A couple months ago I began playing Mirror’s Edge. In the game you play Faith, an underground courier trying to uncover a conspiracy. A feature of the game is that you can finish it without shooting a single opponent. Motivated by this achievement and the challenge of doing so I decided to try and complete the game peacefully.
Well as peacefully as I could at least. There’s still a lot of enemies, mostly policemen, which Faith has to take down to continue. I restricted myself to fighting unarmed and even though I struggled I greatly enjoyed the experience and felt immersed. I guess playing peaceful, as was in tune with my version of Faith’s personality, helped me get into character.
In fact I emphasized so well with Faith that I was genuinely unsettled when at one point in the game I kicked an approaching cop and threw him off a roof. I had tried not to hurt someone and still it had happened. The game makes no distinction here and I was still well on my way to get the achievement but the death of the policeman was still an accident that had a much stronger emotional impact on me than the many other deaths in other games.
And again, later in the game I felt this immersion rear it’s head – and bump it against something. At one point Faith has to ambush a convoy and to do so her courier organisation supplies her with a high powered sniper rifle to do so. Wait, what? How the hell did the peaceful group of free runners get their hands on such a weapon? I don’t know why but I felt somewhat betrayed by and doubted the sincerity of the group. Who knows what I had transported accross the city before. Maybe I had become an unwitting party to weapons smuggling and terrorism?
This was a very odd feeling because I do not think there was any developer intent behind this: The group displays no nefarious ulterior motives during the story and most of it’s members (of the few you meet) are genuinely good guys. If it was intentional and would actually lead somewhere in the story, then it would have been a powerful but subtle method to communicate parts of the narrative. Maybe foreshadow a possible betrayal or deeper corruption.
However as it was, Faith still cooperated with her group normally as if nothing had happened. This is where Faith as portrayed by the game, and as visualized in my head, diverged a bit and my immersion took a few cracks.