Detroit’s Domestic Abuse Trailer Is A Hackneyed Farce

A new trailer for Quantic Dream’s Detroit: Become Human landed recently as part of Paris Games Week and it’s caused quite a kerfuffle.

The video portrays domestic abuse and details how you can make choices in the game (while waggling a controller) to stop a violent father beating the shit out of his daughter.

So yes, quite the kerfuffle indeed as I’m sure you can imagine.

Let me preface the rest of what I’m about to say by emphatically stating that I believe videogames have the potential – and deserve the freedom – to explore dark themes outside of simply gunning down soldiers and fighting off monsters. Tackling grounded, potentially traumatic, real-life scenarios in games is possible, and the pursuit can even be admirable.

I fully support an art medium that wants to put on its adult pants and examine horrors closer to home, horrors that may very well brush up against experiences the players themselves have had.

David Cage, self-styled autere, is not the man for the job.

By his own styling, Cage is the sole creative force behind his projects, and as such takes defacto credit for Quantic Dream’s content. Unfortunately for David Cage, his most famous contribution to the literary side of gaming has been a single name – Jason.

Relentlessly parodied, the repeated yelling of “Jason” in Heavy Rain is the most famous piece of dialog David Cage has ever written. To quote anything else would be difficult, as Cage hasn’t written anything else particularly memorable… except maybe another name – Shaun.

When the word “Jason” is your biggest contribution to videogame writing, perhaps you’re not quite the Kubrick you think you are.

Cage has fantastic ideas. He is a passionate creator, fiercely committed to doing things outside the realm of traditional “AAA” games, and I applaud him for that. As with any other Quantic Dream game, I’m looking forward to Detroit. Seriously, I’m eager to see it in the flesh.

Despite Quantic impressing me less with each new and increasingly garbled release, I’m still forever intrigued by the work they do.

The game industry is better for having David Cage in it, but his games are worse for having nobody around telling David Cage what not to do.

Case in point – David Cage’s cringeworthy idea of what domestic abuse looks like.

In an interview with Eurogamer, a defensive “autere” stood by his decision to portray domestic abuse the way he did, going so far as to claim he didn’t even choose the subject – the subject chose him.

“You don’t choose to talk about domestic abuse,” he claimed. “It’s not like I was like ‘oh, let’s write a scene about domestic abuse’. It’s not how it works.”

Cage said he was “working on something important, something meaningful and something moving,” with this particular sequence from Detroit.

The problem with that statement it’s horseshit.

First of all, obviously Cage chose to talk about it. Nobody forced his hand, we wasn’t possessed by the spirit of Polyhymnia. When you write a story, you are making conscious decisions about the story you’re writing, the characters you’re using, and the events that WHY THE FUCK AM I HAVING TO EXPLAIN HOW CHOICES AND ACTIONS ARE RELATED!?

But more to the point of why Cage’s claims of meaning and importance are rubbish…

Detroit‘s portrayal of domestic abuse is clumsy, cringeworthy, and – in typical Cage fashion – poorly written.

My history of living with domestic abuse is well known. Growing up, I saw and heard things a child shouldn’t have to see and hear. Things David Cage, apparently, cannot hope to effectively show an audience.

This shit is not like those melodramatic made-for-TV movies with cartoonish abusers and overtly choreographed violence that borders on action sequences. Such woefully outdated farce, however, is what Detroit gladly indulges in.

At best, the footage we’ve seen of the game just barely matches those aforementioned TV dramas in terms of writing, direction, and acting.

David Cage’s “important, meaningful, moving” work is, in actuality, a caricature of domestic abuse, and far from an original one. It is not powerful in the sense that I found it relatable, distressing, or even provocative. It’s powerful in the sense that it showcases just how ill-equipped Cage is to handle mature subjects.

This is certainly a subject too mature for his creative ability.

Had I been the one interviewing David for Eurogamer, the first question I’d have asked is if he drew from personal experience when writing that scene, or if he simply copied films again.

I cannot claim to know of David Cage’s personal life, but his predilection for copying things he’s seen in movies and mangling them in the process is pretty evident. Perhaps in this case, he is correct when he says he doesn’t choose his subjects – not when he can let Lionsgate make the choices for him.

I’m sure some of you will believe I’m writing this due to being offended, but I’m writing this because I felt little at all while I was in the process of watching that trailer. In any other medium, this is the same typical hokey bullshit I’ve seen a dozen times, but because it’s videogames, Quantic Dream yet again gets away with looking edgy and innovative.

To someone who’s seen abuse up close and personal, a cartoon version of an angry dad yelling exposition and throwing a table while increasingly taking on the voice of a drunken clown is almost funny. Almost.

Compared to the reality, this farcical bumbling is nothing. I felt no menace from Bunkem the Clown shouting mangled garbage. I felt no fear for the lifeless characters he was threatening. All I felt was the aura of a cynically produced trailer just provocative enough to spark conversation in the gaming community while remaining hackneyed trite nonsense outside of it.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus also features scenes of domestic violence, ones that hit even closer to home. While still heavy handed, there was just enough subtlety going on that a real sense of menace became palpable. There were things happening that authentically distressed me, because I’d been there.

Scenes in Wolfenstein II really did get to me – hell, it bordered on genuinely offending me. Yet I’m not here criticizing those scenes. They weren’t used in trailers to hype up the release and get people talking. They weren’t so poorly scripted as to almost provide a comical portrayal.

“Would you ask this question to a film director, or to a writer? Would you?”

That was David Cage’s response when asked about his decisions to put domestic violence in Detroit.

Leaving aside the humor in him failing to class himself as a writer, I think this question of his exposes the problem David has had his entire career – he knows what movies and literature have accomplished, he knows games could accomplish the same, but he simply is not gifted enough to do it. Not on his own. Not as the “autere” his claims to be.

If you want to handle subject matter of this nature, you need subtlety, tact, and an ability to build tension. The man whose best work is about the Internet coming to life and trying to enslave humans just ain’t the man to do it justice. The man whose character arcs are so poorly developed, he uses time skips to avoid writing any development isn’t adequate enough for the task.

He should stick to jealous ghosts and rogue AI conspiracies. Reality is just too real for David Cage to handle.

Chirpes
Member
Chirpes

I’ve never seen domestic violence in any media really, nor have experienced such a thing first-hand; it’s typically a story arc I avoid in any media and as a result the trailer did grip me. It wasn’t cringey for me because I have no frame of reference for it, like I assume a majority of people, I would like to hope at least. It did get me hyped and excited for a game I had no interest in prior by a game designer I didn’t care about. That said, however, I do agree it should not have been a trailer… Read more »

Vibri
Member
Vibri

So are you saying Wolfensteins abuse cutscenes are bad because they are so realistic and impactful?
Surely that is the point of such scenes?
I don’t really see how they could offend someone

ewingsquadron
Member
ewingsquadron

I know you chose that last image to probably mock David Cage, but that’s exactly the moment I became a fan. I was totally charmed that some average guy was giving me this behind the scenes DVD style intro to his video game. What sealed the deal was seeing The Dark Sorcerer tech demo at E3. I had to ask the Quantic Dream engineer if Cage actually did write it, because it was so damn funny. As it stands, David Cage games are like late night TNT movies, a la Air Force One or The Negotiator. Sure, they get some… Read more »

Sabriella
Member
Sabriella

I think the biggest issue with depictions like this is, is how it becomes unclear to people what abuse actually looks like. I was well into my 20es before I realized that my childhood home had been physically, mentally and emotionally abusive. Why? Because my dad didn’t take off his belt and beat me. My mum didn’t drink herself blind and throw bottles around. In other words, the abuse did not look like abuse looks on TV. And now, apparently, not like it looks in games either. I gotta say, though, there’s a slight bit of me feeling offended at… Read more »

Pilkington
Member
Pilkington

There are few genuinely interesting and well-executed moments in QD games, the very first scene of Fahrenheit comes to mind, it’s just that Cage shits the bed when it comes to executing the plot of his games. I feel like he only places sex scenes and domestic scenes in his games just to go “Look at how mature my game is, my game is a narrative work of art because sex and adults do sex sometimes, emotions. Look at the emotions. Care, people, care.”

DaisyMaisy
Guest
DaisyMaisy

– cw: sexual assault, abuse, spoilers for Beyond: Two Souls – – – – – This whole thing really reminded me of something that really upset me in Beyond Two Souls but not many people seemed to be talking about. There are two attempted rape scenes of the protagonist in the game, one when Jodie is a teenager and is attacked by three adult men in a bar and one when she’s a homeless adult and is assaulted after nearly giving a man a blowjob for cash. The scenes feel unnecessary and exploitative and have nearly no consequences aside from… Read more »

Chris
Member

Any chance we can get a block or ignore feature like disqus had? Or maybe just limit how many times someone can spam comments in a very short time?

Not asking for any specific reason, just on my mind in this thread for some reason.

George
Member

Victimization of people is a level of evil that I think video games have difficulty dealing with. Not to say that they shouldn’t try or that it is impossible but rather that the interactivity causes a lot of pitfalls. I have criticized Wolfenstein II ad nauseam on this site for what I see as deeply problematic depictions of violence made worse by the narrative established by the opening scene. But it’s domestic violence wasn’t hackneyed (at least at first). The main problem is that how does a game examine victimization without indulging the player’s sadism? Or turning the player into… Read more »

Greene Scott
Member
Greene Scott

They made Kitty Pryde vs Green Goblin boring. This really feels like a case where having more creative people who know the subject more could have been so useful. I can’t stand auteur theory, part of it being me being a up and coming screenwriter and seen someone else take credit for my ideas and the the toxic and awful things it can result in the film industry such as Directors thinking that their films causing layoff and VFX studios closing is something to gloat about, works like Star Trek the motion picture and the Phantom Menace being created by… Read more »

buttz
Member
buttz

auteur, i believe

Kirk Hammer
Member
Kirk Hammer

I think what’s most infuriating about Cage is that he completely embodies that smug auteur stereotype – a man absolutely convinced that he’s a genius, and as such his vision is unimpeachable. It genuinely wouldn’t have occurred to him that putting a hamfisted “domestic abuse level” in his game would lead to anything else than him being heralded as a visionary. Hence his complete umbrage at having some mere videogame news outlet question *him*, a visionary, and his response that’s basically “No no, shush, can’t you see I’m making ART?” For all the praise he gets for his “games” I’ve… Read more »

Shaded Spriter
Member

I was looking forward to this game before reading that interview. Cage could of done something entertainingly b-grade cyberpunk but he had to cage it up. I have not grown up with domestic abuse but I think it has been portrayed well in games. LISA comes to mind with the ending…more so because you can not stop it happening.

Alt+Doom
Member

Maybe the team at Ninja Theory should give me a hand.

Benj
Member
Benj

The saddest thing is that games are a really good medium for showing the powerlessness, guilt and degradation that’s caused by domestic abuse. This can even work well with David Cage’s chosen quicktime event style gameplay. The dad character out of nowhere swings a punch at you with a quick time event “dodge”: If you press it in time he stops mid punch and says “look kid, you can’t just flinch like that. You need to learn to stand up for yourself because there’s some really bad people out there who’ll eat you alive. Why don’t you stand up for… Read more »

TheIntern
Member
TheIntern

‘Ow many emoshuns is memes? I don’t respect David Cage. What he’s trying to do might be admirable, but his ego is selling shit his talent can’t produce. That taints the niche he’s in, making it increasingly harder for other, likely more talented and humble creators to get their work noticed. It’s kind of a reverse Steam Greenlight situation; instead of a ton of hack developers over-saturating the market so the good stuff can’t be found, we have one hack developer making himself so infamous that people use him as the standard for the genre. It took an insane level… Read more »

Isaactfa
Member
Isaactfa

Because luckily I never had to experience abuse of any kind really, I would be so interested in playing an authentic game depicting that kind of atrocity. This should be where video games set themselves apart, where you can make someone experience something from such a personal point of view, while still in a safe environment. I hope that’s not offensive.

chapomon
Member

I would have to agree with you, Jim; aside from the android, this scene offers nothing new and everything that’s in that trailer is pretty trite and predictable. Still looking forward to Detroit but I’m not expecting a master piece, at least not in the way David Cage is expecting.

A request though, have Laura off screen ask questions from that interview and read David Cage’s responds in your David Cage voice with the cut out mask. Pretty please? 🙂

Galactix100
Member

I’ve never understood people who treat Quantic Dream games as anything more than fascinating little oddities filled with squandered potential. I especially don’t get the people who think Cage is a good writer. I know videogames (other than a select few) usually aren’t good at actual story and characters (world-building/lore doesn’t count) but how anyone can think Cages efforts are anything beyond laughable.

MetalGearSqualid
Member
MetalGearSqualid

Don’t get the vitriol this guy receives, his games don’t deserve anything close to the ridicule they receive. They’re not for everyone but I loved Fahrenheit and thought heavy rain was pretty decent. Haven’t tried beyond two souls just because it came out around the time the PS4 was launching and there too many nice shiny looking new games to play but I’ll get round to it at some point. The interviewer from eurogamer in this case came across as a bit of a dick imo – yes he may very well ask those same questions of a writer or… Read more »

doodger
Member
doodger

To quote Jim himself, David Cage is lucky to be judged by the standards of a game writer because Heavy Rain/Beyond/most of his portfolio would be laughed out of any serious movie festival.

Camilo-sama
Member
Camilo-sama

Jason!

Anton
Member
Anton

Still waiting on that soap opera co-written by David Cage, Hideo Kojima, and whoever writes the godawful(ly awesome) dialogue for the Resident Evil games.

Seriously though, it baffles me that he’s still taken seriously as a writer/creator. His games were considered passable back when the bar for video game storytelling was basically touching the floor, and they never really improved, aside from adding in some of the uncanniest-valley character faces and expressions.

Optimus Princeps Bob Boblington
Member
Optimus Princeps Bob Boblington

Out of curiosity, how did you feel about the Bloody Baron quests in The Witcher 3 and how they handled to topic?

hiyaJim
Member
hiyaJim

but jim, you forgot to mention the EMOTIONS

also fuck activision for reaching a new low with those in game lootboxes

MrMalodor
Member
MrMalodor

(Jim, I hate to be that guy but… it’s auteur, not autere)