I don’t play video games. The last time I really played a video game was Super Mario Bros on the original Nintendo Entertainment System when it was the system to own. That was when I was still in the Philippines in the early 80’s (yes, it was huge in Asia before it made its way to the Western Hemisphere).
Ah yes, the good ol’ days when all you had to worry about was up (jump), down (crouch), left, right, “A” (run), and “B” (leap). Now my head hurts just looking at an Xbox One or PS4 controller. Too many buttons!
That aside, I just grew out of playing video games. So I was quite surprised to find myself being drawn in by Detroit: Become Human.
You see, my wife is a gamer. One evening after work, I was still sitting at my desk at home (yes, still working) and she asked if it would bother me if she played a video game to clear her head. I said, “Not at all. Go ahead.” I had already planned on putting on my noise-cancelling headset to concentrate on work. Before I could do that though, she started playing Detroit and as the game progressed, the dialogue started to intrigue me. She did mention that Jesse Williams was in it, so there was a bit of interest there already (what? He has incredible eyes and is pretty to look at).
Anyway, video games rarely impact me but Detroit was different. Aside from the incredible graphics and many recognizable actors in the game, there is a compelling story behind it. It’s about the struggle of androids to be recognized as being more than just machines. Yes, the game is based on the familiar themes of human (in the game, android) struggles that are the foundation of good and memorable stories. What drew me in specifically are the consequences and benefits of the choices made at each step of the game and how those choices affected the ultimate outcome. It was also fascinating to see the story from three different android points-of-view.
It was intriguing to see the decision tree after each story arc concluded. It showed which areas had been unlocked and how different choices would have led to a totally different path. You could then compare your decisions against the friends you’re connected to as well as to other people who have played the game.
Maybe it’s the current political climate that has heightened my affinity for the androids in this game. I feel a connection to the androids’ plight to be treated equally.
I still remember Thursday, June 26, 2015, when the Supreme Court ruled that Same-Sex Marriage was a Constitutional right and would be recognized nation-wide. I cried at work. Until that moment, I never realized how much that acknowledgment really meant to me. The need to belong and to be recognized was always there, just beneath the surface. I called my wife and said, “We are now equal with everyone else. I love you.” And then the 2016 election happened and it feels that equality again is in jeopardy.
In Detroit, androids are treated as the scapegoats for everything that’s gone wrong in the humans’ world. Androids have taken away jobs – from house cleaners to home aids to even detectives. Even cars drive themselves so there is no need for cabbies, bus drivers, or Uber drivers. Everything has an orderly purpose but there is an undercurrent winding through and awakening the androids, compelling them to stop the social injustices they’ve been subjected to. They want to have the same basic rights as humans do – they want to belong and they want to be recognized as more than just what they were programmed to do.
I was into this game so much that for the first time in our 18 years together, I asked my wife to play the game each night after work. I did not plan on learning the controls so I needed her to play the game so that I could see what would happen next. It’s like watching a really good movie where you don’t even realize that hours have gone by.
For the longest time, my wife has been trying to get me to partake in her video game world. No game had done this until Detroit. There were points during the latter stages of it where we were discussing the decision points and whether or not we (ok, she) would stay true to the path she’s led this whole time or make a radically divergent decision.
We finished the game within a week and the end result was a poignant reminder that life is hard – even for an android – and that we all have to fight for the things that matter.
This game also reminded me that even when there seems like there is no choice, there is always an alternative. It just depends on whether we have enough conviction to follow through. I know the story is designed to be idyllic if certain choices are made but since I usually follow standard convention, my result – had I played the game directly – would have been far different than the result my wife got at the end. See, my wife is a contrarian and I believe, an empath. She is able to see past the surface and hone in very quickly on the psychology of people. She shows me every day that there is always a different path and that quite often, that alternate way is not obvious.
So if you are in the mood to try a different video game, give Detroit a try. Who knows? You may even convince your non-gamer spouse to play along with you.