Detroit: Become Human fails to subvert doubts


Just because people marvel at how bad a train wreck is, doesn’t mean they didn’t see it coming.

All Detroit ever was to some folks is an overloaded train barreling down the track towards a 90 degree turn.


I went to that corner, set up a lawn chair and brought my cooler.


i watched the two hours or so of a playthrough this morning, and one thing that struck me immediately – alongside the really obvious parallels to antiblack racism and u.s. slavery mentioned upthread, which were as blatant as some truly unnerving recreations of pre-civil war imagery – was the weird framing around employment and androids, which seem to be intentionally invoking a lot of anti-immigrant sentiments?

(spoilers for the first hour or so, cw: replication of direct racist/anti-immigrant violence for Robot Bigotry) there’s a scene where android markus, played by jesse williams, can (/automatically will?) encounter a group of protesters while he’s out shopping for paints. the protesters are verbatim leaning on the angle of (paraphrased) “Androids are stealing OUR JOBS, which should go to REAL PEOPLE!”. when they see markus, they immediately surround him and shove him to the ground; their intent seems pretty blatantly violent, and it’s only because a police officer intervenes (lmao!) that they don’t hurt him further.

of course, because this is a david cage game, he doesn’t seem to – at least so far – know what to do with the real-world equivalent to that, either, because (spoilers) in detroit’s universe, the national unemployment rate has just hit 37%. (for reference, the same statistic during the great depression was a high of ~25%. the great recession in 2009 only saw a high of ~10%.) cage has deliberately spiked the rate much lower and directly positioned androids as the “reason”, in-universe. there’s still a chance that this could be a totally thoughtful reversal or more directly reflect discussions in the u.s. post-civil war, etc etc, but the setup so far has felt extremely off and extremely cluttered when combined with the game’s obvious other themes.

edit: also, as soon as i posted this, (spoiler?) a black man looked at a white android walking into a bar and went “Shit, I thought androids weren’t allowed in here.” which is the most david cage thing i’ve seen so far


You make perhaps the most valid critique of this parallel that I’ve yet heard. Black slaves were always human, just like their owners; their owners just didn’t see it that way. The same is fundamentally not true about androids and their human owners. Androids are not humans. They’re androids.

This made me realize what makes these “are AI conscious beings” allegories so boring: they always take place after AI is either very obviously in parallel with or has surpassed human consciousness. They may make hollow declarations like “my social skills programming tells me you are feeling uncomfortable” and shit like that, but all the writer is doing is reframing human instinct and hormones with programming language to make em sound like robits. The AI is rarely, if ever, presented as functioning differently than a human brain, they just announce the programmatic triggers that parallel the fluid biological movement of human emotion and response. The writer has already decided that the AI and human consciousness are, at least, in parallel.

In drawing this comparison, writers tend to fall into the trap of believing that, in describing a sufficiently advanced AI, it is necessary to reduce human consciousness to staccato functions and loops in order to make the comparison function properly, and therefore make the dilemma real. Obviously, consciousness doesn’t work that way, and an AI that does is not indistinguishable from human consciousness, yet that’s what we are supposed to believe.

But why not explore ethical dilemmas around that different, lesser AI? Why not actually explore the notion that an AI that is obviously distinguishable from human consciousness could itself have consciousness? That is a real dilemma, unlike that which is posed in most of these stories. That would be interesting!

[CW: mental health]
I also just thought of a movie that I saw recently which touches on the validity of different kinds of consciousness, from a mental health perspective: Thoroughbreds. It’s about a young woman who is thrust into engaging with a peer of hers, who she’s known since childhood. This peer has sociopathy and is antisocial. She has limited or no emotional response to anything, is basically amoral, says she largely “feels nothing”, and is extremely frank and indifferent towards others.

However, she’s not a bad person and doesn’t want to hurt people, she just, as she puts it, “has to try harder to be good”. Any other movie may have taken her character and made her cruel, or a wildcard that thrashes through the lives of others. But it doesn’t. The movie is quite sympathetic, and doesn’t portray her as less than people without her neurodivergences - just different. It also openly discusses the ‘validity’ of her consciousness. Qualitatively speaking, the acting is extremely solid, the script is sharp and funny, and the pacing is deliberate. I really enjoyed it.


Rod Serling once said something to the effect of the reason why he chose sci-fi during the 1950s to delve into-- during McCarthyism and all that-- was because he could make his alien and robot characters say things he would never be allowed to make democrat or republican human characters say. I think he was correct at that time, but of course when you watch a lot of Twilight Zone (which I still adore) you get the same very heavy-handed feel we get from Detroit. But it’s 2018 and if Cage wants to make a comment about equality and hate in the time of Trumpism, he needs to put his big boy pants on and go at it directly. We no longer have the luxury to make clumsy metaphors for this stuff-- bigotry, xenophobia and the rest? If he wants to actually say something about it-- say something about it. It’s like a team of 50 something white dudes got to together in a marketing meeting and said, “So what’s all the ‘SJW’ stuff I hear about these days that kids seem to like? How can we hit that demographic in the wormiest, most non-committal way possible?”


I swear that the last time I saw a semi-original take on the whole “are androids people” thing was on fucking Caprica

poor benighted Caprica


In fairness, I feel like Westworld’s been doing a good job by way of explicitly assigning multiple identities to each android, which complicates things rather interestingly: “Is Maeve a person?” seems to be answered with “Yes, several.”


David: Become Hack


PS4 owners want fuckbots.

Also… nice.


i feel like i could have guessed that the target audience of this would be inclined towards “Yes,” but the idea of 17% coming out of it with “Sex Robots? Jury’s Still Out On That One!” is so wild to me.



u bigot


What’s the context of the survey? Is that something the player takes after the game is finished?


It does weird stuff like this when you return to the game before you get to the main menu.


Hey nothing about that question implies a nonconsensual relationship and/or android servitude.

I’d totally date a robot if they were interested.


This always drives me up a wall because I’m not sure David Cage has a single original thought in his head. I think he got them all out with Omikron, which might be a blessing in disguise if you go back and visit that game’s nonsense. It’s like if Undertale was a 90s grunge music video, Tekken, and a bad comic book cancelled in two issues by an independent publisher.

Fahrenheit was a jumbled combination of The Matrix, In The Mouth of Madness, and Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles (which is where the most incomprehensible crap came from). Heavy Rain took very blatantly from Seven and Saw, even down to the killer’s motives, along with some Silence of the Lambs with the scores of serial killers. Beyond: Two Souls was basically just a ton of bad horror and sci-fi cliches put together with no real thought or reason (and the fact he ended that game by paying tribute to read deceased people with his made up term for the afterlife absolutely disgusted me).

You know where people are doing this exact same stuff Cage is doing are? Not just in the VN scene, but the genre he steals all his mechanical design ideas from - point and clicks. That genre was a breeding ground for wild ideas you couldn’t do elsewhere, and a lot of those games also had multiple endings based on your choices and how you handled some puzzles. He’s making big budget versions of these games since Fahrenheit, with QTEs to justify the cinematic bent of them, but without that cinema style, he would absolutely not have a following. His writing is so bad compared to just about the entire genre, and he’s been riding on tech and appealing to audiences outside those circles to see innovative or original.

All he is, deep down, is a con artist who believes his own hype so much that his ego has exploded and can convince others of his own “genius” to keep getting money for his awful projects.


As I said, I’ve always self-loathingly (not a word, I know) still really liked something about parts of his games despite knowing how awful and, at the end of the day, how inept he is.

I’m playing through Detroit and I just went through an entire sequence that should have been absolutely intense and amazing and yet… the game barely let me play. I won’t spoil too much but let’s just say there is an Ocean 11-esque kind of part and despite the amazing shit the whole crew got to do, I was reduced to clicking a button here, moving a control there. I don’t think I’ve ever had an experience in a game that was that anti-climatic. And the game was SO happy with it self. It’s like the game is worried that actually letting me do something cool on my own could ruin its carefully considered construction.


You want to talk about homophobia? I work with Ellen Page, who fights for LGBT rights. You want to talk about racism? I work with Jesse Williams, who fights for civil rights in the USA… Judge me by my work.

Will do, David, will do. Not to drag this up again, but if I’m a bigot who works alongside some kind of human rights activist in an unrelated day job, I ain’t automatically a good person, and I feel like this is the underlying fault in just about everything that David Cage does. To armchair psychoanalyse for a moment, he’s worked with good people, therefore he’s good, therefore his thoughts and beliefs and ideas are good, therefore they don’t need to be interrogated. And his response to criticism is so very indicative of that, a knee-jerk reaction that everyone else is wrong, that they’ve made a mistake and must reexamine their thought process, never once doing the same himself. David Cage may have the capacity for greatness, he may have elevated intelligence (whatever that may mean), he may have some talent for getting these projects made, but he lacks the rigour to actually create something interesting because his first thought is always correct in his mind, and the only consideration is in the method of expressing it.


Not to me mention that Page thought long and hard about suing his ass over what he did with her shower scene. Ugh.


I was going to write a big post about my thoughs on the game but I’d rather make them simple and quick so here it goes:

The story is bland and does nothing new. The writing is cheese, devolving to cringy too many times. The only main character that I feel is interesting is Connor, because he actually interacts with other humans that aren’t immediatly shitty and actually evolves in the game. Kara and Markus are paper thin in terms of complexity and have the same motivation from the moment they “awake” to the end.

The social “commentary” is super on the nose. It goes from androids in the back of the bus, to police brutality, to concentration camps. It makes zero attempts to actually fckn say something, and, in the end, it gives up on everything it tried to do and just asks you to decide.

There are moments in the game that I actually though were good, mainly the stuff with Connor (which is basically a buddy cop/procedural), and some of the lore was interesting such as basically all music being made by androids and humans actually being close to developing nano-machines that grant immortality, but none of that is even presented unless you’re looking,

I’m profoundly confused how most critiques are giving it so much praise and some people calling it a masterpiece.


Not to mention, part deux: Page came out in February 2014. Beyond: Two Snores was released October 2013. So him trying to claim proxy-activism via a previous association with her is… well, it’s David Cage alright.