“Detroit: Become Human” and What to Do When Things Get Tough
In the 2018 PlayStation game “Detroit: Become Human,” choice is king. Like other David Cage-directed games (Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls) Detroit: Become Human plays like an interactive movie, where players inhabit a character and make their own choices to determine the path of a branching narrative that sprawls to monumental lengths. To get an idea of the amount of content in a game like this, Cage’s original script was about 2,000 pages long. Compare that to a typical film script that’s 110 pages, and it’s easy to believe that this game is prepared to handle a huge variety of player choices.
In Detroit: Become Human, the player hops back and forth between playing as three separate android characters who wrestle with their identities as androids, individuals, and members of the near-future sci-fi society the game depicts. The game raises fascinating questions about the nature of consciousness, what it means to be human, and how we determine which beings deserve dignity. Unfortunately, the game’s third act leans a bit too hard on its civil rights allegories to be truly nuanced, but countless tough and interesting decisions along the way more than make up for its heavy-handedness later on. Today though, I’d like to focus on one specific chapter of Detroit: Become Human.
[Spoiler Warning for one chapter in the first third of the game]
The “Fugitives” chapter focuses on Kara, an android that worked as a maid until an abusive owner forced her and the child of the house to run. As I played Kara, she was a naïve but caring person, whose number one priority was ensuring the safety and well-being of the 9-year old she was tasked to care for, Alice. Note that player choice doesn’t just dictate the path of a character, but also their personality.
In “Fugitives,” Kara and Alice are stranded at the end of a bus line with no place to spend the night. It’s late, it’s cold, it’s raining, and it feels like danger lurks around every corner in this 2038 vision of Detroit that doesn’t take too kindly to androids, even if they do have a human alongside them. As Kara, I surveyed the scene, and with Alice’s safety at the front of my mind, I found a 24-hour laundromat for shelter. Once there, I found some warm laundry that was unattended. Fearing that Alice could catch a cold in her wet clothes, and I would be identified (we are on the run, after all) I quietly stole the laundry and changed our clothes.
As I continued to play as Kara, and knew we were relatively prepared for the elements, I focused my attention on finding shelter for the night. There was a cheap motel nearby, but even $40 is unattainable for an android and a child who don’t have any money. I went to a nearby convenience store to ask for help, but the shop-keep was unsympathetic. Desperate and running out of options, I created a distraction and reluctantly stole enough from the register to cover a night’s stay at the motel. Once safely inside our room, Alice and I ended the chapter with a moment of warmth, but both characters felt the weight of their guilt and had little hope for the future.
Let’s take a step back and think about how this virtual situation reflects our reality. In our world, it is incredibly difficult to be unhoused, and what would be an inconvenience for most of us can quickly turn into an emergency for someone in need. The choices I faced in the game reflect the real-life situations of many, but I’m grateful that if this were to happen to me, and I were in Springfield, I know what I would do thanks to United Way.
My first call would be to 211, United Way’s free 24/7 number to call for local health and human services information. On the line, I could explain my situation, and they would point me in the right direction. In this case, they could point me to multiple services, including Sojourn Shelter and Contact Ministries, which are two funded partners of the United Way of Central Illinois.
Since the reason Kara and Alice had to flee their original home was domestic violence, Sojourn Shelter would have provided them with a safe place to stay, and resources including counseling and court advocacy. Even if they found themselves in this situation through other circumstances, Contact Ministries would provide both of them a safe and stable environment, and give access to on-site case management and counseling. And, thanks to Contact Ministries’ Basement Boutique, Kara and Alice could find clean clothes without compromising their ethics.
From these basics, stability would become our goal. Our partners don’t just stop at housing, they work to ensure clients have a path for a brighter future. Whether through coordinated entry or rent and utility assistance, our programs advocate for their clients’ success. They work with clients to identify their needs, and make sure they know where to get help. In the case of Kara and Alice, they could be referred to MERCY Communities’ Transitional Living Program, where they would get the long-term help they need to learn the life, job, and parenting skills necessary to live a self-sufficient life.
There may not be a United Way in “Detroit: Become Human”, but there is in our world. If you know someone who needs help, call 211 by dialing either 211 or 888-865-9903 to talk to trained specialists that have information on local programs that can help address your immediate needs while helping you see your way to tomorrow.
Mitch Baker is the Community Impact Manager at United Way of Central Illinois.