Tuesday, 5 December 2017

My opinion on The Mail on Line complaining about child abuse in the game Detroit.

The Mail Online has recently republished a story from the Mail on Sunday newspaper that takes aim at Detroit: Beyond Human, the upcoming game from Quantic Dream helmed by David Cage. I read the article and then I made sure to watch the games trailer and to watch as many interviews and pieces on it as I could because I wanted to comment on the game and the news story.

Unfortunatly the media can seldom look at a video game without going into controversy mode. The paper claimed that ''Abusers will get off on this stuff''' that the game was ''repulsive'' because it shows a girl aged 10 being beaten to death by her father. The founder of ChildLine Esther Rantzen has also urged the publisher to either remove the scene or withdraw the game and as both a gamer and a former volunter for two childrens charitys which unfortunatly no longer exist I think she is completly wrong and I will now try to explain why.


Basically as far as I believe the Mail Online's article is  presenting Detroit the game as something that is using child abuse for the purposes of amusement. To be honest I think its an old fashioned idea the concept that all games are is amusment. Video Gaming is one of the most popular forms of media at present and  before you judge it too harshly for featuring something you need to first stop and ask if you would judge another form of media the same way if it used the same subject matter and then you have to try to ask what kind of feelings is it trying to evoke, what kind of message is it trying to get across. I also think you have to ask if the event is avoidable in the game, are you taking part in the abuse, are you trying to stop it or are you an observer.

Ok so lets handle the easiest answer first and thats the fact that this abuse scenario is also unlikely to occur in most playthroughs, because it is the outcome of the player's complete inaction and is therfore avoidable. You get to see the way things are headed and can cut this off at the pass so to speak

Ok I think I need to stop and say that Detroit's trailer, first shown at the Playstation Experience at Paris Games Week, was proberbly made knowing it would achieve some backlash, its even possible that they are eating up any controversy generated as lets face it controvery sells, if people are talking about something then its gaining it attention.

Ok continuing on the player is not participating in the domestic violence scene but is in fact an observer, an android named Kara. I think its important to note your note the abuser, this game is not presenting the abuse as titilation, it is holding the scene up like a mirror that is reflecting something horrid and uncomfortable that actually happens in real life.

So the scene in question features a young girl and her abusive father. The fartheris in  a rage and at one point gets out his belt to beat the girl. Kara a home-help android observes this. One of Detroit's themes is self-determination, the ability to make choices, and this scene centres around whether the player in the role of Kara decides to break her programming and try to help the girl. The trailer goes to great lengths to show the amount of possible intervention points, and the way the story can branch off  including the above route where things go badly wrong as well as several other possible outcomes. The Paper and those who it has interviewed seem to be under the impression that the players character is the one commiting the violence. Now while I am not saying that you cant have an oppinion unless you have played the game (Obviously I wouldnt say that as I am talking about it and I havent played it) I do think its unfair to judge the game when you clearly dont really know enough about it, its just not fair to do and I am sure the paper nor these individuals would want me making a snap judgment about them without a full set of facts and a large degree of fact checking and recchecking and I think thats the kind of curtosy they should have extended to this game and its developers and publisher.  I am not judging the game yet, I am merly talking about it and about if certain areas should be taboo for games or for any form of media or not.

OK so I want to deal with what a few people have said about this game. I will start with the Conservative MP Damian Collins, Chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, who said the following: ''It is completely wrong for domestic violence to be part of a video game regardless of what the motivation is. Domestic violence is not a game and this simply trivialises it. I worry that people who play this who themselves have suffered abuse will use this game to shape the way in which they deal with abusers. It’s dangerous to plant the seed in people’s minds that the way to deal with abusers is to use violence against them. It’s counter-productive and could put them in even more danger'. Ok so basically he says its wrong to have domestic violence in a game fullstop, and then worries that abusers might get attacked as a result of this game. I have a two fold answer to this. One, many forms of Media have dealt with difficult and distastful aspects of human life on multiple occasions, this is not something new at all. Games are a relativly new medium compared to books or even films and they originally started as something very basic, as a toy for children and those who liked to experiance new and diffrent forms of entertainment, but they are progressing and as they progress much like the other forms of media they will start expanding into new areas. Least we forget that Lee Harpers To Kill a MockingBird was once considerd incredably controversial for its tackling of racial injustice, for the fact it held a light up to the fact that we as people could judge people for the colour of there skin, that we could be taken in by a mob mentality. Some of To Kill A Mocking Bird feels kind of akward to read for many people but it is an absolute classic and it is a classic because it holds this mirror up which reflects some of the worse mankind has to offer. I would argue that this is exactly what this game appears to be doing, it is showing the player child abuse, confronting him or her with it and asking them how they feel about it, but more than this it is asking them do they really want to stand there and watch this or do they want to or even need to get involved? It is questions like these that need asking in order for society to change, for it to move forward and for us to tackle some of the darker issues. A whole wide range of people play games now, some of who would not dream of picking up a book, so why is it wrong to reach out to them and put these ideas in front of them, to confront them with them?

The journalist and presenter Esther Rantzen offered her perspective ''But I’ve never heard of little girls being beaten with a belt as part of a game. That, in my view, is not just savage, it’s seriously damaging. Who would play such a game for fun? People who are impervious to the suffering of children.We never want anyone to believe that beating a child to death with a belt is the stuff of entertainment. It should never be trivialised or turned into a game. I call upon Sony Interactive Entertainment to think again and withdraw this game, or at least remove this scene where a virtual child is put in life-threatening danger. If you don’t, real children may suffer.''

Again, Rantzen is mistakenly under the impression that the player is an active participant in the domestic abuse. Clearly she doesn't know much about Detroit beyond what the journalists interviewing her have told her and you need to remember they will have told her only what they know and more than that they will have told her what they want in the way they want in order to try to get some quoatable lines from her which will allow them to write the kind of report they want to write. Rantzen's suggestion that anyone interested in this game is "impervious to the suffering of children" isjust plainly wrong. Rantzen's position basically seems to be that child abuse should be a taboo topic for the most important entertainment medium of our age Video Games. Does she not realise that a lot of people simply want to deny that child abuse happens and that this game could not only confront them with it but it could do so in a way where they dont feel they are being preached at and it could actually make them stop and think about the situation. If she had shown a little more thought and looked into this in more detail I would like to hope she would have a morre balance opinion.

So here we have a game tackling a hot button topic, something which I think needs raising, needs debating, that we should no longer be silent about and people are trying to silence it. The game is not trying to turn a profit through abuse it is trying to produce a piece of entertainment which will make money, bring people enjoyment and hopefully make people stop and think. What is the newspaper trying to do? In my humble opinion it is grabbing hold of half truths and running with them to produce a story which feeds into a set idea, they are feeding a largly media created panic in order to sell papers so who is the real one exploiting abuse here?

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