Mirror’s Edge: on the margins of the nanny state

By Jeriaska . July 25, 2008 . 2:19pm



The unnamed futuristic city of Mirror's Edge is safe, clean and technologically sophisticated.  But if you send an email to your friend, it will be intercepted and read by the police before being passed on.  This is the situation Faith, the game's protagonist, finds herself in.  While no one in the city is oppressed, surveillance is ubiquitous.  Keeping secrets is practically impossible unless you are the government.  In effect, it is the spitting image of what is sometimes termed a "nanny state."





While most people in the setting of the aesthetically captivating first-person game by Dice accept the situation because they feel comfortable, Faith feels that the city has lost the vibrancy it once knew and has become a cold, austere place.  As a result, she is pushed to the "edge" of the society.  She makes her living running illegal documents between messengers, which is the only effective way of communicating in secret.  The game begins upon Faith discovering that her sister has been framed by the government for a crime she did not commit.  She has no superpowers to enable her to get to the bottom of things, but her amazing skills are what might result if parkour stunts were an Olympic sport.  (If you've never heard of parkour or free running, check it out on YouTube — You're in for a treat.)


For Mirror's Edge, the developers at Dice wanted to create a game revolving around movement, while keeping the controls intuitive and context-sensitive.  Faith jumps and can wall-run with L1; she slides with L2.  The player is alerted to which direction to head in to reach their goal by following red-colored objects.  According to developers, this is not what Faith actually sees — rather the color is a shorthand for her intuition and experience as a runner.  There is even an option to turn the color-coding off if players prefer taking more time to explore their surroundings.  In the game's various bullet time sequences, termed "reaction times," the action is slowed down to offer players greater degrees of control during difficult jumps and intense maneuvers.  Again, the slow-mo is there to help the player deal with a tough obstacle, not a power belonging to the character herself.  Faith is an extraordinary runner, but she is altogether human.


Images courtesy of Electronic Arts 

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  • flynn

    In my experience “nanny state” is a construct neocons use to mean “any state that cares about the welfare of its citizens” as opposed to laisse-fair capitalism, which is called “freedom” in these circles.

    A less ideological charged word for the thing you are describing would be “totalitarian state” or “police state”.

  • ECM


    You are aware that both liberals and conservatives use the term to describe different elements of government intrusion, yes? You also realize the phrase was coined long, long before the word “neocon” existed, right? By an Englishman, as it turns out.

    Now I realize that you’re probably a pretty PC person (anyone that comes on a gaming blog and complains about ‘ideologically charged’ statements can be little else) but by the definition you have employed, you do realise that Britain is a “police state”, right?

  • Jeriaska

    This was the term used by the developers at E3 themselves, Flynn. The usage refers to a controlling state whose concern for its citizens’ welfare takes the form of constant monitoring, ie an overbearing nanny.

  • Aoshi00

    While I’m honestly not too crazy about the looks of the heroine (the stereotypical Asian chick look like Heavenly Sword and not so pretty one at that), I’m intrigued by the premise and architecture design.

    I’ve seen some parkour videos before and those stunts are really crazy, wonder how people actually learned the skills, by falling on the ground flat from a 3 story building? Doesn’t seem to leave much room for trials and errors.

    The first person view seems kind of disorientating though..

  • JeremyR

    No offense, but the fact that you use the term “neo-con” means you can’t be taken very seriously about politics. It has a very specific meaning, but has co-opted by the left as a sinister term to describe pretty much everyone that’s not a lefty themselves.

  • Jason


    I liked the blog entry Jeriasko. My problem with “totalitarian state” in this instance, is that its not specific enough. The state could control its population through sheer brute force and still be one, but that isn’t the case in Mirror’s Edge. “Police state” is a better fit, but is such an overused term, its just a boring word.

    Personally, I like the term “nanny state” because of the image it conveys. It’s as if the government is some dumb, hulking nanny that would be almost comical, if its invasions of privacy weren’t so frightening.

  • Friendlyjoe

    The game simply criticizes the government of Singapore from the perspective of neoliberal capitalists imo. The devs. of course do not say this explicitiely.

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