Be careful what you wish for. After playing a good chunk of both Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided there’s the growing sense that the geeks really might inherrit the Earth. True, we’ve been around in proto forms for over a century, but look at the oh so brief evolution of role playing gaming from, say, Dungeons and Dragons in 1974 to the game experiences mentioned above, and you can see the point. Relevantly, both titles also incorporate visions of technologically advanced societies controlled using paramilitary police forces. And herein lies the typical cautionary note. While modern Sci-Fi still questions the rise and need for such strong armed policing, it also has a tendency to glamourise its deployment.
The City Protection Force (and KSEC) in Mirror’s Edge, originally scripted by Rhianna Pratchet, is the realisation that the rise of corporate power (and the increasing use of private security firms) leads to a more financially viable service than any government sanctioned organisation. (I frequently refer to the Security Commission – AKA SecCom – in my own writing.) Look to the equally aggressive law enforcement agents of Deus Ex and again we’re heading into the uncomfortable territory of Judge Dredd and RoboCop. Both were written as critiques of right-wing/capitalist control of society, but both were also dangerous, exciting and cool.
All well and good when confined to the realms of fiction but when Operation Hercules was initiated in the UK, the same level of attraction and unease spilled into the real world. As with Guillaume Menuel’s miniature creations (see above), we’ve come a very long way from the friendly bobby on the beat. There’s something incredibly sad about this addition to the streets of London, but there’s also something very Sci-Fi about the framing of these images, about the body armour, about the allure of “counter terrorism”. The genre may well have moved from the peripheries to the centre as far as gaming is concerned, but is this creative output also influencing a more mechanised/weapons-friendly future? Uncertain? Then why not perform an image search for “future police”, then look again at the publicity shots from Operation Hercules and see just how much the lines have blurred.