Spoilers for early chapters in Detroit: Become Human
OK, I did two chapters, so the first one with Bishop I mean Karl and the one with Connor and the bar and the murder scene and the Kurgan I mean Anderson.
Dude, I kinda love this game.
I don’t know if you finished with the Connor scene so I’ll just chat on Karl and that scene. That…wow.
I think the point of this game, the overarching theme, is making/encouraging the player, not to do such inhuman things as slaughtering Kevin and blowing shit up and robbing and looting, but to do HUMAN things, to find our own humanity and what that means.
So the way I played this scene was that I went through the house first, before going upstairs to get Karl. I brought the breakfast in, I cleaned up the studio and I tried out the piano. Got Karl (who was not at all what I expected when I got to the rich person’s house), and took him downstairs, and when it came time to “find something to do,” there was no doubt I was going to play the piano. I passed by chess, and was like, no. I don’t even know what the third option was. After passing the chess board I went right to the piano.
And I picked hopeful music. And I played the piano.
And it was one of those perfect “only in video games” things where I am still pondering why I did what I did. I likely will be pondering it for a good long while.
I have a metric ton more to say about these two scenes but I really want to start there. What did you do when you had to “find something to do?”
I also played the piano! That was kind of a cool mechanic. I didn’t go into that room first, I just turned on the birds and then went up to Carl, so when it was time to find something to do I tidied up and THEN played the piano, but I still had time to get to it. I think I picked…”thoughtful”? was that one of the choices?
Anyway, we’re going to have to work harder on doing different things here. But this was very nicely done…you don’t actually have to know how to play the piano, or even to be able to hit buttons in a QTE to pretend-play the piano, so it’s not a challenge you have to succeed at, nothing you can really be good or bad at (because the skill is in the character, so it shouldn’t depend on our button-pushing abilities), but you control the pace, and so it’s interactive in that way.
As with a lot of the things in David Cage games, when you break it down it’s really almost a long cutscene, but with some interactive bits so that you can participate. (Remember our discussion of how you had to actively open the car door to go to the party in Beyond, even though opening the car door has no real narrative significance?) You’re not just watching an android prepare an old guy’s breakfast, you’re part of the scene!
Really, he does interactive movies as much as games, and I think very consciously so (earlier you mentioned the opening credits, and how a lot of games don’t have them…but movies certainly do.) And that’s a perfectly fine choice and often he gets some good effects with it, though sometimes I think it works better than others.
But in this case, I definitely enjoyed it.
And I also met Lt. Anderson in the bar and investigated the murder scene–either they fixed my Connor, or they sent another one (he is a robot, so that’s always a possibility)–so if you want to discuss that too, we can.
This time I’m very happy we both did the same thing, because I didn’t want to have to explain the mechanic to you and I really want to talk about that mechanic. And it’s very interesting that you said you can’t be good or bad at it, because I tried to be good.
What’s so interesting to me is the contrast between this scene and the last two or three months of my gaming life. In ACO, sure, I tried to be sneaky, I tried to play it “well,” but, if I didn’t, I shrugged, mashed buttons, ran away, whatever. Playing ACO well was not much of a concern. Or, to put it another way, slaughtering Kevins and doing terrible things wasn’t much of a concern.
Here, I really tried to get the tempos right, tried to learn the tune to vary the tempos, tried to make it sound as good as I could, not because I thought it mattered to the gameplay or the narrative or I’d earn a trophy. I knew it was just to hear a pretty song. But man, I spent more mental energy making that song pretty than I did in any bandit camp.
I found myself wanting to play longer.
What’s more, I had to let the kids watch that scene or I would never get to play. When the song stopped, Junior said “That was a good song,” and I said “I was doing that,” and all three of their heads whipped toward me, like, “what? You were controlling that?” and Nugget said, really quietly, “That was really pretty, Dad.”
Have they ever watched me play and said “Way to slaughter Kevin, Dad?” No.
The most engaged I’ve been in a game in a long time, and the thing my kids noted was me playing a game “well” was a beautiful song on a piano.
That’s a game moment that’ll stay with me, and I’ll be pondering it a long time. Highest praise I can give a game.
You’re right in that these are more interactive movies, and that’s cool for those of us who like to spend a lot of time writing about games as an art form because it makes the comparisons so much easier. Sure, this scene could’ve been a movie scene very easily. The imagery of the android playing a song and being praised for his playing improving, the imagery of the painting being a copy and then being something powerfully original (what did you pick? I picked a hopeful painting about androids and got a hand reaching upward surrounded by broken chains) would’ve been just as metaphorical on screen. But being the one that played the song, being the one that picked the picture, makes it thought provoking in really different ways. See above. I wouldn’t have been so affected by that scene had I not “played” the piano.
I also think the cinematic nature of Cage’s games solves, at least in a way, something we’ve talked about before: the problem of how you work in scenes that don’t have the PC in them. We had the “How does Lara know about the baddie’s plan? Does she? Should we pretend we didn’t?” talk a lot before. Cage solves that rather simply: Change the PC. Sure, his games are different animals from TR or UC or whatever, but it is a device that works here. Maybe it could work in other games.
But I’m getting too far afield. Still haven’t even touched the next scene.
Ah…that’s nice that your kids liked your song! Mr. O’ thought the mechanic was cool, but my kids weren’t there. They probably wouldn’t have been impressed anyway, since I only had time to play it once (since I hadn’t tidied up the room earlier the way you did), so I didn’t improve. That’s cool that you had time to work on it more.
I do kind of like the way he works with time…here as in his other games. You often can only do a few things from a menu of choices, or raise a couple of potential topics of conversation, before ‘time runs out’ on that scene, and that makes you think harder about them.
I picked “androids” and “identity” for the picture, and made a pretty cool self-portrait of Markus–not a photographic copy like the one Carl said had no heart (or whatever he said), but with kind of smeary brushstrokes. Quite nice, really. It was a nice touch to have those different options, and as you say, made it interactive in a pretty cool way that you got to pick: it almost certainly doesn’t make any difference to the overall story which picture you paint, or which song you play, but the fact that you were involved in making it helps get you engaged with the story. And in a small way helps make it “your story” as the android on the load screen says.
Incidentally, that’s another interesting aspect…one time when I loaded it she said “you were playing until late last night–hope you’re not too tired” (“it was only 9:30!” I said) and then on Friday she said “it’s great to start the weekend with Detroit!” Which is not that complicated, I’m sure, a game can track the date and time, they pretty much all do anyway because they note the date and time of every saved file, but having a game notice and comment on it is different. I’m not quite sure how I feel about that yet, honestly.
Oh, I didn’t play it the first time. Not really. It had one of those down arrows, so I did it (as one does) and Markus just hit a few keys and smiled. It was weird because it gave the impression that he never really played the piano, but was always curious. When it became clear he knew how to play, and play well, I was surprised.
Your Karl didn’t tell you you’d improved? Hmm. Interesting. Cuz my Karl wasn’t around the first time I touched the piano, so he wasn’t referencing that.
Yes! The limited time makes you think about things. And makes them more organic. In real life, you don’t have time to talk to everyone, see everything, ponder your decision, etc. Making you play in the moment is very cool.
How’d your Karl react? Mine looked at the picture (the hand, the chain) and said “My God….” in sort of scared awe.
Yes! My load screen android did the same (Well, not the you stayed up late part cuz this family of mine never lets me do that).
I don’t know how I feel either, but I think I like it. My reaction when it said “It’s great to start the weekend” was like “AAA!” and I thought something like “How does it know, it’s just a game?” I mean, two seconds later I was like “Oh, save file, time stamp,” but just for that instant “How does this machine know?” question in my head.
Which is kinda meta.
It is rather meta, isn’t it? Gives you a hint, maybe, of the slight alarm that people might feel about actual androids…how do they know this stuff about me, and am I really COMFORTABLE with them knowing this stuff?
The game is spying on me! Well…no more than any game is spying on me. Which in a way just reminds me that they all are.
And this also has a lot of parallels with real-life privacy concerns around the robot assistants we DO have in our lives already, like Siri and Alexa and…uh…Hey Google? I guess that one doesn’t have a cute name, other than Google? Anyway, these–and our game consoles–are also things in our lives that know a lot about us, and we’re mostly OK with that because whatever, it seems pretty harmless and often convenient, but it’s also kind of creepy. I don’t use any of these programs myself, but since my phone has the capability, I’m sure it’s listening to me all the time anyway just in case someday I DO decide to say “hey Google!” Creepy.
Which is probably how a lot of people feel about androids. Have you seen the magazine piece yet with the headline “can your android be hacked”? Just like these days we worry about our phones getting hacked. Not that much of a reach, really.
My Carl also said “my god” when he saw my picture. I guess whatever we decide to paint, it’s going to come out as something that’s an impressive achievement for an android. Which suggests, again, that the actual picture is irrelevant in the larger story–but even so, it’s not irrelevant to us, because we picked it out.
SO meta. From a menu screen. This game really is full of nice touches.
I haven’t seen that magazine article, but I did find the one that said “Android sex is better,” which I didn’t read all the way through cuz kids around. Maybe we’ll save that discussion for derailment Friday.
Did you read the “My God” as “Impressive achievement,” “Dear God it’s terrifying they can do that,” or both?
We could talk about this scene all day, but I also have lots to say about the murder scene. And I want to play later, and I’m sure I’ll have shit to say about that.
I took the “my god” as Carl being stunned and impressed by the achievement, rather than scared that androids can do that, but it’s ambiguous, isn’t it? Maybe a little of both. I mean, I’m capable of being both impressed and faintly horrified that my email notices when we’re talking about beer and displays Miller High Life ads, right? Humans are complicated and capable of multiple, conflicting emotions.
It is ambiguous. Nicely so.
Great scene. Sometimes I can’t believe this is the same David Cage.
But let’s move on to the murder scene.
I solved it. You?
Well, yes, if you mean figured out what happened and caught the deviant. Did I solve the larger problem of human/android conflict in this troubled world? Obviously not.
OK, good. Cuz my thoughts are related to that.
Well, two thoughts first. One, c’mon, we get to be ANDROID DETECTIVES and that’s pretty sweet. Two, twisting the cliche of writing in blood above a body from scrawled to perfectly “typed” font was so fucking cool. I loved the hell out of that.
Anyway, real bloggage.
So I was very surprised at the end when the game didn’t give me the choice to help the android. He’s all “Don’t tell them,” and, in a game chock full of choices, one would think “tell, don’t tell” would be a pretty big, pretty obvious place to put a choice. I was in the middle of thinking “what do I do what do I do” when Connor’s all “He’s here.”
I was all “wait…what? I didn’t get any choice in that particular matter?” I was rather surprised. But then I thought some and I realized that I did have a choice in the matter: I could have intentionally botched the investigation.
Let’s face it: We knew all along that the cops would not be good to the android if they found the android. Also, we, as players, can’t pat ourselves on the back too much because the mystery wasn’t terribly difficult to solve. Kitchen, living room….shit, the last question, as we’re looking at the body that was stabbed twenty eight times was “He was killed with……” It would have been very easy to say “The baseball bat” or something, in which case Anderson, who didn’t like us anyway, would’ve been all “He’s broken, get him out of here, can’t even tell a stab wound from a blow from a bat.” Then we wouldn’t have followed the blood trail, etc., deviant gets away.
But no, we answered all the questions right. Why? Because that’s what you DO. It’s what games have been asking us to do forever. Practically programming us to do you see where I’m going here.
We didn’t give a moment’s thought to whether we should solve the case. We didn’t give a moment’s thought to whether we should tell Anderson that we had solved the case, because reporting back to “quest givers” is what one does. Every time. Without thinking about whether you should maybe botch it. We just do it.
The typed-in-blood message was pretty sweet. As was the fact that when you examine it you identify it as “CyberLife font.” Because of course an android would use CyberLife font!
And yeah, I’m with you man. We know how to play games! We follow up on our objectives, do our jobs, report back to whoever told us to do the thing in the first place. (Then, usually, they give us some XP or a random weapon we’ll never use.) It’s just the program! As if we were robots!
I’m not entirely sure it would have been an option to fail to solve the puzzle, even. I messed up twice while reporting what happened to Lt. Anderson (just carelessly hitting the wrong button, like “they went into…the bathroom!” instead of the living room), and he just said “that makes no sense! your story has to fit the facts!” and then I had the option to try again. So I think we might have been stuck in that chapter until we solved it and reported back. We had to do it!
Which, a bit like the justly famed BioShock, uses the way we play games as part of the game. It also, in highlighting the fact that there are times androids have no choice about what they do, makes the choices they DO have a little more important, and maybe makes us think harder about what we decide (for them), when we get a chance to decide.
Pointing out the places where you don’t have a choice makes the places you do have a choice more interesting. Also, for this particular android, it’s probably part of a character evolution. He’s a cop-droid, right? And we barely know anything about him yet. It would be a bit surprising if one of the first things we saw him do is decide whether or not to disobey his programming and go ‘deviant’. Very likely there will be a later point where he WILL have that choice, but after he’s started to think more about what it means to be human, and why other androids are turning on their masters, and so forth.
Indeed they would use that font. Which makes me wonder if the deviant didn’t write it. Mysteries!
It’s interesting considering our talk in Odyssey about the idea of choosing not to take a quest in order to affect the game world. There were a couple times we just didn’t do, or completely missed, quests. What we’ve never considered is a game giving us the option to intentionally fail a quest. We can have “bad endings” to quests, but a flat out “fuck this up and see what happens….” I can’t remember that ever.
I dunno, man. On the flow chart, right around “Connor knew what happened,”(though I forget if it was exactly there), there was a branch that had, like, four or five boxes after it, all linear, and all leading to an endpoint we obviously didn’t get. As the endpoint we did get was “Connor found the deviant,” one can assume that it’s fairly likely the deviant didn’t get found had we done something different right around the time of the “mystery.” Or maybe it was “Anderson found the deviant without Connor’s help” or something, but there was certainly a branch of the flow chart that went to an ending right around there.
True. He does seem to be a cop droid. Interesting that I thought it was so much fun playing him, the “I do not think” droid.
Because another part of this chapter that goes to what you’re talking about, the “this droid obeys,” was the bit where you see him resolve “contradicting orders.” Anderson tells him to stay put, and the game resolves whether you listen or not for you. Now, true, this was a pretty big scene, but, in prior David Cage games you could miss several big chunks of game based on your choices, like getting characters killed or getting caught by a security guard on your way out to the bar or not taking showers. Also, they could have resolved the need for any kind of “choice” by Connor or the player by just having Anderson say “All right, c’mon, you fucking plastic weirdo” or something. The game made a point of “Connor is facing a choice, and you, player, have no say.”
Contrast to the way we started the day, talking on how Markus (second game in a row they spelled Marcus wrong) had a choice in fucking everything. How to spend time, what song to play, what to paint, etc., down to mood and subject and details details details. Even how long to play and how fast.
Hmm…maybe we could have failed! It’s true, there were a lot of blank spaces on that flowchart.
As you say, that would be an interesting choice, especially since it would, really, be US metagaming and choosing to fail, when we know the character would not. “Oh yeah? You want to catch these poor deviants? I’ll make you suck at your job!”
Actually, you’re probably right that we could fail, because spoiler, there’s another chance to catch a deviant later and I DID fail it. Not on purpose.
So maybe I’m being unjustifiably confident that it would only be through intentional player intervention that Connor could mess up in the murder puzzle, too. I mean, we did have to put some pieces together. Could have done that wrong. Or hit the wrong button a few too many times until Anderson gave up in disgust.
I think maybe the contrast between Connor’s lack of choices and Markus’ many (though, perhaps, insignificant) choices are meant to show how close each one is to being deviant and also to being human. Because obviously those two things are connected, at least for androids. Although I don’t get the sense that the android we caught in the attic had a whole lot of choices in life, more that he likely was pushed too far, so perhaps that’s not quite the right way to look at it.
Still, something in here about choices and freedom and humanity, for sure.
Well, before we get too far ahead in discussion, how far ahead of me are you? I’m sure you’re ahead of me.
As for metagaming, one of the more meta things that menu lady said was a reminder that “This is YOUR story,” and emphasized YOUR so much it has to be in capital letters. (This is if you click on “chapters.”) So, when we say “When we know the character would not,” why? It’s our story, right? We assume, based on what we know, that he would not, but you made the point earlier that we don’t know a whole lot about him (or any other android, for that matter). Maybe we could “tell” this story in such a way that he is a liar and a rebel!
But holy shit you just said something that I’m sure we’ll want to come back to so much that I’m going to quote it and put it in italics:
“choices are meant to show how close each one is to being deviant and also to being human”
Besides a phrase that would be an instant A in any English course we took in college, it makes me think on whether this game sees “deviant” and “human” as different or the same. “And also” in your A getting phrase up there, are you saying that deviant and human are the same or on opposite ends of the spectrum?
I have a feeling this is gonna be a theme in the whole game.
Good point–this is OUR story! The android said so! So yeah, why couldn’t Connor be intentionally messing up from the very beginning, just pretending to be the perfect, program-following machine when actually he was deviant the moment he came out of the box!
Maybe we’ll play it again and do that. I already know I left some laundry undone back in Drunken Loser Todd’s house. That’s probably eating away at Kara.
And yes, I do think deviant and human are pretty much the same, at least as far as they describe android behavior, in that they both describe…wait for it…the ability to make choices rather than simply follow orders. One’s OWN choices.
The ability, perhaps, to tell…YOUR story.
Man, if this ends with a big reveal when an android looks in the mirror and I as the player see MY OWN FACE I’m going to flip out. If the technology was available in this console, I would be rooting for that, man.
Maybe in the PS5.
I’ll totally flip out. Totally. Wouldn’t be surprised, though, had the console had the tech, cuz there’s already been a lot of mirrors. All three droids we’ve played have had chances to look in mirrors: Markus in the entry way, Kara in the bathroom, Connor in the nasty bar restroom. Hmm.
I assume you’ve at least started the next chapter? Cuz, if so, I can talk about laundry.
Yeah, talk about laundry. I’ve left that house and its laundry, man. I saw the flowchart with this entire vast swath of boxes for stuff that apparently was on the first floor that I didn’t do…but that ship has sailed.
I picked up the garbage! I tidied the mail! I don’t know what more you want of me.
This is why I’m a failure as a housekeeping robot. I glance around a first floor apparently crawling with chores and think “looks good, I’m out.”
OR Kara intentionally did a bad job because she thinks housework sucks! Could work for Connor…could work for her.
I hope this is the part where you explain that I missed a leery scene of Drunken Loser Todd gazing at her in the shower, which I will be happy to have skipped.
Make me feel better! It’s your duty as a friend.
HA! You guessed it.
No, far more boring. You go to do the laundry and in the detergent you find red ice, and you’re all “Whoa…drugs…” and then he gets all mad.
Also, did the next chapter and WHOA now. That was a lot of QTEs that weren’t anywhere near as much fun as playing the piano. And a whole lot of unfilled in flow chart!
And interesting, considering today’s discussion.
How’d it go for you?
Ah, Drunken (or Drugged) Loser Todd loses it!
In this chapter I shot him and then ran off with Alice. After the whole bit where I broke through the programming (and, one assumes, became deviant) I tried talking to Todd first, and then he pushed me down and by the time I got upstairs he was already in the room with Alice. I think maybe if I’d gone straight upstairs instead, I could have taken Alice and escaped out the window before he got there, since both the gun and the window had that little ‘path unlocked’ message.
But I didn’t, so he’s dead. Hard to be TOO sad about it, since he wasn’t a very nice person. He was, in fact, almost cartoonishly villainous, a bit over the top (one thing David Cage is not, is subtle), although I did appreciate that he had that one moment earlier where he cried and said he was sorry to Alice…that put a BIT of nuance into the character. We know that at least he HAS feelings, they’re just buried by (presumably) drug-fueled rage.
What did you do?
Whoa, what now? Dead? Gun? Shot? Where was the gun??????
No, no, I did not shoot him. That would’ve been a LOT easier.
So I went deviant (more on that in a tad), went and tried to reason with Todd (as you did), though I think I was “determined.” He pushed me down, went upstairs. I followed cuz fuck that dude. I get there, gunless (where was the gun?) and say “Hands off” or some shit. He grabs me by the neck, I get away, and a LOOOOONG QTE filled fight ensues with much dodging and buttons and button combos and shaking controllers and SO MANY QTEs.
Eventually he falls, grab Alice, go downstairs, try the front door, locked, Todd comes down, MORE QTEs, LOTS more QTEs, but did enough of them, I guess, cuz I got out the back door, climbed the fence, ran ran ran, got on the bus while Todd was screaming at us.
So. Many. QTEs.
But my Todd is very much alive and very much pissed off.
There’s a difference in our games.
But, towards our discussion about how to play and being conditioned to play. As Connor, we did what “games expect,” did the puzzle, followed the “rules.” Here, there’s DO NOT MOVE in big letters across the screen and we, of course, ignored it.
But here’s the thing: Checked the stats, and you know how many people ignored it and went deviant?
97% of everyone who played it.
So in the mystery scene, we all did exactly what we were told. Here, players the world over completely ignored the clear instructions.
So what’s the code in games for “ignore this?” Weird.
Aha, so I missed the laundry and the dishes, but YOU missed the gun! It was upstairs in the drawer next to Todd’s bed. I found it while I was tidying his room, so I knew where it was later. I still had to deal with some fighting QTEs, because at first he knocked it out of my hand and was punching and I was dodging and stuff, but then I got to it on the floor before he did and shot him. Then I grabbed Alice and we hurried out of the house and got on the bus. Todd was not chasing us, and as far as I know is quite dead.
Alice was pretty chill about it, I must say.
As for the code for “ignore this”…that’s a good question. I think it’s the passage of time. Because I DID stand there for what seemed like a long time (although it was probably only several seconds), before I thought “do I actually HAVE to stand here?” So I think if it had been a split-second decision, like “OK, either stand or leave,” a lot more people might have stood there, but the fact that you wait, and nothing is happening except that the sense of ominous threat keeps building while Todd mutters and prepares his drugs–the fact that you’re not DOING anything, I think is the code that says “maybe I should be doing something.”
Because in games we’re almost always doing something, right? We’re the player! We’re the person who does things! Even if we’re not fighting or looting or setting something on fire, we’re moving, or looking around, or pushing buttons trying to solve a puzzle. Unless it’s an obvious cutscene. But it’s very, very rare in games that we’re not doing something, if we’re not watching a cutscene.
This sequence had no hallmarks of a cutscene, it still felt like the active game, and so after a period of time had passed I think probably almost all players (97%, perhaps) will start pushing buttons just to see if there’s something they can be doing, because doing nothing feels wrong.
And once we learn that there’s something we CAN be doing, the code of games is almost always that it’s something we SHOULD be doing. (At least from a game/story perspective. Perhaps not from a smart-person perspective. Coming into a mysterious puzzle tomb and finding a big button, in real life we SHOULDN’T automatically push it, that’s a rash and likely fatal decision, but in a game we always push it, and we almost always SHOULD push it.)
Hmm. I moved pretty fast. I wasn’t gonna let Alice get hurt. I didn’t know it was a long thing.
I wonder what happened to that three percent.
Not gonna check though.
Well, the other component of it is, who’s telling us to do something. If some random person gives us a quest that is “don’t move and that will retrieve my great-grandfather’s handaxe,” sure, we’ll do it.
If an abusive drug-user loser who explicitly stated he’s going to go hurt his daughter says it, we’re less inclined to think “yeah, these are instructions worth following.”
Well…when you put it that way….