Diving into the Helldiver Narrative with Bob: ‘The Soul at Work’ in Automatons

By Lucifer Bob Apr22,2024

Welcome all Helldivers, gamers, and lookie-loos, I will be submitting a, to be determined, number of articles based on my contemplations of Helldivers 1 and 2. This is my 2nd Helldivers 2 article so let’s begin our contemplation and continued collaboration with our A.I. friend, Scholar Chat-GPT4.

As foretold in the last article (see: Helldivers 2: Manufacturing Consent & Behavioral Modification or Game Theory with Bob), I have already begun playing Helldivers. I have been soaking in the lore. Paying closer attention to the tidbits you can find when you interact with objects in Helldivers 2. As well as reading up on some reddit posts and Wikipedia type sites for a fuller understanding of what we know, and what people are speculating.

Helldivers: Dive Harder Edition (Helldivers #1) on Steam:
https://store.steampowered.com/app/394510/HELLDIVERS_Dive_Harder_Edition/

Let’s start with the fact that games 1 and 2 are very similar. Not only does the 1st Helldivers give us the backstory of the Cyborgs & Cyberstan, but some, like myself and some Creepy Raider character, theorize that the Cyborgs are using the Automatons to free themselves from the mines Super Earth places them in after being ‘liberated’ and given ‘freedom’ by Super Earth. So while this all begins in Helldivers 1, it directly leads us to our present situation in Helldivers 2.

The Automatons had been pushed back and off the maps, and are now making their first counter-offensive, upping the game play for more experienced higher level players, leaving the terminid aka bug planets as they were. That is to say they upped the difficulty for the automatons across the boards, such that easy ain’t quite as easy as it was leaving the terminds untouch and still as easy or not as before the Automatons counter-strike.

Note: On April 9th, 2024, at the time of finishing up the article, it was confirmed that the Automaton attack was a ruse, or what they called a ‘vanguard’, which is an advance attack, and that they are attacking Cyberstan.

The Automatons seem to be the dissident socialist Cyberstan citizen’s creation. It’s rumored amongst would be dissidents and traitors that the Cyborgs left some source-code/perhaps nano instructions (some method) for the Automatons self-actualization potentially (but not certainly) programmed purpose of retaking Cyberstan for the Cyborgs.

If you know the lore, then you know that the Cyborgs from game one are the socialist dissidents, whom we are told in the introduction of the game, had perpetrated terrorist-bombing. They broke away from Super Earth in Helldivers 1, where again we are told that they are war-like and all get guns in place of one of their arms (was it the right or left arm?). Echoes of 9/11 are strong. We see frames of war coming in the distance, as we turn to our embedded reporters for Super Earth. Wonder what’s on our ship’s TV today?

I am explaining this, a little tongue in cheek, but strategically focusing on the Automatons, just like a good Helldiver should: “Cover, cover, and cover [your a**],” it’s important when dealing with… But I digress, instead of the oil rich bugs, this time around we take the other side of the map, seemingly steering away from Noam Chomsky’s ‘Manufacturing Consent’, game-theory, and behavioral modification, all relevant concepts we aim to continue meditating and collaborating with A.I. on, but this time around they remain in the background, ground into the dirt, or foundations to the actualization of our next bit of exploration.

This time around we decided to ask a different question, using the work of Franco “Bifo” Beriadi as it relates to Autonomy, Automaton, Programming, and Freedom. Here is our exact statement/command/request to Chat-GPT 4 (Scholar GPT):

Analyse [sic] the game Helldiver’s 2 propaganda and use of technology, its powers struggle with cyberstan and the automatons via Bifo’s “The Soul at Work”. [sic] Consider specific real work examples from our present lives as they also apply to Helldivers 1 and 2. Focus in on the words Automaton and Autonomy, as well as Autonomous, as etymological poetical toys one can build philosophical arguments with to fit this Helldiver’s analysis. Lastly consider in all the the vacuity of the term ‘freedom’ and the potency of ‘programmed’ as it applies to both all actors and factions in the game.

Here is Scholar GPT reply:

The analysis of “Helldivers 2” through the lens of Franco “Bifo” Berardi’s “The Soul at Work” offers a unique opportunity to delve into the themes of propaganda, technology, power struggles, autonomy, and the concept of freedom within both the game and our current societal context. “Helldivers 2”, much like its predecessor, is built on a narrative that involves intense propaganda and the use of technology by the players to combat enemies such as Cyberstan and the Automatons. These elements provide fertile ground for exploring the concepts of automatons and autonomy, which Berardi often discusses in the context of labor, technology, and psychic life.

Automaton and Autonomy in “Helldivers”

In “Helldivers”, the”Automatons” refers to the mindless, mechanized enemies faced by players. This directly contrasts with the supposed “Autonomy” of the Helldivers themselves, who, despite their freedom to make tactical decisions on the battlefield, are ultimately following orders from a higher command, representing a form of programmed behavior under the guise of freedom.

Berardi’s work discusses how the soul is put to work in modern capitalism, with technology playing a pivotal role in this process. The Automatons in “Helldivers” can be seen as a metaphor for the dehumanized, mechanized labor force in our society, where workers perform automated tasks without autonomy. Meanwhile, the Helldivers, representing the players or the workforce, are promised autonomy and freedom but are actually caught in a cycle of programmed behaviors dictated by the game mechanics or, by extension, societal norms and the demands of capitalism.

The Propaganda of Freedom and the Programmed Society

The propaganda in “Helldivers” serves as a mechanism to motivate players to fight against the enemy, similar to how media and corporate propaganda in the real world create narratives that drive consumer behavior and employee productivity. The concept of “freedom” in both “Helldivers” and our society is often vacuous, as it’s framed within a system that dictates the parameters of this freedom. Berardi might argue that what is presented as freedom is actually a programmed existence within a capitalist system that exploits individual desires and labor.

Real-world Examples and Philosophical Considerations

Looking at real-world examples, one might consider the pervasive use of technology and social media platforms, which promise individual autonomy and freedom of expression but often lead to programmed behavior patterns, such as the compulsion to check notifications or post content that aligns with algorithmic preferences. This reflects the duality of autonomy and automation in “Helldivers”, where players navigate a battlefield within the constraints of the game’s programming and narrative.

Furthermore, the struggle against Cyberstan and the Automatons in “Helldivers” mirrors current global tensions over cybersecurity, technological warfare, and the fear of losing human autonomy to AI and automated systems. These elements underscore the philosophical debate around the meaning of freedom in a world increasingly dominated by technology.

Conclusion

Through the lens of Bifo’s “The Soul at Work”, “Helldivers” and its sequel can be seen as allegories for the contemporary struggle between the desire for autonomy and the reality of living in a programmed society. The games challenge players to consider the true meaning of freedom and autonomy in a world where technology both empowers and confines. By using the terms automaton, autonomy, and autonomous as philosophical tools, we can unravel the complex dynamics at play in both the game and our real lives, prompting a deeper reflection on our relationship with technology and the structures that govern our existence.

As you can see it truly resonates with our current situations. Perhaps the truth of the matter is like in War Games, “the only way to win is not to play.” But then again, freedom from and freedom too are in question here. Peace and aggression, and while shipmates might dream of psychological pamphlet operations (psyops, like the 1st operations done over Japan before we dropped our first atomic bombs – Fat Man & Little Boy, with a third planned – see Herbert Bix’s Hirohito). Psyops that would bring about peace, getting the Cyborgs to embrace Manage Democracy, we caution our fellow mates that this is just a dream. The only real solution is extermination of the Automatons and whatever sent them.

But in these questions perhaps you struggle, not that you’d admit such a struggle. You’re not a communist. You trust in the algorithm. You’re no socialist dissident. You’re a Helldiver, more equally important in our equality, and fighting for Liberty and Freedom. Remember when all is confusing on the front, just remember to yell, “Democracy”.

Yes, one struggles to have freedom from and freedom too, negative and positive freedom as it may be. And one might also realize that in that freedom from and freedom to that there are the questions of who gets what, who does what? These are matters of desertism (see legal theorist Rawls on what we deserve) and resource allocation, self determination, and the realities illusions thereof (or what Marxism is known as the Base and the Superstruction – e.g. reality and ideology emerging and/or disguising the social relationships).

But is the other side as pretty and as wonderful as it seems? Did they really offer peace? Was their way something we could live fulfillingly? Had they the right to walk away from our Managed Democracy? I mean really! What do we even know about this Cyberstan? Has the A.I. infected our brains through that port in our helmet? Are we truly considering seeing things from other side, I mean who would dare sympathize and why? ‘Super Earth is on the Right Side of History,’ a voice over the ship’s intercom reassures me. Even if we were the aggressor, is that wrong? And the war, if it really was created by misattributing a bombing to the Cyborgs and they really wanted peace? Does it matter?

That is to say, should we not also mention and contemplate the failures of a leftist liberal/neo-liberal democratic republic/state? Failures that are necessary for an authoritarian right-wing to become popular, using populism to arrive at a new order? Should we not question the promise from who, and why, that gives fuel and fire to a revolutionary fascistic right? Are the wings of the party an illusion, or simply a making of a 2-winged Imperial Beast (Skull and Eagle)? Are we in the mists of a Q-type conspiracy? Or are these realities a product of the structure and design of capitalism as we have known it, and thereby a confluence of mutual interests, just as Chomsky claims in Manufacturing Consent?

Is it such that we are caught moving in similar circles, with similar ideological predilections, because of our socio-economic places in life, forming what seems like collusion, and at times is, but is moreover the playing out of mutual interests of actors/agents in similar circumstances. Is it such that we find ourselves in a stratified society where the top and bottom are planets away from each other (at least in terms of cash flow on a chart, with the rich looking down from out from outside the galaxy with the wealth)? This website can show you the way: https://mkorostoff.github.io/1-pixel-wealth/

Some things to wax with A.I. and look forward to exploring the next time Bob dives in Helldivers!

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4 thoughts on “Diving into the Helldiver Narrative with Bob: ‘The Soul at Work’ in Automatons”
  1. Hi Bob!

    I agree that Freedom vs Autonomy is very real in our society. I don’t think the individual can truly have both unless your in the top one percent of income and power in the world. Then you can buy your own island and live by your own rules. For the rest of us the best we can do is not play the game and enjoy the decline.

    I’m curious if you think Helldivers would be a good drama series or movie trilogy if they stayed faithful to the lore. I love your insights, well done!!

    1. Sorry for the Late Response. Personally I think it’s all a sort of trap. Such that we are born into situations that largely dictate our interest, beyond our person wishes of how things could or should be. I allude to that in the article, such that a conspiracy isn’t always that way, but rather a collusion of similar interests, not that large business consortiums do not occur behind our back, creating ologpopy monopolistic power over our resources, that again, we create. As I see it the works and consumers create not only the possibility of trade continuing but also the very profits used to build and enrich those offering said commodity. Not to ge to deep into it in a reply. Anyway… idk about a drama series as its not fleshed out yet, but in its own right its a sort of drama series, because the game is unfolding right now, and the only way to see what it has to offer is to play… and as such as i understand it our actions seem to matter, but endless war seems to be the way it maybe in the end, if we look at Helldivers 1 as our lead example. But all that remains to be seens as we gather snipits of lore to try and sus out what the hell is going on — if there is an answer that can be found before the end game. And ty for the reply and kind words.

      ~bob

  2. Thank you for continuing this curious look into the history of Helldivers lore. I dig reading game lore stuff like this from gamers like yourself in the trenches. Please keep them coming. As a side passion, how AI impacts gaming and other sectors if very much of interest. Humans are going to have to live alongside machines, the question is how much will be complimentary, supplemental versus invasive? This is a topic that James Cameron almost certainly is exploring in his next Terminator script. In a way, maybe Helldivers should be inspiration for him?

    1. In helldivers at least is seems its not so much that they used technology, its that they started wondering — ‘why the hell are we mining stuff for them — when we could be using it ourselves – we do the work’ and as such they rebelled from the corporate system that is managed democracy. At least that’s one way to look at it in the game. Since we do not know what a managed democracy fully looks like, and only have said game dialog and speculation on that to go on. My next article might deal with the reality of trying to figure out things in a low-information environment, and how that sets the scene for the spread of disinformation. But to whose end, we must ask. Whose end does this technology serve. And who should have use and control over it?

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