In her essay “A Manifesto for Cyborgs,” Donna Haraway describes a cyborg as “a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction.” The film Gamer manages to portray both of these and puts them in stark contrast to each other.
Kable, obviously, is the cyborg of the future, along with Angie and Castle. Each of these characters has been implanted with technology that has changed the structure and function of their brain, giving them the post-human quality of being able to receive or transmit virtual data.
The other cyborg is Simon. Simon is “a creature of social reality” of the film’s timeline and of today. There are only a few shots of him in which computer technology does not also appear. Almost every interaction he has throughout the film is virtual. His function in the film, as the gamer, is based on his relationship with technology.
But Simon, importantly, is in control. His mind exists free from his technology, despite the influence it may have on his thoughts and choices. Throughout the film, Kable is trapped by the technology in his brain, and in the end, the technology that Castle has chosen to implant himself with turns out to be his downfall.
During the final confrontation on the basketball court, the audience knows that Kable is not going to kill his daughter. After eighty minutes of getting exactly what’s expected, it’s clear that Kable is going to win.
But Kable cannot win, because Kable is not in control. His humanity cannot beat his technology. It isn’t possible.
Enter the gamer.
Up until this point, Simon is a wild card. It’s obvious that he feels that he has some sort of relationship with Kable—he refuses to sell Kable’s account for a substantial amount of money without appearing to even think about it, and later tells Kable that he’s “different” from the other “death row psychos” in Slayers. He chooses to speak to Kable when he has the chance, and he remains unnervingly calm when being questioned about Kable’s escape. Despite these things, he’s generally unlikeable—he’s selfish, privileged, rude, and has presumably murdered dozens of people through the virtual interface of Slayers.
But when push comes to shove, when he has the choice to remain passive and do nothing or save an innocent child’s life, he chooses the latter. He takes control and does what Kable cannot. For a moment, the viewer can think that Kable has overridden his orders and he has slammed the knife down of his own accord, but it is soon established that Simon is behind the motion. This is almost disappointing. In other sci-fi movies of this sort, beating the programming is usually possible. The audience wants to think that Kable’s humanity is greater than the technology in his brain, and it’s almost disappointing to hear that Simon is behind his heroic action.
This moment shows the difference, in the film’s world, between the gamer and the true, biologically altered cyborg. Kable, despite obviously not wanting to murder his daughter, cannot stop himself. Simon, who has a questionable moral compass but control over his own mind, can stop him.
Simon is a cyborg who has not forgotten his humanity—Haraway’s cyborg of the present. Haraway’s essay encourages people, women in particular, to transcend oppression by embracing the notion of the cyborg; Gamer expresses that the cyborg, defined as any person living a life saturated with technology, has the ability to master that technology and use it in a way that best supports their own humanity. While the film initially appears to be a critique of technology, in the end it shows that technology can aid and guide, as long as humans remain in control.