Free Guy - Real Life In A Digital World
Free Guy is an action comedy movie released in 2021 and available for streaming on HBO Max. It may also be available on other streaming platforms. If you like the combination of games, fantasy and adventure you may enjoy this movie. It is entertaining to watch, but it is also thought provoking about the future we are heading in real life. Two topic that are relevant to our times is the advancement of AI technologies and metaverse. Gaming is fun. Not only games are fun to play, they also allow us create, build and explore digital worlds based on our imaginations and experiences. Games also connect people around the world in a unique fashion. They are also open for all to play.
SPOILER ALERT: The movie is a year old and chances are you may have already seen it. If you haven't seen the movie yet and do not want to read spoilers, you may want to stop reading here. Feel free to come back and share your thoughts after watching the movie.
AI is a fascinating topic and I have no doubt AI will be part of our daily lives in one shape or another. We already use simpler versions on AI when we connect to our devices and digital world. We also have different understandings of what AI actually is and will be in the future. Can AI be fully replicate human behavior and/or some sort of consciousness. These are all interesting topics are being studies, experimented with and built for real life purposes. The premise of the movie - Free Guy also addresses this topic. However, it only presents AI in a form of a character in a digital world within a game that is not capable of interacting in the real world.
The game is called Free City which represents a modern city with skyscrapers, beautiful building, coffee shops, banks, residential apartments, offices, etc. The residents of the city are NPCs, non-placer characters. The all have their lives, jobs, friends like people do in a real world. Every day they go by their daily lives, repeating same actions, saying the same things, responding to same situations. Humans from real world, aka players, connect to the game and play within it as any other multiplayer game. They are free to do whatever they like, do as much damage as they feel. It is just a game for them.
The main character of the movie is a bank teller NPC with a name Guy. Guy is very happy with his life and super positive and kind with anybody. He keeps telling everybody. "Don't have a good day. Have a great day!" One day he realizes that there is more to his life, there is more this city, and starts behaving like real players. Many in the real world even thought he was some anonymous player, who was able to hack the game and obtain an NPC skin for his in-game character.
In the real life, the company who made the game Free City is accused to have stolen source code from another game developed by two indie developers, Millie and Walter. For some unknown reason their game ended up failing and they were no longer developing their game. Walter went to work for Soonami the company who developed Free City game. Millie on the other had is convinced Soonami founder and CEO, Antwan had stolen their code and have used it in his game. However, she doesn't have any proof. In search of the proof she spends countless hours playing the game with a player name Molotov Girl. The game Millie and Walter had worked on building was called Life and have implemented ideas of creating AI characters that learn, grow in knowledge over time, and behave like intelligent beings within their digital world.
Just like Millie suspicions suggested about Free City, the characters in the game acted like real life people. However, their code also made them follow certain rules that made them behave differently with real players. The word in the city was that if character has sunglasses, that's the real player and non-player characters should follow their orders, they like it or not. Once NPC are killed, their life restarts the next day when they wake up in their homes.
Guy's transformation in his thinking starts with his encounter of Molotov Girl in the game. After that encounter the decided to take sunglasses from one of the real players, and starts seeing the city for what it is, a game. Realizing that he is in a game, that his whole world is a game, he starts acting differently, not as what his character as a bank teller is supposed to do. He shares these experiences with his friends, another NPC. But his friend who is a security guard at the bank, is not ready for these changes. Guy's goal is to meet Molotov Girl again.
He finally meets Millie again, and becomes an her ally in search for the proof that Antwan stole her code. Initially she doesn't realize that Guy is an NPC and think this is just another player. Guy rallies the other NPC and tries to show them their world from his perspective, Antwan and his company fight back in trying to delete the character and then the game itself too. I won't bore you with all the details, in the end they are able to find the proof. Free City ends as game and Life reemerges as a better game where NPC and real players can interact in a more meaningful manner.
The core idea of the movie is that AI is possible, at least within a game. It explores the idea of game characters behaving like real people within their digital world, all while understanding that their world is a different one. They can learn, grow and evolve on their own. They can have their own thoughts and are able to share them with others, NPCs and humans. This make us revisit the idea of our world being a simulation. What if we are all characters within this universe and are just playing our part written in the code? Regardless if this is true or not, can we create digital worlds where characters within them can evolve into more sophisticated characters that can resemble human intelligence or even behave like other living things? If such thing is ever possible it will probably require a lot of computing power which may not have proper technology for yet.
Besides AI in digital world, the movie also makes us ponder upon the future of metaverse. How close are we to building digital worlds that people spend countless hours in while conducting their daily affairs, be it school, work, business, or hobbies. I personally wouldn't want to live in such a world. This again serves as an escape from our reality and real world. Life is too short to even explore everything around our world. Humans are meant for the physical world, and not the digital one. Of course, there are benefits of digital technologies and digital worlds. However, they should just serves as tools in making our real lives more efficient and meaningful. Perhaps augmented reality is a better compromise.