The Rat, the Laser, and the Holy Gib.
Detroit: Become Human is out later this month. It’s another Playstation exclusive from Quantic Dream, David Cage’s development studio known for creating a different style of video game. Unlike typical games, Cage’s are unique experiences that look to bridge the gap between interaction and storytelling. Cage has continually represented himself as the face of his studio’s games, often times appearing in them and representing himself as an auteur. So it’s of no surprise that as Detroit inches closer to release, Cage’s newest game is being dragged into Cage’s controversies. When the game is finally released, many will be faced with a moral and ethical choice: Should you buy and potentially enjoy a game that financially supports someone you disagree with?
Let’s be clear for a moment for those who may be out of the loop. David Cage has been accused of creating a turbulent environment at Quantic Dream that promoted racism and sexual misconduct, and allowing other employees to do the same. Cage denied these accusations and is now suing the French publications that cooperated to research and publish them. This isn’t the first time Cage has hopped into hot water either. Cage’s previous game, Beyond: Two Souls, featured actor Ellen Page in a starring role, and by utilizing a debug console, players were able to see a fully nude model of her character. Page didn’t approve of this depiction, and even had a clause against any sort of nudity in her contract, but the developers went ahead and modeled her nude anyways. Page considered suing, but the entire controversy eventually blew over, and Cage even used his professional relationship as a defense against some of the recent accusations.
“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.”
Cage’s actions and the accusations against him paint a bleak picture, one you can choose to believe or not. Certainly Cage doesn’t create his games alone. Even if the mood at Quantic Dream is a toxic one, there must be some hard working and worthwhile developers creating a game they believe in. Cage’s games might be awkward and stiff at times, but they still are forms of art and the effort that goes into them is still clear. So then can you support Cage, and Quantic, and those developers, by buying Detroit and still feel good about it? It’s up to you.
Morality and ethics are a gray area. It often falls to the individual to decide what is acceptable and not. And because we are all fallible contradictory humans, we will almost certainly violate whatever moral lines we create. Buying Detroit could signal Sony, Quantic, and Cage that his actions and accusations don’t matter much so as long as he makes good games. Avoiding Detroit could cause the developers to suffer due to the actions of a disgusting designer instead of succeeding on their own merits and work. There is no universal answer.
The problems don’t stop with Cage either. The accusations include Quantic Dream as a whole. One employee in particular was reported to have been photoshopping his fellow employees onto pornography and posting them around the office. When asked about this employee, Cage admitted to knowing about it but couldn’t stop because the photos were created on a personal computer, not a work one. It’s sad to see a man who considers himself so creatively powerful apparently rendered helpless by work/personal time limitations.
Again though, Cage’s problems just don’t seem to end, only pile on. The practices of Quantic Dream aside, Cage’s games are often problematic or at least troubling. Every game includes overtly sexual material. Sure, these titles often strive to represent typical or mundane tasks, however lengthy sequences like Ellen Page’s aforementioned shower scene, seem to be added for voyeurism rather than storytelling or character building. His games also often include allusions to larger issues at hand. For instance, the upcoming Detroit tells a story about how androids are differently treated. The starkness of Detroit’s aims become clear in the recently released demo.
In the demo you can play out a scene often seen in Detroit’s trailers. You’re an android hostage negotiator tasked with attempting to gather information and saving a little girl who has been taken by a rogue android. It examines androids having feelings, how humans treat androids, and the android’s roles in the divided society they operate in. It may be that the finished game discovers a way to examine these topics in a mature and valid way. Previous Cage games suggest otherwise. Often time these issues are merely presented, rarely carry any weight to them, and are often shown in overly dramatic settings.
Quantic Dream and David Cage create their own unique kind of games. No other major studio is developing games with a focus on the mundane movements of everyday life and attempting to attach complicated stories to them. Few games examine the themes and subject matter that these games often wade right into. However there is just too much baggage now saddled alongside Cage and his company. Too many issues and concerns to turn away from. I can understand why someone would enjoy a Quantic Dream game but for me enough is enough.
David Cage will probably keep making games. They get enough attention and positive reviews that he will keep pushing on. We have to draw a line though. We have to say that at some point Cage has created too much of a disgusting bubble around himself and, despite their merits, it affects what he makes. Detroit should honestly be reviewed based on its quality alone, however that’s where I draw the line. Detroit is still a David Cage game, the two cannot be separated, and there is no way I can support David Cage.