DAVID CAGE - GENIUS AUTEUR OR INSUFFERABLY PRETENTIOUS QUACK?

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...or somewhere in between, maybe? I mean, for the most part this is a thread body = thread subject situation but I'll give some background.

David Cage is a silly Canadian French man who owns a game studio called Quantic Dream. Somehow the first game he ever worked on back in 1999, Omikron: The Nomad Soul, he got to work with David Bowie on, which doesn't seem fair. Since then he's been making very narrative heavy games with what seems like as little gameplay as possible (and what gameplay there is basically amounts to QTEs) and a really intense focus on realistic facial animation and motion capture, along with the occasional use of real actors--the former of these he seems to feel quite strongly is crucial for forming an emotional connection with the characters which is like...really, really important to him.

He's made some of broad categorical statements about videogames that kind of lead one to believe he hasn't actually played many, like, maybe just a few really popular ones and his own? At the British Academy Awards...for games...which is a thing I guess?... he said the following:

"games always explore the same things. They're about being powerful, being the good guys against the bad guys – that's a very tiny part of what can be done."

Which kind of makes me want to grab him and shake him and be like DUDE, DO YOU EVEN PLAY VIDEOGAMES? Like seriously, even pick like one of the mainstreamiest games ever GTA V and play through the entire story. It sure as shit has nothing to do with being the good guys and it explores a lot of emotions beyond power fantasy, too. It's not about being powerful, in the end it's about (spoilers for a 6+ year old game?) putting down your friend like a rabid dog because well he's a rabid dog that needs to die.

ANYWAY back to Mr. Cage.

Indigo Prophecy was a pretty cool game with a story, setting, and characters that actually interested me, but I gave up about a third of the way through because of the damned QTEs.

Heavy Rain is the only David Cage game I've actually finished. Critics liked it. It's probably the best thing he's ever made. Some of the voice acting is of questionable quality, but it's a tight little suspense story and has a genuinely surprising twist at the end that actually threw me for a loop.

Some Shamylanation, if you will. I've tried to replay it not once but twice now and given up very quickly both times. It's lacking in replay value but that's hardly a surprise. It's a murder mystery and once you know who the killer is, yeah, murder mysteries lose a lot of their appeal don't they?

Beyond: Two Souls has Ellen Page and Willem DaFoe in it. Critics didn't like it. I've played a couple hours of it. It basically came for free with Detroit: Become Human in the Quantic Dream collection. I intend to play it some more. It's weird to me that Ellen Page's invisible friend is named Aidan like as though that's an appropriately mysterious name for an unseen supernatural force but like, I have a friend named Aidan...anyway that's just me.

Detroit: Become Human is an aggressively worded demand for the American city of Detroit, Michigan to somehow become a human being. I don't know how David Cage expects the city to do that, but clearly he does. (But seriously, I've just dipped a toe into it. In the couple hours I did spend playing it I noticed that I died rather a lot (it's not a game where you get a game over when you die, David Cage doesn't believe in game overs, you just permanently get that character killed and then move on to the next character I guess), often in ways that seemed arbitrary, unfair, and only questionably related to my decisions. And sometimes because of failing QTEs. Fucking QTEs. Also Jesus Christ PARENTHESES WITHIN PARENTHESES I am a monster.)

I think David Cage might secretly be a Quick Time Event disguised as a man. What do you think?
Using GTA as an example of "not a power fantasy" is a really weird choice I have to admit. GTA games are like... the definition of gaming's power fantasy...

I have never played a single David Cage game. They always seem to show up on consoles that I don't own and then I hear a bunch of discussion about the games on the side that make me not all that interested in playing them. Even though their basic adventure gameiness should appeal to me. (Telltale games are basically David Cage games aren't they?)

The problem I hear is that the games aren't reactive enough. They sell the idea of reactiveness but they don't follow through on it. That's just what I hear.


Also for the longest time I confused David Cage with David Perry. I remember reading some article about David Perry during the development of Enter the Matrix. And then later when I read about Fahrenheit or Heavy Rain I thought "man, the dude who made Enter the Matrix and Earthworm Jim certainly took a turn."
Marrend
Guardian of the Description Thread
20932
I don't know if I can answer the question posed by the thread. Like, I've only played Indigo Prophecy a few times, and got a good distance into Heavy Rain before the mystery was spoiled. Having the mystery of Heavy Rain spoiled absolutely put a hamper on my willingness to finish. I can totally understand not wanting to replay it. I kinda enjoyed the final fight in Indigo Prophecy, but, in general, the story got super-wacky after...


...the protagonist died, and was resurrected by... some means? Sorry, I forget the exact circumstances.


...a certain point. After that, the game generally sorta felt like they realized that the release date was coming soon, and needed to push the thing out yesterday.

Saying that, I haven't played a Quadratic Dream game since Heavy Rain.
His games are fun to watch through a Lets Play with your favorite internet personalities (Especially Omikron, that game is a fever dream). Though reading some of his interviews he doesn't really seem articulate enough to handle of lot of the issues brought up in his games.

Q: Domestic abuse and child abuse is quite extreme as these things go.

David Cage: Let me ask you this question. Would you ask this question to a film director, or to a writer? Would you?

Q: Yes.

David Cage: You would ask the same question?

Q: Yes. I'd ask the same question. Why is it interesting to you? Why did you want to explore domestic abuse and child abuse?

Whenever David Cage is challenged he goes into super defensive mode and is unable to stand up for his choices or isn't able to explain it properly. The issue is he probably didn't put a whole lot of thought into things (or good thoughts) but doesn't want to admit "yeah i just threw that shit in there for shock value" a lot of the messaging boil down to "bro we live in a society bro" in a really heavy handed fashion. I also don't think he's that well read in existing speculative fiction. Not to mention his lack of knowledge of how humans actually behave and talk and more interested in posing questions than developing any characters or coherent plot. Which is fine I guess if there's an audience for that. Though I'd get a lot more out of watching the occasional Outer Limits episode.

The industry is just very lenient towards people who got in very early and manage to persuade an investor early on, it does not reward thought provoking work scalability-wise (shocking I know). But like the The Emperor's New Clothes it is interesting to observe the nature of how the industry treats people like this. David Cage is an "auteur" in the sense that's what auteurs will ever be known to be. Even Kojima, SWERY and Suda51 fall prey to pretension and batshit ideas. On the other hand I'd prefer that video games never get a Stanley Kubrick or David Lynch equivalent.

Really don't mind the "anti-gameplay" nature of his games. It's unique in that his games are the only QTE galleries to get such a high budget. So I think there's some expansion of the medium in that regard. Especially back in the day: could you really say it was common to get a PS3 boxed game with a section where all you do is shower yourself and walk around your house in AAA budget? That's something I guess.
Sooz
They told me I was mad when I said I was going to create a spidertable. Who’s laughing now!!!
5354
My impression of David Cage is that he may have an interesting general idea of "what if we explored other kinds of stories through gameplay?" but he's so incredibly emotionally shallow, inept, and disrespectful of the medium that he is only capable of making the video game equivalent of "the Room."

He talks a lot of hype, which is the main reason he's known for anything, but doesn't offer anything of substance. There's definitely better people to go to for something beyond the usual genre-y video game stories and gameplay. Hell, you can probably find better examples of revolutionary approaches to video games just among the games here that have no ratings.

In conclusion,

e: that was supposed to auto imbed. Oh well.
Red_Nova
The all around prick
9196
"I've always felt that 'game over' is a state of failure more for the game designer than from the player." David Cage on story-driven games.

Assuming he still believes this (this statement was made before Beyond: Two Souls was released and I haven't kept up with his antics post-Detroit), then his idea of what games should be is fundamentally different than most of us.

My impression of Cage has always been one of a movie director looking to add more interactivity to his movies. Distinguishing a game with a deep and involved story and a movie with interactive elements from each other is important because it puts a lot of Cage's design choices into perspective. While both of these definitions fall under the broad umbrella of a "video game," Cage is probably only referring to the latter classification whenever he talks about games. Because of that, it's kinda difficult for me to put the man on blast for his design decisions and philosophies regarding interactive storytelling. I am clearly not the target audience, so I consider his QTE-heavy approach to games harmless at worst.

Besides, there are other aspects to his games that are actually harmful to story-driven games that need to be criticized, such as his inability to write a decent third act, his degrading treatment of women characters, and central themes so ham-fisted that it makes Sonic Says look subtle by comparison.

Admittedly, this seems to have been toned down in Detroit, and it makes me wonder whether or not he can actually pull off something great if he had more people keeping his feet glued to the ground. However, one toned down game isn't enough to convince me that he's learned his lesson quite yet.

author=Red_Nova
"I've always felt that 'game over' is a state of failure more for the game designer than from the player." David Cage on story-driven games.

Assuming he still believes this (this statement was made before Beyond: Two Souls was released and I haven't kept up with his antics post-Detroit), then his idea of what games should be is fundamentally different than most of us.

My impression of Cage has always been one of a movie director looking to add more interactivity to his movies. Distinguishing a game with a deep and involved story and a movie with interactive elements from each other is important because it puts a lot of Cage's design choices into perspective. While both of these definitions fall under the broad umbrella of a "video game," Cage is probably only referring to the former classification whenever he talks about games. Because of that, it's kinda difficult for me to put the man on blast for his design decisions and philosophies regarding interactive storytelling. I am clearly not the target audience, so I consider his QTE-heavy approach to games harmless at worst.

Besides, there are other aspects to his games that are actually harmful to story-driven games that need to be criticized, such as his inability to write a decent third act, his degrading treatment of women characters, and central themes so ham-fisted that it makes Sonic Says look subtle by comparison.

Admittedly, this seems to have been toned down in Detroit, and it makes me wonder whether or not he can actually pull off something great if he had more people keeping his feet glued to the ground. However, one toned down game isn't enough to convince me that he's learned his lesson quite yet.


This. And Sooz too.
I haven't had anyone who gives a shit about his games in my circles speak of him as a genius in any shape, way or form. I know my brother loved Heavy Rain and such, but he didn't deem them worthy of recommending them, either. I don't mind interactive movies, I quite like all sorts of stories, but I see no reason to be interested in his stuff, and all I read or see about him makes me want to not touch it. That's about it, really.

Cool for those who enjoy it. Genius? Nah.
Also reading is fun. I love me my light novels and visual novels.. if they are done well haha. I need no graphic details or fidelity to be enjoying a game, a story, or getting invested into it. Nor voice acting. Story heavy games can get worse actually because voice acting slows down the pace so much (hi Devil Survivor Overclocked, you can turn it off, thank god)
So the idea that focusing on that is somehow making things great is like.. nah. Conclusion: It's more like a movie than a game, except it isn't a movie. Doesn't look as good as a movie, and I don't like most movies to begin with. It's prolly okay fun, if not good fun. I see no reason for it not to exist. Visual novels feel and pace differently from novels as well due to the game format, and that makes for a slightly different experience, which is cool and prolly what is happening here.

It's okay. What's genius about okay? I feel bored out of my mind just considering this.
Sooz
They told me I was mad when I said I was going to create a spidertable. Who’s laughing now!!!
5354
author=Kylaila
Conclusion: It's more like a movie than a game, except it isn't a movie. Doesn't look as good as a movie, and I don't like most movies to begin with.

Way too many devs focus SO HARD on trying to copy movies (or novels) rather than exploring what's unique about video games. You'll always end up with a mediocre half-version of both things doing that.
pianotm
The TM is for Totally Magical.
29589
Sooz
Kylaila
Conclusion: It's more like a movie than a game, except it isn't a movie. Doesn't look as good as a movie, and I don't like most movies to begin with.
Way too many devs focus SO HARD on trying to copy movies (or novels) rather than exploring what's unique about video games. You'll always end up with a mediocre half-version of both things doing that.


Yeah, an occasional game like that is fine, but to make that the norm is something that I do not want to see happen in video games. It's great to see the occasional Heavy Rain or Detroit: Be Human, but that can't be a regular thing. Video games are not movies. They're video games, and if you want to make them something they're not, then maybe video games aren't what you want to make.
Okay so I've never played a David Cage game but I have a feeling that they aren't trying to be movies because they are all about the interactivity.

I think I heard some story that one of his games has this long sequence where you are brushing your teeth and eating breakfast and has to press a button each spoonful or each brushstroke or something. (Something that is there to evoke a distinctly different feel than what you'd get from a movie.)

The pitch to Cage games have always been intriguing to me, so it's always sad when it seems they don't live up to them. The pitch I heard for Fahrenheit was the bit where you'd play as two characters with two completely different motivations. So the player could hide a body and then also play as the person looking for the body (and having hidden it obviously knowing where it was). So it was player choice about what would happen, where to play into the narrative they wanted to create, play with situations and characters.

That stuff is great stuff. You create a story with branching narratives, optional bits. A true RPG experience basically.

The problem is I've heard that in the end all the games railroad you into a single path anyway. (which on one hand is understandable, but if a game is sold on player choice or branching narratives it'd be nice if it actually had some of that)


So yeah I think the concepts put forth by Cage are interesting and some of them are explored in other games. And things like "narrative games shouldn't really have game overs" I feel shouldn't be that controversial. Adventure games stopped having game overs because game overs in those games (that were incredibly story-based) were really stupid.
Using GTA as an example of "not a power fantasy" is a really weird choice I have to admit. GTA games are like... the definition of gaming's power fantasy...

Shinan, have you played GTA V? You play as a black youth who is trapped in a ghetto with crime as his only way out, a washed up bankrobber with a terrible loveless marriage that's actively falling apart and spoiled rotten children that don't love him, and a polymorphously perverted sexual deviant methhead sociopath that I can't imagine many people can relate to, let alone like. Oh, and your introduction to that third character, Trevor? It's watching helplessly as he brutally murders one of the protagonists from the previous game, a once likable and noble biker dude now turned into a wasted wreck from the crystal.

What about that is empowering to you? Nothing about that feels particularly empowering to me. Yes at any point in the mid-late game you can just walk out into the street start shooting shit up with an assault rifle, a rocket launcher, whatever, but I seem to recall these rampages usually ending with my being shot down in the streets like a dog by agents of the police-military-industrial complex. Sure, the heists are way fun and you can pull off some pretty amazing heists in the game (sometimes you even get to actually keep the money!), but if anything, well, I'd call that perhaps a competence fantasy. It's more about making a clever plan and executing it correctly, like the A-Team. When I think power fantasy, I think Superman, not the A-Team.

The Just Cause franchise is perhaps the purest power fantasy that can be found in games. It's gotta be up there.

Also for the longest time I confused David Cage with David Perry. I remember reading some article about David Perry during the development of Enter the Matrix. And then later when I read about Fahrenheit or Heavy Rain I thought "man, the dude who made Enter the Matrix and Earthworm Jim certainly took a turn."

That's pretty damn funny actually.

His games are fun to watch through a Lets Play with your favorite internet personalities (Especially Omikron, that game is a fever dream).

I'm showing my age here, but I actually owned Omikron for PC back when it was new. It has a hell of a lot more gameplay than your average David Cage game. Also it's weird as fuck. On every level.

author=Darken
On the other hand I'd prefer that video games never get a Stanley Kubrick or David Lynch equivalent.

Kubrick and Lynch are very different filmmakers.

Kubrick was never exactly comfortable being mainstream, and prized his artistic ambitions as a filmmaker over making entertainment for the masses, but in spite of that, he made a wide range of films across a wide range of genres, including many that were huge blowup mainstream successes that reach (The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, A Clockwork Orange).

I was about to say that Shigeru Miyamoto already is the Stanley Kubrick of videogames, but considering the relative age of the medium, it would probably be more accurate to crown Miyamoto as the John Ford of videogames.

David Lynch is an elemental force of weirdness that does not give a fuck, and consistently produces weird experimental shit that is incredibly hard to get into but he gives zero fucks he gives NONE of the fucks. Come to think of it, David Lynch is the fucking Suda51 of film. Kojima has more restraint. (Don't get me wrong, I like David Lynch, but his work is not what anyone would ever call accessible to mainstream audiences.)

author=sooz
My impression of David Cage is that he may have an interesting general idea of "what if we explored other kinds of stories through gameplay?" but he's so incredibly emotionally shallow, inept, and disrespectful of the medium that he is only capable of making the video game equivalent of "the Room."

Wow, that is super duper harsh. Not that I feel any need to defend David fucking Cage just like...damn. Serious burn.

While he has occasionally said some things I agree with, and the escapist used to have some clever content, overall Jim Sterling is a bad fucking joke of a human being. Doesn't mean he's wrong in this video.

author=sooz
Hell, you can probably find better examples of revolutionary approaches to video games just among the games here that have no ratings.

Oh, I don't doubt it, and I probably wouldn't even put the qualifier "just" in that statement. For the most part, for all of the awful RTP "my first and last gams" that have been made with RPGMaker, RMN is still above anything else an enormous treasure trove of unappreciated, underappreciated, or unnoticed games. I am sure there are many amazing games even among the unrated ones.

Anyway, yeah, I think one of the more confounding things about Cage is this weird obsession he has with pixel counts or polygon counts or whatever, seeing them as being the ultimate be-all end-all of whether or not players can empathize with characters (it obviously isn't, I have been empathizing with characters since at least the 16 bit era). Considering his reputation as "the story guy", this myopic focus on technology is really weird. Speaking as a writer, he could probably improve the degree to which players engage with his characters more by getting better at writing than a strategy of "MOAR POLYGONS! MOAR PIXELS!".

It's baffling. Is he an idiot? I honestly don't know.

author=RedNova
My impression of Cage has always been one of a movie director looking to add more interactivity to his movies. Distinguishing a game with a deep and involved story and a movie with interactive elements from each other is important because it puts a lot of Cage's design choices into perspective. While both of these definitions fall under the broad umbrella of a "video game," Cage is probably only referring to the latter classification whenever he talks about games. Because of that, it's kinda difficult for me to put the man on blast for his design decisions and philosophies regarding interactive storytelling.

I'm surprised I didn't write this in the OP, but yeah, I definitely get a very strong "frustrated filmmaker" vibe from him. Even more than Kojima.

author=Shinan
The problem is I've heard that in the end all the games railroad you into a single path anyway.

I wouldn't know, I have never managed to play one twice.

author=RedNova
Besides, there are other aspects to his games that are actually harmful to story-driven games that need to be criticized, such as his inability to write a decent third act, his degrading treatment of women characters, and central themes so ham-fisted that it makes Sonic Says look subtle by comparison.

author=Kylaila
So the idea that focusing on that is somehow making things great is like.. nah. Conclusion: It's more like a movie than a game, except it isn't a movie. Doesn't look as good as a movie, and I don't like most movies to begin with.

I love movies. I'm a huge film buff. Which is why in general I agree with Red Nova. Regardless of what their failings of gameplay may be, his interactive films can be pretty crappy films.

I haven't noticed any degrading treatment of women in his games. Care to elaborate?
Possibly as a testament to how little this guy matters (or at least to how out of the loop I am), I have never even heard of the guy.
author=StormCrow
Using GTA as an example of "not a power fantasy" is a really weird choice I have to admit. GTA games are like... the definition of gaming's power fantasy...
Shinan, have you played GTA V? You play as a black youth who is trapped in a ghetto with crime as his only way out, a washed up bankrobber with a terrible loveless marriage that's actively falling apart and spoiled rotten children that don't love him, and a polymorphously perverted sexual deviant methhead sociopath that I can't imagine many people can relate to, let alone like. Oh, and your introduction to that third character, Trevor? It's watching helplessly as he brutally murders one of the protagonists from the previous game, a once likable and noble biker dude now turned into a wasted wreck from the crystal.

What about that is empowering to you? Nothing about that feels particularly empowering to me. Yes at any point in the mid-late game you can just walk out into the street start shooting shit up with an assault rifle, a rocket launcher, whatever, but I seem to recall these rampages usually ending with my being shot down in the streets like a dog by agents of the police-military-industrial complex. Sure, the heists are way fun and you can pull off some pretty amazing heists in the game (sometimes you even get to actually keep the money!), but if anything, well, I'd call that perhaps a competence fantasy. It's more about making a clever plan and executing it correctly, like the A-Team. When I think power fantasy, I think Superman, not the A-Team.

The Just Cause franchise is perhaps the purest power fantasy that can be found in games. It's gotta be up there.

You fall into the trap of buying what the game is telling you rather than what the game is actually selling. This is similar to saying Ghost Recon: Wildlands isn't an imperialist power fantasy because the characters occasionally banter about how terrible it is and "maybe we're the baddies?" or how Battlefield games aren't all about glorifying war because there are some quotes about the horrors of war in the loading screens occasionally.

The word has got bad mojo these days but it's
ludonarrative dissonance.
You seem to be treating GTA5 (which, yes I haven't played, but every single GTA since San Andreas has done this. Watch Niko get torn up about killing a mobster and getting flashbacks to murdering innocent villagers in the Balkans... After just running over dozens of pedestrians with a taxi) as a movie, completely disregarding all the gameplay elements.

Which is especially funny after all the people talking about how games and movies are different media and shouldn't try to be each other.


Since I don't want to doublepost I'll also throw in some cents at this:
Anyway, yeah, I think one of the more confounding things about Cage is this weird obsession he has with pixel counts or polygon counts or whatever, seeing them as being the ultimate be-all end-all of whether or not players can empathize with characters (it obviously isn't, I have been empathizing with characters since at least the 16 bit era). Considering his reputation as "the story guy", this myopic focus on technology is really weird. Speaking as a writer, he could probably improve the degree to which players engage with his characters more by getting better at writing than a strategy of "MOAR POLYGONS! MOAR PIXELS!".
This is a pet peeve of mine. The anti-technology thing. Where somehow making something better somehow makes it worse. In fact the thing that makes Cage stand out from other people doing the same things he does is the fact that the games are sometimes also pushing other boundaries. (well maybe not completely, but at least they are up there)

I know we're a community of 2d pixel people, but there's no denying that there are a lot of moods and atmospheres and thus also stories that can be told through more advanced technologies. Physics models that nowadays allow characters to have proper hair blowing in the wind (and also allow for wind). Lighting models that allow real-time reflective surfaces that react to changes in the environment. All of these can be used to create great experiences. Since visuals are as much part of the storytelling.



Like I know it is pretentious and esoteric as fuck but what I think Cage might be going for (and I know that a lot of indie devs are going for) are certain feelings as done through gameplay. So say you want to evoke the feeling of sand falling through your fingers. A mood can be evoked by that, but how do you turn it into gameplay. Cage maybe thinks that the way to do it is to use the most advanced physics model, in combination with some button prompts and haptic feedback that are supposed to replicate that feeling. There are many different approaches. An indie trying to replicate that same feeling might do it another way, with sound, or text, or zooming into an individual grain of sand as it tumbles down.

There are many approaches. But the good thing is that people are trying to do these things. And not just trying to blow up the next building in a spectacular fashion. (Though to be clear, real time destruction physics are also awesome, and might even be the foundation of that grain of sand physics in a different game :))



This got very long. For a defense of a game designer whose games I've never played.
As someone who has beaten GTAV and has watched repeats of the story through speedrun osmosis: I'm gonna ditto Shinan. It does not matter if the character faces some kind of hardship if the solution is do cool badass bank robbery /james bond stuff. GTAV handles its issues like its written by the people who made Family Guy or Southpark where some scenes is biting satire on how fucked up the world is mannnnnnnnnn (despite the game being one of the most successful selling of all time and just lampshading constantly). I would def not look to that game as some kind of appeal to emotional story telling, or edutainment "See mom? The gamers are alright" Very few things can escape the power fantasy element. At the very least the game needs to not be about exerting power or removing peoples lives.

Kubrick and Lynch are very different filmmakers.

Doesn't matter. They're both considered auteurs in their own right and are enshrined in film canon for whatever reputation they bring. That's the only criteria I'm really going for. I think Miyamoto has become more of a producer role in a broad scale and has been more concerned about his teams and company culture at this point (and is essentially just an employee). I don't think he matches with "auteur theory" or the way people talk about auteurs being the own independent author of their work. It's not as simple as comparing film styles or preferences as it is their careers and the place within their respective industries.

I think autuership is a load of bullshit though, so it's more hoping that video games don't fall into it beyond mimicry comparisons. Mainly to avoid the cult of personality problems that come with it.
Kloe
I lost my arms in a tragic chibi accident
2236
Not to get into the whole discussion of the relevance of Auteur theory, but Film and Video Games as works of media are distinctly collective creative pieces and so it may not be accurate to say that the director of such a work is truly an Auteur, when it is the small things that make up such large pieces, moreso in Games than in any other form as a director cannot supervise every part of every game.

However, one key idea about Auteurship is that the Auteur injects 'politique' into their work, which as has been touched on, is probably evident in Cage's works, things such as large use of QTEs and a developed plot as a focus rather than gameplay, would suggest Auteurship. I haven't actually played anything by David Cage, but his work seems to be pretty similar and contain repeated elements such as the QTEs as has been mentioned, plus he has strong ideals about Game Over screens and such.

Overall, I'd say unless you subscribe to the notions of 'death of the auteur', I'd agree that his style seems distinct, despite the notions of gammak as a collective creative process. However, personally I wouldn't attribute any positivity to the term (as the title suggests), just as I wouldn't to Michael Bay, but I'd say from an outward glance it would seem that Cage is an auteur, if it matters.
@Kloe: Just to straighten things I think you're getting mixed up with "Death of the Author" (unless you meant that as a pun) which is an actual named essay and a slightly different tangent. In any case the only thing I subscribe to is critiquing auteur-ship for various reasons and don't agree with "Death of the Author" either.

I think when comparing movies to video games people are often quick to lump things together as if the industry contexts are the same and often leads to very unproductive saying like "The citizen kane of video games" and obsessing with perception above all else.

To tangent a bit about emotions in video games, I was reading a 2 part article the other day, and it reminded me of the discussion regarding "emotions vs polygons". Though it's not about David Cage explicitly:

Empathy is Not Enough Part I
Empathy is Not Enough Part II
Red_Nova
The all around prick
9196
author=StormCrow
I haven't noticed any degrading treatment of women in his games. Care to elaborate?


That's understandable. The degrading stuff doesn't start until mid to late game, and it sounds like you never made it that far for most of them. If you want me to talk about it, though, I might as well drop a spoiler warning now.

Nearly all the female leads in a Cage game have a bizarre tendency to abandon their established personalities and swoon for their designated "love interest" with jarring suddenness. At the end of Indigo Prophecy, Carla inexplicably gets the hots for Lucas (the man she had been trying to arrest for the entirety of the game) and bones him during an apocalyptic scenario in the endgame. They are strangers, yet Cage wanted his leads to get together so badly that it didn't matter how awkward and forced it was.

Heavy Rain was even worse! Cage thought it was a great idea to have Madison fall head over heels for Ethan and try to bone him right before confronting the Origami Killer. Keep in mind that, when Madison decides to try this, she 1) has only known Ethan for a day or two, 2) knows full well Ethan has a child that is ACTIVELY DROWNING, and 3) was just coming back to the apartment merely hours after narrowly avoiding two instances of death and/or sexual assault.

By the time Beyond: Two Souls happened, I think Cage may have realized how difficult it is to write believable relationships, because he decided to skip the process entirely. I remember one scene where Jodie meets some CIA dude and makes it very clear that she hates him and he hates her. Literally right after that scene is another scene where she is excited to go on a date with this same man and trying to tell Aiden about how much she likes him. If you can believe it, that's as far as actual relationship building goes between the two. How that kind of transition is supposed to endear CIA man (whose name I've never learned and have made it a point to not look up) to the audience is beyond me, but it apparently worked on Jodie.

Speaking of Beyond: Two Souls, this is the part where I have to brush up against the uncomfortable nature of sexual assault. You can go look up the specific instances if you want because I'm not going to describe them here. Suffice to say that Cage had a horrible misconception that sexual assault == character development, because there was... more than one instance where the situation got unnecessarily handsy. If you are going to put that kind of attack in your game, you better have a damn good reason. Cage did not earn good faith from audiences prior to Beyond, and his clumsy attempt at portraying sexual assault did nothing to help.


I want to end on a positive note, so I'll reiterate that as far as my memory goes, the issues I listed above are absent from Detroit: Become Human. Either someone was hired to slap Cage around a bit whenever he tried to write something creepy, or he may have actually learned how degrading his past treatment of women characters was and tried to do better. While Detroit has its own set of problems, I want to give credit where credit is due.
Sooz
They told me I was mad when I said I was going to create a spidertable. Who’s laughing now!!!
5354
author=Darken
In any case the only thing I subscribe to is critiquing auteur-ship for various reasons and don't agree with "Death of the Author" either.


There's not really anything to disagree with in Death of the Author, since it's just one critical lens of jillions.

I think when comparing movies to video games people are often quick to lump things together as if the industry contexts are the same and often leads to very unproductive saying like "The citizen kane of video games" and obsessing with perception above all else.


There's a really big problem among video game enthusiasts, devs, and critics alike, where people are SO OBSESSED with proving that video games are ART, Mom! but they're really allergic to examining what art means, branching out into other forms of art, or really looking at what the medium itself offers that no other medium could.

It really is about perception and image, which is the polar opposite of what art is supposed to be about. It's just like... come on, people, read a book or something!

...in retrospect, this doesn't really contribute much new to the conversation but I have Strong Feelings about video games' potential as a narrative form and how hamstrung it is by people who can't just go, "Yeah, I'm playing goofy escapist entertainment, and I don't feel the need to defend that as anything more than the fun times it is."

Hiding some more faffing about art. Click if you love pretension.
I'd argue that all video games are art, just as all movies, books, etc are art*, though different works have different levels of success at doing whatever they're aiming for.

I'd also argue that the majority of video games are fairly shit as art, mainly because the devs aren't trying that hard for whatever reason. (I think a lot of it is also just the combo of "extremely new medium" and "mostly requires skill with code"- not that coders CAN'T do art, but IME coding and arting are very separate skillsets and philosophies, so it's unusual for someone to be great at both, in the same way that it's unusual to find someone who's both a coder and a politician.)

Ultimately the thing about art is that it takes years- decades, often- for a work to end up classed as part of The Art Canon, and often it's stuff that isn't all that popular. (Just check the top ten hits of any given decade vs what songs actually endured!) So the pursuit of a video game that will be indefensibly classed as Art is foolish, because that's not going to happen while you're still playing that video game. Unless you are me and are happily playing the same goddamn video games that were popular when 8 bit was a fucking revolution, in which case you probably don't give a shit what anyone thinks about video games because you are An Old and are used to being considered lame as hell already.

But if we're looking for what might be considered video games as Art, I think it's not going to be about graphics or script so much as the gameplay and using that to communicate things and create experiences that other art forms couldn't. I think that "walking simulators" are an interesting start, in that they're about the player exploring a milieu, although that envelope needs to be pushed some more. There's also some good stuff to explore in the idea of interactivity; I feel like we're a little too stuck in a rut of "make a Choose Your Own Adventure book but also punch or pewpew things between the choices"

Obviously I have no real ideas on how to implement any of that, or else I'd be working on better games than the ones I'm currently making, but that's my opinions on the potential of vidya gaem as An Art What is Important.

Thank you for reading my drivel, here is a cute guinea pig video as a reward
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dK38QGJ_fPA


*I also argue that things like road signs are art just so we're all clear on what my position is here.
author=Darken
As someone who has beaten GTAV and has watched repeats of the story through speedrun osmosis: I'm gonna ditto Shinan. It does not matter if the character faces some kind of hardship if the solution is do cool badass bank robbery /james bond stuff.

But it's not actually a solution, is the thing. Michael, who I consider to be the main character because he's

the only one that is guaranteed to survive the ending


is just as much of a miserable fuck as he was when the story started. All of this shit happened, all of these heists and gunfights (Shakespeare: tale told by idiot/sound and fury/signifying nothing), and in the end it doesn't make one whit of difference. You know that poem, the Jabberwocky? It's the videogame equivalent of that. At the end, those borogroves are still all mimsy and them mome raths be outgrabing. (Yes, that was an allusion to Lewis Caroll.)

author=Darken
At the very least the game needs to not be about exerting power or removing peoples lives.

First off, Spec Ops: The Line would like a word with you. It is a game about exerting power and killing people. It is also the exact opposite of a power fantasy.

And I'm pretty sure I strongly disagree in general, at least I think.

How many people are you allowed to kill in a videogame before that becomes what it's about?

Conversely, how few people must you kill in a game in order for it to NOT be about taking people's lives?

What about every survival horror/survival whatever game ever? You kill plenty of stuff in those. But when those games are doing their jobs right, you feel like you're barely surviving, no matter how much firepower you might bring to bear. Doing everything you can to barely survive is again the opposite of a power fantasy.

I remember there was some foofaraw over ludonarrative dissonance in Bioshock Infinite (one of my favorite games of all time). While the game certainly had obvious elements of power fantasy and also did have some design and storytelling problems, I never felt that Booker DeWitt slaughtering swathes and swathes of racist assholes was at all at odds with the game's narrative or characters. The story lays down pretty explicitly that DeWitt is an accomplished killer of men and has been long before arriving at Columbia: he may enjoy it, he may feel remorse/regret/guilt over it, hell, maybe some combination of the two or neither, who knows, he's not exactly the type to talk about his feelings.

On a whole, I don't think the game CAN be reasonably considered a power fantasy when in the end all of the power & powers you exert is ultimately in service of (MAJOR SPOILERS)

committing metaphysical suicide in an incredibly convoluted way


I love the Uncharted series but it's got to be the most glaring example of ludonarrative dissonance in modern gams. Nathan Drake is a well-rounded multidimensional character and a loveable rakish rogue/scoundrel/hero with a heart of gold and a great sense of humor...whenever he is not methodically murdering scores of his fellow human beings. It causes quite the whiplash.

I don't think a game necessarily needs to be as blatantly subversive as Spec Ops: The Line to have you kill lots and lots of people and not be a power fantasy. And also it's probably worth mentioning that some of the best storytelling in games comes packaged with the power fantasy approach: consider how power and player agency and interactive storytelling are combined in Deus Ex.

author=Darken
I think autuership is a load of bullshit though, so it's more hoping that video games don't fall into it beyond mimicry comparisons. Mainly to avoid the cult of personality problems that come with it.

Ironically, the one arena in video games where I think auteurship is actually happening is right here in the RM sphere (for reasons so obvious I don't think they need stating).

@Shinan:

I don't think that taking a game's narrative/dialogue/writing at face value is falling into a trap and I think that's kind of a strange and negative way of looking at it. As someone that tells stories for a living, I try to give other storytellers the benefit of the doubt as much as possible.

author=Shinan
You seem to be treating GTA5 (which, yes I haven't played, but every single GTA since San Andreas has done this. Watch Niko get torn up about killing a mobster and getting flashbacks to murdering innocent villagers in the Balkans... After just running over dozens of pedestrians with a taxi) as a movie, completely disregarding all the gameplay elements.

You see, a lot of these gameplay elements you can control. And I play any game that I play in any genre that has player agency and choices like I would a roleplaying game (I mean that in the specifically Western sense). And in turn, I take my cues for how to roleplay from how the characters are portrayed in the scenes that I don't control (yes, I play every single game this way). So I don't run over dozens of pedestrians with a taxi cab for no good reason because nothing, I try to have each character do what they would logically do the way they would logically do it. When I'm playing GTA V I even make some effort to drive like a normal person. I mean, blasting through stop signs and traffic lights at illegal speeds is something any of the three criminals you play as would do, but killing dozens of innocent people in the process is a big deal and I play the game in such a way that I refrain from doing that.

As you can imagine, I have myself created a very distinct difference between playing as Michael and playing as Trevor. The former at least has some nominal vestige of respect for human lives.

Now, my obsession with roleplaying in every genre of game is my own unique quirk, but it doesn't change the fact that the degree of ludonarrative dissonance depends on your approach to playing the game. If you ignore the cues from the story and decide to go on massive murder rampages for lulz, that's fine, but to a great degree you're creating the ludonarrative dissonance.

Which is especially funny after all the people talking about how games and movies are different media and shouldn't try to be each other.

Ghost Recon: Wildlands (or for that matter, Call of Duty: Black Ops, etcetera, many but by no means all games of that ilk) all at some point pretty much get the point across that you are not, exactly, a good guy. There's a moment in the first Black Ops where you're playing as Ed Harris and you are stuffing broken glass into a guy's mouth and then punching him in the face as an "enhanced interrogation" technique and it's like...wait, what the FUCK am I pressing X to do, aren't we the good guys? (And then because the writing in that game is garbage about two minutes later the same guy is inviting you to raid his personal armory and helping you escape like there's no hard feelings, but I digress.)

I find playing someone that is not necessarily a good guy interesting. Whether they have any remorse for their actions or not. In Wildlands, it is pretty obvious that Karen Bowman your handler is a seriously evil ruthless heartless bitch and by implication the CIA is exactly like her. You do some very morally questionable things in that game. Things that your characters discuss being uncomfortable with. In the end, as a player you're left wondering which is the lesser of two evils. I mean, to be clear, in real life as well as in video games, narco-states are super fucking bad and I think that the imperialist US military-intelligence complex is definitely the lesser of two evils here, but the point is the game acknowledges that it is about the lesser of two evils by acknowledging the evil on the player's side.

Now, Wildlands is totally a power fantasy, to be clear. It's like Just Cause with a coat of (it's all relative) "gritty realism" lacquered on. You're controlling the four most badass special operators on the planet and taking down an entire nation one province at a time in whatever order you want using whatever means you want. It is also not a roleplaying game (I no longer consider things like levels and stat progressions and skill trees to be RPG elements, they are things that have simply been absorbed into the omnigame, the ur-game, the vidya singularity) primarily because at no point do you get to make any meaningful choices about the morally ambiguous situation you're in.

Just so you don't think I'm like, making a point of disagreeing with everything you have to say, I will say you're right about the CoD/Battlefield franchises in general: their overall message that "war is terrible...and AWESOME!"/"war is hell...and TOTALLY SWEET!" is about as clear as mud.

Personally, I don't need anything as explicit as the character having a moment of crisis, or a breakdown, or getting their comeuppance, or switching sides, for these degrees of nuance to matter. The texture itself adds to the game's story.

"The 'good guys' do a lot of very bad things to save the world, enough bad things that good guys is in scare quotes."

is already an infinitely more interesting story (to me, anyway) than

"The good guys save the world".
author=RedNova
Heavy Rain was even worse! Cage thought it was a great idea to have Madison fall head over heels for Ethan and try to bone him right before confronting the Origami Killer. Keep in mind that, when Madison decides to try this, she 1) has only known Ethan for a day or two, 2) knows full well Ethan has a child that is ACTIVELY DROWNING, and 3) was just coming back to the apartment merely hours after narrowly avoiding two instances of death and/or sexual assault.


Well, I think I read somewhere at some point that near-death experiences/traumatic experiences with violence cause a massive short term spike in libido...but Occam's Razor says that "bad writer writes badly" is a more likely explanation than the idea that Cage knew about this phenomenon and took it into account. Heavy Rain is the one Cage game I've actually finished, though, so I did see these scenes. I don't remember thinking they were nonsense at the time, but I was very wrapped up at that point in the overall narrative of who's the killer/how can I save my son?

As for Beyond: Two Souls, I don't really get triggered by things (well, at least not things of that ilk) so now I actually want to play it MORE so I can see just how rapey Cage gets and just how he manages to get that rapey. It probably says something that morbid curiosity is a stronger motivation for me to play B:TS than like...just for fun.

Oh, and I'm glad I'm not the only one that thinks believable relationships are fucking hard to write.

Anyway, thanks for expanding on that!
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