Control, the excellent video game of Remedy Entertainment, presented us with a world in which the supernatural not only exists, but – in the best style of Men in Black The The secret X files– the government is involved in its analysis and containment.
And they fail miserably in that mission.
The first part of my ‘in-depth’ analysis of Control it was unusual. Instead of presenting the thematic elements of the game, I focused on explaining its relationship with Alan Wake and the formation of the ‘Remedy Connected Universe’. But the time has come to really talk about what is going on at the Federal Control Office.
“Magic is just science that we don’t understand yet”
This phrase from science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke is not mentioned in the game, but it is the raison d’être of the Federal Control Office (FBC). The objective of this clandestine governmental organization is to investigate the events and objects that ‘violate’ the scientific laws of nature with the aim of understanding them and – this is the key word – controlling them in order, supposedly, to protect society..
The irony is that, despite its name, Control It is not a game about the ability to control these paranatural forces, but about the fact that it is impossible to do so. The existence of the FBC is absurd. A sample of the human obsession to control everything around him and delude himself into believing that he has the world under his command.
The saddest thing of all is that the main weapon of the FBC is bureaucracy. Everything must be documented, approved and be subject to the whims of a business organization chart. We have been subjected to this way of doing things in all aspects of society and we are not able to understand the world in other terms. Control understands this and handles it with a great sense of humor.
The way the fantastic, supernatural, and impossible unleash our imaginations, dreams, and nightmares cannot be expressed through government bureaucracy. Control he mocks those deluded men in suits (they are always men in suits) who believe that by order of the United States government (it is always the United States) and brandishing the omnipotent sword of science, everything is going to submit to their will. It is a criticism of the way they seek to have everything under their absolute control: from natural resources to the private information of their citizens. The simple and boring exterior brutalist style of the Rememorial House is a metaphor for the banality of the FBC, which tries to maintain an irrepressible power within.
Near the end of the game, our protagonist is trapped in a nightmare in which she is just another employee of the FBC, performing repetitive tasks. This is symbolic of what the organization intends to do with unexplained events: organize them, understand them, and make them boring. Jesse can’t go through the routine of an office job. He has to “live” the strange world he has discovered. She said it herself: she only felt that she “woke up” when she realized everything that was hidden behind the normal world and became part of it.
Who is Ahti? What is the Council? Who are our interdimensional masters?
The paranatural forces of the world of Control Y Alan Wake they do not submit to the whims of the FBC, quite the contrary. The agency responds to a mysterious supernatural ‘Council’ that we do not know much about, only that they are represented by an inverted black pyramid and that they have some relationship with the astral plane. The very offices of the agency, located in the Immemorial House, “mock” its inhabitants by altering themselves in unusual ways, causing some members to get lost in other dimensions.
While the agency’s highest-ranking agents pretend to know what they are up to, there is someone in the game who clearly has a much greater understanding of the Immemorial House and the forces that inhabit it: Ahti, the Finnish janitor.
It is no accident that he refers to Jesse, the new principal, as his assistant. Ahri is ‘something else’ and is above anyone who thinks they control the House. Perhaps it is an embodiment of the place. It is worth mentioning that in Finnish mythology, Ahti is the name of a mythical warrior and god of the sea
The invasion of the Hiss, the paranatural mold that has slowly begun to eat away at the offices, the creature that escaped and caused the closure of an entire section of the House, and the theory that all events are nothing more than a narration by Alan Wake since The Dark Place is proof that these forces are impossible to understand and control.
What’s going on in Control?
I’m going to be pretty straightforward: it is impossible to know. Many visit these articles looking for clear explanations of the events, symbolisms and metaphors of video games, but Control it does not work like that. His goal is, literally, that we marvel at what we cannot understand and do not seek to rationalize it. That is why the objectives of the Hiss or the Council are never explained. They don’t matter. Its simple existence is reason enough to promote the development of the game and deepen its themes.
This is clearer in the DLC The foundation. There we found the work of Dr. Theodore Ash, former director of the research department. He was obsessed with ‘understanding’ the Immemorial House, the Astral Plane, and the Council. In his texts we find in-depth analysis of elements such as the inverted black pyramid in which he speaks of the meaning of this form in different cultures and presents theories about the nature of the House.
Basically Ash did what I do in these articles, but it was all to no avail. He never found answers because there aren’t. The understanding and control that BCF seeks is beyond human capacity. It’s no coincidence that this is the same DLC where Jesse gets carried away by his ego and believes he’s capable of solving any problem as a director, only to find that the forces he’s facing exceed his capabilities.
But there is a mystery in Control that we can solve, although the answer may not be what you expect.
What is Polaris?
According Control, Polaris is a ‘resonance’ originating from another dimension similar to Hiss. Jesse found her during a paranormal event in his childhood and since then he has been able to “feel and speak to her”.
But Polaris is more than that. I am Polaris. Rather, the player is Polaris.
Many of Remedy Entertainment’s games handle a metanarrative. Max Payne is a character who recognizes his destiny within a ‘noir’ story. Alan Wake explores the relationship between an author and his own work by putting it within it. For its part, Control harnesses the relationship between Jesse and the ghostly force Polaris to explore the bond between player and character.
Polaris “guides” Jesse in the same way that a player “guides” a character he controls in a video game. She describes it as an urge that tells her where to go and what to do. He thinks it is benign and worries about keeping her alive. It’s hard not to see Polaris as the way a video game character “understands” that being who controls their actions. That is, us.
Jesse’s internal monologue also takes on new meaning thanks to this performance. When the protagonist talks to Polaris, she is directly giving us her opinion on the things we “force” her to do. It shows your confidence that we will keep you safe and help you complete your mission.
Thanks to this, we understand that although we control it, we are not Jesse Faden. She is a character with her own beliefs, goals, and opinions. This curious way of marking a boundary between player and character deserves to be explored further. Maybe in Control 2?
We hope you enjoyed this in-depth review of Control. What titles would you like us to talk about in this section? We wait for your comments.