Megaman is an extremely interesting character, for a couple reasons. While initially it wouldn’t seem like a simple platformer character would have much depth, if you take a closer look, you realize that Megaman is a really interesting individual. He’s a self-aware humanoid robot, tasked, for the most part, with destroying other self-aware (and non-sentient) machines and robots, bent on causing harm to humanity. For any sentient being, that’s going to cause at least a bit of an inner conflict. War leaves no one unscathed. In Megaman’s case, however, it goes beyond just the difficulties of war.
Here’s the thing: Megaman was created. Like, built. His “father,” Dr. Light, is also basically the equivalent of his god (if he were to worship a deity). He was created, body and soul (if sentient robots have such a thing), completely from scratch to fit the whims of a brilliant inventor. This inventor, in designing his “son,” also made a conscious decision to turn one of his arms into a gun.
Take a moment and think on that. We interact with the world mostly through our hands, and Dr. Light, having made Megaman in his image, chose to make a full 50% of his son’s interactive capabilities based on killing and destroying things. Granted, various later forms of Megaman (X, .exe, etc.) have the ability to shift their arm cannon back into a hand when they’re not shooting, but that’s still crazy. Megaman was literally created for war.
Now, Dr. Light could have chosen to not give Megaman sentience. You can make a pretty darn autonomous war machine without having to give it a mind and self-awareness. But instead, Dr. Light built his son for war, granted him a mind to consider all this, and then sent him out into the teeth of the world. Honestly, that’s a little messed up.
Finally, to add an extra wrinkle to this whole situation, Megaman is tasked with taking out his own kind. Granted, they’re robots that have gone rogue, or been infected, or led astray, but they’re still the closest thing Megaman has to an ethnicity, culture, or species. There are, of course, robots on his side of the line as well (Protoman, Bass, Rush, Zero, etc.), but the fact remains that they are, for all intents and purposes, a minority, helping the humans to fight and kill their kin. Zero, in fact, wrestles with the fact that he himself is actually one of these rogues, and has his own game series based upon this fact (with much angst and sorrow at times).
This is a situation that isn’t approached that much in the series, which I think is a shame, because there is a lot of depth of character to be explored here. Why does Megaman choose to fight on the side of the humans, instead of the robots? Is it loyalty to his father, or a stronger sense of right in the world? If it’s the former, then does Megaman really have free will, or is it possible Dr. Light is just controlling him without his knowledge? If it’s the latter, how do we know that Megaman is on the side of good? What if the rogues he is fighting against have a legitimate issue with mankind exploiting them for cheap labor, or even slavery?
Personally? I choose to believe that Megaman is acting upon a strong inner moral compass. The rogues and reploids themselves are led by the likes of Dr. Wily or Sigma, so if Megaman is being controlled by Dr. Light, there’s nothing to say that the rogue ‘bots aren’t being controlled as well. In this case, it’s a moral wash, as both sides are just pawns of a larger power struggle. Beyond this, however, Megaman shows his own internal struggles at times, and difficulty with choices. He’s given the opportunity to kill Dr. Wily, and probably would have, were it not for the council of Protoman.
That internal conflict is actually what leads me to believe that Megaman is acting of his own volition, in what he honestly believes to be the greater good. He’s not overwhelmed by blind faith in his creator, or his cause. He struggles, and contemplates the situations he’s in. When he’s sent out into the field, it’s a kill-or-be-killed situation, and there’s not much he can do about that in the moment, but the fact that he chooses to keep serving, while obviously still possessing his own free will, leads me to believe that he has a strong moral belief in what he’s doing.
What is that belief grounded in? Well, it’s pretty obvious in basically all of the Megaman games that the robots are the “superior” life form to humans. Humans have to actually create robots to fight the other robots, because they themselves are incapable. Whether a racial inequality initiated the conflicts between robots and humans is a bit irrelevant by the time Megaman arrive on the scene, as it’s obvious the rogues want nothing less than the extermination of humanity.
Megaman chooses to defend the weak, even though they are not all of his own kind. He chooses to fight against his kin, because he knows that simply being of the same circuits and parts is not enough to justify standing with them in the face of genocide. Sometimes, there is a right and a wrong side to situations, and Megaman chooses to stand on the side of right, even at great personal cost.
What should we take away from all this? Well, in going through our lives we are heavily influenced by social costs and causes. Sometimes we find ourselves in situations where those we feel most connected to are doing things they should not be doing. In these situations, we owe it to ourselves to stand up for what’s right, and defy the “pack,” despite what social costs it may have. The path of right is not always an easy one to find, or walk, but we should endeavor to follow it whenever we can.
Frequently, a hive mind mentality can limit our ability to think critically, or consider situations from an outside perspective. If you want to be Mega, however, then you need to step outside the group mentality sometimes, and look at what the right decision is, not the popular one. We live in an increasingly global and interconnected culture. Life is more than just picking your “team” and sticking with it. We should instead choose to do real good with the time that we are given, even if it may not be “popular” at the time. Defend the meek. Question standards. Stand up for what is right, and not just what is easy.
Live boldly, change the world, and continue to be awesome. I’ll see you on Saturday.
Dan “DaRatmastah” Wallace