I, Robot

I, Robot
Electric Soul

Brendan Main | 27 Oct 2009 12:52
I, Robot - RSS 2.0

This philosophy is not some standard vainglorious rhetoric about thwarting evil, but a humble inspection of self. With his memory wiped clean, Robo is free to reshape himself into something greater than the world that produced him - something more human, or at least more humane. He fosters ideals that stand in stark contrast to this future and run counter to the calculating laws of robotics. He suggests that pacifism is the best solution to conflict - not a common point of view among those who can shatter concrete with their fists. Early on, he is pummeled to bits by a gang of robots who accuse him of being a "defect," all the while begging the party to spare his tormentors. Yes, they're trying to kill him - but they're his brothers, you understand. Chalk it up to sibling rivalry.


Robo's altruism raises a question of ethics. Left to its programming, a robot is liberated from the ambiguity of free will; it simply does as it is designed to do. Even Isaac Asimov's famous laws, which dictate whom a robot can or cannot harm, serve to defer morality. Hardwired according to these restrictions, a robot may be civil, but it cannot be kind. Robo, on the other hand, behaves for no reasons but his own. He chooses to be good - and is prepared to suffer the consequences. Throughout the story he is smashed, thrown into a garbage chute and crushed between closing doors, but he is always stoic about his fate. Rather than be an impervious hunk of metal, his robotic body seems to invite punishment - he is willing to be torn to pieces, so long as blood isn't spilled.

This tendency toward self-sacrifice directs the game along a starkly moralistic path. At one point, your party meets a woman responsible for a small sapling with great potential. She has been ordered to burn it, but you may advise her to plant it in secret. Though it has no immediate results, this disobedience effects a profound change thousands of years in the future - as long as someone spends centuries caring for the budding flora. In order to assist her and ensure the seeds flourish, your party may abandon Robo in the past. A quick jaunt through time later, the desert has become an abundant forest, while Robo himself is a mud-caked wreck. After some repair, Robo comes to. He is overjoyed, but distant - there is a lot on his mind. He and the rest of your party spend an evening camped among the trees he has spent lifetimes cultivating. They talk.

Of course, time travel moves along its own logical loops and whorls. Though you reunite with Robo in the present, he labors on in the past; a trip back in time shows an earlier version of Robo chugging perpetually along, tilling and seeding the earth. No matter where he goes and what he does, his past self will toil on, a victim of his time and place. It's alternatively heartwarming and pitiful - but a later event puts it into perspective. Back in the future, Robo confronts his maniacal maker, and is finally rewarded with his history and his name: Prometheus.

Comments on