Desiring the Touch of Something that No Longer Exists: Divinity, Loss of Control, and Agency in NieR: Automata

Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Edward Upton


Christ College


Humanities, Interdisciplinary

ORCID Identifier(s)

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 2021


NieR: Automata quickly became popular in the US as underneath the cover of an action JRPG (Japanese Role Playing Game) the game drew its players into questions of free will, what it means to be human, and even the nature of God. NieR: Automata presents its own theology and creation stories that are enhanced by the storytelling and other medium features such as mechanics, visuals, and music. The game integrates the player into the narratively present cycle of life and death via “in-universe” and “gamified” beginnings and ends as well as mirroring major character, 9S’s, loss of control. Through its narrative, characters, and mechanics, the game gets its points across about the questions of existence and the meaning of life. At its core, it wrestles with the existence of God, agency, Nihilism, gender, fall from grace, death, and creation; however, these issues are looked at through the lens of the playable characters and make use of empathetic experience, forcing the player to deal with these problems both through the eyes of the characters and their own. With such humanistic and existential issues sitting at its center, NieR: Automata is an inevitable standout, both because of its tackling of the issues in itself but also in the way it portrays these issues through the unique medium of video games. NieR: Automata is an example of a game that makes for an excellent exercise in empathy because of the ways it creates the experiences for the player.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

Kiley Webber is a senior psychology and humanities major passionate about learning and technology. Video game have always been a major interest of hers, and so when an appropriate opportunity struck to write on NieR: Automata for a Christ College class, she took it. She is looking into pursuing graduate studies in Human Factors, but is also considering a career in game development.

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