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Spoilers for Detroit: Become Human

Butch:

Man, now even the house is interfering with game time. I was trying to catch up. I, what, got away from the doctor I mean Zlatko, stole a bunch of parts as Markus. Today, played the Eden Club scene, played the amusement park scene, and was making progress, man, and then the guy who’s here to de-jack the drain for the washer showed up early.

Stupid house.

So how was DOS2? I’m sure you finished. Ha. Don’t finish this weekend. Ha.

I think ha.

Sigh.

Anyway….I liked the Eden club bit. And no, not for the gratuitous skin. The tracking with a timer was cool. I especially liked if you stop to look at a Traci on your way in Anderson is all “What are you doing? We have work to do.” Well played, game. Well played.

I let them go. Didn’t shoot. Software got unstable, so that pretty much clinches that Connor is going deviant. What I didn’t really get or buy is that Anderson liked the fact that I let them go. I was expecting a scolding. Hmm.

The scene in the amusement park I kinda loved. Like, LOVED. Turning the zombie trope into Jerry the Carousel man was themeage I might ponder a very long time. Zombies, after all, are humans who become shells of themselves, walking embodiments of the worst of our impulses. So droid zombies being super happy guys who just want to make children happy is a powerful image.

I just played it, but man. I’m gonna be doing some pondering.

That scene and the piano scenes, alone, make this game worth playing.

I…..wish I could say the same for Zlatko and stealing the supplies. That sure was a whole mess of QTEs. A WHOLE mess. Too much mess.

I also think that introducing North and Luther this late (at least, I hope it’s late, as you are 82% done with DOS2) is a mistake. I want to get to know these characters. They seem interesting. And yet, I have a feeling they’ll be characters who a) I won’t have time to get to know and b) folks who the game expects me to CAAAARE about as if I had time to get to know them.

I dunno. I’m just glad this soul crushing weekend is over. Long weekend. Hopefully, things will improve on that front going forward.

But hey! Bloggage.

Please tell me you’re not WAAAAAY into DOS2.

Feminina:

Dude, we’re about 1% into Divinity. We’ve met some companions. That’s about it. I think it’s a big game. The first one certainly was. Don’t fret!

The Eden Club was another example of my Connor being terrible at his job. I took too much time talking to robots (it was kind of funny to keep making Anderson pay for them), and never caught up to Traci. So she’s off somewhere and I never decided whether or not to let her go, I just didn’t find her.

Connor’s not the only one who’s terrible, though: on the theft of parts, I messed that up too. I tried to save the security android, went back to save what’s his name, alerted the cops somehow, and we wound up escaping with only a few items, not enough to do much. North was not happy with me.

But my Kara did successfully escape Zlatko, free the experiments, recover her memory, save Alice and join Luther. It was a nice bit of poetic justice that if you unlock the door and let the experiments out, they’ll come to your aid later. For a pretty tropey ‘escape the creepy house’ sequence, I thought that was fairly well done, though…sneaking and then running through those doors, hiding, ducking and dodging, trying to protect Alice…it was all pretty tense. And, speaking of poetic justice, having the android who works for the guy who takes advantage of deviants turn deviant, that was an unsurprising but still satisfying twist.

As with so many of the antagonist characters, Zlatko was pretty much a caricature of evil, so that whole bit was like being smacked with a big narrative-hammer, but again…for what it was, I thought it was well done. And at least this time he pretty much avoided the gross sexualization that was so unpleasant with Madison…I mean, Kara was definitely the “tied-up-damsel” but they didn’t take off her clothes or anything to make it even more disturbing, right? I’ll take that.

I did really like the amusement part bit. As you say, the twist on “creepy abandoned amusement park,” having all the Jerries just wanting to make children happy, was pretty cool. And kind of sad in an interesting way…these androids were created with this purpose and then just abandoned, and now they can only wander around trying vainly to do what they’re supposed to. Kind of a less obvious version of the junkyard full of broken androids.

And the carousel in the snow, Alice enjoying it, Kara noting that that’s the first time she’s seen Alice smile…it was a nice, moody scene.

I did feel kind of the same way about Luther and North–these characters are going to be important, but are we going to have time to actually know them enough that we get WHY? See how you feel at the end…

Butch:

Sure, sure. 1%. You mean 91%. It’s cool.

Is it good so far?

And dude, you suck.

So what I did was find the Tracis (plural). You find the deviant, and two attack you (or one attacks Hank) and you end up fighting two scantily clad women cuz this is a David Cage game and all. In the middle of the battle, you see the two Tracis grab each other’s hands, like they’re in love. If you pass all the QTEs (or enough), the not blue haired one charges you, and you have to decide to shoot or spare. I spared, and she ran right past me into the blue haired one’s arms. There was a confession, a “I just wanted to live….to feel her arms around me again…I love her….” and off they went. And it wasn’t really a “decide to let her go.” It was “shoot or not,” without knowing the consequences. Cool.

And I successfully stole parts, which was ALSO a lot of QTEs. I got rewarded by a rousing “we shall RISE UP!” speech by Markus that seemed a little canned but hey. Jericho ate it up.

And as for Kara’s story, if by “unsurprising” you mean “Luther could have had a neon sign saying ‘It’s cool, I’ll turn deviant later in this chapter,'” then yes.

I did like the return of the altered, monstrous androids coming to kill Zlatko. Nice touch.

This is what David Cage has reduces us to. “Hey! Not totally offensive! Just kinda offensive! Nicely done!”

Though….upon pondering….maybe there was some attempt at themeage.

Cuz this isn’t the first time we’ve escaped a house, as Kara and Alice, from a possessive, abusive, violent caricature of evil in this game. Todd was a possessive asshole, who vented his anger and insecurities on Alice, Zlatko was a possessive asshole who vented his anger on androids. Todd and Zlatko even looked alike. All of this might have just been lazy assed storytelling (We need an action sequence…how about an escape? We need a baddie….how about another slob who’s mean to females?) but maybe it was supposed to be a mirror.

Not sure what it meant to say if it was, but maybe.

Very sad, in the amusement park. “Usually, it’s humans who come here just to hurt us…..” That’s a glimpse into pure human sadism. Who would just hurt a smiling guy who’s trying to make children happy?

But admit it: When you saw the mob of them, your first thought was “Oh, here we go, fight time!” The whole set up: finding Luther’s gun, moody place, creepy decorations, them coming to the window….you got that hands tightening on the controller feeling. Admit it.

And then, they just wanted to show everyone their carousel.

Which is also kind of an indictment of the (human) player. Always seeing everything as a threat, or a fight.

Oh, I’m sure I’ll see how I feel at the end. If I ever finish. Is there a lot left?

Though in terms of feelings towards characters…..

I’m finding something odd in my reaction to this game as it continues and I’m not sure I like the fact my reaction is changing. Specifically, the more I play the more I like Connor and the less I like Markus.

I’m not sure why I’m liking Connor more, or if that’s a bad thing. Maybe it’s just because being a detective is cool (when you actually solve cases. Ha). But the fact I’m liking Markus less troubles me. Yes, I could say that I liked the bits with the piano, they were great scenes, and the stealing was a QTE fest, but still, the fact is I liked the (black) android better when he was a piano playing servant to an old white man than I do now that he’s an activist and rising up and sticking it to the man.

It troubles me that I feel that way. So I’m hoping it’s just the QTEs. I very much do.

Feminina:

I do suck. I am terrible at games.

Divinity is fun so far. Very familiar, the same presentation and style and mechanics as the last one. Different characters, obviously. I need to get back into that mindset, because right now it’s still quite confusing having the split screen and one of us talking to people while the other loots and so forth. We’ll get into the groove, it’s just an adjustment.

I also liked Connor more as the story went on: he definitely has some character moments. There’s some real tension there with the question of whether he’ll stay true to his programming, or become deviant.

I never didn’t like Markus, though–he always seemed pretty sympathetic to me, even though I could also see how he was becoming more of a potential threat to humans. Interestingly, I realize that I didn’t read him as black, specifically, although certainly it makes sense, given the big-hammer Civil Rights comparisons, that he would be. Or could be. I mean, he’s an android, so race is presumably whatever his product designer wanted to make it (and we could certainly talk about the implied social conventions that would lead to different models looking like different human racial groups, if this game were more about the world at large).

I actually remember thinking it was interesting that there WASN’T an obviously black character in that civil-rights-activist role, and wondering about it…like, is that good because it’s not quite as direct a copy of actual historical events, or bad because it assumes that players wouldn’t be sufficiently engaged with the story if the character was black?

If we’re going to wonder about problematic unconscious attitudes in ourselves, I could wonder if because I didn’t see him as particularly black, I subconsciously found his revolutionary activities more sympathetic than I would have if he’d been, say, Luther? I don’t know any way to test this, but…people have unconscious associations that affect how we perceive things, so I can’t deny it could be true.

Hm.

Butch:

It’s very simple: The side of the screen where the character is grabbing all the loot she doesn’t need, ignoring stats and missing important dialog? That’s you. The side of the screen where the player is fussing with loot that’s really all the same, fussing over every stat and missing important dialog? That’s Mr O.

Simple!

As for Connor though…it’s a weird thing, because we’ve been presented with instance after instance where humanity is pretty awful. It’s a fairly steady drumbeat in this game: Becoming human maybe isn’t all that great. And yet, the more human Connor gets, the more I like him. Hmm.

And whoa, wait, you didn’t read Markus as black? Really? I read it that way from the moment he came on the screen. I even thought it was a tad eye rolly that they chose Markus to be the android they used the “back of the bus” imagery for.

That’s interesting, because I think part of the reason that I’m getting a little “really?” with Markus’ storyline is I read it as so very bluntly being “black character in civil rights activist role,” that subtle as a brick metaphor that David Cage does.

You really read it differently?

Feminina:

Yeah–I didn’t perceive him as black until you mentioned that. I think I noticed that he was less white than Connor and Kara (not hard, since they are both fish-belly pale), but I didn’t think ‘black,’ just…less white. And that only in passing. If I’d thought about it, I would probably have guessed he was meant to be mixed race (or was modeled on someone who is mixed race, given David Cage’s habit of putting actual peoples’ faces in games), but I really didn’t think about it.

I guess this is where I interject the classic oblivious-white-person phrase: “I just don’t see race!”

Or, also popular, “you’re different, Markus–I don’t even see you as black.” As if that’s a compliment.

I’m a terrible person who is terrible at games.

And yet my terrible obliviousness allowed me to find the storyline of Markus taking on the role of a civil rights leader to be somewhat less crushingly obvious than it would otherwise have been! I actually pondered whether it might be trying to be slightly subtle!

Perhaps David Cage’s games are better the more clueless you are.

Also, humans ARE pretty terrible! All the villains in this game (and many, as discussed, are cartoonishly villainous) are human. Sympathetic humans are the exception: I kind of like Lt. Anderson, and Carl was decent in a rich-old-guy sort of way, but does that really balance the many examples of humans being monstrous? Using their authority over androids to abuse and harm them?

Why do androids even WANT to “become human”?

Butch:

Why, indeed? But then, do they? I haven’t seen an android yet that wants to “be human.” Connor has no opinion on the matter, Markus wants humans to treat androids as equals, Kara just wants to be left alone. We haven’t seen any android saying “I wanna be just like the humans cuz the humans are so great!”

Shit, the android who I got to confess to murder (my shame!) said that when Ra9 or whatever comes then “We shall be the masters.” That doesn’t sound like “I wanna be just like you.”

Maybe (well, you know this as you’re done, so don’t spoil), Amanda is worried that they WILL become human!

I am reminded of the old cartoon the Jungle Book. Seen it? I shall summarize. In the original cartoon, there is a song sung by the orangutan king or whatever that’s all “I wanna be just like you….” It’s jokey. Cartoony. The refrain “You’ll see it’s true that an ape like me, can learn to be human, too!” is set out as a joke with monkeys wearing hats and shit (note: this was also incredibly racist because half of the “humor” was “jungle people” thinking they could be “human!” what a riot god humanity sucks.)

Anyway…..

They remade the Jungle Book a ways back and made it far darker. They redid the song against the backdrop of the orangutan king learning about fire, and how he can use it as a weapon. So when he sings “I wanna be like you…” and “you’ll see it’s true an ape like me, can learn to be human, too!” it isn’t at ALL funny, it’s a realization that “becoming human” is maybe not so good. (Christopher Walken did it in the remake. Very good movie.)

Sorry, that was quite the diversion.

My point here is, does anyone want to become human? Seems that’s more of a negative than a positive.

Feminina:

Indeed…maybe “become human” is actually more of an exhortation to the human characters/us, than it is an aspiration of the androids.

“Become human”–all that stuff about yourselves that you think is so great, how about you practice that with regard to these other intelligent beings here?

Because you’re right, none of the android characters express any desire to be human, just to be treated like free, reasoning beings. To be TREATED like humans, by implication, but as we know, humans treat other humans terribly all the time for all kinds of reasons, so good luck with that as an argument.

Butch:

I certainly read it that way.

But then, David Cage titles are always a little funky. I never did figure out what we were supposed to be beyond. And why does he feel the need to put the setting in the title, there?

Nothing against the city of Detroit, but it seems a tad much. We don’t play games with titles like “Thedas: Dragon Age: Origins” or “Boston: Fallout 4” or “Big Spooky House: Gone Home.”

So maybe we can just ignore David Cage’s titles.

Feminina:

I would actually kind of be interested in playing a game called “Big Spooky House,” but maybe that’s just me. And you’re right, his titles are odd. Or…well, Heavy Rain was straightforward enough. And I assumed it was “beyond” the boundaries of life and death, right–they were trying to break that barrier? And then two souls, well, that’s clear enough as the game develops. So maybe that’s not that weird.

And maybe that means we SHOULD pay attention to his titles, because they ARE supposed to signify something.

But Detroit, well, it’s set in Detroit, that’s fine. And Detroit makes us think of Motown, and industry, and lately failing economies and crushing poverty…maybe we’re meant to have all that in mind. Technology, mass production of consumer goods! Hovering on the brink of societal collapse! Stations on the underground railroad!

Maybe it works better than we thought.

Butch:

Well, yes and no.

You’re right that it certainly fits the themes to make the game set in Detroit. That it does. But the problem is that, with the exception of a casual mention here and there, there’s nothing that is explicitly Detroit. It’s in Detroit because is SAYS it’s in Detroit. If the game wasn’t called Detroit, we wouldn’t have really noticed it was in Detroit.

Now, sure, we’re not from Detroit, and it’s not as easy to show that something is Detroit than it is to plop the statue of liberty or Big Ben in a game and have people be all “New York!” “London!” I suppose we might have a reader who sees this and is all “Fuck you, man, there were, like twenty-seven things you’d’ve totally recognized if you took the time to learn ANYTHING about this fabulous city I live in,” but I’ve never been to Detroit and, sorry, the only thing that sets this game in Detroit for me is the title.

So yes, good place to set this, themewise, but kind of an awkward way to convey setting.

Feminina:

Well, fair…but as you say, given the lack of dramatic Detroitian landmarks (sorry, people of Detroit, if Detroitian is not the preferred adjective), how else would he get that across other than to say “this is Detroit”? If he wanted to evoke the history of Detroit for themes, how can he do that without tossing the name around in dialogue and maybe slapping it on the title for good measure?

He probably knows that most of his players have never been to Detroit and know almost nothing about it, and therefore will not recognize it even if he includes every Detroit landmark there is (which he could have done, for all we know)–if he wants us to think of it, he’s got to mention it.

Would we argue that he’s better off not evoking Detroit at all, and just setting the game in some vague Anycity, USA? I agree, he certainly could have done that with no real impact on the way the game unfolds. Does it matter if it’s in Detroit? Maybe not, any more than it matters that Godzilla wrecks Tokyo and not Anycity, Japan. And yet Tokyo gives us a certain sense of the setting that we wouldn’t have otherwise, even if no scene in the movie is recognizably related to any actual part of Tokyo.

Maybe that vague background sense is all he’s really going for here as well.

Butch:

Oh I certainly think having the game in Detroit, given the themes, makes a lot more sense than just Anycity, for all the reasons you said. It makes more thematic sense that this game is in Detroit than, say, the last battle of ME3 was in London. That was just so people could be all “Ooo! London!” Detroit, here, has weight.

But it’s a tricky setting because people know Detroit as an idea more than a place. We’ve never been there, but we both see “Detroit” and it’s immediately evocative of GM and factories and Motown music and the rust belt and and and. We immediately associate Detroit with all of that. Most everyone does. And yet, while most everyone has that immediate association, one enth of a percent of people who have that association can even begin to picture the skyline of Detroit.

It has the metaphorical oomph of a New York, an LA, maybe even more than a Boston, but it doesn’t have a Statue of Liberty or a Hollywood sign or even a Fenway Park that makes you go “Ah, yes. Here we are.”

So we’re leaning towards just using it as a bludgeon in the title being OK? Still seems he could have done more.

Feminina:

I think given the various other bludgeons in this game, using Detroit in the title is neither egregious nor ill-fitting…so yeah, I guess I think it’s OK.

I mean, in an otherwise very subtle, understated kind of game, it might seem like “wow, that title shout-out to Detroit was a bit much,” but if we’re rolling along with all the rest of it (which for the most part I did!), I think yeah, do the shout-out, why the hell not?

This is not a game that has the time or patience to add complexity to villains or subtly underplay its messages or use its setting to add gentle shading to the background context.

Butch:

Still, it should have. Why didn’t it have time? It’s not like it had a whole lot of gratuitous, leering nudity. He could have replaced that with something else.

Something that wasn’t Anderson scolding Connor for looking at women. Pot, kettle, Mr. Cage.

Feminina:

Ha! True. It’s especially amusing considering that Connor, a program-following police android, is pretty much the last one to be leering at anything with actual lust. I assumed he was just distracted by all the lights and colors, myself.

Poor David Cage–can’t catch a break.

“Look, you don’t like gratuitous leering nudity, fine, I’ll take it out. I’ll even obliquely scold myself for it! But don’t ask me to replace it with subtle plot development or scene setting. That would violate my truest self.”

Butch:

Yes. Lights. Colors. Very scantily clad lights and colors.

Feminina:

My Connor was too busy being terrible at his job. I swear I talked to every single android that DIDN’T have any memory of Traci.

I did have it in the back of my mind that maybe he didn’t entirely want to find her (them–but he never learned there were two), and this was part of the software instability. He’s programmed to be good at his job, so why does he keep failing?! Maybe it’s intentional! (Yeah, yeah…that’s what I always say whenever I do a bad job at something. I didn’t really WANT it to work! I meant to do that!)

Butch:

Or maybe it was cuz most of the Tracis you had to talk to were women and your Connor was being driven towards the men by some different hand than the hand driving my Connor.

Just saying.

So in the “games in the future we shall likely play to avoid tlou2,” right now, go read reviews of a new game called Disco Elysium.

Right now before I forget.

Feminina:

You had me at “Become a hero or an absolute disaster of a human being”. I like both those options!

Butch:

Sounds amazing. And coming to consoles next year.

Feminina:

On the list it goes!

That ‘Chorus’ one met its fundraising goal, too. So many things to play!

Butch:

So great that there are so many interesting, blogable, interesting games coming out!

That aren’t TLOU2.

(For those who missed our exciting coverage when we played it, we were permanently scarred by The Last of Us.)