Let’s talk about Mirror’s Edge, a game about following. The instructions are simple, look for the objects in red and go to them. It’s this one color that defines that struggle between you as a player and the avatar that you control. This is a game that illustrates that heroism is not just bravery, it’s freedom.
We like to be the masters of our own destinies. When we lose this aspect of control in our lives, we often seek to find power in other places. Indeed, going back to Mirror’s Edge, this is the grim reality. Corporations hold power over multiple aspects of public life, establishing an oligarchy. Truly, this is a world where control and liberty is placed squarely in the hands of others.
In addition, you yourself control Faith, a courier-for-hire, as she is often times led by the hand from location to location. Whether it be the red outline of your objective or the gruff dictation by Merc via speakers, there’s not much choice in the matter. To compliment this, you’re not exactly a hero in the world itself. Faith dodges the police and often runs shady deliveries between executives.
It’s difficult to feel like a hero, even more so to imagine yourself as someone who’s not. And yet, I never felt that way during the course of the game. As I zipped around the city, I felt empowered. The speed made me feel free, like a bird. The puzzles, which are tasks to figure out how to maneuver around a space, gave me a sense that I could choose.
Acts of Heroism
This is because Faith is still a hero. It is not acts of bravado that define her, but her motive. She has a goal. Outlined in the very first chapter, it’s to clear her sister’s name. You are reminded of this through various cutscenes in the game, she is willing to risk her life to save her sister’s.
In an instant, her motions gain weight. You can hear it in her voice, she is determined to take matters into her own hands. She is wresting power from the corporations through one singular action, saving her sister.
You Can Be A Hero Too
In this regard, you as a player also gain agency. It’s true that your objectives are shown, but oftentimes the path is never outlined. The game opens itself up to interpretation. That liberty to choose makes you a hero again, the one you want to be in all video games. Red marks the spot once more, except that you’re allowed to direct your own path.
For example, there was this one puzzle in an abandoned tower in the game. There’s a specific button mapped onto the controller to show your objective. You press it to reveal…something that is too high to be seen. So now there’s no objective and red is nowhere to be seen. You’re lost.
After countless circling around the room, you find something that you think you can climb. Doing so reveals more ledges and ways to get higher. This is the player’s heroism, and it mixes with Faith’s. Faith’s struggle to save her sister echoes your own to help her. It’s only through these seemingly aimless tasks that you rescue her.
Your willingness is your heroism.
The capacity to choose allows you to be heroic, if even for a few seconds. Faith chose to save her sister. You chose to push onward through a game.
Maybe it’s just me, but I feel as though anyone can be a hero. All you have to do is choose to do so. Let your own motivations drive you, those make you truly heroic.