On the psychology of Mega Man

On July 1, 2010, in General, by Neil Stevens

While making some Mega Man wallpaper* I found over at Destructoid.com an article from last year discussing the psychological effects of combat on Mega Man. It’s an interesting concept, despite the impression I get that it’s not meant altogether seriously. And that’s where the analysis fails: it only looks at the first game and the then-last game, Mega Man 9. A look at the rest of the series would make the situation clearer.

Tony Ponce’s premise is that Dr. Wily is winning the war despite losing the battles because he is forcing Mega Man to commit robot atrocities: killing his brothers, killing other robots. I suppose it can look that way when one ignores key events from other games. Yes, in the first game (with story better explained in the Mega Man 4 introduction), Rock ends up attaching the Plasma Cannon to his arm, donning the helmet, and becoming Mega Man in order to destroy his sibling robots. Yes, in the original game, the 6 stages are headed by Dr. Light’s robots: 003-008, as 000 is Blues/Proto Man, 001 is Rock/Mega Man, and 002 is Roll**.

But they are robots. That’s a notable element of the series: You only ever fight robots. If Mega Man were an Asimovian robot***, he’d have zero problem disabling robots because he would be directed by the First Law reinforced by the Second Law when Dr. Light gives him instructions.

Even so, Mega Man begins to evolve. I won’t say specifically the parallel in Asimov’s novels, to avoid a spoiler, but Mega Man clearly gets more complicated. After the first game, he runs home and celebrates, though is perfectly willing to don the helmet and fight again when the second game begins. After the second game, he’s clearly troubled. He walks, he thinks, and eventually puts the helmet down and leaves it behind.

Mega Man is the most adaptable robot in the story universe, perhaps followed by Guts Man once Wily got done with him. It’s clear that his neural net grows more complex as he adds more and more weapons, and has more and more adventures. And eventually, he reaches a point where he is ready to go beyond the Three Laws. That point is when he snaps, and it happens at the end of Mega Man 7.

After the first six games, Mega Man is content to let Wily beg for mercy, and hold him to be arrested and jailed, even though every time he breaks out, builds more robots, and causes more trouble. But at the end of 7, after so many battles and even the betrayal by Bass, he was ready to do it. He was going to kill Dr. Wily, and it was only the last minute action by Bass (and Treble) that saved the man’s life. His Mega Buster was even fully charged as it was aimed at Wily’s head. That was a critical moment, and despite the failure it leaves Mega Man to ponder once more, only instead of the serene nature scenes of Mega Man 2, he’s walking out of a massive fire as the Wily Castle burns down. He knows he snapped, and his programming adapts to learn and grow even further.

So yes, by Mega Man 9, he’s been through a lot, but he’s not twisted. He’s grown up.

* Having two screens, 1650×1050 and 1280×1024, makes wallpaper tough.

** Where Otto, Beat, Eddie, and Rush fit into the sequence, I have no idea. Earlier line?

*** Isaac Asimov, while inventing the term robotics, wrote the Three Laws of Robotics for short stories in the 1930s. These laws were integrated into the positronic brains (yes, Star Trek lifted that for Data) of every robot. The First Law states that No robot may injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. The Second Law states that A robot must obey the commands of a human being except where they would conflict with the First Law. The Third Law states that A robot must protect itself from harm, except where such would conflict with the First or Second Laws. All three from memory, forgive any small wording errors, though canonically the wording is just an approximation of the math involved.

Comments are closed.

Nima Jooyandeh facts.