“The story I’m telling is really about androids. They’re discovering emotions and wanting to be free. If people want to see parallels with this or that, [like actual androids who actually want to be free,] that’s fine with me. But my story’s about androids who want to be free.”
BREAKING NEWS UPDATE: The bad version of the ending is here https://youtu.be/lKfgsyputLU
at about 1:31:20, it is galactic levels of fucked up
I know I said it is uninteresting to dunk on David Cage but I am now realizing he has spent a significant effort ensuring his public persona is a goddamn slamball court.
That’s somehow worse than I could’ve imagined. They didn’t even try to justify the moral choice by making it in-universe, just straight up “Do you want to enslave this attractive woman to watch you play video games? Yes / No”
People forget how monstrously fucked up Heavy Rain is. Like, that’s not The Good One, yet it’s used as an excuse for why this dude has failed upwards for two decades.
This is the “You ever see a take so bad you are immediately forced to go to sleep” of video game endings.
The most charitable thing I can say is that this idea had some potential - e.g. if the act of resistance culminates with the game being uninstalled and all of the player’s save data being deleted, or the player being verbally abused and berated forever after, maybe that’s interesting. But this is… bad.
“the Android Problem” “the long night”
I hate it, thanks. Who the hell let this go through QA?
I’ve played a bit of it, haven’t gotten to the androids rights stuff but there’s a bit about painting that’s really good and I realize I just want a nice story about androids learning to feel, humans being skittish about it but coming around to it and no one throws a molotov cocktail.
Sometimes I don’t understand the gaming community at all. The idea that anyone could be surprised by the depths of David Cage’s utter failure to tell any kind of meaningful story is just… he’s been around. He has the reputation he has because of years and years of games that fail in exactly this way. It’s like believing Peter Molyneux’s hype at this point - how could there still be any kind of expectation that Cage would deliver at this point?
It probably doesn’t help that the “high-minded” sect of nerd culture that influences games like this is still garbage either.
A lot of discourse seems to divide the reception of this from films entirely, but think about the biggest influence to basically any western narrative about Oppressed Androids: Blade Runner. Forgetting for a moment that people still fail to effectively criticize the outright harmfully-dated aspects of the original, think about how the new Blade Runner was recieved by the film world that we (subconsciously or not) divide and lift up above the standards of games crit: Critics ate that shit up, and it’s arguably got an even whiter victim complex that results in the only PoC characters being a cyberpunk magic black and a borderline child-slaver that’s implied to sell the children under his command on a whim. That’s not even getting into the rampant sexism-as-spectacle, all in a film that roundly appropriates the shit out of lived imagery and ideas from real-ass oppressed minorities (The promo shorts make this even worse!) to look/sound Woke.
Catch me a couple years ago and i might tell you that a lot of shitty scifi narratives in games are tied to uncritical reproduction of nostalgia being the only frame that designers feel they can contextualize their raw technical achievements with, but it’s pretty evident that it’s a wider problem than that. TV and film (Genre stuff especially) has a different sense of what technical achievement is, but they’re arguably just as filled-to-bursting with crit valuing sheer achievement and posturing over what is achieved or what the posturing actually communicates. I mean, have you seen the Westworld discourse?
Cage could probably have an HBO or Netflix show pretty easily, his direction just isn’t quite up to the spicy-to-white-youtube-critic-dudes standard, but considering how bland something like Daredevil was, he might not even need to improve that aspect.
BM is weird because it rarely takes the time to contrast its high-concept cautionary tales with the nuance required to get through to people beyond the “What If this single tech trend was taken too far”, and at the end of the day you can tell it’s primarily made by a White Dude Who Thinks The World Is Scary And Wants You To Stare In Awe As The Stories Go Wrong.
That’s not to say it never strikes a genuine chord (San Junipero is still an exceptional episode) but it reaches for ineffectual cynical defeatism more than it does the nuances of how technology can/does equal parts embolden and destroy huge parts of our humanity.
From what I’ve heard, Electric Dreams hits some of the notes i wish BM would hit, but i’m yet to watch it all the way through (and big CW, the first episode has a very disturbing telepathic rape scene, and like every goddamn rape scene in modern TV it victimizes a character who gets brief catharsis but barely any respectful characterization beyond that and if it wasn’t an anthology show i’d have probably shunned the whole thing right there) so ehhhh
People can change.
Not David Cage, though, obviously. He’ll continue to treat his employees like garbage and make aesthetically-pleasing games without any depth or meaningful insight whatsoever because that’s just who he is.
But Cage has been banging the same drum, falling short in exactly the same ways, for almost twenty years now. If he were capable of change - or the kind of self-awareness that leads to change - it would’ve happened already.
I don’t think anyone here expected Detroit to deliver. For me it’s more resigned frustration at just how tone deaf certain parts are (that “We have a dream” bullshit) combined with the disappointment that apparently a majority of outlets are so detached from modern politics that they can see anything worthwhile or insightful in Cage’s musings.
What annoys me about the examples you’ve listed, Fallout 4 especially, is that they can’t even tell a basic story about the different perspectives on artificial consciousness well, yet they insist on drawing parallels to real life that are completely unnecessary and insulting. Fallout 4 literally calls their synth liberation faction “The Railroad”. If you want to write a story about robots and artificial life, write one that is actually about that. Likewise for racism and civil rights. But whoever these people are can’t seem to look at a philosophical problem posed by their imaginary setting without drawing eight different parallels to real world events with surface level similarities, which upon interrogation are so fundamentally distinct that drawing the parallel becomes actively offensive. I guess this is partly an issue with sci fi as a genre, which somewhat encourages writers to interrogate real life from the comfortable remove of a sci fi setting. This also grants them license to indirectly discuss issues that they’re often neither sufficiently informed about or empathetic enough to do justice.
I’ve not played Detroit and won’t, but the thing that bugs me about the recent wave of “do robots have the feels” is that they all come to the exact same conclusion, and usually with some random Macguffin that makes the question utterly meaningless. Yes, these artificial people are sentient creatures because they have attained a very specific goal or trait that makes them different. There is no question, no debate, nothing. They have been touched, or reached the center of the maze, or heard their own voice, or whatever. Debate over.
It’s why framing the argument as some civil rights allegory is on the one hand trite and on the other hand profoundly insulting. Are the disadvantaged and minorities people? Fucking of course they are, to even entertain the debate is an insult. There is no parallel to are machines people, because that’s actually a question. Does emulating emotion well enough create actual emotion, is it truly consciousness if it can be mass produced, at what point does improvisation become actual new thought, these are debates you can have and they are debates that matter. There is absolutely no corollary with “are these humans different from me still humans?”
I have such stupid relationship with Quantic Dreams. To this day I feel like the opening to Indigo Prophecy might be one of the best openings ever-- I loved it. But then, for many reasons, the game pissed everything down its leg from its terrible writing to the fact that his only black character constantly has funk music following him (let alone that you have to have an entire basketball sequence). But I thought, “There’s something here.”
Heavy Rain came out and I actually really enjoyed most of it, despite how amazingly problematic its treatment of Madison is in. This time it took until the final third for the game completely fuck itself up and be laughable.
Beyond Two Souls was just… bad. For a number of reasons. But it’s by far the worst from a game standpoint and the writing is so cliche in terms of the vignettes it choses to go for-- he just tries to shoehorn almost ever cliche he can. And, once again-- bullshit like the obligatory shower scene that adds nothing to the game.
I’ll admit it: I still have held out that maybe, someday, Quantic Dream will knock it out of the park. I’m very much a narrativist and when QD games fire on all cylinders (which is almost never), it really can be fun for me.
I’m embarrassed that I got Detroit day one in some ways-- I KNOW what I’m going to get, but I keep trying, burning my self on the same hot pan over and over again. I’m a few hours into it and the writing is just… so terrible. David Cage’s scenes have all the subtlety of a freshman performance art piece. His characters almost all archetypes that never get any fleshing out. You spend the second or third scene being bossed around by a guy whose only purpose is to be an asshole. He’s a drunk, he does drugs, he’s mean-spirited and is already abusing his child. How he thinks that is an interesting portrayal or that such a flat, cliche character adds anything I’l never know.
I’m really interested to hear if there are any stand-out moments for you so far, as someone who feels very similar about QD games (and would, as a result, not recommend them to anyone). Provisos aside about how it’s definitely a fucking mess, is there anything which stands out as salvagable or interesting?
I really DO like the investigation mechanics that open new dialogue choices that you can use to solve problems later. It’s certainly not very original-- we’ve seen it in the recent Batman games-- but I like that you have a very different conversation with someone depending on the things you’ve noticed.
Not that they asked me, but one approach I think the Waypoint Crew could possibly take while they decide how to cover this (if at all) is looking at Cage through the lens of how his cliche stories really represent a very specific kind of white cis dude assumptions about the world. His characters and the situations he puts them in are at once both tired old tropes from film, TV, games and books and ALSO a great representation of how the more typical white cis male ignorance concerning race, sexuality, repression and gender (to name just a few) comes from simply only being informed about the “other” through the same cliche tropes they’re repeating once again. It would seem that most of Cage’s stories where he tries to represent people other than white males comes down to a seemingly narrow personal experience. For instance, I’m a filmmaker and a film professor and when an 18 year old white kid from the burbs writes a black character much of the time, they’re relying on the stereotypes they’ve encountered in media because they have no personal experience. Doesn’t make it any less awful, but that’s the place the ignorance is coming from-- this is why diversity IS so important in media and eduction-- how can you create deep non-white cis male characters if you’ve never interacted with them or media produced by them? I feel like so much of the bad writing and shitty characters in Cage’s games come from a place where all he knows about these people ARE their cliches in media, and he’s therefore fine with perpetuating it. It’s a great lesson in how creating art without the benefit of diversity isn’t just going to lead to problematic portrayals and images, it’s actually going to lead directly to dumb cliche and rehashed tropes.
(on my phone on the train, forgive my typos and bad sentence structure)
personally I think David Cage writes like that because he’s only seen three movies (Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Minority Report, and Saw 2), but yes, you’re probably right.
the frustrating thing, i think, about QD games, is they have a lot of talent there in terms of realising a very specific vision in a uniquely polished way, it’s just that the vision itself is so utterly banal and regressive. they’re working the visual novel format in a fascinating way, but what they’re working it to do is tell stories which would get immediately binned if they didnt have all the fancy bells and whistles. all they really need is a decent writer and creative director and i’m confident they could produce something mind-blowingly good… but instead, Cage.