Friday, July 27, 2018

Interactive Friction (and Guest) - Detroit: Become Human (All 5 Parts)

Over the course of almost 2 months, my Interactive Friction co-host Sam, and Chris, the other half of the Marvelous Duo, came together to subject ourselves to David Cage's latest disaster-piece: Detroit: Become Human.

Why did we do this? Because David Cage's game have always proven to be a strong source of unintentional comedy. The plot's are usually so badly written that they are practically incoherent, with characters that act like they're from an alien planet.

That's certainly present in Detroit: Become Human, but it is a lot worse in so many ways.

Here are the streams, all 5 of them. If you wish to view content like this as it's recorded live, be sure to follow my Twitch at

In the first stream, I made mention of an article about how the androids of Detriot, by virtue of being playable characters, are more human than the actual "humans" depicted in the game. From the start, they are all given agency because we, as players, impart it onto them through our actions. I claimed it was probably written by Gita Jackson on Kotaku, but I have unsuccessfully tried to location it. I know the idea was not my original idea, so if anyone out there can find the piece, please let me know so that I can attribute credit where it is due.

The relationship between Connor and Hank is the highlight of the whole game. Both actors have phenomenal chemistry together: Bryan Dechart as Connor, the fresh-face android detective, and Clancy Brown as Hank, the grizzled policeman who never recovered from the death of his son.  If you ignore the implication of a young, black cop (since despite David Cage's assertion, this is clearly a racism story) trying to gain the favor of his racist, white partner, there's a good buddy-cop dynamic between them.

Connor and Hank also play off one of David Cage's strengths: Strong individual scenes. If you play a single scene in a David Cage game separate from the context of the rest of the game, it's usually good in that vacuum. In fairness, Cage shows some improvement in this category compared to Beyond: Two Souls and Heavy Rain, but there's still much to be desired.

Kara's plot suffers from another of Cage's weaknesses: His bizarre tendency to treat women as fragile torture/rape victims. Heather Alexandra from Kotaku wrote a brilliant article about it, so I won't go into too much detail here, but it continues an uncomfortable trend I really wish he would try to break. I also brought up the questionable handling of domestic abuse in Kara's segments during the stream, but Thomas McMullen goes into greater detail in his piece on the subject.

Aside from that, Kara herself wasn't really that interesting. While her side characters have some meat to them, her whole plot-line could've easily been cut without losing much in terms of the overall story. Even though this game largely exists on the strength of the tech demo she stars in, she's weirdly ancillary to everything else going on.

As for Marcus, you can see how annoying I found his plotline in the streams. Though I am a white man, I'm hardly alone in pointing out how Detroit, and Marcus's plot in particular, grossly misappropriates imagery from the American Civil Rights Movement. Several writers of color have already produced articles about this topic in more detail than I could never hope to convey in my writing, but know that it is an issue.

Then there's the extremely uncomfortable holocaust imagery Detroit invokes towards the end of my playthrough. I'm not going to say that it's taboo to talk about the Holocaust. It's an event in history that deserves to be acknowledged as one of the most vicious crimes against a group of people to ever occur in human history. In the context, it is a subject that needs to be handled with some form of weight and respect. Here, I get the impression these concepts were thrown in almost as an afterthought, and it infuriates me that Cage failed to see how hurtful that could be. Being left the option to free my menu slave, and to buy a new version of her if I did, just rubbed salt in the wound.

There are undoubtedly aspects of Detroit: Become Human that I liked. That said, I was expecting something along the lines of Heavy Rain: A junk food game that tries and fails hilariously to invoke powerful feelings in David Cage's usually inept manner. What I found left me angry and annoyed. Where I'm usually left laughing and jovial at the end, I was silent. As a critic, David Cage makes a big enough splash where I feel compelled to play them just to stay informed, but next time I'll remember to keep my guard up. Clearly David Cage doesn't give a damn about anything but his desire to make people feel "emotions". Doubly so if the allegations against him and his studio are to be believed.

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