Existentialism and DX

Discussion about the original game by Ion Storm. Also known as Deus Ex: The Conspiracy.

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Existentialism and DX

Postby krvolok » Mon Aug 05, 13 11:24 am

I love how much depth Deus Ex has. I'm playing it once more and noticed a few existentialist references in Paris, in the La Porte de l'Enfer cafe:

- the club owner's name is Kiergard Tarot, which is an obvious reference to Soren Kierkegaard, the first real existentialist. 'Tarot' may be a reference to Blaise Pascal (another such thinker, and famous mathematician and physicist) and his 'wager', since tarot cards are just that, cards, and also used for fortune telling so they have a mystical element. Pascal never thought of the wager as means to 'make' somebody believe, rather, he meant to show that it is impossible to make someone believe in God. All 'proofs' of God are unconvincing, and the wager, while being much better than any proof, comes across as even more dubious and hollow. It goes like this: I can believe or not -> if I believe but there is no God, I haven't lost much in life, however if God exists I gain everything -> if I don't believe and God doesn't exist good for me, but if he does, I get eternal punishment -> therefore the safest bet is to believe. So the 'tarot' might be a reference to that. Or it's just a random last name! :)
Anyhow it fits with this game since it's about conspiracies and things hard to believe in - or far to easy, depending on the person.

- the same club owner says he thinks he has struck a perfect balance between the apollonian and dionysian, an obvious reference to Nietzsche. Apollo is the god of reason and order (MJ12?), and Dionysius of wine, life and the irrational (Illuminati?), and these two aspects or 'forces' battle in each of us and in history itself. JC Denton might himself be viewed as a balance between them, a mixture of human flesh and nano-technology. Also the Helios merger is an obvious symbol for this balance. Nietzsche's thought in itself mixes well with the game: man is something to be overcome, he is a bridge to the over-man. Overcoming humanity is a theme of the game.

- the name of the cafe translates to The Gate of Hell. This may be a reference to JP Sartre and a line from his play No Exit (Huis Clos): hell is other people (l'enfer, c'est les autres). It's a great play (you should read it!), and that quote isn't meant to be misanthropic. In the play three people die and go to hell, and it's just a room. Constantly aware of each other, they have to endure each others' judgements against them for eternity - they were put there together because they don't fit as personalities. 'Hell' is constant observation by another - it is the conflict between me, that is, my self-image, and the way that other person sees myself. My freedom is thus denied, because my own self-image may be tainted by the knowledge that another person hates me, or thinks I'm a fraud - or even worships me. But that's not me. Sartre calls this the 'Look'. Can you see the connection to Morpheus? Morpheus says humanity WANTS to be observed: first by God, then each other, and then a sentient, judging and all-seeing AI. But that is Hell, according to Sartre. So, do humans really want to be themselves? Would they rather identify with how God/the masses/a machine god sees them?


That's all I got, I hope you enjoyed it. Back to DX now!
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Postby synthetic » Mon Aug 05, 13 3:04 pm

A typical post one used to find on Planet Deus Ex forums, but a rare pearl thrown to the dxmp swine ;)

I think you might be on to something, Kiergard seems a bit too coincidental of a name given the Nietzsche reference for it to be truly random. I guess someone was a fan of the philosophy. I don't think people spent awful lot of time in that club, though.
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Postby Psychotic » Tue Aug 06, 13 1:10 am

r12m wrote:A typical post one used to find on Planet Deus Ex forums, but a rare pearl thrown to the dxmp swine ;)


Congratulations, you just managed to grossly generalize the entire community. Oh well, it's not like you weren't a complete asshole to begin with.
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Postby synthetic » Tue Aug 06, 13 6:53 am

You are so detached from what you refer to as the community, that you have practically no idea what you are talking about when you attempt to make any similar generalizations or assess mine. Stick to commenting on OP.

Existentialist writers often describe scenes, acts of observation, viewing things as they are and as they progress. I have been observing the community you so dearly defend across more community outlets you're aware of, for many more actual engagements than you can imagine. DXMP is a fascinating place for an observer, but no place for a meaningful discussion. That same fact allows you to feel all the more special as you are rarely pitted against competing thinkers.
On old PDX forums such a thread would've gone for 10 pages easily, wait and see.
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Postby Psychotic » Tue Aug 06, 13 1:12 pm

It is amusing how you make more generalizations and attacks as some sort of validation for your own beliefs.

To say PDX was better is plain hyperbole. You are looking through eyes set with rose-tinted nostalgia and comparing the largest DX community to every other smaller one. I disagree because the DXMP community includes all of the forums related to DXMP, which includes PDX (regardless of it's original reason of existence).

I know of PDX, I knew of what went down there and I will openly argue against it having more depth than most forums. Perhaps it felt like that because it had a much larger community but what depth there is is relative.
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Postby Hanover Fist » Fri Aug 09, 13 1:36 am

This thread has ended in a non related flame war. Seems endemic of DXMP forums but ironically I know you both actually played through the story and have read more than Twilight, Harry Potter and Cpt Underpants.

The references I noticed in DX were as political as philosophical. The immediate reference, and the most simplistic, is that of humanity and automation and the question of whether one really exists, or if one's perception of reality is a dream. I supposed that the choices and options to kill or spare the lives obstructing your own was a challenge of your humanity, and a central theme of your interpretation of the protagonist. Did he start out cold and desensitized in the beginning from academy drilling and propaganda? Or was he practical and compassionate as his brother until Paul dies or both of you face the gauntlet in the Ton and just break out the gats and light them bitches up?

As well as being a role playing mechanism, it could be seem as a reference to Descartes and his dualism.

Furthermore you could speculate on those choices and options you're given in the game and consider the freedom to affect the protagonist's outcome, or you could consider these the illusion of choice in a deterministic or fatalist outlook and conclude the impossibility of freedom being how it's all been composed and all the possibilities set at a limit. This would be a reference to Aristotle and Diodorus or rather just any philosophy that questions the existence or contradiction of freedom as a concept.
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Postby synthetic » Fri Aug 09, 13 5:40 am

Deus Ex challenges many topics important to existentialist view on humanity, from the get-go, so I suppose it is natural to come across more subtle references to specific works and authors. The concept is a huge soup of fears and uglies of human nature, and one could say it is surprising how well they made it all work as a whole. I wonder if that in itself signifies something.
Seems likely that the man-god is intentionally pitted against absolutely every major problem we have; a tool originally, it'll actions and decisions will become those of omnipotence, and ultimately down to a 'man' and his nature - symbolizing how a single man can be a "god", but also how the only god relevant to us is a man, perhaps.
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Postby James » Fri Aug 09, 13 12:23 pm

Shin Megami Tensei 2 tackles similar themes of a man-made messiah/God, but in a more literal, fantasy sense. Deus Ex focuses on a technophobe or techno-fetishist point of view with a political spin. I've always respected in DX and especially DXHR that there's stigma and fear against those who are enhanced.
Last edited by James on Fri Aug 09, 13 12:25 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Postby Psychotic » Fri Aug 09, 13 4:17 pm

Hanover Fist wrote:This thread has ended in a non related flame war. Seems endemic of DXMP forums but ironically I know you both actually played through the story and have read more than Twilight, Harry Potter and Cpt Underpants.


Really? Because flame wars and off-topic rants don't happen on other forums? It's that line of thinking I'm arguing against in the first place.

But to go back on topic I really have nothing of value to add, as I agree with much of what has already been stated.

I've always found Deus Ex thought-provoking, and whilst it's story isn't necessarily the best in terms of general reading material it has always made me question much on a more philosophical and political scale, which is why it's my favorite game.

The game itself is wonderful, but it hides something so much deeper if people care to look hard enough. This is one of the largest reasons why I am always disappointed when a friend refuses to play Deus Ex merely because of shallow reasons such as age.
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Postby James » Fri Aug 09, 13 8:03 pm

[spoiler]
r12m wrote:A typical post one used to find on Planet Deus Ex forums, but a rare pearl thrown to the dxmp swine


Joke relating to how people do treat us as lesser fans.

Magniir wrote:Congratulations, you just managed to grossly generalize the entire community.


Understandable criticism. Taken what was said the wrong way, but understandable.

Oh well, it's not like you weren't a complete asshole to begin with.


Flame.[/spoiler]

Lets quit all this flamewar bullshit.
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Postby synthetic » Sat Aug 10, 13 5:17 am

I have to confess that I was a bit repulsed by the amount of common conspiracies and superstitions they threw into the pot, at some point. Then again, they somehow managed to cook it into very complex soup with an underlying philosophical meaning. Using the same resources, any other team would've likely ended up with tasteless nonsense.
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Re: Existentialism and DX

Postby Hanover Fist » Sun Feb 10, 19 2:50 am

Bring back this thread. You swine shot it down before it could blossom.
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