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.

Magma-rager
Member
Magma-rager

“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”

Whoa…. like for real!? This is the first time I’m hearing something of that sort from you!

Rahaan the barbarian
Member
Rahaan the barbarian

If you have to promote your game by showing abuse, your’e doing something wrong.

Timquisition
Member
Timquisition
i didn’t play W2 yet and i didn’t see the trailer for Detroit. Reading this, i checked both the trailer and the father flashback. I have to say, both of them had moments that brought back memories and both were far from it. Perhaps the truth is in the middle. Abuse does not follow an instruction manual, after all. David Cage may not give the subject matter the justice it deserves, but it will shine light on it at least, while the rest of the “AAA” industry works on the generic shooters for 2018. This is coming from somebody who… Read more »
sillyskeleton
Member
sillyskeleton

I checked the trailer out on Playstation’s youtube page and the response to it seems to be overwhelmingly positive. Whatever our feelings on David Cage and his games are, it seems the trailer really did its job. I personally thought it was too on the nose to the point of almost parody, but I guess others are eating it up.

Enigma_2099
Member
Enigma_2099

Success or failure, you actually have to commend Cage a little for even trying. But seeing as how Jim has some experience with this sort of thing, you can kinda understand where he’s coming from.

ExileFR
Member
ExileFR
At some stage, Jim, it might be helpful to give us a little more realistic perspective on what domestic abuse really does look like. That said, I can totally understand if you don’t want to share those details with a whole bunch of strangers on the internet. Like some of the folks below, I found the trailer pretty moving, if only because that TV-drama farce is my main point of reference for what domestic violence looks like. Granted, it does come across as a bit ham-fisted and “Hollywoodised”, but when you’re aiming for mainstream audiences (and let’s be honest, David… Read more »
Terry-Osaurusus Hex XI
Member

Wait, where did half the comments go? Including mine? I didn’t say anything bad, did I?

Imp Emissary
Member

I represent Imps actually. Sorry for the confusion. Nothing against trolls though. Not much for talking in my experience, but they can make some good soups. Be sure to bring your own ingredients for them though! Ho ho!
Tip for later; in general, trolls are taller.

But anyway, no worries, I’m good. Pretty much got it out of my system. Fun while it lasted, wouldn’t recommend it again.
Best wishes to ya! =w= b

Justin McDaniel
Admin
Some of you may notice your comments missing. Sorry about that, I’ve had to remove any threads that were from any of Michael Prymula’s comments. I have just removed his account (and all spare accounts he had that I could find), and removed his comments from this post. If I don’t remove all in the thread under his, they just scatter for some reason, and look weird out of context. I tried to be as understanding as I could, but he had been warned NUMEROUS times by everyone, including Jim, to not spam the comment section. Disagreeing with a post… Read more »
Gorantharon
Member
Gorantharon

Can’t reach you otherwise, so:

Could you tell me why I’m set to “comment awaits moderation”-mode every few days again?

I don’t think I’ve made a single comment that needed to be removed.

Galactix100
Member
Galactix100

I find that mine get caught in moderation limbo if they’re particularly wordy or if they take longer than normal to write for what ever reason.

Justin McDaniel
Admin
It could be something like that. It’s meant to only grab comments from users who haven’t posted yet, with a select list of words, or have links in them. But for some reason it grabs alot of them even when they have none of those qualifications. All I can say is the same I’ve posted before: Just wait a bit. I come through usually at least once a day and approve everything that’s ok (which as long as you didn’t attack anyone in it, have a link, or used a slur, it’s probably going to get approved). We’ve had lots… Read more »
buttz
Member
buttz

there’s always the feeling of “maybe i’m missing out by playing only on nintendo,” but lol, this is just heavy rain again. i remember spending 40 minutes trying to shake my controller the right way to brush my teeth. no, thanks.

Terry-Osaurusus Hex XI
Member
Holy…AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHEHEH… HAHAHA! Oh, Cage, you pretentious fucking hack fraud. Jesus, he has outdone himself here. I believe those who like his games tend to not watch many movies, because if they did, they would see how much he rips off every idea he can and filters it through the mind of an ADHD riddled 12 year old boy in the midst of hormonal overload. The best thing to come from him are the Best Friends Play LPs of his stories, they are truly hilarious breakdowns by people who also watch many movies. As a person with a troubled childhood, I’m… Read more »
Terry-Osaurusus Hex XI
Member

Oh god…I just watched the trailer. Haha! Oh dear. Somehow it was even worse than I had imagined. He is so shit at writing, I forget each time how bad it is, like my mind is trying to suppress those shameful memories. Kudos to the music composer at least, though i pity their position as this is one turd you cannot polish. You can TRY to plaster emotional music over shit writing, but the contrast becomes only more alienating.

Galactix100
Member

I can’t wait to dodge the dad’s attacks using a really janky Simon says style QTE.

Terry-Osaurusus Hex XI
Member

I wonder if Cage will make that a really uncomfortable shower scene; “fend off your abusive dad’s sexual advances with the ‘X’ button after 5 mins of unnecessary, exploitative nudity!”

Emotions…

Chris
Member

Then it will turn out to all have been a dream like in Heavy Rain, so that you just introduced a bunch of nudity and implied rape for no narrative reason other than that you’ve seen thrillers have a female character threatened and attacked that way. Then that character can spend every remaining scene she has in the game being menaced by or victimized by male characters, always with a sexual bent, but it’s okay because in the end she throws herself at the emotionless main character for no reason and becomes his love interest.

EMOTIONS!!

Galactix100
Member

It’ll turn out the dad’s only like that because he’s being controlled by the ghost of a vengeful conquistador hell bent on finding the reincarnated spirit of Montazuma so that he can finally locate El Dorado and use its mystical power to restore glory to the Spanish Empire just in time to defeat the ancient dread god olgamehd and his army of damned souls.

Chris
Member

That’s just silly. Obviously the dad will be under the control of the living embodiment of the internet seeking to find the magical child who will allow him to defeat the ancient Aztec cult and take control of the world by plunging it into a perpetual winter or….

Man what the fuck was Inidigo Prophecy/Fahrenheit even about? I played it when it first came out and have watched a full playthrough of it since and I’m still not sure if I’m remembering that right.

Galactix100
Member
Galactix100

It’s about nothing. Like most David Cage stuff it’s a series of ideas for set pieces/scenes that he adds an overarching plot to later to create the illusion that any of it means anything.

MuddyScarecrow
Member

Judging from this and the previous trailer with the hostage negotiating bot it looks as if this game will have you playing as different androids with different jobs to fulfill. Which is an INCREDIBLE idea for a game! As a huge fan of speculative robot fiction I think that concept is bursting at the seams with potential! Which is why it’s so fucking heartbreaking that David “I worked with Ellen Page” Cage will be the one handling it. Because goddamn it all that idea deserves a better mind behind it.

drownedsummer
Member
drownedsummer

They have stated there are multiple protagonists one of which I believe is a cop and one of them is an android played by the actress from The Following.

Galactix100
Member

Yeah the robot in this trailer is played by the actress from The Following who is now in The Tick on Amazon.

Trevelion
Member
Trevelion
No abusive relationship is going to be exactly alike, though I know there are similarities. With that in mind, is this portrayal really so outlandish that almost no one (if anyone at all) would have an experience like this? If not, then I don’t see what’s wrong with it. Also, on the topic of what’s wrong with it, what should be changed, Jim? Your whole article is nothing but complaining about the portrayal of abuse without giving any specific examples or ways to improve. Then, you have line after line of nothing but mocking David. That’s like reviewing a movie… Read more »
MrMalodor
Member
MrMalodor

It’s auteur, not autere.

BAH!
Member
BAH!

Just because someone is “allowed” to do something, doesn’t mean they should. And David Cage absolutely, unquestionably, should NOT. The end.

Also, may I say the log-in for the comment section has become more than a bit toss? What happened to logging in with Google? Why do I need to create yet another god damn account to comment, and ANOTHER just to set my god damn avatar? Is there any way to go back?

drownedsummer
Member
drownedsummer
When handling this kind of subject matter you need subtlety and tact when dealing with it. For the most part I felt that Life Is Strange got this right when tackling the subject of teenage bullying. In comparison though their treatment of euthanasia in episode four was very poorly handled. The subject matter is handled with as much subtlety as a brick to the face with Max constantly being advised of the situation that the Price family are in due to Chloe’s condition be it through dialogue or items which can be interacted with. The section just comes across as… Read more »