Thursday, November 7, 2013

David Cage and the Evolution of Beyond: Two Souls

Child Jodie in Beyond: Two Souls
My latest PopMatters article is now live: David Cage and the Evolution of Beyond: Two Souls.

I admit it. I'm a David Cage apologist. The creator of Faranheit, Heavy Rain, and most recently Beyond: Two Souls has a knack for making overblown statements in interviews and press events. He never seems able to fully understand how problematic some of his creations or statements really are, and devotion to filmic qualities in games rubs a lot of people the wrong way. Many seem Cage as a self-proclaimed prophet who is really more madman than seer.

Still, his games are fully committed to some vision Cage believes in passionately, and I appreciate the ardor with which he approaches his games and the games industry in general, even if it can come off sometimes as arrogant or patronizing. Beyond: Two Souls is particularly interesting because of how closely related it is to Heavy Rain, while still deviating in significant ways.

One thing I didn't actually talk about it this week's piece is Quantic Dream's relationship with game fluency. The studio is in an interesting position between making a very accessible game for those unfamiliar with gaming conventions and creating a clean interface free of distracting interface prompts. For the most part, their games feel like lessons in how to play games for new users. Even the difficult prompt, which asks for your familiarity with games and not your preference for Easy, Medium, or Hard, is an interesting attempt to disassociate skill with accessibility.

I once called Heavy Rain  a vocabulary builder, and I think Beyond fits that descriptor as well. For the most part, failure in Beyond is still stripped of its value judgements. Players unfamiliar with games are still welcome in Beyond, and might grow comfortably to branch out and try more games, and better ones. It might not be the success Cage is looking for, but it is a step in the right direction.

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