NieR:Automata and finding purpose through video games
By Taylor Charlebois, Staff Writer
“We are perpetually trapped in a never ending cycle of life and death.”
“Is this a curse, or some kind of punishment?”
“I often think about the god who blessed us with this cryptic puzzle and I wonder if we’ll ever have a chance to kill him.”
These are the first words that are spoken in my favorite video game, NieR:Automata. Produced by Square Enix and developed by PlatinumGames, it’s a true modern day classic and a meditation on the human condition. It highlights what it means to be alive and to carry on after we’ve experienced tragedy.
The game centers around two main protagonists, 2B, a cold and calculated android laser focused on her mission, and her companion, 9S, a more eccentric and curious android. They’re a part of an android resistance dedicated to ridding the world of the machine lifeforms that stole the planet from humans thousands of years ago. It’s all incredibly fascinating, and there’s so much backstory and lore that has evolved into a franchise of books, comics, plays and a prequel video game dedicated to expanding out the story and the world.
NieR:Automata is a sequel to the under performing 2010 Nier, which was a spin-off of an equally troubled series called Drakengard. Automata, however, is credited with getting its chance at life due to a single producer at Square Enix, who had worked on the original Nier. He repeatedly pushed for a sequel and finally, NieR:Automata was greenlit.
The game is a combination of traditional hack and slash, 2D bullet hell, visual novel and a myriad of other genres blended into a perfect storm of entertainment. These mechanisms act as pillars to create a foundation in which Nier tells its story.
Automata’s story is a philosophical examination of life and what gives life meaning. It is in humanity’s nature to create meaning where there might not be any. Life might not be inherently meaningful but we can give it meaning in our own ways.
We can find justification in our actions and meaning anywhere, but as a result we may hurt those around us in our search for meaning — thus is the tragedy of being human. Conflict is the core of humanity. Conflict is something that surges through every part of being human — love, family, religion and war.
These themes are examined as the story sees the two androids explore a ruined city, a desert, a forest kingdom and more. Through their journey, they experience heartbreak, tragedy and what it means to live for yourself.
Nier posits that humans are not meant to suppress their emotions. We need to communicate to prevent conflict. We are inherently violent creatures, but we can overcome our nature and add to the world’s beauty. The meaning of life is something we need to find and come to terms with ourselves.
Being human means finding your own meaning and living through life’s hardships. Being human is to suffer, while holding out hope for a better tomorrow. Being human is being cruel, kind and completely incomprehensible. Being human is helping others even if it all ultimately doesn’t matter — sometimes helping a fellow human being is all that matters.
NieR:Automata is a story about finding meaning and what it is to be alive in a world that will hurt you, that will kick you, that doesn’t care about you — and I understand how that can be a pretty dark thing. But in that, I think there is some beauty that this life, albeit so finite and at times so cruel — is yours. So live it, keep your chin up, there will be another sunrise.
“Our journey may have been meaningless, our past may have been a mistake but we’re not going back.”