Despite All My Rage I am Still Just David Cage

I think David Cage is at both times the most unique yet most disappointing independent designers out there. David Cage, for those not in the know, is a French video game designer and owner of the developer, Quantum Dream. Through this studio, he has produced the triplet of games: Indigo Prophecy, Heavy Rain, and Beyond: Two Souls. What has made Cage such a known yet despised figure is his rejection towards conventional game design. Most of his games are comprised of what can little else be called quick-time events, cutscenes whereby the player can pass or fail by responding to a button prompt. The reason for this is that Cage’s games are designed to be interactive stories told through a much more cinematic lens. Surprisingly, this is something I can somewhat get behind. The studio Tell Tale has been producing games for the past few years whereby gameplay is minimized save for button prompts and dialogue trees in the form of the excellent Walking Dead games or The Wolf Among Us. However, those games were far better received than anything Cage has put out. His games have at best drawn a passing interest of the academic and journalistic crowd and at worst received full-on contempt from their audience. 20150115191716!Heavy_Rain_Cover_ArtWhat separates Quantum Dream’s output from that of the work of Tell Tale, I think, is rather simple, Cage has very little to challenge him creatively. Of course, I’d be the first person to say you should have a single voice behind any project. However when you give all of that creative authority to one person, particularly one with little experience actually designing video games, you run the risk of having a project being driven by ego instead of pathos and ethos. While I’d hesitate to say I can have a solid opinion on any of his games, I watched other people play all three and given the gameplay in them, that’s actually pretty close to playing them. Overall, I’d call them interesting experiments at best. While they are narrative heavy, the problem is that said narratives start to break down under basic scrutiny. That or it has what does down in Indigo Prophecy where the entire series jumps the shark. As in suddenly the otherwise normal protagonist gains magic kung fu powers and can pull stunts straight from The Matrix. However, hands down the worst is Beyond: Two Souls. To ignore the stunt casting of Ellen Paige and Willem Defoe, Beyond: Two Souls’ greatest crime is how it’s effectively a game made up of scenes from disconnected films. No, seriously, this game flat out steals scenes from First Blood, Carrie, Black Hawk Down, and James Bond movies. It all complete mess narrative-wise, not helped by anachronological storytelling and a bizarre amount of ripping off from the much more enjoyable JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. And that’s to say nothing about the multiple, out of nowhere, and very disturbing attempted rape scenes. Cage’s best game to date has to be Heavy Rain and that’s mostly due to only being a rip off of Se7en and Saw. It’s not an master piece to say the least as it continues Cage’s problematic portrayal of his female characters, but at least it’s only drawing from two specific sources. The sad thing is that I wish David Cage was a more compelling designer. While his games are not good, they’re somewhat interesting and I’d like him to at least stand out from the crowd. It’s just his ambition quickly falls short of his output. His games leave little to go back and replay and now he’s focusing his ideas in even worse directions. One of the most polarizing and therefore news generating moments in Cage’s career came when he said that game overs are a failure of the designer in video games and in his latest project, Beyond Two Souls, omitted any chances for the player to, well, fail. To be completely honest, I don’t think this is a bad idea. There are plenty of fascinating ways that the inability to loose can be implemented, unfortunately David Cage doesn’t even do much with his own motto. Instead he simply ends up robbing plays of agency in what should be their own experience. For every step I think David Cage can make for the betterment of video games, he hasn’t even tried to move forward.

  2 comments for “Despite All My Rage I am Still Just David Cage

  1. Brianna H.
    February 12, 2015 at 6:38 pm

    Overall I agree with you on this post, as I believe that David Cage is pretentious and ultimately doesn’t understand what makes a video game a video game. While I do support Tell Tale and visual novels in that they can be great gaming experiences with interesting narratives, Cage fails both trying to create a fun gaming experience (seriously, the entire games revolve around quick-time events, that schtick gets old after a while) and on the story-telling aspect in that his characters are rather flat with the exception of one or two; I won’t even go into his sexualization and exploitation of female characters (that scene in “Heavy Rain” where Madison was about to be tortured really made my skin crawl). Cage could be considered the starting point in this sort of interactive fiction style of video games, but he is one that certainly doesn’t do it well as he is too obsessed with his own fetishes and M. Night Shyamalan “plot twists” that all he makes is games that are ridiculed by let’s players and the only defenders are hipsters who like pretentious, urban fantasy. I also recommend checking out the other games Cage has put out, like Omikron, and bawling like a baby while you do so. Trust me, the other three games will be improved in your eyes after playing this game.

  2. Aspen
    February 21, 2015 at 8:05 pm

    I found myself agreeing with a lot of this post, because David Cage is a bit of a walking ego. I don’t think many will fight you on that, haha! However, the scrutiny of Beyond Two Souls caught me off guard. You say “You run the risk of having a project being driven by ego instead of pathos and ethos.” Which is a great point to bring up, but are you saying that his games lack pathos? Because lets be reminded that Pathos is a quality that evokes pity or sadness. To say his games didn’t evoke pity or sadness is too opinionated I think, because Beyond Two Souls had many heartfelt moments in it and from a narrative standpoint, some brilliant writing and character design. To say something lacks ‘sadness,’ when multiple people have cried over it is a bit jaded, you know? But hey, sometimes narrative affects others differently so I can understand if you thought it was ‘meh,’ I know I have felt that way at times over certain games. However, when you said: “Beyond Two Souls omitted any chances for the player to, well, fail.” That isn’t true. When given the option to choose whether or not to kill Norah, she will, A) if you choose to end her suffering, she will die with a smile on her face or B) In order to be able to view her ending, she must be left alive. So if you use Aiden to stop her heart, her ending in the Beyond will not be available. I could see that as a player fail, if you wanted to view all the endings you would have to play the game over again and make the right decision. I know you didn’t actually play Beyond Two Souls, so just be careful about over simplifying. By the way, the name for this blog post was on point; I hope somehow David Cage sees it. Maybe that big head can deflate.

Leave a Reply