android holds child hostage in Detroit: Become Human

Detroit: Become Human is stirring up controversy despite the fact that the game doesn't actually launch until sometime next year. According to a recent report, the latest title from Quantic Dream is drawing fire because of scenes that include the murder of a 10-year-old girl by her father.

The Daily Mail recently posted a story concerning abuse and other forms of violence present in Detroit: Become Human. In the article, critics claim that the game is basically torture porn, with players tasked with stopping a crazed man from beating his 10-year-old daughter to death.

It sounds like most of the flak is coming from Childline founder Dame Esther Rantzen, who is quoted as calling the game "sick and repulsive."

This is, of course, an extremely tricky needle to thread. While Rantzen is understandably upset, I think it's a bit unfair to criticize Detroit without knowing the full context of the scene. It's a disturbing scene, clearly, but her argument seems to be that it's in the game in order to serve as entertainment. Perhaps this is a problem tied to the fact that these things are still being called "games," but I have a hard time understanding why Become Human would be so harshly judged (without even being played) for content that we see constantly across television, movies, books, etc.

Whether or not Quantic Dream or writer David Cage is the right team to be handling such heavy and delicate subject matters is certainly a conversation worth having, but it makes little sense to hold video games to completely different standards than other forms of media.

In the scene, the player takes on the role of Kara, an android who has the ability to keep the child from reaching the terrible fate noted above. You can do things like confront the father, lock the bedroom door, etc. to hold him at bay.

The original article brings up previous controversies in video games, going so far as to completely botch an explanation of the infamous Hot Coffee mod that could be unlocked in the game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. They were apparently struggling to find any recent controversies to reference in this regard. From top to bottom, it feels like the entire thing is being commented on and reported by people who have zero understanding of what video games actually are.

I don't usually get so critical in these kinds of stories, but it's a bit frustrating seeing this handled so poorly. Again, I don't think anyone, including Detroit: Become Human, is pitching child abuse as a gameplay "feature" here. To pan it simply because it exists in the story is ludicrous. And the argument that "domestic abuse isn't a game" isn't one I'm arguing against. I'm just saying that it's unfair to say it can't be included in them, especially if handled with care.

Still, it'll be interesting to see if and how this story develops. This is exactly the kind of headline folks like to run with, no matter how off the mark the criticism actually is. But without actual context to wrap around the scene and the game itself, we're going to reserve judgment until Detroit actually arrives.

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