Transhumanism: a word that boggles the mind in that it challenges the very definition of what it means to be human. Since early science fiction novels, this ideal of post-human abilities has been developed and applied to various characters in literature in other media.
The idea that something can be added to you to make you better already exists in the form of steroids that enhance muscle growth and function. The ideal of improving humanity is becoming more and more ingrained in our society today. The types of enhancement usually fall into four broad categories: nanotech (“magic”) bio enhancements which include steroids but that go further into gene changes, info enhancements which “break down” the mind to fit into a computer system along an individual to upload themselves, and finally cognitive enhancements which enhance the ability to think.While most of these seem far out of our reach, our media has been popularizing them for ages. Now with the medium of video games, more and more we see the melding of man and machine to create a new, well developed whole.
Consider Deus Ex. There is a main character that loses his limbs and then gains prostheses that function as well or better than his natural body. In the Mass Effect series, specifically the third and final game, we see Cerebrus resurrecting the main character with various devices, simultaneously restoring the character and enhancing him.
Looking at other genres, you can see that even fantasy, with the addition of magic as a tool, shows how amidst a primitive environment man seeks control. This search for control finds itself (at least on the Sci-Fi side of things) in the improvement of the “self.” When you have people who are not necessarily in the best of shape consuming this sort of media-and I include myself in this-you find the idea of controlling and enhancing your body entrancing.
While we may not see these technologies emerge in our lifetime, games give us a viewpoint into a future where one day it might be possible. Seeing the vision is the first step in achieving greatness with the gaming medium. I believe that the first step on the road from science fiction to science fact has been made.
Special thanks to guest writer Sriram Nandakumar who wrote this article with a little help from William Kosh!