Focus Home Interactive's The Surge is an intriguing twist on science fiction role-playing. Developed by Deck13 Interactive, it follows a man named Warren as he applies for employment at a company called CREO.
In a world that's seen massive climate change (at an apocalyptic level) CREO has christened itself the savior of the new world with projects meant to mend the atmosphere and elevate humanity with mechanical augmentations. This all sounds like a great idea for new employee Warren, who arrives at his local CREO facility ready to make a change (or so he thinks) ... and ready to walk again.
You see, Warren is in a wheelchair, and he's interested in working with CREO because of the fact that he'll be able to walk again with the company's assistance. Unfortunately for him, when he gets to the CREO facility and begins the process to undergo equipment of a "rig" to his body, it's a massively painful undertaking that finds him waking up to chaos and confusion.
He regains the ability to walk soon after being bolted into his rig, but things have gone horribly wrong at CREO. He has to fight his way through the horribly mangled CREO facility and figure out what's happened before the drones and machines get to him and take him out first, and that's without getting into the bizarre subplot that you might need to digest piece by piece. That's beside the point for now.
It's an interesting enough piece of dystopian science fiction, but what's most intriguing about the story is the fact that Warren is a disabled protagonist with a different motivation than we usually see in these types of games. He's not looking to be an ultimate soldier or anything like that; he's just working to regain the ability to walk. It's refreshing to see a character in a video game that so closely mirrors the goals of some of my loved ones, especially that of my father, who has had muscular dystrophy all his life.
My father has also been a gamer for the same amount of time, and it's been some time since he could walk like normal or run like an able-bodied person. He plays wheelchair pickleball and basketball, and though he has fun doing these activities, he's expressed countless times over the years that he would be playing every kind of sport there is out there if he could walk and run again. It hurts my heart to hear these things, and I often look forward to a future in which I might possibly see my father being able to walk again.
Seeing Warren as a capable protagonist in a game like The Surge was an exciting turn, since it placed a character that could just as easily have been my father in a role he could play. If there were a company that could offer him the same chance at mobility and super strength that CREO did (despite the cost of everything going awry) my father would immediately take the chance. He's extremely mobile in a wheelchair, but I know he'd be much happier to be on his feet, even if it meant a huge, metal rig unceremoniously attached to his body. I'm almost positive that, even if he knew it would only last for a short time, he'd still take the risk.
That's why The Surge feels so important to me. It's a middling sci-fi action game at its core, but it offers a different type of narrative from the beginning that, even as an able-bodied person, I appreciate for opening up the floodgates and letting disabled gamers enjoy a power fantasy as well. And despite the downer of an ending which I won't spoil here, it manages to offer a ray of hope for disabled representation in gaming, which is always something you can appreciate, especially when it comes in such an unexpected package.