Batman’s near death experience


In the 2nd installment of the Batman Arkham series, BA: Citt (2011), the game protagonist Batman (voiced by Kevin Conroy) experience a strange sort of near death experience (NDE). Poisoned by his archenemy Joker (Mark Hamill), Batman’s metabolism is rapidly declining. When Batman is about to enter an underground city, called ‘Wonder City, he is overcome by his illness. Auditable is his groaning and heavy breathing. He collapses on the floor, just as he climbs out of a sewer. Then some sort of vision appears to him.

In a bright white light, Batman’s parents appear before him. The player sees only their contours. A female voice is heard:

Bruce, you can hear me, can’t you? You need to step into the light. Your father and I are waiting. We missed you so much. You have to do it. We need you to do it, Bruce.

While the two persons of the vision are not identified explicitly in the game, it is obvious for every fan of the Batman franchise that they are Batman’s parents. The main reason is that the female voice identifies Batman as ‘Bruce’. Bruce Wayne is Batman’s public alter ego. And he is the son of Martha and Thomas Bruce, who were murdered before the eyes of their own child decades ago when Bruce was only a child. This murder Bruce witnessed is the beginning of a lifelong commitment fighting crime and injustice in Gotham City, the imaginary city of the Batman franchise.

When Batman/Bruce stretches his arm to his parents, the vision fades away, leaving open two great doors leading to Ra’s Al Ghul’s hidden lair. In Ghul’s lair Batman will find a cure to overcome his illness. When Batman stumbles through the gates, he is contacted by Oracle, one of Batman’s many sidekicks and the paralyzed daughter of Gotham City’s Police Commissioner James Gordon. Their conversation underlines the gravity of Batman’s condition.

Batman: How long do I have got?
Oracle: I am not going to sugarcoat it. At this rate, I think minutes.

Near Death Experience

Rocksteady, the developer of the Batman Arkham series, seem to introduce a special kind of experience into the game main narrative, known as Near Death Experience. Coined by the French psychologist Victor Egger (expérience de mort imminente) and made popular by  the work of psychiatrist Raymond Moody in 1975 as the near-death experience, NDE’s have become a well established phenomenon in our Western society.

Although there is much debate going on about the exact nature and cause of these NDE’s, the experience itself is well documented. Some common elements can be established (although some critics have questioned this kind of ‘core experience’ to which all unique experience must apply), like: a sense of being dead, sense of peace and well-being, the tunnel experience, immersion in a powerful light, feeling of unconditional live, life review, the meeting of deceased loved ones, a message to go back to your mortal life, and the unwillingness to return to ‘normal life’.

Batman’s experience (through the eyes and ears of the game player) does resemble this ‘core experience’. He is well aware he is about to die, a bright white light is seen before him, and his parents are there to greet him. Although he might would want to stay with his parents (this is speculation), his parents send him ‘back’ to life in order to save it. They guide him into the right direction. So Batman returns to life in order to continue his personal quest on earth.

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