This month's parent's guide is about the 18 rated, Detroit Become Human.
Like Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls before it this is the next of a new breed of game that combines cinematic presentation and storytelling with players choosing their own narrative path with many possible endings. It's popular because choices really count as players address mature themes like love, commitment, abandonment and even abuse.
Available for PlayStation 4, Detroit Become Human is set in the near-future metropolis of Detroit – a city rejuvenated by technologically advanced androids. Players face a brave new world threatening to turn to chaos as you take on the role of Kara, a female android trying to find her own place in a turbulent social landscape.
Because of this, there have been worrying newspaper headlines about the use of the child abuse theme in an entertainment product.
However, as I wrote for a recent newspaper, this material can be appropriate for interactive experiences designed for adults if handled maturely. Andy Phippen, Professor of Children and Technology at Plymouth University said, “As we have seen from key story lines in soaps like East Enders, bringing these issues into the public consciousness, using dramatic vehicles, there is increased likelihood that those who have suffered from abuse will speak up."Ratings
In the UK, it is rated PEGI 18 which restricts availability to adults only because of depictions of violence to vulnerable/defenceless human-like characters, depictions of strong violence to human-like characters, and use of sexual expletives.
The VSC extend the PEGI details by stating, "one of the sections of the game takes place in a household with an abusive father and his young daughter. Throughout your time in the household you witness the father being verbally abusive to his daughter. The player is then given the instruction to protect her, and the player can go about this objective in numerous ways such as confronting the father, getting a gun and threatening him, or running to the girl and escaping with her."
They also highlight, "another scene at the beginning of the game where a young girl is being held hostage on the edge of a skyscraper with a gun held to her head... When an android commits suicide by repeatedly slamming his face into a table until it begins to split open, he then grabs a handgun and shoots himself through the head. A large open bloody wound is left where the bullet exited his head. This game also contains frequent use of sexual expletives, the word “fuck” and its derivatives are found throughout."Mature Themes
For players of an appropriate maturity Detroit: Become Human offers an interesting and unusual approach to narrative. Not only can choices have a long lasting impact on the story -- including the death of lead characters -- but you can trace the steps that lead you to your particular ending.
Returning to the issue of these serious themes being used in a video game, we are able to consider how well they have been addressed. Does the game provide a fresh perspective on this dark aspect of human life? What motivates these kinds of behaviours? Is there a genuine emotional quality to the game's characters and story, or is it just mechanical like the androids within it? Does it real appropriately with these topics without trivialising or promoting simplistic or binary solutions?
I look forward to hearing what you made of the game in the comments.Alternatives
For younger players there are many good alternatives to Detroit: Become Human. These are narrative games where player's choice impacts the outcome:
Lifeline (PEGI 3+)
Bury Me My Love (PEGI 7+)
Minecraft Story Mode (PEGI 12+)
Forgotten Anne (PEGI 12+)
King's Quests (PEGI 12+)
Life Is Strange (PEGI 16+)