Quantic Dream, the developers of Detroit: Become Human are under heavy fire from activists, critics and politicians alike, after airing the controversial gameplay trailer at Paris Game Week 2017.
If you're making a game focusing on players immersing themselves in everyday situations where some of them are uncomfortable or highly disturbing (as shown in the trailer), you can expect you will step on several people's toes by doing so. It happened with the upcoming Blade Runner-esque neo noir thriller game Detroit: Become Human.
A trailer shown at Paris Games Week in October managed to trigger just about everyone. Considering this is 2017, it's pretty much a daily occurrence that people get offended, so why does this one stand out? Because the trailer shows an alcoholic single father Todd being abusive towards his daughter, Alice.
The video in question shows how you can alter (or not) what happens after Todd picks up a belt and chases after his daughter in a fit of rage, with outcomes not being black or white, but rather sticking with shades of the gray zone.
Quantic Dream, Detroit: Become Human
Several papers have picked up the story, with quotes from Children's campaigners.
Andy Burrows, of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said that ''Any video game that trivialises or normalizes child abuse, neglect, or domestic violence for entertainment is unacceptable''.
General consensus seems to be that Quantic Dream are trivializing the issue and simply trying to make money out of it. Sure, video games should be a way of relaxation, but just as any other media platform, it could also serve to raise awareness of a very real problem that seems to be neglected by the society.
Peter Saunders, founder of the National Association of People Abused in Childhood said, "Abusers will get off on this stuff and the other thing we know beyond question is that videos [sic] games end up being played by children and, scarily, the proliferation of salacious and abusive images is actually encouraging violence and abuse.And we know that abuse in all its forms is escalating on this planet so why not help to tackle it constructively rather than sensationalise and make money out if it?"
In the game, while playing as Kara, you have a choice. You have a chance to step in, risk your life to save the life of a child, with a real possibility of losing yours in the process. Would you stand idle and let Todd have his way with Alice, or would you step in? Quantic Dream are defending their approach to the situation, confirmed by a quote from one of the developers that, "The scene we are presenting is a very important moment in Kara's story: we discover that Kara is owned by a human, Todd Williams, the single father of a little girl called Alice. Confronted with Todd's violence toward his little girl, Kara feels compelled to disobey and risk her life to save Alice."
A different point of view comes from actual domestic violence survivors, such as Boogie2988 on YouTube or people in the comment section of the trailer itself.
Geek on Your Sleeve
Is the game trivializing domestic violence or can it serve as a wake up call for today's indifferent society? The trailer seems to have split the viewerbase's opinions, and rest assured, it will be interesting to see how this creative direction fares in the future.