Detroit: or where david cage can shove it

So the maker of such mediocre trash heaps as Heavy Rain and Indigo Prophesy is making a new game. It’s called Detroit. And who would you guess be the protagonist of a game called Detroit?

Skinny blonde white girl.

Oh, and it gets better. Not just a skinny blonde white girl in detroit. But a skinny blonde white girl robot! A robot looking to become human and not just a slave to the machine.

I hate the robot wanting to have human rights story line almost as much as I hate the a.i. come to sentience and killing all of humanity story line. Both are so often lazy white people writing. We live in a world where black people have been fighting and dying for about five centuries to be seen as human beings. Where white people persist in constant campaigns of genocide on whoever doesn’t fit into their view of how the world works.

So the story of robots who look like white people complaining about ill treatment as robots doesn’t work for me in the same way that stories of people with magic powers who turn into demons being persecuted doesn’t work for me and in the same way that mutants who can shoot laser beams or literally can’t be killed being stand ins for oppressed people doesn’t work for me.

So here we go. David cage chose to make this story set in detroit for a reason. Most likely to evoke pleasant feelings of a hard working midwestern city that’s been in decline. But, the reasons for that decline will have nothing to do with this game, and the racial politics that went into setting up detroit as one of the foremost manufacturing city in America also won’t be addressed. He chose a white girl so that ‘gamers’ would be able to identify with the non human. Since we already don’t buy into black people as humans, trying to identify with a black non human would certainly be impossible.

It’s lazy and nestles right in the heart of video games as a medium’s problem with race. All the choices made by david cage with this game are political choices. He wants to tell a story that makes people feel emotion. So every choice is done in service in that. When he chooses to tell the robot story and chooses to tell it with a skinny white girl he’s telling you the political landscape he’s coming form.

A world where citizens not far from detroit are right now dealing with their government actively trying to poison them doesn’t exist to him. A world where the US government is actively making laws to persecute some of its citizens and keep life as unfair as possible doesn’t exist to him. In order for us to get to the world of the homogenized humanity that we need in order to tell a clean ‘robots are human too’ story none of the complexities of current human existence can exist. This imaginary future wants to draw on actual human history, but a fake version of it. Because any future that follows our current reality is a future of marginalized people steadily fighting for justice and equality, and replacing all of that with a skinny blonde white girl robot is an attempt to take all real life struggle out of his art.

It’s disappointing already, and it’s going to be even more disappointing when people speak on the emotional impact of the game while ignoring real world context. Because people would rather jump into the fantasy of sad white robots wanting to be human than deal with the fantasy of real life black humans who would like to no longer be the victim of over 400 years of globally sanctioned violence.