“Judge me by my work”. The unfortunate words of David Cage when the allegations of rather abhorrent workplace culture over at Quantic Dream came to light a couple of months back. Having played all of Quantic Dream’s work (with the exception of their first title, Omikron) I feel I’m in a near perfect position to judge him by his work.
First off let me say I actually enjoy some of Quantic Dream’s output. I can accept the problems they have, and boy do they have problems, but even when the story goes off the rails I’m still curious enough to continue. None went off the rails in such spectacular fashion as Fahrenheit, or Indigo Prophecy as it was known in the States.
A murder mystery that initially seems cultish in nature soon turns into The Matrix as you’re flying through the skies doing battle against the Internet. You also die at one point and become some sort of living zombie. It’s almost like David Cage had two separate stories and decided to combine them into one mishmash of insanity.
It’s safe to say, David Cage is not a master storyteller. He is seemingly stuck in this need to make games into Hollywood movies, failing to see that games are a different beast. It’s almost like he’s embarrassed to be stuck in the games industry – just watching the performances and plot unfold it’s clear the only Hollywood directing job he would get would be as director of Sharknado 7.
But again, let me reiterate, I get something of a guilty pleasure from Fahrenheit, and to a lesser extent, Heavy Rain. It’s only when you take his trilogy of Fahrenheit, Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls that you start to analyse a theme running through all of his games. And it made me feel a little icky.
Let’s start with the big one, and it’s a bit of a doubleheader: shower scenes and women in their underwear. This is most prominent in that Heavy Rain scene with one of the protagonists, Madison. A scene that has no reason to exist, because, for those who haven’t played it, it’s all a dream! They just needed an action sequence to get people invested and this is what they came up with.
Half-naked women are a firm favourite of Mr Cage, with one of the hidden videos in Fahrenheit seeing the female protagonist from that game (also in her underwear) dancing with a virtual representation of David Cage himself. Yes, really, the footage is below if you don’t believe me.
Fahrenheit comes with its own set of themes that seem sort of problematic. I could talk about the funk music that plays under pretty much every scene with Tyler (the African American cop), or the trying-hard-to-be-sexy-but-really-is-not dance Tyler’s girlfriend does. There’s also the bit where Lucas dies, comes back to life as a living corpse and has sex with the lady cop. It’s a mishmash of scenes with no coherent structure, aimed to titillate in places and none of it works. Like playing through a choose your own adventure adaptation of Batman & Robin or another, similarly infamous film.
Out of all of these games so far though, it’s Beyond: Two Souls that I really struggled to get through. With a story structure that sees the plot jump around before supposedly all coming together, it’s Cage’s most ambitious project yet and managed to attract Hollywood stars Willem Dafoe and Ellen Page. Both look bemused during interviews, wondering why they are here. I’m sure nobody regrets working on a Quantic Dream game more than Ellen Page who after the game was released had nude pictures released from the game. There is a shower scene (the David Cage calling card) but the camera angles are always positioned away so you never see anything too revealing. So why they would need a fully modelled, nude character of Ellen Page in this game is beyond me.
Fast forward to 2018 and we’re on the eve of Quantic Dream’s latest game, Detroit: Become Human. A game that follows rebel androids who wish to free themselves from servitude, so not the most original of stories. The game made headlines last year after it portrayed a scene showing child abuse. Yep, David Cage is set to tackle one of the harshest of subject matters.
I’ve listed a number of problems with the man’s storytelling over the years, so you let me know if you think he has the writing chops to portray it any way other than as a quick shock factor.
Will I play Detroit? Maybe not. David Cage as a writer who is way out of his depth and loves his racist caricatures and half-naked girls is one thing. It’s another when he creates a horrible working environment for anyone who isn’t a straight white male, such are the allegations against the studio.
“Judge me by my work” he said, I have, and it’s a little damning.