– Eric Chen
To the Moon is a story driven indie game developed and published by Freebird Games and can be purchased on Steam for $9.99 USD.
You play as Dr. Neil Watts and Dr. Eva Rosalene who are employees of Sigmund Corporation. Their job is to fulfil the final wishes of those who are about to die. Dr. Watts and Dr. Rosalene are helping an elderly patient named Johnny, whose wish is (you guessed it) to go to the moon. When asked why, Johnny simply can’t reply with anything other than “I don’t know. I just do.” So, quite a monumental task to achieve for someone who has death knocking on their door.
Sigmund Corporation has developed a machine that allows its operators to delve into the memory of their patients and fulfil their duties through permanent memory alterations. I don’t know about you, but that’s a huge leap of faith to allow strangers into your memories with the ability to alter it. The good news is, the machine has the ability to load up any previous “saves” of the memory in case things go awry. The bad news is, operators have the ability to override any and all commands. Still, this kind of procedure seems good for very special cases where there is medium to high risk but very high rewards.
You spend the first part of the game getting an answer to why Johnny wants to go to the moon, starting with the most recent memories backwards by finding items that hold great significance in his life which act as links to previous points in life. You interact with a lot of important people in Johnny’s life and honestly it’s quite heartwarming as well as tear-jerking at times to see how his life has progressed – and in reverse.
Now, things get pretty heavy after you find out why Johnny wants to go to the moon. From this point forward, the game introduces two questions: is it right to alter someone’s memory to achieve a result they personally wanted even if it is essentially just a dream and if so, what method should be implemented and how far is too far?
Dr. Watts addresses the former question and Dr. Rosalene handles the latter. In society, a question frequently asked is, “Do you have any regrets?” Typically, people will answer no but in reality it’s more than likely there are at least a few tiny regrets. Even small things and decisions we all wish we might have done a little differently but you can’t change what’s passed. But what if you had the ability to do so? Sure, it’s not reality and it will only be before you pass away but if it would give you the chance to leave the world with a different set of memories – ones you specifically chose – would you do it? Thus far, I personally have no reason to go back on anything I’ve done and have it altered. That being said, I would still like to have the option of doing so on my death bed.
There are already lots of discussion regarding human memories in regards to preservation and transplanting them into a different body. Earlier, I mentioned the ability the machine has to load and save memories. This function is born from necessity because by nature, humans are still unpredictable to a degree. If Past Johnny doesn’t provide the information that is needed or perform the action necessary to continue, then that memory must be deleted and the original reloaded for another attempt. But then which choice would the real Johnny have made? Is it the one that’s currently lying in bed that paid for memory alteration or the one who didn’t get to exist because of the choice that was made at a specific time?
Honestly, I believe our true selves is an embodiment that exceeds what is measurable by existence or today’s standards. The multiverse theory comes to mind a lot during this game. For every decision we’ve come across, there exists a version of us that made the other choice. In Johnny’s case, his current universe is being re-written to become the one where he becomes an astronaut.
If technology ever reaches a point where memories and consciousness could be snapshotted and transferred to a new body, would you opt for that procedure to extend your life? I honestly wouldn’t mind doing it depending on where I was in life, but I’m not sure how my friends and family would feel having to interact with what they know is a husk with my memories implanted inside. I imagine for me it would be like going to sleep and then waking up suddenly more able bodied but all else has remained the same. On the flip side, if that happened to someone I knew, I might be a little skeptical at first but would eventually accept that it is indeed them and their consciousness that exists. Of course, that would only happen if they make the decisions I expect them to make and retain the same personality.
We have all gone through changes in our lives – be it for better or for worse. There are many who are not happy with the choices they’ve made and where they are in life be it through their own volition or an unfortunate series of events. Do they not deserve a chance to see what would have been had they made the wiser choice or had the foresight of events to prevent tragic events in their lives? In theory, this wouldn’t be an issue since it doesn’t impact any realities directly; this is restricted only to the individual’s own memories. But what about the employees? Would you take up this kind of work?
What Sigmund Corp. does is complete overhaul of patient’s memories to give the desired results right before they pass. Do you feel this is moral? Does everyone deserve to be able to leave this world with memories they are fond of even if it means altering real memories? Or perhaps there are many factors to consider and simply having the choice to do so is enough? I might not mind doing it as a job to strangers but I could never bring myself to perform this on friends and family simply because of the intrusive nature. For clients, I would mostly worry just about what kind of history I would witness.
The final question then is: Is this procedure merely an act of selfishness? Without impacting the real world, you are able to change your own reality to have it end the way you wanted. We all have goals we want to achieve and dreams we want to see come true but life doesn’t always play out the way we want. Should we be forced to accept the current reality or be given an option to at least be a little selfish in the end? Johnny’s case is a pretty easy choice since he has no family left but what about those who do? Would you be worried about how you would be remembered in the end? I know I would be.
Give To the Moon a shot. It’s an extremely well written game and certainly touches on some heavy subjects that weren’t mentioned (lots of medical related things) and the interactions you go through really makes it a rollercoaster of emotions. There’s even some bonus (and free!) DLC content you can play via the Steam Workshop.
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