What is it that makes us human? As ambiguous as that question is, and will always remain, it is a question that we must remind ourselves of, especially living in a society that is dominated by technological influence.
Neveldine and Taylor’s film, Gamer, touches on this idea of what it means to be human and to own our humanity. The audience is exposed to several largely encompassed themes throughout one major story arc: Castle versus Kable. As the audience, we know from the first several minutes of the film that one of the major theme is going to be how we, as humans, are constantly evolving into technological game pawns.
Although we are not becoming the excessive illustrated pawns that are shown in the film, such as Angie and Kable, the movie takes a critical stance on showing how we, as a society, are constantly and inevitably evolving towards becoming irrevocably entwined with technology. We are, essentially, becoming the modern cyborg.
I’d like to take that point and put it into conversation with Martin Heidegger’s piece, “The Question Concerning Technology.” Heidegger states, “As soon as what is unconcealed no longer concerns man even as object, but exclusively as standing-reserve, and man in the midst of objectlessness is nothing but the orderer of the standing-reserve, then he comes to the very brink of a precipitous fall.” To Heidegger, the concept of standing-reserve directly relates to technology. Technology, in its essence, will enframe any object, making the object a malleable resource. So what makes being a human an exception to becoming standing-reserve? There shouldn’t be an exception, as Castle believes it.
We can see this motif through the use of the film’s form: following the character as in a video game – without it being a video game.
We see the characters – specifically Kable and Angie, as avatars. The form of the film allows us to experience these characters as avatars because of the way the screen depicts the scene. The camera follows the character, often from behind or from how the controller would view the character and makes jolted movements and spastic screen jumps that depict most modern day video games. This is especially evident during the very opening scene when we are following Kable as he runs through the game zone and changes guns, makes movements and decision, all based exactly how it would appear if we were actually playing a video game. The added in radical images, such as blood splashing and loud gun shots add another layer to the sensation the viewer gets. We finally break away and see that it is a controller – Simon – who makes the decision to reload guns or change weapons. And who ultimately has control over whether Kable lives or dies. In this way, the form allows audiences to identify with Simon because they understand how winning or dying in a video game works. But in this film, it goes one step further and begs the questions, how is this game of life or death justifiable, whether or not we enjoy the video game.