In a new game, you’re tasked with solving a crime using only some blurry photographs, a computer screen, and your voice, yelling “enhance!” like a detective from a cliché 90’s crime drama.
Video game developer Nicole He created the game ENHANCE.COMPUTER to poke fun at the old pop culture trope of yelling at screens to enhance images and solve crimes. Using your voice to tell the fuzzy, retro cathode-ray style screen to move, zoom, and yes, enhance, players-slash-detectives navigate an image to unveil clues. It’s goofy and cyberpunk as hell.
Film and television characters demanding things from computer screens to solve mysteries started before this kind of technology even existed, when talking to a computer and having it answer to voice commands was still futuristic. According to Know Your Meme, it started with the 1982 film Blade Runner, where the protagonist, Deckard (played by Harrison Ford), boots up a janky old console, pours himself a drink, and analyzes a photo by telling the machine to zoom in on and enhance a specific spot on the video screen:
From there, the trope started showing up everywhere, from Star Trek to several different CSI series. CSI probably has the most egregious use of “enhance,” where they zoom so far into a video that they can see a reflection someone’s cornea:
This scene was so ridiculous that scientists Rob Jenkins and Christie Kerr wrote a paper about it in 2013 to try to bust the myth that all it takes to solve a crime is some grainy CCTV footage and a dramatic delivery of the line, “Enhance!” They found that with modern cameras and high-resolution images, it’s actually possible to recognize someone’s face through their reflection in someone else’s eyeball in a photograph.
And then there’s the best use of the “enhance” trope, in a classic X-Files meta-reference to its peers:
Thank you, Dana Scully and Fox Mulder — and thanks to He for making me feel as cool and, in retrospect, kinda dorky as Deckard.