Daily Mail targets Detroit: Become Human over child abuse imagery

“The makers of this game should be thoroughly ashamed. I think it’s perverse”

The online arm of UK tabloid The Daily Mail has published a scathing article targeted at upcoming PS4 game Detroit: Become Human.

The game’s trailer shown off at Paris Games Week in October has already provoked plenty of debate, but the paper has – as you would expect – doused the fire with lots of provocative language and embellished descriptions.

“A video game depicting child abuse and domestic violence was condemned as ‘repulsive’ last night by MPs and campaigners,” the article reads. “In one harrowing scene, a girl aged about ten is heard screaming as her father apparently beats her to death in her bedroom.”

Much of the criticism seems to posit that games are purely a form of fun and escapist entertainment. The notion that a game – like a film or a book – may challenge a player by exploring social issues is entirely absent.

“Violence against children is not entertainment. It’s not a game. It’s a real nightmare for thousands of children who have to live through these kinds of scenarios,” Childline founder Dame Esther Rantzen said in The Mail on Sunday. “The makers of this game should be thoroughly ashamed. I think it’s perverse. Who thinks beating a child is entertainment?”

Rantzen also calls for Sony to scrap the game’s release, or at least heavily censor it.

The NSPCC’s Andy Burrows added: “Any video game that trivialises or normalises child abuse, neglect or domestic violence for entertainment is unacceptable.”

Whatever you made of the trailer (and there are some very rightful criticisms of what was shown in Paris in the name of ‘marketing’), no-one has even suggested that the depiction of domestic violence in the game is either entertainment or trivialising the subject, no more than To Kill a Mocking Bird uses slavery to titillate the reader.

Cranking up the controversy, Peter Saunders from the National Association of People Abused in Childhood added to the paper: “Abusers will get off on this stuff and the other thing we know beyond question is that videos games end up being played by children and, scarily, the proliferation of salacious and abusive images is actually encouraging violence and abuse.

“And we know that abuse in all its forms is escalating on this planet so why not help to tackle it constructively rather than sensationalise and make money out if it?”

There was also word from Tory MP and chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee Damian Collins, who again conflates video games with family fun: “It is completely wrong for domestic violence to be part of a video game regardless of what the motivation is. Domestic violence is not a game and this simply trivialises it. I worry that people who play this who themselves have suffered abuse will use this game to shape the way in which they deal with abusers.

“It’s dangerous to plant the seed in people’s minds that the way to deal with abusers is to use violence against them. It’s counter-productive and could put them in even more danger.”

David Cage has previously attempted to justify the scenes, although the online reaction to the comments suggest that a sizable number of people remain unconvinced. Few, however, would in 2017 sincerely argue that games by their nature should only apply to the pre-school market and that any deviation from this is a moral aberration.