Death is a pretty good start.

Amnesia is probably the best device to use in a video game. It’s the perfect way to synchronize the behaviour of a player with the behaviour of their character. Between that and a lack of short term memory, the amount of knowledge the player has and the amount the character they’re representing are identical. It explains nearly every common but otherwise inexplicable actions in a game environment as well. As an amnesiac, a character can lack basic knowledge about their own identities in the game world, so asking the same questions to everyone you meet becomes sensible, so does talking to strangers. You can’t conceive of any social connections, friends or family, so breaking into people’s houses and taking their stuff seems plausible. Shadowrun goes a step further, since people actually take exception to you waltzing into their homes and places of business and tend to express this sentiment in the form of hot lead. So not only are you breaking into people’s houses, you’re usually murdering them en sang froid without a second thought.

It all lines up with player actions. Exploration and lack of any sort of anchor, an amnesiac is just as much a visitor to a game’s context as the player is.

Flashback is interesting this way too, though less so, because in Flashback it seems as though everyone is legitimately trying to kill you. Shadowrun has its share of friends and citizens and whatnot, so eventually it does start to feel a little weird that you are on a wild west murder spree without a police officer in sight.

Another side effect of amnesia use is that everything becomes weird and exciting, so in turn nothing is. Finding a scrap of paper mentioning your name is exactly as interesting and exciting as a talking dog emerging from an alley and demanding items of favor.

And that talking coyote was really just a talking dog

And if that weren’t enough, Shadowrun also gives your brainburned amnesiac access to the internet, which is a virtual world in itself. There are two places to feel confused and disoriented. It’s likely that the amnesia was actually caused by a bad run-in with the internet, which in cyberpunk fiction in general is like the regular internet except just about anyone can just reach inside your brain and kill you and things are usually pretty fluorescent.

So you have amnesia, sociopathy, short term memory problems, and two worlds that are functionally equivalent in their hostility to you and ability to act on this hostility.

Shadowrun is kind of like a Christopher Nolan film. Which is to say it’s good. And better when Batman isn’t in it. Or something.

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