I wrote a post detailing some of my issues with the self-impressed video game auteur, David Cage. I have so many thoughts on him because I’ve watched Let’s Plays of all his video games, and his thinking, while grandiose, is sadly common in the video game industry (which is still heavily male-dominated), so here is part two. Hopefully, we won’t need a part three, but I have a feeling we will. You can read part one here. Lessee. Where were we? Oh, yes. David Cage’s inability to imitate real human emotions, which is a theme throughout all the damn games. It’s especially egregious with women, but he does no favors to men, either. He also doesn’t do nuance, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Indigo Prophecy (Fahrenheit). One thing I should point out is that while David Cage prides himsel on his plots, they’re shite. Look, I’m down for convoluted and complex. I like labyrinth-like plots with twists, turns, and time jumps. I like multiple viewpoints and multiple protagonists. I like psychologically-driven media, and so, I can see why on first blink my ex-friend thought Heavy Rain would be a good fit for me. On paper, his games check all the boxes. In reality, however, it’s all skin deep and poorly-done. Side rant: Video games are great at a lot of things. Telling stories isn’t one of them. I’ve seen video game reviewers trip all over themselves for how great the story is in a game, and all I can think is, “I read better stories on this same subject when I was in grade school.” Granted, I read The Scarlet Letter and tried to read War and Peace in grade school (on my own, both of them), but that’s not the point. It’s difficult to convey a complex and intricate story in a video game because you also have to have good gameplay (if you’re going to do a traditional video game). Even if you’re not, you still have to use visuals rather than text unless you’re doing a visual novel, which is a whole different kettle of fish.
David Cage confuses esoteric, confusing, and implausible with complex. He seems to think if you just make everything about the occult/supernatural forces, then anything goes. He doesn’t realize that even with outlandish ideas, you still have to have internal consistency. Trying to explain the plots of his video games is pointless, and let’s not even mention motivation. No, wait. Let’s DO talk about motivation. David Cage doesn’t realize what makes people act. Or rather, he doesn’t care. One of the guys (in the Let’s Plays) said something about how David Cage has certain moments he wants in the game, and then he writes the plot around them. It’s true that he does everything back-asswards. In Indigo Prophecy, there’s a scene in which the black cop, Tyler, challenges his white coworker to a basketball contest in order to not pay the money he (Tyler) owes him (the other guy). It’s clear that David Cage had the scene of the white guy practicing hoops while the black guy saunters in with rap music playing in his head, and he was going to have it in the game no matter what!
The plot of Indigo Prophecy is laughable, but that’s a feature, not a bug with David Cage. What really irks me about the game is his treatment of women. Minorities, too, but especially the women. I touched on it in the last post, but the way he undermines Carla the cop (a playable character) is deplorable. She’s a decent character when we first meet her, but when she meets Lucas (I keep wanting to call him Ethan, who is the protagonist of Heavy Rains. David Cage writes the same character over and over again, and while I do something similar, it’s only because I’m not published), for some inexplicable reason, she falls for him. Now, in a novel, you can explore the psychological reasons why this might happen (I’ve done it myself), but in a video game, it’s much harder. There is nothing about Lucas that is appealing. He’s a cipher, and not a very compelling protagonist. Carla questions him in a scene, and she’s nothing but suspicious of him. Then, a few scenes later, she finds him ‘alive’ with his girlfriend dead and the circumstances are suspicious. She kisses him, and, what? The Best Friends were like, “What is going on here?!”, and I felt their pain. You can also choose for them to have sex which, I just can’t. There is no reason for her to fall for him, none. The only reason is because that’s literally the only thing David Cage thinks women are good for. Falling in love with the man and/or taking care of him (more on that in the next game), and making the babies. Oh! Can’t forget being abused/almost raped/and treated like shit in general.
At the end of the game, Carla marries Lucas, and it’s just so eye-rollingly stupid. It doesn’t help that Tyler’s girlfriend is the stereotype of the shrill harpy who makes her boyfriend choose between his job and her. By the way, I hate games that give you what seem like important choices, but they really don’t matter. David Cage does that a lot, but he’s by far from the only culprit. Anyway, the third woman of any importance in this game is Lucas’s ex-girlfriend, Tiffany, I think her name is. Her sole purpose is to give Lucas a past, give him a reason for being depressed, and then *spoilers for a game that is 12 years old* be murdered so you can feel bad for Lucas and understand why he does the bump and grind with Carla. It’s fucking gross, but not nearly as gross as Heavy Rain.
Heavy Rain. Oh, Heavy Rain. This is the game that tipped me from thinking David Cage was a sexist creeper into thinking he’s a straight-up garbage human being. Pure trash through and through, but once again, I’m getting ahead of myself. Heavy Rain starts with a mundane day in the life of Ethan Mars. I’ve written before how David Cage is in love with the boring details of life, and you can do a plethora of them in the opening scene. Brush your teeth. Shave. Take a shower so we can see your ass. Drink juice from the container after shaking it. Realistic? Perhaps. Engaging gameplay? Fuck no! By the way, one of my favorite running gags with the guys is that apparently David Cage once said, “Game overs are a failure of game design” despite him having game overs in his own games. The Best Friends will trot it out any time something inane happens in a game. “Bad writing is a failure of game design.” “Not knowing what to do is a failure of game design.” “Being confused is a failure of game design.” It’s hilarious because they are so mocking when they do it. It’s clear that they have nothing but contempt for David Cage, which is how I feel about him as well.
Next, we learn that it’s Ethan’s son’s birthday. We get a ridiculous scene in which he plays with his sons, and then, we see the family at the mall. In the Let’s Play, it’s Woolie on the sticks because he’d never played the game before. Matt and Pat did a previous playthrough, and Liam had played it before, too. So it was the three of them cracking wise while Woolie played. Anyway, the scene in which Ethan’s son dies is cringe-worthy, but it’s necessary to set up the rest of the game. I will say I like the concept of being able to play four different characters, but it’s poorly implemented in this game. That’s the whole problem with this game–there are good ideas, but execution is terrible. So very terrible.
I have to talk about Madison Paige, the female character you can control. She’s the whole reason I flipped into thinking David Cage is pure trash, and I don’t think I’ve ever had as strong as a reaction to a video game character before. In her intro scene, you can have her take a shower so you can see TITTIES! Because it’s not a David Cage game without titties, amirite? That’s not the egregious part, though. We see her being attacked by multiple men. She’s running around her apartment, screaming and trying to escape. One of them throws her on the bed and just as he’s about to rape her, she…does something. Knock him over the head with a lamp I think? I don’t know. I blocked it out. Anyway, she wakes up because it’s just a dream. A dream she often has, apparently. A dream so bad, she checks into hotels (important plot point later) just so she can sleep.
What? I mean, what???? When we meet Ethan, we see his normal day. With Norman Jayden, the FBI agent, we see him doing Fibbie shit–and playing with his magical orb, but that’s a whole nother matter. With Scott Shelby, he’s a detective, and we see him doing detective shit. With Madison, we see her in her skivvies almost being raped, and then we’re told it’s a motherfucking dream? This is the whole background we get on her. It’s gross. It’s insulting. And it’s voyeuristic violence. Which this game has plenty of. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth, which only gets worse as the game goes on. She’s a writer of some sort, but that’s constantly overlooked for her sexiness. The other issue is that she runs into Ethan in a hotel (see! A reason for her nightmares. Ugh), and he’s hurt. She immediately goes into ‘I have to take care of him’ mode, which as Matt points out makes her a manic pixie girlfriend*. If I were at a hotel and ran into someone who was hurt, I’d call the manager of the hotel. Or 911. I would not minister to him myself, especially not alone in his hotel room.
Oh, and of course, Madison is a slim brunette with nice boobs. Of course she has short dark brown hair and big eyes. She is the quintessential gamin type with whom David Cage is so intoxicated. There’s another female character, Lauren Winter, who is also a slim with nice tits. She is also a brunette, but, but, but her hair is shoulder length! That makes her different! She has a gaunt face, which is also true to type. Oh, and she’s a prostitute. Because of course she is. She’s a mother who’s lost her son to The Origami Killer (don’t even ask. It’s so stupid), and Scott Shelby goes to see her because he’s investigating the murders on his own. It’s never mentioned why (or if it is, I wasn’t paying close enough attention), but the real reason is *BIG SPOILER* he’s the killer. It makes no sense as Pat explains in a well-reasoned rant at the end of the game, but it is what it is. Anyway, when he first meets Lauren, she doesn’t trust him. After he leaves, a sleazy guy busts his way into the apartment, and you can make the decision to go in and beat him up. Turns out he’s an ex-client who thinks he owns Lauren and blah, blah, blah. She’s grateful to you, and she opens up to you. She becomes your partner because she’s a hooker with a heart of gold. And, you can bone her at some point BECAUSE OF COURSE YOU CAN. Remember in David Cage’s world, there isn’t a woman who exists who isn’t bone-able by some guy in the game.
The only other woman with any real screen time is Ethan’s wife, who is portrayed as a shrew. She divorces him after the death of their son, and there’s a scene in which she’s talking to the police and all but saying she thinks her husband might be The Origami Killer. Side note: as someone who’s read a million mysteries and who has written dozens, I take offense at many of the things David Cage does in this game from a craft point of view. He throws in all these red herrings, but they’re not logical red herrings. A good red herring should have a kernel of truth in it–otherwise, it’s just a rotting fish. In addition, having Scott Shelby be the murderer negates several of the scenes in which he’s in. I understand why you have to show him investigating, but it makes no sense that he would go after the rich man’s kid because he knows the kid wasn’t the killer. As I said earlier, it makes no inherent sense except in the context of fooling the reader/player. Agatha Christie wrote a book, Who Killed Roger Ackroyd? in which *spoiler, I guess* the narrator is the murderer. People complained she wasn’t being fair, but she was. Well, as fair as she gets. She likes to play it close to the vest, and I appreciate that about her. I love the Poirot series, by the way. Just FYI. In Heavy Rain, there’s no way of figuring out Scott Shelby is the killer, which is fine, I guess, but it makes many of his scenes feel like cheating. Again, it’s a good idea, but David Cage didn’t do it well.
This is running long again, and I have so much more to say about David Cage, especially Heavy Rain and Madison. I’ll see you in part three!
*I think it was Matt. Again, I’m remembering to the best of my ability and interpreting. It might have been Pat.