Written by: Nick Farinola // Edited by: Joe Ahart
You read the title correctly. A video game helped me through one of the most difficult times in my life. Sounds just as weird as you’d expect, saying it out loud or writing it down. How could a video game help someone overcome a difficult period in their life, especially a cult game series like Mirror’s Edge? It’s tough to answer the first part of that question, because everyone is different. I hate saying that because it just sounds so mundane; of course we’re all different. Mirror’s Edge delivered a completely unique experience that wiped my mind clear of all the negativity. It was as if my problems had seemingly disappeared for a couple of hours with each play-through.
I was senior in college, finishing up my degree and worrying about finding a job that would basically kick-start my career. Sure, typical growing up stuff. At the beginning of my first semester of that year, I experienced the very worst of myself and of people in general. I didn’t have many friends due to the fact that I was a transfer student at an arts school where most of the student body was…eccentric. Yeah, let’s stick with that word. It was odd. I’m usually very social, but something about starting a clean slate in a foreign environment altered my personality. I became very self-critical…maybe a little too much. As cliche as it sounds, you truly are your own worst enemy. The bane of your very own existence. I started to notice this introverted side that, honestly, I didn’t like at all. It was weird acting a different way when you know you aren’t that particular person. To abruptly cut off the pity train, I hit a brick wall; a wall with 12-inch, rusty, inflamed spikes. I treated the people I love terribly as a result of this utter feeling of loneliness that I couldn’t for the life of me destroy. Sadness led to frustration, frustration led to smashing holes in walls and giving myself a black eye every once in a while. I was treated poorly by some, but I was sure as hell no angel myself. But hey, shit happens. Things always get better, and I can’t stress that enough. The smallest, most trivial of things in this world could have a ripple effect. My “thing(s),” for lack of a better word, were, well, video games. Specifically EA’s indie title Mirror’s Edge.
I want to specify that talking with friends and family also helped me immensely, but sometimes figuring things out on your own is a vital part of self-development. Speaking of development, Mirror’s Edge was developed by EA DICE, and released ten years ago back in November 2008. Damn, a decade old. Crazy. It still holds up wonderfully today though, boasting those excellent graphics EA DICE are known for today. Mirror’s Edge is a game that wasn’t afraid to be different back when industry giants like Call of Duty, Fallout 3, Gears of War 2, Left 4 Dead…you get my point, right? The game had a lot going against it. Even with generally positive critical and user reception, Mirror’s Edge, as expected, didn’t sell too well, eventually delving into the territory of cult status. Oddly enough, it did spawn a sequel, but that nightmare is a completely different story. So, for those of you who don’t know the game (which is probably a good amount of you if you aren’t up-to-date with gaming), Mirror’s Edge introduced this sort of first-person, parkour style of movement that felt weighty, yet free-flowing. It’s main draw is its excellent traversal system. It requires the player to strategically maneuver certain obstacles in a puzzle-like fashion, offering hints as to where to go next by highlighting specific objects in the environment the color red, which plays beautifully in its overall white-washed, Japanese city landscape. The visual elements offer a metaphorical statement on its Utopian totalitarianism, which adds a fitting layer of depth into a story that is about as thin and overdone as anything. This game excels in (almost) everything it set out to do. This world feels alive. It offered me a red pill to escape a seemingly harsh reality. In this world, my only problems were trying not to fall one-hundred stories onto hard concrete. Not as easy as it sounds.
You play as Faith, a rebel “Runner” carrying messages to other revolutionaries while avoiding the risk of communicating their anti-military plans over regime-monitored telephones and emails. Every action you make is monitored in this world. Freedom isn’t a liberty, it’s a choice you have to make for yourself, and a dangerous one at that. The catalyst for this adventure is cold-blooded murder. Faith’s sister, Kate, is framed for the murder of Robert Pope. Pope, being good friends with Faith, was a key member of the Libertas movement and opposed the Citizenship Program. He would organize riots with Faith and the Runners, as well as run for mayor. Those plans were cut short, forcing Faith to uncover the mystery behind his murder, and to clear her sister’s name. Throughout your eight-or-so hours of playtime, Faith traverses skyscrapers, deep tunnel systems, a massive mall, and, well, more skyscrapers. This girl really likes to put herself in the absolute worst situations. Saying that getting from point A to point B isn’t easy is a massive understatement. The regime launches their pursuit cops to hunt down Faith and the Runners, introducing a fun but flawed combat system. Mirror’s Edge gives you the choice to punch, kick, and shoot your way out of messy situations or to expertly maneuver your way around these obstacles. If you’re a true Runner, you’d figure out a way around them. This was the draw of the game. There are puzzles, but not in the traditional sense. The game tasked you with traversal puzzles through a risk-and-reward style of game-play. Sure, sometimes it was frustrating, but the controls were tight and the movement fluid. Every time I fell to my death (with a Game Over screen that followed the awful crunch of bone), I knew that it was my fault. The thrill of jump-kicking a pursuit cop off of a skyscraper, only to then launch yourself from one building onto the tiny red pipe of the next building twenty-feet away is empowering. It made me feel like a bad-ass, which is a pedestal I never held myself on. The level design and overall aesthetic of the game is criminally underrated. They’re gorgeous…jaw-dropping most of the time (save for the drabber tunnel sections).
The sound and music fit the game perfectly. There’s nothing more awful than watching Faith fall to her death other than actually listening to it happen. As she tumbles to the concrete below, the whooshing sound of the wind, the distorted car horns that grow louder the longer you fall, and the cringe-worthy bone crunching finale are so realistic that I couldn’t help but look away. Sound design was important to the developer, and it’s as clear as day. It would be criminal to overlook the music too. It’s techno-y, uplifting style perfectly blends high-octane chase sequences, and calmer platforming sections. It’s surreal; almost dream-like.
The story comes and goes, offering some exciting moments, but nothing you’ve never seen before. Like I said, you aren’t here for the story. It’s a wholeheartedly unique adventure that everyone even slightly interested in video games should experience. There’s also an incredibly high replay-ability factor with time trials and other challenges, as well as different difficulties and play-styles to achieve for the main campaign. Maybe this time you want to take a more guns-blazing type of approach, okay. Maybe the next time you don’t want to fire a single bullet from any weapon, fine. Pretty sure there’s an achievement for that.
I don’t know how to thank Mirror’s Edge. Again, the culmination of familial/friend support elements ultimately helped me overcome that massive funk, but I admit that the game had just as much an influence. If you suffer from issues similar to my situation or from any other negative feelings, surround yourself with people who love you, but more importantly, know that it is you and only you who decides whether or not you come out victorious. Find that “thing” in your life that makes you happy, the “thing” that makes you feel something other than the feeling that weighs down your morale. I promise, it all gets better if you try.