State of Mind is… intense to say the very least. It tackles some big issues and raises some even bigger questions. Building off of the preview at this year’s E3, getting to explore the world of State of Mind first hand was nothing short of an honor! I realize that I’m late to the party, however, I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers. That said, Bruce Willis was a ghost the entire time.
Transhumanism is a tricky topic to tackle, it’s complex, it’s multifaceted and honestly, it’s pretty damn terrifying. State of Mind explores the subject in its entirety, shining a brilliant light on what is rapidly developing in the public eye. The plot revolves around the concepts of human consciousness and being able to throw off the shackles of the flesh, existing eventually within a digital reality. This is not a new idea and has been talked about since the conception of Cyberpunk and modern technology is rapidly reaching a point where what was once just a pipe dream can become a reality.
Set in the not too distant future, State of Mind takes place in 2048 Berlin. Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Drones, and droids are everywhere, a feature of modern life. You play, for the most part, as Richard Nolan, attempting to piece his life back together after being involved in a car accident. The other main character is Adam Newman, a citizen of City5, which you learn to be a virtual existence which shakes the foundations of Adam’s world, quite literally (literally and figuratively, pedants).
Adam is a fragment of Richard’s consciousness, based on his data but edited, manipulated and rearranged to create a..new man. Honestly the rest of the writing is way better than this, although they DO quite literally say the line “We’ve made him into a new man.”, but we’ll get to that later.
Now in fact. Adam’s response to finding out he isn’t really real is incredible. Imagine the scene where Neo finds out that his perceptions of reality are all false but with anyone other than Keanu Reeves playing Neo. Adam doesn’t take it well and he continues to question everything even as “his” memories are restored by Richard’s actions. Such a response cannot be scripted easily and as a core concept of the story, it is treated with all the care and diligence it requires. Some of the character interactions can seem a little odd, especially where Richard is concerned.
As main protagonists go, Richard is far from likable and all of his reactions to pretty much everything are unreasonably aggressive for the most part. The writing throughout though is genuinely incredible, Transhumanism is a HUGE topic and State of Mind nails it!
Playing through Adam and Richard’s lives you’re given many choices and even though many appear to be quite inconsequential, you can’t shake the feeling of knowing that perhaps things would play out differently if you change just one thing. These situations have never been my favorite and State of Mind is no different, not because they aren’t handled well but the exact opposite, they’re handled too well. I don’t like not being able to go back and see how the other option plays out and evaluate them all before moving on.
There are times in both player’s realities that had me questioning my choices, questioning my interactions. Especially one moment early on, would I have been able to save that individual had I acted differently? Probably not but how can I be sure? State of Mind is all about questioning reality and your choices within it, something the narrative and the gameplay facilitate perfectly.
As previously mentioned in the E3 preview, State of Mind features an amazing art style, the fractured low-poly designs are simply stunning. Despite the low-poly models, there is an incredible level of detail present in everything. The environment designs are breathtaking, the views from Adam and Richard’s apartments are spectacular. Having been able to explore them personally makes them even better. It’s not just the bigger picture, the smaller objects and scenes are beautifully put together and the particle effects surrounding the data fragments are perfect. They’re designed to not fit in and that’s exactly what they achieve.
I have to admit, however, that even though the writing is amazing and the design is flawless, State of Mind does have a few minor issues. There are a couple of visual glitches here and there, whether or not these are a calculated bug put into the game to enhance the experience and questions surrounding the plot it’s hard to say. There are a few moments when the camera bugs out a touch and moving around can be awkward at times but for the most part, it’s not too much of a problem. These are relatively minor issues when looking at the bigger picture and what a magnificent picture it is!
State of Mind focuses on the issues beginning to plague the modern world, introducing them in such a way that it’s easy to understand just how big a threat they pose. I’m no technophobe, nor am I paranoid, but I can appreciate the themes and issues present and their impacts in the real world. Which again in itself is just a mirror of the virtual reality echoing in the real world. Drone surveillance, data integration, AI and our over-reliance on technology. It’s important to realize that even though some of these things are far from the extremes shown in-game, they are not completely implausible.
Digitisation of human consciousness is something that may be technically possible in years to come but it raises a whole host of ethical questions. If we can copy our mindstate and upload it to a virtual environment, where it is then exposed to its own set of experiences and generates its own memories, is it technically its own person? How do we define individuality or consciousness?
What happens when we decide to download that mindstate and pull it out of its virtual environment? Would deleting a copy of a consciousness be considered murder? If it believes itself to be its own person, how are able to tell it otherwise? Sure it exists within a virtual environment but that virtual environment is built upon a physical foundation in reality. It may just be silicon and the transport of electrons but our brains are thoughts and minds are just the transport of electrical signals through carbon-based neurons. Are they too dissimilar?
State of Mind is one of the most thought-provoking titles I have ever had the pleasure of playing. The story pulls you in and sinks its claws deep into your mind, you become completely enthralled in the story. Much like a good book that’s impossible to put down, it’s hard to put the controller down and take a break. You want to keep searching for answers and seeing how things play out. If you’re looking to spend hours learning to doubt human consciousness and reality then State of Mind is definitely worth picking up.