Detroit: Become Human isn't about racism or sexism
We talk to lead writer Adam Williams about how the game isn't about specific social issues, but rather a universal theme of a divided society.
Science-fiction has naturally been used as a means to criticise modern society, and perhaps it's easy to assume Detroit: Become Human does the same, using the android-human relationship as a metaphor. But in speaking with lead writer Adam Williams, we learned that's not necessarily how it's been designed.
"In imagining the story we wanted to explore universal themes", says Williams. "Themes that have repeated themselves throughout societies and one of those is the relationship between those who have power and those who do not have power. And that's the relationship between humans and androids."
"We didn't have a specific issue in mind, whether its racism or sexism or whatever it is. We wanted to explore the universal theme of a divided society and let the player bring their own specific context to the story, which is going to help them write their own story to the choices they make."
The conversation moved on to the three main characters you'll play in the game, androids Conor, Kara, and Marcus.
"You can lose any or indeed all of them before the end of the story, and that's important I think, because it's just one of the ways in which choices really matter, which encourages players to think about their choices and it's also a way of signalling to the players that the game really listens and that your choices do matter. It's not merely the illusion of choice."
"If you lose all three characters, the story comes to a conclusion, of course. But that conclusion is every bit as interesting and satisfying as if you finish the game with all three characters alive and that was a priority for us, because when you have cases that feel less interesting, or less full and real than others, the player then isn't just choosing based on what they think and feel, they're trying to choose to get the best version of the story. And we wanted all versions of the story to be good, to be interesting and thought-provoking."
With a branching narrative like in Detroit: Become Human some players will want to explore the full narrative and see all the variations on endings and the various scenes.
"We know some people will want to do it [see all the content]. And that's exciting in a way, because we spent so long working on it. There are so many versions. We look forward to meeting the people crazy enough to complete the full story and see the full story.
"...interactive mediums are a unique opportunity as a writer. If you think of the full legacy of story-telling, it's the history of Western civilisation somehow, how many new events has there really been in that history of story-telling? The invention of the camera. The printing press. And probably interactivity. And the interactivity adds a whole new dimension to the story that wasn't there previously, which is the choice of the audience, of the viewer. Also, I think interactivity makes stories more moving and thought-provoking. More moving, because if a character is in trouble and you put them there through your choices, you care a lot more and feel more responsible than if I put them there and you just watched. More thought-provoking cause you can't make choices without thinking of the underlying issues. You can't decide as Markus whether to be a violent or a pacifist revolutionary leader without asking the question: what's morally justifiable in that circumstance?"