That One Time is a series of articles, each of which analyze a specific moment from a different video game.
SPOILERS FOR THE SWAPPER
The automated voice echoes, "Hull breach in Sector 1. All personnel to Waste Management."
I rushed through the door. What had gone wrong? Was there someone else on this ship besides me?
In the next room a deep pit lay before me. I jumped off because that's what you do in video games.
When there's a pit, or a cliff, or any high point, you jump off.
Flashbacks to Mirrors Edge filled me as my character's body hit the ground, going limp on impact.
"Jesus that is disgusting." ...is really all I had to say.
Checkpoint, re-spawn. Progression had been tied to my newly acquired "Swapper", a device which allowed me to create and swap consciousness with clones of myself. Having decided that no sound game designer would name their game after, and give the player said device unless they were expected to use it to transcend otherwise impossible problems, I jumped off into the pit. This time I activated my Swapper, placing a clone close to the ground level below and safely swapping into their body. The body behind me fell just as before, showing no signs of life. Happy that I had now beaten the formidable pit I trudged onward, but then hesitated.
The game had so carefully used the word "swap" to describe the changing of bodies. If I had indeed swapped, what, or whom had I swapped with? My heart swelled with a deep horrifying sadness. Had I killed someone right there? Then the sentimentalities quickly wore off as I thought of my most recent rampage in GTAV, in which I had killed many people while savoring it. As Homer Simpson might say "Mmmmmm... Murder-doughnuts." Without the emotion, the thought stayed with me as I continued to play. Each time I sacrificed a body to jump a large distance or push a block, had I killed someone? Or did I kill myself?
Ultimately, the game has two endings, one of which involves the player jumping into a much larger pit than the one I first encountered. In this ending text floats over the screen "THERE IS ANOTHER MIND HERE. IT IS DYING." followed by "WHAT IS DYING?"
I feel the quote "WHAT IS DYING?" while jumping into a giant pit is The Swapper in a nutshell. Some may say "That doesn't make sense", but this is a game about murderous rocks angrily yelling at you about ethics through telepathy, so some can fuck off. The question implied by "WHAT IS DYING?" is "What is alive?" Was my clone ever alive? Were the rock people ever alive? If so, do I have to feel guilty about killing them? And finally, is this pit really the end of it all? Thankfully I hit the ground and died before the game could wise up and answer my questions. At least, all of them but one.
Re-posted from my blog: http://adventparadise.blogspot.com/2013/11/that-one-time-swapper.html