This is post three on my David Cage screed, and we’re getting deep into it now. Here is part two so you can catch up. Heavy Rain is the game that pushed me from thinking David Cage is a creeper to feeling revulsion every time I see his name. He is lauded in some circles for being innovative and a creative thinker, and I firmly reject that on all levels. His story-telling makes no inherent sense, and his characters don’t act in a way that is logical. I’m not talking about logical in general because people often act in ways that look illogical to outsiders, but they don’t act logically for themselves. I said before it’s because David Cage is a raging narcissist who cannot empathize with how other people feel, so he just projects onto them and believes that’s how they would act. When we left the last point, I was going on a rant about ow David Cage is shit towards women, and I feel I have to at least note that he’s also shit towards men, but in a different way.
The problem is that David Cage thinks in stereotypes. People aren’t real to him, and it’s exceedingly clear in his games. His main characters if they’re male are ciphers with tics. In Omikron: The Nomad Soul, the protagonist literally has no body. Your soul jumps from NPC to NPC, which is interesting in concept, but not well-utilized in the game (a recurring theme with David Cage). There’s nothing to know about the main protagonist because of this conceit, so David Cage gets away with this shortcoming in this game. In Indigo Prophecy (Fahrenheit), the main male protagonist is Ethan M–er, Lucas Kane, is a mopey, slim, depressed man who has just been dumped by his girlfriend. That’s the extent of what we learn about his personality. David Cage seems to think the fact that he’s a good-looking dude (with dark hair because David Cage only likes dark hair. I mentioned it with the women in the game, but it’s the same with the dudes. Most of the important male dudes have short dark brown hair. They are brooding intellects with mental health issues. One of the times David Cage broke his self-imposed rule, the result was Tyler, a cringe-inducing stereotype of a black dude with swagger, so maybe it’s best he sticks to what he knows) is enough to make women drop their panties for him. There are no queer relationships in David Cage games, which, quite frankly, is for the best. I shudder to think what he’d do with it.
In Heavy Rain, two of the male protagonists, Ethan Mars and Norman Jayden, are basically the same person in two different roles. They look the same, and they both have psychological issues. Scott Shelby is different with a graying buzz-cut, a florid face (he’s an alcoholic) and being overweight–and older. Oh my god. I just realized that David Cage’s type–slim, white, short dark brown hair, dark eyes, gaunt face–holds for everyone of importance in his games. The fact that Scott Shelby was radically different looks-wise should have been a big red flag that he was the killer. Side note: I really like the idea that any of the main characters can die, including Scott Shelby, except he can only die at the end. I know at least Norman and Madison can die during the game, and I know Ethan and Scott can die at the end. Again, it’s a fascinating concept, but it’s not really well-executed in the game. In fact, Woolie had Norman die in his game, and that’s when he was done with the game. The controls for keeping him alive is way too fucking complicated, and Woolie was infuriated by it. Not to mention, in that scene, the guy who kills Norman is the epitome of black gangster thug. David Cage has never met a stereotype he won’t gleefully embrace.
Anyway, back to the grossness that is Heavy Rain. When we last left Madison, she was tending to Ethan’s wounds like the MPG Florence Nightingale that she was written to be. Remember, she knows The Origami Killer is out there. She’s some kind of writer, so I assume she’s up on the news, which means she probably knows Ethan is a suspect. At the very least, she knows he’s the father of the missing child. And, yet, she’s crushing on him like a schoolgirl on her teacher. At this point, it just makes me roll my eyes. Oh, great. Another woman in a David Cage game who’s sole purpose is to tend to the wounded male. The guys joked about it as it was happening, but I just felt irritated.
It only got worse from there. Madison decides to go investigate on her own. Now, she’s a writer, maybe a reporter, so there’s a legitimate reason for her investigating. I’m not cracking down on that. However, she goes to a skeevy dude’s house to ask him questions about possibly–you know what? It doesn’t matter. Plots don’t matter in David Cage games because they don’t make any fucking sense. You can’t think about them or your mind will explode. The guy she meets is skeevy. Clearly. She starts questioning him in a bumbling matter, and he gives her a glass of water to drink. (I think. I’ve blocked a lot of this from my mind.) Now, who in their right mind is going to question a suspect and drink something they give you? This is a classic case of ‘let me move my face to meet your fist’, and it’s clear that David Cage had the next scene in mind and just wrote this scene so he could get to it.
The next scene. Oh, the next scene. I don’t play games that are into torture any more than I watch movies with it–like the Saw series or the Hostel series. There’s a fine line between showing torture and making it torture porn, and those movies blow right by that line, as does this game. The next scene is perhaps the most brutal in the whole game, and that’s saying a lot. Of course the drink is drugged, and of course the guy is a major asshole who is a psychotic sadist who takes his pleasure in torturing people. In David Cage’s world, people are Bad and Less Bad (the latter for the protagonists). The Bad people are awful with no redeeming quality, and this guy is Uber Bad. David Cage likes to shock people, and he seems to think just turning things up to eleventy is shocking. It’s not. It’s grotesque, but it’s also juvenile. It has more than a whiff of, “Tee-hee-hee! I made you grossed out. Snicker snort.” I believe that if you’re going to show something as intense as torture, you have to be nuanced about it. David Cage does not do nuanced.
Anyway, Madison wakes up and is tied down to a table. Of course. The person she was interviewing, let’s call him Jason because I don’t remember his name nor does it fucking matter. Nothing matters. We’re all just actors on David Cage’s stage, and the sooner we realize it, the happier we’ll all be. The man has a chainsaw or a drill or whatever in his hand. Some power tool, and he’s babbling about what fun he’s going to have with her because he’s Crazy don’t you know. It’s so stupid, but it’s not the stupidest thing by far. As Madison, you have a QTE (of course!) to free yourself. Once you do, it’s a hand-to-hand fight that is not surprisingly over-the-top gory. At one point, Jason has Madison pinned to the table with her legs spread. He says something like, “I was going to do this afterwards, but might as well do it now.” He starts groping her, and she grabs–whatever. Hammer. Power drill. I don’t know. Again, it doesn’t matter. She grabs it and kills him. Gruesomely.
This was the moment I gave up hope that David Cage was redeemable. To recap, the three important scenes with Madison were one, her intro in which she’s attacked by multiple men and almost raped before she kills her would-be rapist. The fact that it’s a dream doesn’t make it better; in fact, it almost makes it worse. Two, she’s administering to a strange man’s wound as tenderly as if he’s her lover. Three, she’s attacked by a sadistic psycho and almost raped before she brutally murders him.
Side note: This is a problem in games in general, though not usually to this degree. Women are often included just to be eye candy, to be the damsel in distress, or to be the selfless helpmeet to the strong manly man who is the protagonist. This is true of most media, of course, and it’s changing painfully slowly in the video games industry, but the old stereotypes still hang on with all their screaming, grudging might. Why? Because the industry (as with most media) is run by white dudes, mostly straight. It’s reported on by the same. It’s a white dude heavy industry, and most of the gamers are white dudes as well. I’ve written posts about how I don’t feel as if I belong. I’m old, fat, Asian, and a chick. I don’t belong in a lot of ways, but I especially don’t belong in the video game world with its Red Bull and hyped macho culture. I think it’s one reason David Cage gets a pass for his raging sexism and more than casual racism. It just doesn’t ping with the usual suspects the way it would with more aware people. That’s not to say that progressive people don’t game–we clearly do. I highly doubt we’re the majority, however.
Heavy Rain came out to acclaim if I remember correctly (from reading reviews after the fact). I think it’s considered his best game. I would Google, but reading about him just makes me angry, quite frankly. He’s considered a creative thinker, but even given his so-called strengths, he’s full of shit. His plots are such bullshit, I barely even talk about them. The only thing I can give him credit for are his graphics and some pretty shots. It makes me angry that a mediocre white dude is given so much acclaim for being, well, mediocre. Firmly mediocre, but still mediocre. I think of all the minorities who can’t even get one game published let alone four. With a fifth one coming out. It’s called Detroit: Become Human, and it’s about three androids who are close to becoming sentient and–you know what? Never mind. It’s ridiculous, and it’s going to be terrible, and I’m already angry just thinking about it.
Back to Heavy Rain. Buckle up because we’re not even close to the worst of the Madison Paige saga. I know some of you are thinking, “Minna, if you hate this guy so much, why are you writing three (and probably a fourth) posts about him? Why not just walk on by and think happy thoughts? There are plenty of games that aren’t so bad, right?” Well, first of all, no, not really. Granted, David Cage is terrible, but as I said, he’s not that far out of the norm. Secondly, he’s come to epitomize all that is wrong and terrible in the gaming industry for me. His games are touted as being great for story-telling, but they’re not. I’ve written before that video games aren’t great for stories in general, so that might be why he’s passing the exceedingly low bar of expectations. But, the way David Cage treats people in general and women in particular in his games really piss me the fuck off. In the era of Harvey Weinstein and the whole slew of famous men being shown to have behaved badly in a sexually predatory way, David Cage is emblematic of the kind of toxic masculinity thinking that permeates our society. I’m not walking by on this shit. Plus, it’s been niggling at my brain ever since watching all the Let’s Plays. So, back to *sigh* Madison Paige.
After she power-sawed the psycho sadist to death, you’d think she’d want to take a few minutes and regroup. Maybe cry to a friend or call a sexual abuse hotline because she almost got raped and then brutally killed a man (assuming. Highly doubt she just maimed him). That sort of thing will change you in a deep and abiding way. What does Madison do? She goes to a club because blah blah blah lead to the killer blah blah blah. It doesn’t matter because what it does is get Madison in a short skirt in a skanky club. She tries to talk to the baddie, but he won’t talk to her. She notices that any girl who gets up on a block and does a pole dance gets called over to Paco. That might not be his name, but it might as well have been.
This is running long yet again, and I have way more to say about Madison Paige, so I’m going to wrap this up here and pick it up again in another post. Sigh.