How the game F.E.A.R. is a lot deeper than you think.
First, Encounter, Assault, Recon... These words in sequence, to the avid gamer, represent a franchise of video games. A franchise that has tactical action, conspiracy, and horror well within the scope of its gameplay, plot, and atmosphere, but what most don't realize is that it is also a realistic interpretation of the individual's challenge under the shadow of an uncaring corporate entity.
The worker, blue collar, white collar, he or she, they are human, and humans need certain conditions in order to attain a certain level of happiness, or at the very least, these conditions must be adequate enough to ensure a tolerable level of continuing survivability. Corporations are a large group of these workers, however their sole purpose is to make money; they are like bodies, as bodies are made up of a collection of organs, and those organs are made up of cells who are being spurred on and commanded by the sole purpose of the human body: to live. Although, as you can see, there is a fundamental problem with relating these two entities; one, the body, desires only to live life in relative happiness and peace, the other, desires only to increase wealth. Sorry to reiterate, but it IS true. The ridiculous irony is that these uncaring entities were created by humans and yet they carry with them no human traits, and again, that they put money before life, and more specifically, the quality of life for the many workers that enable the corporation to make its money. This fact may not seem too frightening or even worth pointing out, as it has become so blatantly obvious that everyone has decided to merely accept it. This theme HAS been explored many times in fiction in order to for one thing, create a convenient antagonist, but also to easily make their film, novel, etc. more relatable, as the vast majority of movie-goers or readers, are not wealthy and probably work in a corporate job environment. In fact, all capitalist business ventures seem to have money held ahead of life, happiness, or even the welfare of the people who make all that money; again, reiterating. I feel that this game, F.E.A.R. explores the disparity between the goals of the individual worker, and the goals of the much larger corporate entity much more profoundly than any other work of fiction in the last ten years.
The general plot of the game revolves around a corporation that researches genetic engineering, military grade weapons and aircraft, and develops various weapons, aerospace, and biological technologies based on this research. This corporation mostly benefits from the sale of their technologies to the U.S. military with which it has had contracts since the 1960's. This entity is known as Armacham Technology Corporation, and it too is an uncaring thing made of people that puts profits above life. Many other fictional companies such as Weyland-Yutani, The Umbrella Corporation, Cyberdyne Systems and OCP have existed that share these same, or very similar, philosophies and methods of gaining profits, but I believe that ATC is much closer to a realistic depiction of an actual corporation, and the work environment, that I feel is both prevalent in real life, and antagonistic to humanity's true goals. A major plot point emerges based on the actions of ATC involving the daughter of one of ATC's foremost scientists named Harlan Wade. Wade fathered a child named Alma who he discovered possessed acute psychic abilities through first keen observation, then rigorous, inhumane, testing which confirmed these findings. By age 6 Alma had grown to become so powerful she could make her caretakers' heads explode at will. Realizing she was too powerful to continue living among normal humans, Wade locked Alma away in a specially designed sensory depravation chamber called "The Vault" which dampened her psychic abilities making them unable to affect the outside world. At the same time, Genevieve Aristide, the President of ATC, and Wade, put Alma in an induced coma from age 6 to 14 where she floated in complete darkness being awakened only to be artificially insemenated and impregnated, after which she was put back in a coma long enough for gestation to fully take place. Much to everyone's surprise, Alma awakens suddenly whilst giving birth, and can be heard pleading for them to let her keep her child, she is then hastily returned to her chamber and put into a coma once more. They perform this whole operation once more a year later as the first child born, dubbed "Pointman", did not test positive to be a candidate for psychically commanding cloned troops as ATC had wished, and so therefore Pointman had his mind erased and ATC instead performed surgical experiments to increase his reflexes in order to make him a viable asset for purchase by the U.S. Army. This of course was all to help recoup the losses ATC suffered during the research and development of Pointman. At age 15, Alma gave birth the second time to "the second prototype" dubbed "Paxton Fettel", who was in fact a perfect candidate for psychically controlling ATC's "Replica Forces" which consisted of completely mindless, adult-sized, human clones with enhanced reflexes. However, upon psychically synchronizing with his mother, Paxton suddenly rebelled against ATC and took control of the Replica forces, aiming only to kill Armacham's top personnel, but he, and his soldiers, inevitably leave a trail of dead, low-level, and innocent workers in their wake. Alma was later killed by Wade after deciding to end her suffering by turning off her life support. However, Alma's spirit clung to her corpse and her psionic abilities increased, allowing her to somewhat overcome the Vault's shielding, and astral project a six year old version of herself, which was the only form she had ever known. This was in order to reveal herself to Pointman, exact her vengeance, and to kill the Delta Force troopers sent in to aid the F.E.A.R. operatives. Paxton and Pointman both grew up together, they were both experimented on, and both grew to hate, and fear the ATC scientists who interacted with and controlled every aspect of their daily lives, but while Pointman had his memories of this time erased, Paxton was allowed to keep his memories and he would later use them as fuel for his hatred and revenge. After Paxton synchronized with Alma she revealed to him all the terrible things ATC had done to her, and he went partially insane, electing to cannibalize his victims who consisted of ATC's top researchers and Wade's youngest daughter Alice. Under Paxton's control, the Replica forces that surround him are visibly shaking and convulsing and this appears to be yet another way to illustrate Paxton's insanity, that and the fact his mouth and hands are always covered in blood. Two weeks before Alma's synchronicity with Paxton, Pointman is enrolled in the Army's special First Encounter Assault Recon team via recommendation of Genevieve Aristide, he is then sent to the city of Fairport after a mission briefing detailing that he and his team of three other operatives, Rowdy Betters, Jin-Sun Kwon, and Spencer Jankowski, are to assist in the elimination of Paxton Fettel, and in the investigation of the surrounding area. Pointman is separated from Jankowski early on, and eventually has to carry on without him. Only Pointman and Jankowski are in combat roles, as Kwon serves as the team's forensic analyst, and Betters is off-site and works the communications. Pointman is knocked out briefly by Paxton, and upon recovering, Paxton explains that he had killed Charles Habegger, an ATC scientist with vast knowledge on Alma's project dubbed, "Origin", as "He deserved to die...They all deserve to die..." according to Paxton. Throughout the game, Pointman is confronted with bizarre hallucinations and paranormal phenomena, he learns later the phenomena are caused by Alma, and the visions are a look inside Alma's mind; Pointman also learns that Paxton Fettel is his brother, and that Alma Wade is his mother. When Pointman finally confronts Paxton, he is drawn into a hallucinogenic state that explains all of the aforementioned truths about Pointman's existence, Pointman then elects to kill Paxton by shooting him in the head. At about this time, Harlan Wade, Alma's father, reopens the Vault as he actually felt guilty about the corporation's ill treatment of her. Alma then kills Wade and Pointman is ordered to destroy the Origin facility's nuclear reactor, which housed the Vault, in an attempt to destroy Alma. Alma tries to repell Pointman by attacking him via various apparitions, but ultimately Pointman and Jin-Sun Kwon escape the facility before the reactor melts down, and a good portion of Fairport is destroyed, Alma however, survives.
This is the basic plot of the first game in the F.E.A.R. Series, it may not seem like it now, but after I explain the atmosphere and some other aspects of the game, my theory will become clear. Despite the game being mostly a first person shooter, it still manages to cultivate an atmosphere that is very still, and almost sterile. This stillness reminds me greatly of the very office buildings that the game takes place in, they are cold, sterile, still. Even the small amount of residential areas within view of ATC's headquarters and the game's other locations are completely lifeless, this was probably due to hardware limitations at the time of the game's development, but the effect is throughout the game, and seems like it could have easily been intentional. This is significant as ATC seems to want to control, or remove life from even the homes in the industrialized area of Fairport, where some of the lesser employees may even live. All the low level employees, such as the workers at the water treatment plant near the Origin facility, had been murdered by the Replica or ATC forces. The replicants killed some of the workers due to Fettel's hateful nature, and the ATC security forces killed the remainder in order to cover up the incident; the fact that the corporation is so eager to kill these workers compounds their alleged expendable qualities. Although this may seem obvious, the fact that this, and other, actually real companies find their workers to be so expendable in nature is at the core of the theory I wish to flesh out here. This is not a humorous adage about the silly, henchman-like qualities of workers in fiction, but rather the analysis of a few parallels between real life and a bleak work of fiction. ATC wanted to capitalize on Alma's psychic powers, so they did tests, but found that she was too violent to control. They tried to mold her into something profitable, but she refused to submit to authority and ATC lost more than just their chance to take advantage of her, they also lost manpower as she started killing people in retaliation for their enslaving her, and destroying her childhood. This all sounds sort of contrived, so let me suggest that Alma represents life itself.
Alma is at the top of the food chain when it comes to rebelling against ATC, or what they represent. Alma, like any other human, never asked to exist, and she never asked to be different, yet she does and is, unfortunately her father Harlan Wade, being part of ATC's system, opted to force Alma into slavery, rather than give her the support she needed to grow and become a happy, and positive addition to society. ATC's will for financial gain was so strong that it convinced Wade and everyone else to use Alma to control life itself; Wade and ATC's scientists tried to manipulate one of humanity's most basic life functions, reproduction, and twist it to suit the needs of the corporate entity, and this is where they totally lost control of Alma, and why they would continue to lose control of Fettel and Pointman. Alma representing life should be easy to imagine as she is wild and unpredictable, and only craves freedom, and also because she is female, and females breath life into the next generation therefore helping to continue the existence of our species.
The next link in the chain would be Paxton Fettel, he could easily represent the violent, disgruntled worker, the ones we've heard about too much, the ones that seem fine one day, then go to work the next and fire bullets into their co-workers, and when Fettel psychically synchronized with Alma, that is exactly what happened. Generally not much is done to avoid this kind of violence as companies care so much about money, that they will literally use line graphs and pie charts to create a psychiatric help option for their workers; they will rarely use a real psychologist, as this is expensive, and everything must be budgeted as money is the life force of this entity. You might turn on the news one day and hear something like this, “A company spokesperson had this to say about today's shooting” “...” Realistically does it matter what they said? No, because any lawyer could write something in that space and, most importantly, in such a way that the statement doesn't compromise on the financial integrity of the company. A corporation is an ideal, but despite being a group of workers, it is not a group of them working together toward a common end that fulfills humanity's needs and goals like in communism; it is instead a group of workers only striving to increase the financial position of the corporation. Communism is, at its purist state, supposed to benefit people; it is designed to be moral and fair, two ideals that directly conflict with the ideal that is the capitalist corporation. Fettel taking violent revenge on ATC's personnel is in fact, a perfect representation of the motivation of the common worker, which, being human, could be anything from the need to survive, to the urge to get revenge for the corporation committing some immoral act which affected the worker directly or indirectly. Fettel's quest to seek revenge inadvertently causes him to kill the innocent in a desperate attempt to find the head of the dragon, but he is blinded by rage, and is therefore fooled into believing ATC has a head at all, so instead of working to solve the problems within the system, Fettel elects instead to dispatch those who he feels are responsible despite clear evidence that even this level of violence will not stop ATC from conducting similar research in the future, or another company from picking up where ATC left off; Fettel is probably fundamentally evil, but his reasons for wanting revenge are certainly justifiable, so ultimately he is not just a typical spooky villain, he ends up being closer to a fanatic, who according to philosopher George Santayana, is some who redoubles his efforts while losing sight of his goals. Despite Fettel's complex motivations, we still find that once again the individual's goals are at odds with the corporate entity.
The next link on the chain would be Pointman, he is part of an Army special unit created to investigate paranormal phenomena and is sent to kill Fettel. The fact that he had only been on the F.E.A.R. team for two weeks prior to this mission proves that ATC manipulated his entry into the unit. ATC wanted to use their own creation, Pointman, to kill another creation, Fettell, whom they had no control over. Pointman's use in this way serves a dual purpose, one, to prove Pointman's usefulness as a military asset, hence strengthening the relationship between ATC and the military, increasing ATC's sales of products, and funding further research, and two, to use Pointman's own special abilities to kill Fettel, who ATC was unable to kill due to their security forces being trained on a budget. Pointman ends up both killing Fettel and stopping ATC for the moment; he also attempts to kill Alma due to her destructive nature, but she survives. Pointman represents the worker who instead of taking up arms against his fellow workers, tries to solve problems within the system, and although he was used and manipulated by ATC from birth, just like Fettel, and he was ordered to help ATC by stopping Fettel, he did so as a soldier who's actions are justified and legal according to the U.S. Military, but more than that, upon seeing the evil of ATC, Alma and Fettel, Pointman made the same choices society would have him make, hence his role in the game being digestable for the player. Pointman represents the so-called “one man who can make a difference” and acts to defy ATC's puristic money-making schemes, and Alma's raw, unstoppable will to live and be free, and Fettel's misdirected, rage-fueled acts of revenge. Pointman although unable to speak, not having any memories of his childhood, a proper name, or a personality of his own, still manages to take action in an acceptable way, making him society's ideal; someone who, without even being told, knows to do the right thing. Societies by and large are huge groups of culturally identifying humans that all generally value their own individual well being, and the well being of others, over money , and they generally applaud individuals who uphold these ideals. ATC's attempt to influence, corrupt, and manipulate Pointman is in parallel with real life corporate attempts at swaying society at every level away from its ideals of morality and fairness all for financial gain.
The next link in the chain are the white collar and blue collar workers who are generally oblivious to ATC's inhumane experiments. These workers are far away from the larger financial influence of ATC's wealth, and closer to the moral influence and expectations of society, so these workers are only there to input data, answer calls, maintain the machinery and buildings, to clean the floors, etc. The remnants of these workers can be seen throughout the game, as the game itself never moves away from an office/industrial setting; mops, desks, computers, cleaning supplies, control panels meant to be operated by trained workers, and other sordid work related items are left alone, derelict, and sitting in the exact places they were left as an eerie reminder of the workers that once used them. The carnage is not kept within the boundaries of ATC's workforce though, as the workers at a water treatment plant near the Origin facility were also murdered by both ATC security forces, and the Replica forces. The company killing these workers once again only serves to prove their expendability once they get in the way of its only goal. Real life workers being killed by a private security force or by cloned, psychically-controlled, super-soldiers is a fantasy, but the fact that corporations in real life view their workers as expendable assets, the same way ATC does theirs, is not, and that is what the low level workers in the game represent; they are almost carbon copies of their real life counterparts. The low level workers of ATC and similar real life workers will probably feel their self worth diminish from day to day, and varied psychological problems can arise because of this; workers who experience feelings of uselessness, or who begin to feel like they are working for a one-dimensional, thankless, faceless, entity can create a problem for any company, as a depressed or disturbed worker is not one that will work at an optimal productivity level, and may act out, or even become violent, so what does the company do about it? Most of the time nothing. There may be some bargain-bin psychiatric help available, but this is generally useless as the worker is encouraged to get back to work asap, and that attitude voids the effectiveness of any such help and only serves to compound the worker's issues with depression or other, deep, emotional problems.
Finally, the last link in the chain is the Replica soldiers; they are clones, forcibly grown into adults, and have no minds of their own, and really the only reason they “rebel” against ATC is because Fettel is controlling them and choosing their targets. The replicants represent what humanity would have to become in order to truly live in peace with a perfect corporate ideal, the purest state of worker productivity, no will of their own.
The real problem with putting money over life is that this notion is programmed into an ideal, and idealism is never able to flourish in a capitalist economy. I believe that a corporation is an ideal, and so when it is put into practice without any consideration for the goals or needs of humanity, certain roadblocks appear that slow progress either momentarily, or indefinitely, creating a state of stagnation, a plateau, which directly conflicts with the corporate ideal of making more and more money, and so therefore proves that the very nature of a corporation is imperfect and can never truly exist in a human society as we define it. The very nature of humanity, and even the universe itself is at odds with the goal of the corporation; this is also true of world peace. The fact is, F.E.A.R. shows us in a nutshell just how little the corporate entity is willing to compromise to help satisfy our goals and needs and how much more we are willing to compromise to meet its goals and needs.
The Human Corporation
The corporation is founded by and then made up of people, and yet the founders or administrators act to undermine their own basic human needs and goals, all to help make their own goals more align with that of the ideal of the corporate entity. This is one of the only times humanity has compromised so much for so long for an ideal, as the ease of living from the increase of wealth afforded by these initial compromises serves to meet the needs of humanity, but not the goals. The goals not being compounded by the physical state of humanity, but rather the mental state, which is much more pliable allowing much of them to be suppressed or overcome. This is true of someone who can commit horrible acts but is not without a sense of empathy as a psychopath would be; through rigorous training, the mind can overcome this sense that is designed to benefit humanity, whose goals are: to create a fair, continued, and peaceful existence long into the future. These workers who are corrupted by the will of the corporate entity, and the system it uses to increase wealth, find it easy to overcome such moral dilemmas as whether or not to actually help treat depression, or to do what is deemed moral by society at all regardless of how much it would cost the company. These people who are so taken by the ideal of the corporation are not our enemy, as they are us, and we are them. We only need to recognize our sameness to eliminate this corrupted hierarchy, and we would then strive to foster a working environment that puts quality of life before money, as a happy worker, is a good worker, and a good worker makes a good product, or provides a good service, and good products and services make money. So if we keep the basic needs and goals of humanity in mind in every venture, financial or not, we'll always be on point, man...