It’s not just The Last of Us: Part II that ruffled feathers during Sony’s Paris Games Week 2017 press conference this week: Quantic Dream’s latest game, Detroit: Become Human, has also come in for criticism for depicting domestic violence. The latest trailer for the Parisian developer’s android affair reveals a fraught family environment whereby a father shows abusive tendencies towards his child. Your decisions will ultimately shape the way the scenes play out – either leading to the little girl being attacked or the Dad meeting his demise.
It’s very harrowing subject matter, and for many a step too far. But speaking with Eurogamer.net as part of a prickly interview, David Cage has defended his decision to depict this kind of violence. “Would you ask this question to a film director – or to a writer?” he retorted upon the insinuation that the game may have gone too far. “This medium shouldn't condemn people trying to explore these aspects, as long as they're honest and sincere and have an honest attitude towards it.”
He continued: “I don't think we should point our fingers and say you shouldn't do this because you're a game maker. This is who you are. So stay at your place. You're not a filmmaker, you're not a book writer, you're just a game maker so shut up. No, I don't think that'd be fair. Games are a medium like anything – it's more than a medium for me, I've been saying the same thing for 20 years, it's an art form, and an art form should be free to express different things.”
It’s hard to argue with Cage’s point, but the concern is that Detroit may fail to tackle such subject matter with the delicacy that it deserves. In fact, Eurogamer.net notes that the scene requires you to “shake” the DualShock 4 in order to prevent the abuse from occurring. “For 20 years we play with control in a quite different way to people in the industry because we work on what we call the sense of mimicry – it's about making you feel with your computer what your character feels onscreen,” he explained.
Ultimately, Cage believes that the scene is an important part of the overall plot – it doesn’t simply exist to be controversial. “There's a context in the story, there's a reason for that – where [Kara] comes from and where she's going to go,” he concluded. “What's important to me, and what's important in Detroit, is to say that a game is as legitimate as a film or a book or a play to explore any topic such as domestic abuse.”