Last year, during the celebrations for Paris Games Week, Quantic Dream came under fire for including scenes depicting domestic violence in their upcoming PS4 exclusive Detroit: Become Human. During a recent preview event, DualShockers asked directly Lead Writer Adam Williams why the studio decided to tackle this kind of difficult topic.
Williams explained that the studio wanted a story that was “socially resonant” and that felt like it was taking place in a world as real as ours, being a faithful portrait of the society we live in and reflecting what is like to live in the kind of society we do. If you’re going to do that, you have to take a decision about the darker areas of human life and society.
If you don’t depict those darker areas, you’re creating something that is not as real, and the result is akin to a fairy tale. If you depict them, you have to depict them faithfully, and can’t trivialize them. You have to show how dark the darkness is. That’s what is going to create a story that feels real and resonates with people.
That being said, Williams feels that it’s perfectly valid to want a theme like domestic violence to be portrayed responsibly. This was something that Director David Cane and he worried a lot about: you should have the freedom to touch these themes but you should also have the responsibility of doing it well, sensitively, and in a way that serves the story, and is not gratuitous. This is also a matter of freedom to speech, as one should be free to see what he thinks, but he should think about what he says and be responsible for it.
On a more personal level, David Cage has two children, and Williams has sisters who are Alice’s (the child who is the victim of domestic abuse in the story). They would not have depicted this kind of scene if they thought it was gratuitous. They wanted to create something that was both respectful and served the narrative.
Asked whether there are more similar themes in the game (without spoilers) Williams explained that in the world of Detroit: Become Human Quantic Dream tried to “reflect the many colors that are in the real world” and some of those are dark. When you’re dealing with the theme of prejudice and segregation, it’s very difficult to do that without addressing some of these darker topics.
Interestingly, Williams also explained the reason why Detroit was chosen as a setting. The city was the seat of the Ford Motor Company, and it’s where the car was born. The automobile is an example of how one piece of technology can change the world and even the way society is formed. When the car became commonplace families became more dispersed, people traveled longer to work… Cars changed everything.
In Detroit: Become Human the androids are created by a company called Cyberlife, founded by a man who is basically the Steve Jobs of androids. When he decided to make Detroit the headquarters of Cyberlife, it was a statement about how influential androids are gonna be on society. In the world Quantic Dream imagined he was right, as androids have transformed society completely.
We also asked whether the egg or the chicken came first, or more precisely, whether there was already an idea for a game when Quantic Dream created the tech demo Kara that debuted at GDC 2012. Williams mentioned that from the conversations he had with David Cage, Kara was made exclusively as a tech demo. Yet, everything Cage does, he wants it to include story and he wants it to be moving. That’s why he was not surprised that people empathized with Kara. Yet, everybody was surprised by just how strong and wide the reaction was. The studio was flooded with questions about “what happens next” and “when is the actual game coming out.” At that time, there were no plans for such a game.
In a sense, Detroit: Become Human is an attempt to answer the question “what happens next?” as it struck the developers as an interesting question anyway, and the range of possibilities is so broad that it lends itself to an interactive drama.
The reaction to the second demo The Sorcerer was a bit different, as it was more light-hearted. The signature Quantic Dream experience is very emotional and thought-provoking. Kara was very throught-provoking and moving, so the short lent itself well to a Quantic Dream-style game.
Beyond this point, we have something that could be considered a mild spoiler, so if you want to go in completely blind, I advise you to stop reading. In the world of Detroit, the President of the United States is a woman, but she is quite hardline in her policies. For Quantic Dream this was done because they weren’t interested in copying something already done or obvious. The idea of the hardline president is familiar, but the idea of female President isn’t as familiar. Some might expect a woman to be softer and more empathetic. Yet, Williams is an Englishman, and the U.K. had two female Prime Ministers (Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May), and both are quite hardline. He feels that players will find President Warren “a very striking character.”
Detroit: Become Human will release exclusively for PS4 on May 25th, 2018. You still have time to pre-order the game before its launch, and you can reserve your copy via Amazon.
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