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Matter Of Perspective: Mirror's Edge

Why do they run?

Communication is key. That is a lesson we are all taught throughout our lives. From relationships to war, communication can either make or break a situation. Of course, communication is also a tool that can be used to gain power, a theme that is present in a lot of fiction, perhaps most famously in 1984. Mirror’s Edge plays with a similar theme, but mostly looking at it from the other side.

The Runners are the protagonists here, trying to keep communication free from surveillance and get messages to their customers.

It’s a noble enough cause but one major question is left unanswered. Who do the Runners run for? The obvious answer is the opponents of the ruling members of the semi-dystopian city, but in what way do they oppose them? Are they sending messages to spur an uprising to overthrow the current rulers to create a freer society, or is the group looking to take power for themselves?

We just don’t know.

A city in chaos or one at peace with itself?
And what of the Runners? Do they read the messages before delivering them? I guess that would be a breach of trust between them and customers, so we have to assume that the contents of the messages are secret.

That secrecy begs another question though – how do they know they’re not just helping keep the government in power?

It seems like it would be simple enough to have the Runners send your messages to plan things without leaving a trace, Pope’s murder being one example.

By the end of the game we know that the Runners had been compromised but what about before the plan to break them down was initiated? The Runners could have been sending coded messages for the conspirators all along, with Project Icarus put into motion once their usefulness was exhausted.

The aim of Icarus was to get rid of the Runners, although at some point Celeste, a treacherous runner, was turned to for help. In exchange she was offered a chance to start again and live a much more comfortable life. I can’t really blame her for accepting the offer, I’m sure being a Runner doesn’t offer the best retirement plan; trading a life of uncertainty and danger for one of comfort isn’t something you can begrudge anyone for.

Ironically, though, the Runner organisation was born out of rage at people giving up just so they could live comfortably instead of fighting, but we never know what they’re fighting against. We don’t have much exposure to the wider world in Mirror’s Edge but we do have some details on how life is lived.

We know there are elections in the world, even though they were marred by Pope’s murder, which reveals much more about the political process. The fact his opposition went as far as killing him to stop him winning means that elections must be at least partially free in this dystopian world, which is much more than can be said for the worlds of 1984, Brave New World or We.

So we have elections that seem at least partially open. How about law and order? We do know that all communications are monitored (ironically life is imitating art at the minute), and justice is swift. After all, Kate is sentenced within days of being arrested for the crime. However, although the system is clearly efficient, it’s also become corrupted; I’m no lawyer but I don’t think circumstantial evidence holds much weight in court.

Faith isn't above kicking people off buildings.
The monitoring is clearly the central thing that the Runners are rallying against, but every action Faith and Merc take to try and disrupt this surveillance just plays right into the hands of the authorities. Their actions only serve to create a much tougher law enforcement presence, with Faith even commenting about how out of character the shoot first attitude is.

And let’s be fair, it’s not like the Runners are an innocent group in all of this either; they are trained killers. Just look at Faith. She has a full command of a variety of weapons and she was able to disarm a Police Lieutenant with ease.

Merc must have extensive training too, although in a less violent area. He serves as a major information hub, monitoring the messages of the police, and who knows who else, to help his runners. After all, communication is key.

And then there’s the way Kate is broken out of the prison van. Faith uses a sniper rifle to destroy a van in the city, causing mass panic. She has no regard for the safety of anyone who could have been on the street, whether they were caught up in the events or not. It just goes to show that the Runners are at least as ruthless as the authorities.

Look at it from a normal citizen of the city. You’re living in relative comfort, have access to everything you need and can participate in local politics. Then one day you’re walking along and see a van explode, killing the officers inside. You witness a figure jump onto the scene, pull a person out and run. You’re not going to assume that it’s some kind of hero of the people responsible for this, but rather that it’s a dangerous criminal.

This makes the Runners the very enemies of their own desires. They bring all this negative attention on themselves and in no way do they reach out to the public to fight the surveillance state. They remain secretive, and don’t change anything. Instead their very existence as a group and their actions gives the government legitimacy.

Revolutions throughout history didn’t succeed because those seeking to overturn the regime kept quiet. The Runners don’t trust the people to rise up with them, putting themselves above everyone else. They think they can change things by themselves, ignoring the one thing that they base their mission on – communication.

  1. plutoniumdragon
    Since: Dec 2008

    Is this actually about the game, or a certain individual? I was pretty useless at playing Mirror’s Edge, it’s still sitting on the shelf forlornly, hoping I might have one last go at getting off that rooftop ;)

    Comment posted on 25/06/2013 at 13:09.
  2. Jakster123x
    Since: Aug 2011

    Really interesting article, it’s a shame the story didn’t translate all that well in the game though. Part of the reason for that was down to the chosen cinematic style, I think, but I also heard that large chunks of the script were cut out which led to the story in the game being pretty incomprehensible.

    Comment posted on 25/06/2013 at 13:17.
  3. double-o-dave
    Since: Nov 2008

    Interesting viewpoint. I never actually ended up playing the game as I was useless at the demo and couldn’t get to grips with the controls for some reason. I didn’t mind the iphone version though. More worrying is the fact it was released in 2008… Where the hell does the time go?!

    Comment posted on 25/06/2013 at 14:10.
  4. MOVE
    Since: Mar 2010

    I just love articles like these.
    This is the problem in many games – it is really about being selfish and make the gamer look good while being that, no matter the consequences for the so called living breathing world it takes place in. And that, is a bad signal to send by the developers.

    Comment posted on 25/06/2013 at 15:25.
  5. JBoo
    Since: Oct 2011

    This comment is hidden.

    Comment posted on 25/06/2013 at 15:49.
  6. crow-proxy
    Since: Aug 2008

    According to the unlock images in ME Faith, and many other runners including JackKnife, were in gangs before the events of the game. In the comics Faith was even attempting to steal from Merc. To be honest the runners seem to do nothing inherently good either on top of their criminal pasts. The only ones that would benefit from the runners would be non law abiding citizens. The comics portray this and in fact Faith happens to see inside another runner’s bag which turns out to be information on a hit. Not to mention the type of people they associate with. The Runners are, I would say, a blight in the city no matter what angle you look at them from.
    Though the story certainly isn’t why I really enjoy the game and if I had to guess I’d say this new ME game is a straight reboot. Which I would appreciate a rehaul of the story. (As long as they don’t f*** up the atmosphere like I think they might…)

    Comment posted on 26/06/2013 at 01:20.

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