September 16, 2018 Log No. 848

Detroit: Become Human

As the years go by, I’ve had an increasingly poor track record of starting games, much less finishing them. (Granted, I never really had a good track record of finishing games even pre-college–my MO was always “sink 100 hours into getting literally every item but then wander around pre-final boss feeling super powerful and never actually fight him because that would mean bringing my journey to an end.”) The mental commitment to start a game has gotten more and more insurmountable, so that I don’t even start. However, a couple of months ago, the hype around Detroit: Become Human was great enough that I decided to sit down and play it.

Well usually I make Frank play and I watch, but he has some weird love-hate relationship with David Cage (even though he seemed to like Heavy Rain fine!) and insisted I play this one. Okay fine. If not obvious, there will be spoilers below!

So what did I think? My biggest gripe is pretty inconsequential in the grand scheme of things: it’s just ridiculous that they chose 2038 for the story. That’s only 20 years from now! I wish we could discover some sort of magical “synthetic blood and organs” material that allows us to make almost completely faithful human machines in the near future, but ehhhh probably NOT. I guess that’s where the “fiction” part of “sci-fi” comes from, but Quantic did a good job of creating a near-future world in a lot of other respects, so that was all the more jarring. However, as I said, it’s inconsequential in that the year doesn’t really matter too much in the story so we can just pretend it’s…2138 or something. It is kinda funny that the “middle-aged” people you meet were born in like, 1997 though.

Aside from that, the gameplay was pretty smooth and the writing was decent. It raised some interesting questions: for instance, if machines did achieve near-human fidelity, should they get equal rights? I know it’s nothing novel–tons of sci-fi material has covered this already and it literally is the entire plot of Westworld–but it feels more “real” when it’s rendered in full 3-D and you are actively making this decision. It made me think about it harder than I had when presented with the question in other mediums.

And honestly, it seems a little ridiculous. I’m all for treating the androids humanely and similar to people, but things like reproductive rights and stuff like that? That came up in the game. But I don’t think they have the ability to…at least not “organically”. Did it mean factories to allow the androids to create more of themselves? ????

So I still there are things that are intrinsically “human” that androids don’t have. But could I believe these sentient machines develop emotions? Sure! (Just not in 2038 haha.) And they will “want” things like humans, and develop distinct personalities. However, will I be able to trust them at the same level as humans?

Hmmmm.

That was another question the game posed: “Would you trust an android to look after your child?” I had to answer “Not Sure”…because they kinda have the worst of both worlds in terms of vulnerabilities. Their “personality” could be subject to flaws in human character, and their code could also get hacked. Doesn’t that mean a human babysitter is inherently less risky? But that makes me sound like a robo-phobe (robo-cist? android-cist?), ahaha.

Of course, this is all just a thought experiment at this point. I don’t doubt that a hundred years from now or whatever, this will probably be commonplace and these androids will have proven track records and be “eleven 9s”-percent reliable, blah blah blah. But I guess my biggest takeaway was that even in this tech-forward age that I live in–and I like to think I have a pretty tech-forward mindset!–there are still some applications where I’m inherently distrustful of technology. I wonder if this is similar to how my mom feels about online banking? (She still calls and goes to branches.) 50 years from now, maybe that’ll be me and I’ll be the tech dinosaur. Interesting to think about.


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