The Things We Remember: Dontnod Entertainment’s Continued Fascination With Memories In Their Video Games

Over the the last few months I have been going back to much older video games to pick up where I left off and finally complete them. Among those games I’ve returned to is Remember Me, a 2013 video game developed by Dontnod Entertainment and published under Capcom. I had forgotten that the studio behind the widely successful Life Is Strange series were the same people who did Remember Me seven years ago. After playing the game and beating it a few weekends ago, one of the things that stood out in my mind was the recurring theme of memories that has popped up in the French studio’s later titles.

Remember Me was the first video game from Dontnod Entertainment that didn’t quite garner the same critical success that their Life Is Strange game ultimately became for the studio. Despite the lukewarm reception, Remember Me was the foundation from which they would develop and publish Life Is Strange in 2015 through Square Enix.

Being able to properly finish Remember Me and getting reacquainted with the game controls made me realize the similarities between this game and Life Is Strange. For one thing, the heroine Nilin is a memory hunter who has the ability to remix someone’s memories, altering and manipulating them to either make the target an ally or to incapacitate them.

[Credit: Dontnod Entertainment]
The memory remix in Remember Me has the player view the real memory first before going in and exploiting any objects that could be useful in changing the memory, essentially, planting a new, false memory. Finding these small objects, such as removing the safety on a handgun to retracting a cup holder in a car, can only be found by rewinding and pausing the memory. The rewind mechanic eventually becomes the main feature of Max’s powers in Life Is Strange.

If you haven’t played both Remember Me and Life Is Strange, you wouldn’t realize that Dontnod Entertainment had already hit upon a really ingenious and unique game mechanic from their very first video game. Reading older reviews of Remember Me almost always mention how reviewers very much enjoyed the memory remix feature, which was severely underutilized in the game.

I tend to agree with this assessment. Out of everything Nilin could do the one thing I wanted to spend more time on was the memory remix. Figuring out the right combination of objects to use to create the new memory in someone’s mind was the best part about playing Remember Me. It also offers something to think about as you play the game, what would you do if you had the power to alter someone’s memories or a version of events as they remember it?

[Credit: Dontnod Entertainment]
The rewind power is tweaked slightly from Remember Me to Life Is Strange to become the ability to go back in time, but the concept is still the same. Both Nilin and Max are manipulating events in such a way to produce a new outcome. In both cases the use of such power is in the hopes of preventing a catastrophe. For Nilin it’s to put an end to the memory technology that allows people to have their memories changed or stripped of them. For Max it’s saving a friend from death. Dontnod Entertainment’s exploration of memory and the mind in their succeeding games offer not just a fun and immersive gaming experience alongside their storytelling, but it also opens up some philosophical questions to consider.

While Life Is Strange 2 doesn’t touch upon memory or altering events as overtly as Remember Me or the first Life Is Strange, it does follow how brothers Sean and Daniel Diaz cope with the trauma of losing their father and the painful memories associated with it. Their recent Tell Me Why returns to memory and how time and traumatic events can cause people to suppress what they don’t want to remember or recollect the past differently. Even their upcoming Twin Mirror in December seems to offer another journey through the mind where an investigative journalist named Sam will use something called a “Mind Palace” to hunt for clues.

[Credit: Dontnod Entertainment]
Dontnod Entertainment’s invested interest in the ongoing theme of memories and the mind in their video games is something I haven’t really seen a studio do before. Most studios will release a game that’s vastly different from their previous one with only the game type (action adventure, fantasy RPG, first-person shooter, etc.) being the one thing they have in common. What I think sets Dontnod Entertainment apart from other video game studios is the level of sophistication they bring to storytelling. Rather than create a game that is fun but doesn’t have a lot of depth, the studio appears to be committed to telling stories that are meaningful and will resonate with players who are looking to get more out of their video games.

Coming back to Remember Me does show how far Dontnod Entertainment has come since then, and how much they continue to grow and develop as a games studio. Their drive to be a trailblazer in storytelling for video games is the reason they are the ones to watch in the industry, and why I’ll keep on buying their games with every new release they have.

Have you played any of Dontnod Entertainment’s video games? Which game have you enjoyed? Which game have you enjoyed least?

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