How Mega Man X rewrote the player/character relationship

March 12, 2023
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“So you’ve come.”

The capsule sits alone, sealed in an abandoned portion of the tunnel beneath the snow. As X approaches, the device comes to life. It lights up, and slides open. A life-size projection of Dr Light, creator of Mega Man X, appears. There’s no greeting, no hint of joy in the normally jovial face. Instead, the expression is stern, severe even, when it says the words, “So you’ve come”.

In video games, there is an implicit understanding that you, as the player, and the on-screen protagonist, your digital counterpart, are on the same side. You are unified by a common goal, battling against Bowser as Mario to save the Princess, or working as Master Chief to stop the Covenant in Halo. But occasionally, and perhaps more interestingly, the player and their digital avatar are lumbered with incompatible goals and the relationship is defined by one-sided control, rather than trust and cooperation. An early example – and it may be the greatest example of all – is Mega Man X.

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