David Cage scoffs at the notion that videogames are fun. “They should trouble you, move you, make you react,” he says. As founder of the studio Quantic Dream, the French developer has been stunning and confounding players for two decades with cinematic games that tackle heady issues of love, death, domestic abuse, oppression, and the afterlife. “Some people are shocked when a game evokes real-world issues,” he says. “But this platform is about becoming the characters, not just seeing them from the outside like in a film.”
Detroit: Become Human, slated for release this spring, is the auteur’s most ambitious work yet. Cage wrote the game’s 2,000-page script and employed more than 250 motion capture actors. Set in Detroit, the future capital of AI manufacturing, the plot revolves around three androids grappling with what it means to be human. Players make decisions to steer the story line; in one demo scene, an android tries to protect a young girl from her abusive father. It’s a gripping, unsettling project, one that Cage considers his most compelling.
DETROIT: BECOME HUMAN, BY THE NUMBERS
2,000 script pages
35,000 camera shots
74,000 unique animations
5.1 million lines of code
For purists, Detroit is peak Cage, prioritizing dialogue and emotional gimmicks over gameplay. It’s a critique he considers myopic. “I disagree that injecting emotion into a game comes at the expense of the playing experience,” he says. For Cage, the future of the industry is in inciting pathos.
Whether Detroit is received as visionary or exhibitionist, Cage is confident developers will soon embrace the potential of hyperrealistic interactive gaming. The question is whether we’re ready for it.
David Cage, videogame developer
2001: A Space Odyssey
David Bowie, Ellen Page, Willem Dafoe
Tekken’s Paul Phoenix. “He survived 20 years in this industry with the same haircut, which says a lot.”
This article appears in the February issue. Subscribe now.