.

    • Olivaw says:

      Yeah, I felt like the game had plenty of context. It just never outright insulted you by going “SEE THIS THING IS LIKE THIS OTHER THING THAT HAPPENED IN THE PAST. SEE?!”

      Like, I’m really glad they never mentioned Oppenheimer in the game. Not once.

    • JackShandy says:

      Well – SPOILERS?!?!!?! – the endings used stock live-action footage of the present day, accompanied by a voice-over that was clearly made to be applicable to us. Kind of brechtian – there to forcibly alienate you, draw a direct parallel between the events of the game and the real world. (Edit: Which basically is going “THE STUFF THAT HAPPENED HERE IS JUST LIKE THIS OTHER STUFF, SEE?”) Apart from that, it keeps it low-key.

    • John P says:

      Like, I’m really glad they never mentioned Oppenheimer in the game. Not once.

      True, but didn’t one character mention the watchmaker quote from Einstein? Proving that the writers have, in fact, read Watchmen?

    • Olivaw says:

      Actually they only quoted Einstein at the very end of the game, and it wasn’t the watchmaker quote, it was the “technological progress is an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal” quote.

  28. Berzee says:

    So what do you think of this “drm” debate?

    Sounds like a typical power grab to me.

  29. Cinnamon says:

    Not a fan of Plato. Epicurus is my current favourite.

  30. alh_p says:

    “I’m one of them now. Shit.”

    Press F8?

  31. Rii says:

    There’s an almost inverse relationship between how thought-provoking an article is and my propensity to comment upon it, something which I fear is easily confused for disinterest. So at this juncture I just wanted to say… +1.

  32. Linfosoma says:

    Fantastic piece, I personally went with the Darrow ending. In a way, it was sad to abandon technology like, specially when you know that stopping progress is inevitable (at best, my efforts will only halt them for a while), but I like to believe that people still have the right to know the thruth and decide on their own.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      100% agreed, as per my post below. The downer was that what the game had people do with the truth (i.e new Dark Age) seemed a bit too extreme.

    • Unrein says:

      Thankfully, if my take on humanity is not completely clueless, the Darrow path is still just delaying the inevitable.

    • Lamb Chop says:

      It is interesting that the vast majority of people in their decision-making compared the future worlds (Consequentialist) instead of evaluating the morality of the decision itself (Kantian). I went with the Darrow ending because in my view a properly moral person wouldn’t lie to the entire world regardless of the consequences.

      Although I am more sympathetic to the strong ‘government’ control offered by the Illuminati than the libertarian corporate freedom of Sarif’s path.

    • Hidden_7 says:

      @Lamb Chop
      I agree. I intially went with the Hugh Darrow route not because I agreed with him at all or wanted his plan to come to fruition, but because it was the choice that wasn’t lying. I was sympathetic to Sarif and would have sided with him, if his plan didn’t require a cover up. If telling the truth meant that people rejected technology, so be it, that’s their informed decision.

      My problem was that the ending narration seemed to be more about Adam’s feelings. He was saying the exact opposite of everything I felt in that ending, all the unfortunate consequences that came with telling the truth were phrased as his opinions. Doing it all again I’d go with the fourth option of destroying everything, since that seems most in keeping with my intention of “no manipulation” I wanted going with the Darrow ending.

  33. westyfield says:

    Argh, first time Gillen writes here in ages and I don’t want to read it because I haven’t played DX3 yet.

  34. reticulate says:

    Nice comparison between Sarif and Steve Jobs. He even tries on a sort of Reality Distortion Field when you’re arguing with him.

    As to your wider article, I think it’s very nice and that you should do more of it. However, you’re a bastard for siding with them. I blew the damn thing up – it was the only real choice Jensen had, everything else was serving other people’s pursuit for power and control.

  35. Freud says:

    I went with Sarif simply because that is what Jensen was. A guy that did what Sarif wanted. I couldn’t break character the last five minutes after doing exactly what I was told for 30 hours.

    I would have preferred it if we weren’t given the choice in the end.I think it would have been a more poignant look at technology, where it has been and where it is going. But then I am a cynic at heart.

  36. Olivaw says:

    Yeah, I gotta tell ya boss, this Illuminati ending just don’t fly with me.

    How can you not trust Sarif and not trust humanity to take care of itself, but you can trust a small group of individuals, no better than you or I or Sarif, to handle overseeing and regulating technology without ever acting in their own best interests?

    The Illuminati ending is for suckers. Either you trust humanity to find a way to survive, or you don’t. Either you believe that people are intrinsically selfish and power hungry, or you don’t. There’s no middle ground in this equation, as much as I wish there were.

    Far as I’m concerned, if everyone’s got nukes, then no one’s got nukes. Mutually Assured Destruction and all that. You have to trust that people are smart enough not to kill themselves and the world for short term gain (which, I admit, is getting harder and harder to do these days). So I tend to lean towards Sarif’s ending. Even if the common man doesn’t have the bleeding edge of technology, empowering him more than he would be otherwise is a good thing.

    Of course, on a bad day like today, I tend to lean toward’s Darrow’s philosophy. Humanity is fucked if they keep this up, it’s time they learned that. If it means rejecting technology for the survival of the species, then so be it. It’s harder to go backwards than it is to go forwards, but maybe with a little more time, we’ll be ready to be bitching cyborgs someday.

    Great article, by the way. Encapsulates a lot of what makes the story in this game so excellent.

    • Crimsoneer says:

      There is a very, very big difference between 10 clever people ruling the world, and 6 billion retarded idiots ruling the world.

      The vast majority of humanity is pants on head retarded.

    • JackShandy says:

      I would absolutely prefer 1000000 idiots running the world to ten clever people.

    • Premium User Badge Sunjumper says:

      I have yet to see 10 clever people controlling anything. (and to agree on something)

    • Olivaw says:

      See, it’s because as an individual, you are smart. You are smarter than the masses. Given the opportunity, you would avoid destroying yourself or the world around you. And everyone around you is having the same exact thought. And power is decentralized, so no one person has a great deal more power than the lowest man.

      Whereas if ten clever dudes had all the power and were running the entire world, you are NOT smarter than them. You cannot outwit ten clever dudes. And you will not have the opportunity to avoid destroying yourself or the world around you, because those ten clever dudes will not give you the opportunity, nor will they ever even afford you a choice in the matter.

  37. Crimsoneer says:

    I didn’t trust the Illuminati, because that would have meant sharing power…I miss the Helios power. I WANT THE POWER. ME! Me alone…

  38. LennyLeonardo says:

    That Plato quote always makes me angry. He was a miserable bastard and thoroughly deserved a PEPS-ing.

    I loved Sarif too, but I broadcast Darrow’s message because he was the only one who was actually telling the truth, though the game kind of overstated mankind’s reaction to it.

    Not sure about the DRM analogy here. I mean, guns have safety catches, nukes have launch codes – making things safer to use is not the same as controlling their owners’ rights, surely?

  39. Valdyr says:

    I still went with Sarif though, because I couldn’t stand Taggart’s smug face

    That was my strongest motivation for not siding with Taggart as well. When I ran into him on Panchea, I listened to his argument and reasoned carefully. Then I nodded to myself, tapped the Q key, and watched Adam rear back and deliver a no-frills haymaker right in Taggart’s stupid fucking mouth. The other civvies in the room screamed and gasped. I crab-scuttled into a nearby air vent, cackling.

    Pretty much the defining moment of the game for me. I considered socking Sarif because of his naked (and rather inept) attempt to manipulate me, especially with constantly calling me “son”, but I ultimately spared his face a clobbering out of fondness for his folksy, slightly thick, how-did-I-become-a-CEO-of-a-multi-billion-dollar-corporation-I-just-love-watching-baseball charm. I would’ve punched out Megan, too, but I was never given a chance.

    Edit: I took Darrow’s ending because I didn’t really understand its implications. The “Just tell the truth about what happened at Panchea and reveal the existence of the Illuminati to the world” aspect appealed to me. It wasn’t until the ending cutscene that I realized the talk about humanity maybe abandoning technology was less a “maybe” and more a “this is exactly what will happen, for some reason, goodbye forever augs”.

    • JackShandy says:

      This describes 99% of my interactions with NPC’s.

      (and in the game)

    • Devenger says:

      Wow, it never occurred to me that you could simply punch or stab the three main players in the final area. Good show!

  40. Unrein says:

    Really, Kieron? The Illuminati in DX just have humanity’s best interest at heart? You only have to look at Bob Page and the logo of Majestic 12 (the clue is in the name) to see where that ends up. This life isn’t worth living if we are not allowed to commit mistakes, to give us the chance to learn from them. Pain and mistakes really do make us stronger, even as it culls others. I wish that weren’t true, but it is. Technology isn’t the end – it’s just change, and change is utterly vital to humanity and society. The point of view you espouse in this article is nothing but stagnation and the repeat of our past.

    If we don’t have hope that we can change for the better, if we don’t have the ability to take risks.. Why the fuck even live?

  41. Chris D says:

    Not to nitpick (Meaning the opposite) but isn’t it a little bit early for a spoilers to the end of the game piece? I know journalists have had this for ages but it’s only been out for a week for the rest of us.

    I know there’s nothing stopping me coming back when I have finished but by that point the comments thread will be like wandering through the ruins of a long dead civilisation, albeit probably with lots of opportunies to buy shoes.

  42. shrieki says:

    sure an nice read! thanks for the nice article.

  43. kataras says:

    I was disappointed that there was no ending in which you could just reveal the truth without hiding anything and taking sides. So I went with the closest thing and condemned everyone in Panchea to death, hoping there would be questions asked later and the truth would come out and let them make sense of it themselves. There might be only one news station feeding propaganda to everyone but in a society rife with augmentations and hackers, there must be some kind of underground counter-information mechanism?

    I mean why do we have to take sides, they all had some ulterior motive behind. One was bitter and half-crazy, the other was a secret society that wanted to control people and the third, why would I trust corporations to have the best interest of mankind at heart?

    • Valdyr says:

      I was reminded of VTM: Bloodlines, in that regard. Like the player character in Bloodlines, everybody–EVERYBODY–was playing Adam to some extent, sometimes with arguably noble goals in mind, sometimes not. I wished for a “Fuck all you people, I choose me” ending like Bloodlines had, except without the need to kill Adam and everybody else. Something involving escaping to a small Caribbean island with Malik, dropping off the grid, and living happily ever after.

      You want a cutscene of Malik lounging on a beach. Don’t lie.

    • kataras says:

      You read my mind!
      And also a chance to stun Reed and shove her in a vent in the Harversters’ HQ!

  44. mlstrum says:

    A large part of this Trust issue about technology is we, in large parts, do not trust others. Yet we clearly can see that we could hit each others with hammers, shoot ourselves with guns, artillery strike the hell out of each other and nuke the planet… but we don’t. It’s not productive, it’s not useful, it’s not desirable in any way.

    We tend to look at the black dot on a completely white wall, it’s in our nature. But while I know some would abuse of this tech and destroy the live of others, a lot more others would not. In fact the majority would not. Its how it has always been and how it will probably be for centuries.

    I’d agree to have a ban on the Typhoon augment for the general public, since there would be absolutely no positive use for it. But stronger muscles, faster legs, augmented vision and reflexes? Being a transhumanist I’m with Sarif on this one. Yet I chose the 4th ending because the choice about those issues can only really be made by us as a whole, not a few individuals. Yet I cleared the way for the remainder of the Illuminati, dammit.
    All that aside, human augmentations are not DRMs, even if some parallels can be made.

  45. Edcrab says:

    It’s all very well to support the concept of DRM now, but in 25 years time- by his own admission, nonetheless- Kieron intends to plunge the world into a new dark age in the hope of a more equitable tomorrow. Say goodbye to your Steam accounts, you slaves of technology!

  46. Valdyr says:

    Was I the only person who wanted to hear what kind of regulations Humanity Front and the other anti-aug people were proposing? I mean… hell, maybe they were entirely reasonable. No one ever questions the legality or appropriateness of Adam’s augmentations, even the extendable arm-lawnmower-blades, despite the fact that he’s..just a dude. He’s not even in the police force anymore. He may be chief of security, but being a security guard or the boss of security guards presumably doesn’t put you on the same level as, say, an active-duty SOCOM commando. As cool as Adam is, he’s technically a civilian. The game acknowledges this early on–when Sarif wants you to break into the morgue at the police station, you have the option of objecting to it on the basis that it’s insanely illegal, and Sarif’s response, rather than “It’s fine, you’re an awesome special agent”, is “So what, do it.”

    So, in the eyes of the law, are Adam’s enhancements totally fine? Even the one that shoots exploding ball-bearings? We’re cool with anyone who can afford it being able to punch through walls and turn invisible? Did the Supreme Court rule on this one?

    Damn. Maybe Humanity Front was just the voice of reason in a world of anarchy. Maybe their proposed U.N. resolution was just “Perhaps at least have a background check or something on people signing up for surgery to turn their arm into a transforming minigun prosthetic. Or have the receptionist at the LIMB clinic sit down for a very serious chat with them beforehand, I dunno.”

    • Olivaw says:

      See, I felt that way too at first. But as the game goes on and you learn more about Taggart, you realize that since Humanity Front is led and was created by Taggart, and Taggart is a member of the Illuminati (presumably before he formed Humanity Front), all his motivations come into question.

      Does he really want augmentation regulated because he feels it is inherently dangerous to others, or does he want it regulated (with him doing the regulating) because he feels it is a threat to him and his fellows, and the more control he can exert on augmentation the safer he and his cabal will be?

      Maybe the regulation WAS sensible. But Taggart still worked to put kill-switches into every single augmented person on earth. That seems decidedly less like regulation and much more like domination.

    • Valdyr says:

      Good point. And Taggart’s corruption would only give more credibility (by comparison) to the rhetoric of the people (like Sarif, I guess?) arguing that, if someone decides they truly need the ability to jump 10 feet in the air, run 30 miles per hour, and have enough upper body strength to use a car as a baseball bat, and, most importantly, he has a good credit rating, who are we to tell him no? Free market, personal liberty, the Founding Fathers would’ve wanted, etc.

  47. Raziel_Alex says:

    Fucking excellent, Kieron.

  48. yoggesothothe says:

    Wasn’t Sarif’s point, though, to make the technology so cheap that everyone can use it? To destroy the chasm that is here discussed? That’s what Megan was doing, and what she as abducted to prevent (or so we’re lead to believe from the intro cut scene, although, strangely, that falls away in the course of the game).

    Isn’t this actually more a fear of mega-corporations and the sometimes depressingly inadequate regulations that are now in place? There will always be hackers and modders, pirates and disassemblers, so it’s somewhat strange that Mr. Gillen is going with the DRM metaphor while ignoring what brought about DRM in the first place: the masses that are bypassing corporate ownership through homebrew.

    • Valdyr says:

      I don’t know. Megan’s breakthrough was discovering that Adam had (or had been given) a genetic mutation that caused his body to fail to recognize augmentations as foreign bodies and subsequently try to reject them. Presumably, if this mutation could be given to other people through some sort of gene therapy, they too could have as many augmentations as they can stuff into their meat-sacks. (And whoever manufactures Neuropozyne–VersaLife?–is shit out of luck, I guess, if this gene therapy is covered under health insurance.)

      Would this really have an effect on the price of augmentations, though? Or was there a conversation I missed somewhere in which Sarif talked about how he had plans to make Sarif Industries financially solvent enough that they could afford to hand out augs at bargain basement prices? NPC dialogue seems to imply that the company has been a little shaky, income-wise, even before the attack on HQ.

    • Olivaw says:

      Sarif’s idea was absolutely to get the company solvent enough to essentially hand out augs after Megan’s research went public. I’m pretty sure that exact thing is mentioned somewhere in the game, either in an ebook or an email or Sarif himself saying it.

      Which is part of the reason I like his ending a lot. Of course the problem is, what happens when Sarif doesn’t have control over his company anymore, and what happens if he ever decides that you know what, maybe some people don’t deserve this gift, and also the ever-present danger of unchecked experimentation and deregulation leading to deep-seated corruption.

      You have to put a lot of trust in Sarif to do as he says and make augs freely available to everyone, in order for things to turn out alright. And even if he does, it’s a calculated risk either way.

    • Valdyr says:

      Neat. Although, canonically, I guess it didn’t work out, since in the first DX it seems the only people with mechanical augs are looked on as a handful of out-of-touch old people. Kind of depressing to know that the bad guys won in the end.

    • Olivaw says:

      Yeah, you… kinda have to pretend Deus Ex doesn’t happen to really get the full effect of the endings.

      But I’ve thought about it, and they are all technically possible as a lead up to DE1, just, you know, with some extrapolation.

    • Valdyr says:

      The Deus Ex wiki says that Megan’s research was still used, but as a basis for nano-augmentations and the Gray Death virus. So…way to go, Megan. Good career move, joining Page Industries. See, maybe this could’ve been avoided if I had been given the chance to punch her.

      The article also says that the DNA JC and Paul Denton were cloned from was Adam’s. Huhwhat? I don’t know how canon any of this is.

  49. kyrieee says:

    The endings are interesting to talk about but it still makes no sense in the context of the game, it’s handled so clumsily. Why is this for Adam to decide? Everything that leads you to that point is there only to lead you to that point, it’s a huge contrivance. This story about how augmentation technology is affecting society it was there in the background the whole game, there was never any need to bring it to the forefront.

  50. Christian O. says:

    Great article, but I have an overall question:

    While it’s true that if you don’t subscribe to augments, you get left behind, isn’t the bottom lifted to some extent with the higher-ups? The gap certainly becomes larger, but poor people today (at least in the Western world) have it better than poor people 200 years ago. There’s probably an argument that poor people now have more and different, but equal, challenges today as they had 200 years ago, but overall, it’s better (read: easier, with more opportunities) to be human today than it was previously.

    • Valdyr says:

      While it’s true that if you don’t subscribe to augments, you get left behind, isn’t the bottom lifted to some extent with the higher-ups?

      That’s true with a lot of technological advancements, yeah. Take the Internet, for example. Nowadays, even if he can’t afford a barebones PC and a home connection, even a penniless hobo can go to a public library (until we abolish them all as being intolerably socialist, anyway) to check out Wikipedia, BBC, and of course RPS. But is augmentation really the same thing? You can get food or a drink out of a vending machine for pocket change. Many vaccines for common diseases are now offered for free or at extremely low cost to everyone.

      But augs? You can’t get surgery from a vending machine. (I wouldn’t recommend trying, at least.) You’d need a pretty radical universal healthcare policy to cover multimillion-dollar, elective “I want awesome cyber arms what can punch down an oak tree” procedures. If a girl from a rich family gets a neural aug package for her sweet 16, and you don’t have access to anything of the sort, why wouldn’t a corporation hire her over your impoverished ass? She can, objectively, think faster and remember more than you. She’s a walking computer. And, simply for the circumstances of birth, you’re a nobody.

      Maybe it’s a different story by the time frame of the first Deus Ex when relatively no-fuss nano-augs are commonplace. Perhaps in that scenario, buying yourself a shot of visual HUD or an mp3 player in your brain or whatever is the equivalent of saving up for that new iPhone. For citizens of the wealthy democracies, at least, not really out of reach at all.