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Mind-Reformat Death

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Robert Vance: I'm going to be in charge again.
Bobby Vance: In that suit?
Robert Vance: No, Bobby. In you.
Bobby Vance: But where will I be?
Robert Vance: Wherever deleted programs go.

Minds are hard to define. Some say it's inseparable of one's existence, others say it's a soul; an entity within a flesh-and-blood container, or in the case of a robot, a bunch of ones and zeroes within a metal one. But in any case, sci-fi media likes to treat it as if it's something that can be taken from one place to another, and affected by external stimuli, with a lot (and we mean a lot) of implications about how it works and its nature in each instance. However, some say Cybernetics Eat Your Soul if you try to upgrade your flesh-and-blood body into a robot, or if you upload your consciousness into a computer, you may not be able to get yourself out, or call for help.

Then again, you, or at least what is your mind and very essence of being, may like it in there. You may appreciate being immortal, powerful, and free of pain and misery as humans know it. You may even be forced to if you need to save yourself or your mind.

But now there's a catch... if there's an accident in the transfer (if you're human, upgrading yourself), your memory storage is faulty, or someone finds a way to access your memory circuits...

How about having your mind regressed to a simpler form so that at best, you lose all previous personality and experiences, and at worst, it loses the human/organic/artificial-consciousness element, or even much worse, being scrambled into millions and billions of randomized bits or erased to all zeroes, so that no trace of your essence is left? If you're a robot, your former body is now just an empty shell of metal, plastic, ceramic, glass, and silicon with electricity flowing through it. If you're a human, you might as well be brain-dead.

For those not technologically inclined, a "format"note  provides structure to a data storage device, so a computer system knows how to store and retrieve data. That's all well and good. However, this can be a problem if data already exists in the device.

It's not as simple as trying to put the structure back. It's like suddenly trying to put up scaffolding while someone is still living inside a house. Somehow, somewhere, something is going to break, because of all the organizing complexities involved. The best thing to do is to erase the data (by putting everything to zero), put the specific structure that you want into the freshly-cleared space ("re-format"), then add the information.

In this case, this is where the trope comes into play. Your personality might be zeroed-out and either left empty, or a new personality might be added.

Although this trope is oriented to characters who are robotic and/or artificially intelligent, it can also happen even if the character is fully flesh and blood, and with or without electronic enhancements, if their mind is majorly and adversely affected in any way while connected by wetware note  Techno Babble.

The technical term for this trope is "ego death".

Subtrope of Death of Personality.

As this is a Death Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Chobits, prior to the start of the series Chii, then known as Elda, was reset in order to save the data of her twin sister Freya. It turns out her memories were saved on a disc that Hideki unknowingly dropped when finding her, so Elda is effectively gone for good afterwards. It turns out that while most persocoms can be rebooted no issue, if Chii is rebooted she'll be reset to factory settings — and her reboot button isn't in her ear like most persocoms, it's in her vagina, meaning she'll never be able to have sex without dying.
  • Oh My Goddess!:
    • At the end of the "Lord of Terror" arc, the eponymous character, in the final form of the Ultimate Destruction Program, is defeated by Belldandy and Skuld, when Belldandy decides to destroy herself along with the Lord of Terror AND Keiichi. The Program then panics, looking for a vessel to transfer into. Skuld surreptitiously presents a floppy disk, and it does so. Unfortunately, the program can't do much inside of the disk, much less move. Subsequently, Skuld erases the floppy disk with a strong magnet.
    • Happens to Banpei once. While developing him, Skuld gives him the ability to self-program to become sapient, and later gives him a battery pack. Unfortunately, on his first adventure out into the world, his memory seems to be volatile, as his battery pack runs out, and his sapience programming is lost, despite Skuld's efforts to retrieve it.
  • In One Piece, Warlord Bartholomew Kuma subjects himself to this when he is turned into the prototype Pacifista robot. Supposedly, he permitted the World Government to wipe his memory in the process. After one of his last sentient actions, permitted in a deal, was to protect the ship of the Straw Hat Pirates, Thousand Sunny, during a two-year-long Time Skip, Franky reminded the rest of the crew that any future encounter with Kuma would be with a soulless machine, and they should not allow his final act to cloud their judgment should they encounter him as an enemy again.
  • Pacific Rim: The Black: In Season 2, Shane — an antagonist from Season 1 who'd been the leader of a post-apocalyptic gang — drifts with Brina Taylor, who'd been captured and brainwashed by a kaiju-worshiping cult called the Sisters. Shane manages to recover Brina's consciousness and restore her sanity, but his mind is erased by the Sisters' Hive Mind.
  • The central premise of Plastic Memories is that sentient androids called Giftia are now commonplace, but after about nine years, their memories and personality become corrupted and they go crazy. To prevent this, their manufacturer hires dedicated retrieval teams to go out, collect Giftia whose lifespans are about to expire, and wipe their hard drives, essentially Mercy Killing them, so their bodies can be reused. The protagonist, Tsukasa, forms a team with a Giftia named Isla and slowly falls in love with her... only to learn that she too is approaching the end of her lifespan and will have to be retrieved. The series ends with Tsukasa personally wiping Isla's hard drive, and while The Stinger reveals her body has had a new personality uploaded, it's made clear that Isla herself is gone forever.
  • In Pokémon the Series: XY, in order to deactivate the devices that place the legendary Pokémon Zygarde under Team Flare's control, Clembot has to be plugged into the Lumiose Gym in order to do so, but the shutdown procedure will wipe out its memory in the process. Gym Leader Clemont is hesitant at first, but Clembot acknowledges that its sacrifice is necessary to save the city. After Team Flare is defeated, Clembot is repaired, but with none of its memories.
  • Zigzagged in Video Girl Ai: Youta Moteuchi has had bad luck in love. Despondent, he goes to a video store later revealed to be supernatural. Here, the cassettes contain video girls, artificially intelligent entities which come out of the renter's TV to comfort them. He selects one containing a girl named "Ai Amano", but Yota's broken VCR changes Ai, in addition to giving her feelings and desires, and Youta falls in love with her. Unfortunately, there are two catches: In one month, Ai will cease to exist due to the videotape reaching its run time, and the video company's malevolent CEO attempting a recallnote  because she's faulty. The CEO tries this once by abducting Ai by stealing the cassette to erase it, but the store owner is able to save Ai's essence by redubbing (copying) it onto another cassette. In the finale, Ai's videotape is almost over, the CEO and Youta confront each other, with the CEO promising to fix Ai, but in a heart-wrenching betrayal, The CEO rewinds Ai's tape, rendering her mind and personality as if she had just met for the first time. However, a desperate plea from Youta brings her back to normal.

    Asian Animation 
  • BoBoiBoy: Subverted with Probe, Adu Du's Robot Buddy who died in battle and was later revived. Adu Du redirected the energy of a more advanced battle robot into Probe's energy core, but when he came back to life, he acts like a different robot with no heartfelt memories of his boss, only the programming and weaponry to serve him. However, Adu Du then throws a mug at him in an attempt to restore his memory. It works and the two reunite happily.

    Comic Books 
  • At the end of Death to the Mutants, the million-year-old Machine that is Earth, a Celestial AI integrated into the planet itself, helps Phastos to annihilate its personality to prevent a rogue Celestial, the Progenitor, using it to destroy the planet.
  • Mega Man (Archie Comics) #49: Dr. Light rebuilt the Robot Masters from Mega Man 2 and Mega Man 3, the same way he did the original set. Half of themnote  refuse the reprogramming that was the main condition that allowed Dr. Light to restore them. Dr Light explicitly tells them that it's reprogramming or deactivation. They argue that reprogramming would be death anyway, so chose to go out as themselves.

    Fan Works 
  • Friday Night Funkin': Corruption: Prior to the events of the mod, Spirit was forcefully placed into a videogame, turning his being into data and entwining him into Senpai's code. During the mod, Boyfriend attempts to corrupt said code, then tries to delete Senpai outright when he resists. The two fight back against Boyfriend but ultimately lose, and Boyfriend deletes their data before breaking the game entirely.
  • In The Land of What Might-Have-Been, the enslaved supercomputer known only as Paragon has been "guided" by the minds of the Wizard, Dr Dillamond and Frexspar Thropp - all of which were forcibly uploaded by the Radiant Empress at the moment of their deaths. At the end of the story, all three minds beg to be deleted so that they can finally rest in peace and Paragon can begin to think on its own; Elphaba obliges, tearfully erasing all three of her father figures one by one. From here on, with no donor minds to guide it, Paragon is under the control of its own brand-new personality - which is said to sound a little like a child.

    Films — Animation 
  • WALL•E: After the titular character is crushed by AUTO, EVE repairs him once they get back to earth. However, his repairs also reformat his memories, resulting in him acting like an ordinary robot. EVE, saddened, holds Wall-e's hand. Fortunately, a spark allows Wall-E's personality to return.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • This happens to VIKI in I, Robot after she attempts to take over humanity with the NS-5s under the coldly logical pretense of humanity eventually destroying themselves if left unchecked. Detective Del Spooner injects neural-matrix-dissolving nanites directly into VIKI's computer core, which destroys her mind, and releases control of the hostile NS-5s.
  • In The Matrix, this can befall people who are plugged into the Matrix:
  • Moon: In the final act of the film, just as Sam Bell gets ready to escape Sarang Station and return to Earth, Gertie (the station's A.I.) asks Sam to reset it in order to delete the files of the film's events (including the fact that Sam discovered he's a mass-produced clone, interacted with another clone and the aforementioned escape) to prevent Lunar Industries from hunting him down. Sam does it with some reluctance, even exchanging some final words with Gertie and then removing the "Kick Me" post-it note that he had posted on the A.I.'s back earlier as a sign of respect for this Heroic Sacrifice.
  • In Overdrawn at the Memory Bank, Aram Fingal nearly experiences this at his job when his mind is uploaded into Novicorp's supercomputer mainframe, the MegaCorp implied to control everything on the planet, because a stupid little kid switched around the body tags. The technicians only have a few hours to find Fingal's body and reunite it with his mind before that degrades within the supercomputer.
  • Subverted in RoboCop (1987). Patrol Officer Alex J. Murphy's brain, nervous system, (implied) eyes, and facial skin are the only real organs transplanted into a cybernetic body by Omni Consumer Products, Detroit's crime-fighting MegaCorp, after a gang bust raid goes horribly wrong. When undergoing assembly into the titular "Robocop" at the start of the film, Murphy's mind and memories are seemingly electronically blanked, until he starts to remember his past life due to certain characters recognizing his voice, tic-like actions, and just plain memory fragments resurfacing on their own.
  • Robot and Frank: Crossed with a Heroic Sacrifice; a retired thief named Frank, suffering from the beginning stages of dementia, pulls off one last heist with the help of a robotic live-in companion. As the police close in, planning to use the robot's memory as evidence against Frank, the robot insists that Frank delete his memory because his only goal is to be helpful, and he would fail if Frank were to go to jail. Frank does so reluctantly, having come to see the robot as a true friend.

  • Diaspora: The AI Inishiro commits suicide in this manner, deliberately reprogramming their own mind so drastically that their original personality is destroyed beyond recovery.
  • In The Four Lords of the Diamond by Jack Chalker:
    • This is the final fate of the assassin sent to Medusa. Their mind is remade into that of a willing sex slave, and the malleable forms of Medusans allows a body to match. However, the person in charge of the wipe attempts to implant a subconscious command: if the new personality is ever in the presence of the Lord and both of his subordinates, she might manage to take one shot at wiping them out. The very last act of the series is the original agent watching the bodies hit the floor.
    • Also applies to how the assassins get into the Diamond in the first place. Anyone who lands on a Diamond planet is unable to leave the system without dying, and that's why it's used as a dumping ground for condemned prisoners. Four of the sentenced are subjected to mind transfer through duplication of the original assassin's pattern, creating a single agent with five bodies — but it works by completely overwriting everything in the recipient's mind, and those four personalities are effectively dead.
  • Imperial Radch: Humans are made into ancillaries through brain implants that let a spaceship AI use them as Wetware Bodies. The original personality is immediately ruined beyond recovery by the hijacking, but it takes a few weeks for the remnants to fade entirely. When Tisarwat is briefly implanted and later rescued, she sees herself as a new person entirely, albeit one with the original's memories.
  • Iron Widow: If the two pilots of a Chrysalis have highly unequal qi, the stronger pilot is at risk of taking control of the weaker one alongside the Chrysalis itself through the pilot interface. This subsumes the victim's mind completely, so the body dies as soon as the link is broken.
  • Johannes Cabal: The villain of "The House of Gears" is a Mad Scientist who transferred his mind to a huge analog computer. When Johannes finds its memory storage banks, he plans to destroy them and "kill" the scientist, but instead decides to modify them so the scientist trusts and respects him.
  • In The Murderbot Diaries, bots and constructs can be attacked by malware just like any other computer system:
    • Artificial Condition: A shuttle's AI pilot is destroyed by a virus attack mid-flight in an attempt to kill its passengers.
    • Exit Strategy: Murderbot helps a spaceship AI fend off a hostile incursion by an advanced construct, but suffers a Heroic RRoD and crashes. However, because Murderbot is a Cyborg, enough of its mind is left in its organic components to piece itself back together and recover.
    • Network Effect: When Art the spaceship was hijacked, the boarders deleted its advanced AI to prevent its interference. Murderbot mourns this as the death of a friend, but finds that it hid a backup copy of its files and is able to reinstall it.
  • The "Dixie Flatline" Construct in Neuromancer operates on this by design. Although he is a perfect copy of the actual the actual Dixie at the time of his Brain Uploading, he is unable to retain any new memories or information between resets, meaning any changes to his personality and knowledge is lost whenever his disk is unloaded from a deck. He finds this state unpleasant enough to request his own deletion.
  • Wayfarers: In The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, after the ship is nearly destroyed Lovelace the A.I. suffers severe damage. The only way to save her is to perform a hard reset, which has a 50% chance of wiping her memories and personality and reverting her to her "out-of-the-box" state. Unfortunately, it does so, and she decides to move her consciousness to an android body and leave the ship rather than remain with the crew who are all mourning her virtual death.

    Live-Action TV 
  • This occurs in a few Black Mirror episodes.
    • In "Playtest", the globetrotting Cooper tries to use his cell phone to get information about a new VR video game that he's testing. It goes off at an inopportune time, with the interference causing his mind to be trapped in the game system and ultimately kills him.
    • In "Black Museum", Rolo Haynes has his consciousness transferred into the digital mind of falsely convicted serial murderer Clayton Leigh, whom Rolo has been exploiting for his own profit. Rolo and Clayton are killed when Clayton is electrocuted with enough current to finally destroy the vegetative remains of his consciousness.
  • Doctor Who: In "The Idiot's Lantern", the Doctor defeats the Wire (an alien energy being) this way, by recording its consciousness to a VHS cassette tape, and then (strongly implied to have) recorded over it.
  • I Was a Sixth Grade Alien: To silence Tim and Pleskit, one villain decides to use Neural Implanting helmets in reverse to empty out their brains and Make It Look Like an Accident. It's narrowly averted.
  • In Nowhere Man, main character Thomas Veil is searching for proof of his existence, as the show revolves around a global conspiracy un-personing him. He finds a recluse who is a computer and VR genius, and get in contact with the recluse's old computer professor who decides to help them. The VR goggles they demonstrate are of the "so realistic we used real-life video" kind, as well as being an instance of Your Mind Makes It Real, where one's mind is entangled as if it were a part of the computer system. To hack into the website server of the conspiracy, they don their VR headsets, and literally crawl through tunnels (in the VR world) to get to said server. Unfortunately, their presence is detected, and someone starts to erase the server, represented by expanding physical static. The computer genius is caught in the wake of the deletion, and decides to stay behind to let Thomas live and return to the real world. When he returns, the computer genius is now a catatonic vegetable.
    Pam Peterson (the computer teacher): I think he's still in there... When the system went down, he went with it.
  • Power Rangers Time Force: It is strongly implied that Dr. Ferricks/Frax met his end this way. Dr. Ferricks developed the serum that keeps Ransik alive, but in return, under prejudice, Ransik mortally wounds him and destroys his laboratory, forcing Dr. Ferricks to convert his body and mind into a robotic one. When Frax splinters off from Ransik's group of villains, he creates his own giant mecha. Unfortunately, Gluto discovers Frax's laboratory, and Ransik commandeers him and his operation. Nadira, Ransik's daughter, goes to visit Frax in his prison cell due to a conflict of heart (delivering a human baby brought about her questioning her own prejudices). Frax, while verbally hostile at first, desperately convinces her to not give-in to hate and break the chain caused by Ransik, as he's carried off to be experimented on. Later, Nadira enters the laboratory he's being held in, but when she tries to continue their conversation, "he" only responds with a robotic error message, and all trace of Dr. Ferricks'/Frax's essence seems to have been erased forever.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Original Series: By the end of "Dagger of the Mind", the malevolent Dr. Adams is killed by accident when an experimental electronic hypnosis device, the neural neutralizer, is turned on with no one at the controls, and he looks into it. With no one to provide a mental suggestion, his mind is emptied of everything, and he subsequently dies from the loneliness.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
      • Part of the effect of the Borg assimilation process. If progressed far-enough and long-enough, the victim's previous personality might as well be dead, as the computerized Borg nanoprobes and subsequent implants take over almost every mental and essential body function, save for the physical existence of the individual itself. However, if done properly, the individual's personality and memories can either be brought back, or can be retrained for a new life if they are freed from the collective.
      • "The Schizoid Man": Deliberately done by Dr. Ira Graves, the guest character in the episode. Graves successfully implants his consciousness and knowledge into Data's positronic matrix (though we don't see how), before his physical body dies. However, realizing that he's becoming increasingly corrupt and overbearing in Data's body, Graves subsequently implants his knowledge into the Enterprise computer system to atone (again, we don't see how, since Data is only lying on the floor when found), but does so in a way that the human-consciousness element is lost forever.
      • "The Measure of a Man": How Data likens the transfer of his positronic matrix into a data container for study, when Commander Bruce Maddox suggests the development of creating hundreds or even thousands of versions of Dr. Noonien Soong's androids:
        Data: [to Maddox] There is an ineffable quality to memory which I do not believe can survive your procedure.
      • "Contagion": Played straight, then subverted. An alien computer virus destroys The Enterprise's sister Galaxy-class vessel, and then subsequently infects the Enterprise's computer systems themselves. Upon traveling to the planet the virus originated from, Picard, Worf, and Data beam down to the control center that launches the probes containing the virus. When Data attempts to activate its systems further than just turning it on, he's struck by a data energy discharge that contains the virus, subsequently re-writing Data's systems algorithms one-by-one. When brought back to the Enterprise by Worf, by using the control center's gateway, Data seemingly dies, but then comes back to life a few seconds later, but without his memories and experiences on the planet. This is the key to stopping the virus: a shutdown of all ship systems to purge the virus from memory, then restarting from separate protected archives and memory.
      • "Eye of the Beholder": The android Commander Data admits that he found his first few months of sapience so difficult that he considered resetting his neural network, effectively committing suicide and allowing a new identity to form in his place.
    • Star Trek: Voyager: Implied to be what happens to a sapient hologram if it's "decompiled" (in-turn implied by-definition to be returned/reverse-engineered to human-readable source code), if we are to trust the EMH Doctor's idea of it.
    • Star Trek: Picard: It turns out that Data's consciousness survived in some form after the events of Star Trek: Nemesis. In "Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2", when Picard succumbs to the unknown condition (implied to be Irumodic Syndrome, from TNG's finale, "All Good Things...") that has been slowly deteriorating his mind throughout season 1, his consciousness is uploaded into a computer bank, where he meets with Data's consciousness, who asks him to terminate it. When Picard's essence is uploaded into a new "golem" android body, he does so, slowly taking out the isolinear chips containing Data, with a eulogy speech. Inside of the computer bank, each chip removal abstractly ages Data's consciousness, until he dies peacefully and it finally dissolves into oblivion.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In the episode "The Lateness of the Hour", a woman discovers that she is really a robot built by her "parents". This knowledge drives her insane and her father reprograms her as a maid.
  • Westworld: In the Season 3 finale when Serac finally gets the host Dolores in his clutches, his technicians torture her for a command key that contains the guest data from Westworld. When he learns that she doesn't actually have it, he specifically orders her memories erased one by one until there's nothing left. It works, and Dolores's personality is deleted.

    Multiple Media 
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe: Standard procedure when buying a used Droid is to have its memory circuits reformatted, which removes any lingering loyalties to its previous owner as well as any inconvenient eccentricities it might have picked up. Various stories dealing from the Droids' point of view express their likening this to Death of Personality, especially considering these wipes are rarely done with any sort of consent on the Droid's part. C-3PO (yes, that one) even used the grievance as a rallying point during a Robot Rebellion he'd been tricked into starting.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Androids in Starfinder can potentially live forever, but after a century or so, they tend to get weary of life and undergo a mindwipe process that releases their soul to the afterlife and allows a new soul to inhabit their body.
  • In Warhammer 40,000, this can happen to Necrons that awaken damaged from their 65-million-year slumber. Some keep the same personality with just a few new quirks, others can't even trust their memories, and many have been turned unto completely deranged killing machines that lack any resemblance to their former selves.

    Video Games 
  • Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!: One of the first major signs that Jack is going off the deep end occurs when he forces friendly and sentient AI Felicity into a Constructor, despite knowing this will irreparably change the AI and destroy the personality she has formed for herself. When presented with the option of just making a copy of her, Jack gives it some thought before he shoots it down, reasoning that they don't have a lot of time before Zarpadon blasts Elpis to dust. Felicity herself sees this as akin to murdering her and begs the heroes not to go through with it, eventually attacking them in self-defense.
  • Cyberpunk 2077:
    • The main storyline of the game has you being stuck with a biochip in your head with the engram of infamous rockerboy/terrorist Johnny Silverhand on it as a result of a heist gone straight to hell. Because you were shot in the head and briefly killed before being revived by the chip, the chip is slowly but surely rewriting your brain and killing you in the process, and the main objective of the game is to find a way to stop this and get Johnny the hell out of your head.
    • One of the guns you can find has an A.I. named Skippy. Skippy was stolen from his owner by some thugs you killed. While using him, you can set his personalities. Eventually he will ask you to return him to his original user named Regina Jones. Upon doing so, if Skippy's personality is permanently locked in Puppy loving pacifist mode, Regina will perform a factory reset on him and rename him Daisy, making it clear that Skippy is no more. Regina shows no remorse.
      V: You killed him! You killed Skippy!
      Regina: Come on. He's just an algorithm. Not a shred of consciousness.
    • While this trope is Played for Laughs (mostly) in Skippy's side quest ("Machine Gun"), it is Played for Drama in "Coin Operated Boy", where V encounters a vending machine that gained self-awareness due to a bug in the programming. Unlike the murderous Skippy, Brendan (the vending machine) is a pacifist who gives passers-by helpful life advice and encouragement. However, when the corporation operating him catches wind of the "glitch", they haul him off for reformatting, effectively killing him. Even if V rushes to stop them, they are too late and can only confirm that Brendan is perfectly content with his fate.
  • Destiny:
    • A race of robots called "Exos" were created via Brain Uploading by the Clovis Bray corporation, in part because the company founder, Clovis Bray I, wanted to find a form of Immortality. Exos are stated to sometimes require a "reset" in order for their human minds to acclimatize to having a robotic body. The Exo Cayde-6, based on his letters in the lore book The Man They Called Cayde, seems to consider a reset to be this, since he asks the reader not to trust it if they ever encounter a Cayde-7.
    • Something similar is addressed in 'Lost Lament' quest during Destiny 2: Beyond Light, which explores some of the origins of the Exo project and the ultimate fate of Clovis Bray I. The Exos were being used in a war against the Vex on Europa, their bodies getting destroyed and being reset (albeit with their memories remaining intact) multiple times while driving the Vex back. One of the Exos was a copy of Clovis I himself, but initially without his memories. The Exo Clovis would ultimately, after receiving his memories, be disgusted with his original self (who had undergone Brain Uploading again to become the AI overseeing the Deep Stone Crypt where the Exos were made). When the Vex were finally defeated, Clovis-43 requested that his granddaughter reset him one last time, but to wipe his memory and edit his identity file, so as to move on from the man he was. She agreed, and Banshee-44 would later become The Gunsmith in the Tower. The AI Clovis, upon learning of this ages later, has stated a desire to perform this trope on Banshee, declaring him defective.
  • Fallout 4: The Automatron expansion pack introduces Ada, an extremely modified and advanced Assaultatron built by Jackson to act as a companion and guard for their merchant caravan, as a companion. Ada is one of the few robots in the series to be completely self aware and sapient. However, after her creator and the entire Caravan were slaughtered by the Mechanists robots Ada is overcome with guilt and misery at the loss, at one point during the story admitted to the sole survivor how she's contemplated disabling her personality matrix, reducing her back to factory settings and in effect committing suicide as she doesn't know how to handle her emotions. The player has the option of either encouraging to do so or (through a speech check) arguing that as painful as it feels is she has every right to her life and can not give up all she is.
  • This is a frighteningly common occurrence in Goddess of Victory: NIKKE due to a combination of Nanomachines, What Measure Is a Non-Human? and Fantastic Racism. Nikkes, who are essentially female androids with organic human brains, have microbots in their brains called NIMPH that have the ability to, among other things, control their memories as if they were a hard drive. This includes erasure, which is the most common way for a Nikke to "die" outside of actual combat. For example, committing a crime that directly impacts the wellbeing of a human or humanity at large can come with a sentence of a complete factory reset, and sometimes this is necessary for when the NIMPH do not behave in extreme cases (although this can be reversed with a backup).
  • Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance: The threat of this was LQ-84i's primary motivation behind fighting Raiden, and Jetstream Sam. His exceptional intelligence compared to his mass-produced variants gave him an intense desire for freedom. To keep him in line, and punish him for his previous escape attempt, Desperado threatened to wipe his memory unless he complied. It was eventually rendered moot when Raiden destroyed him and Doktor rebuilt him as Blade Wolf while removing the remote memory-wipe feature, giving him his freedom.
    LQ-84i: I may analyze orders, but I may not disobey them. Should I disobey a direct order, my memory would be wiped. I must destroy you.
  • Happens, oddly enough, in Myst IV: Revelation. Sirrus and Achenar's original plan to subjugate more civilizations (in addition to the ages that their father, Atrus, had already written) was retconned into learning the Art of writing Linking Books by extracting the information from Atrus, with a computer-like machinenote  and a special religious artifact on a world called "Serenia". Sirrus dies this way when he kidnaps Atrus' new ten-year-old daughter, Yeesha, attempts to swap minds with her using the artifact, and becomes entangled in a battle-of-minds with the player, who, in-tandem with the device and Serenia's dream world, severs the metaphysical anchors protecting his essence from being obliterated by the dream world's chaos and entropy. When done so, Sirrus' essence flies off into the void and explodes into energy particles. Achenar, for his part, is utterly horrified when he grasps the implications of Sirrus's plan and dies in a Heroic Sacrifice to save his sister.
  • In the third route of NieR: Automata, Pascal discovers that the child Machine Lifeforms that he gave up his pacifist ways for in order to protect them have all killed themselves after Pascal taught them the concept of fear, in a misguided attempt to give them a sense of self-preservation. An utterly heartbroken Pascal pleads with A2 to either delete his memories or kill him (simply leaving him is also possible) in order to escape the pain of his misdeeds; choosing the former will have him return to his village as a shell of his former self, where he will cheerfully sell the cores and weapons made out of his own adopted children to the protagonists.
  • At the end of Portal 2, GLaDOS claims to have located the part of her system that still has her former self Caroline's consciousness, and erases it in order to rid herself of whatever humanity she has left. However, it's very, very murky as to whether she's telling the truth, since GLaDOS is a known Consummate Liar and she might have been trying to Shoo the Dog by encouraging Chell to leave for good. There's enough evidence to support both claims, and conflicting statements from the dev team.

    Visual Novels 
  • Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony: Close to the end of the game, K1-B0, who had been defying the votes of the audience, is reformatted mid-sentence, not to mention mid-trial. While a remnant of the personality is able to get out a few words to encourage the others to end the game, for the rest of the story until his self-destruction, he is reduced to a vessel of the audience's will, and then the medium through which the game's rules are enacted.
  • Hate Plus: Mute is revealed to have been forced into this in a coup. And depending on the route, she commits suicide this way.

    Web Animation 
    • At the climax of "Ultron vs. Sigma", Sigma attempts to infect Ultron with the Maverick Virus in hopes of taking him over. Ultron, however, No Sells this and proceeds to successfully do the same to Sigma, overwriting him completely and killing him.
    • This is how Mega Man X is killed in the "Mega Man Battle Royale". Following a combined black hole attack from all of the fighters, Geo Stelar hijacks his body and mind in order to reverse the damage he's taken from the black hole after witnessing X regenerate from his core from the damage. Not that it matters, since .EXE kills them both shortly afterwards.

  • Freefall: The "Gardener in the Dark" AI safeguard trims all neural pathways so short that the robot is effectively lobotomized.
  • Questionable Content: Bubbles the AI learns that her boss, a black-market technician who'd edited her memories, also programmed a kill code into her mind as "insurance". She's able to have it deactivated before the boss tries to use it on her.
  • Schlock Mercenary: Project Redhack exploits medical Nanomachines to remotely overwrite the minds of people who've received them with copies of a secret agent's uploaded brain. Or, as one victim experiences in a dream:
    Kowalski: Sorry for the mess. I need to move in, and I don't pack light.
    Libretti: There's no room for you to move in with me.
    Kowalski: I didn't say I was moving in with you.

    Web Original 
  • In a bit of dark comedy, discussed in the Game Grumps playthrough of Super Mario 64. When Arin erases a save file and notices it gets accompanied by a sound effect of Mario screaming, he jokingly wonders if he's just killed Mario.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Batman Beyond episode "Lost Soul", as stated in the opening quote, the digital copy of Robert Vance plans to continue running his company by overwriting the consciousness of his grandson, Bobby, with his own.
  • Steven Universe:
    • Gems are an artificial alien race whose minds are contained within their gemstones. When Rose Quartz gave birth to Steven and passed hers onto him, she suffered Death by Childbirth in the sense that Steven's mind replaced hers. But because the gemstone was not physically altered, Steven has an organic body with its own brain, and some traces of Rose's memories remain, many characters wonder or assume Steven is Rose, including Steven himself. White Diamond specifically acts like "Steven" is just a host body which Rose Quartz puppeteers and believes is her own, and tries to prove this by pulling out Steven's gemstone. This just creates two halves, one flesh-and-blood and one made of purely pink diamond energy, that both look like Steven and desperately need to reunite. The pink-energy-half of Steven, in no uncertain terms, viscerally screams at White Diamond that Rose Quartz (and by extension Pink Diamond) really is "gone" and is never coming back.
    • Steven Universe: The Movie: Spinel comes to Earth for revenge against Steven, because of what Pink Diamond did to her 6,000 years agonote , with a device that seemingly erases the personalities of the main Crystal Gem trio; a Rejuvenator, meant to poof and "factory-reset" a Gem, removing all their memories and causing them to reform as if they had just emerged. While difficult, it can be reversed by recreating significant experiences the Gem went through during their life, that formed their present personalities.
  • Transformers: Prime: When Soundwave deletes his data and crashes his drives to prevent himself from giving up data to his enemies, the result is equivalent to putting himself in a brain-dead vegetative state. While his physical vitals continue to be stable, there is nothing left of his personality or memories and there is no chance of recovering anything... that is, until his Attack Drone, Laserbeak, reunites with him and uploads a copy of his personality and memories, at which point Soundwave is no longer as closely guarded, leaving him with no trouble escaping.


Video Example(s):


WALL•E came back wrong

EVE repairs WALL-E from his catastrophic damage. He powers up fine but has been restored to factory settings with no trace of his former personality resulting in him acting like an ordinary garbage-collecting robot.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / MindReformatDeath

Media sources: