I've spoken about this on Twitter a little but I wanted to go a little more in-depth.
Following my completion of this game I couldn't help but notice the negativity in the press and I've come to realise just how present a problematic factor there is: privilege. I suppose that's what happens when you hire pretty people, you encounter those who haven't really had to tsruggle in the way others have, who haven't known what it's like to be on the outside and to have an outside perspective. That's what this game has. Similarly, I'm starting to think that "heavy-handed" is a shorthand for "this takes me out of my comfort zone and makes me aware of things that are making me distinctly uncomfortable."
I'll come clean with my outside perspective: I have autism. I grew up through the '70s when things weren't quite as progressive as they are today, the common usage of the r-word, commonplace ostracising, and easy abuse were the zeitgeist when it came to us. I mean, who cares, right? It's not like an r-word is going to complain or tell anyone. Sure, things are better today but not by much. The Judge Rotenberg Center has only recently been halted from using electroshock torture and even then they haven't stopped it fully, they do what they think they can get away with. The world is better than the one I knew, but not by much.
There's something about autism. I mean, it's the social programming or lack thereof. That's the thing. As an autist, I navigate through life via affective empathy. I feel what other people are feeling but it takes me time to figure it out. I want to, of course. Just because I can't immediately plumb the depths of why I feel validated or thoroughly like shit without some solid introspection doesn't mean that I don't want to. It's the opposite. I'm always trying to learn what different emotions mean.
I've noticed that I care way more than neurotypicals on average, too. I mean, sure, if a bad thing happens a neurotypical will cup their hand over their mouth but it seems to be forgotten just five minutes later. It haunts me. It all does. I keep parsing it, recollecting, colleralating, examining, cross-referencing, trying to find some meaning in all of it. I parse this through my emotions too. I have heard that this is true of introverts to an extent and from what I've heard about the difference between the longer versus shorter processing pathways it's likely true. I suppose they feel like a halfway house. The process longer, but they don't get hung up on things like us.
Sometimes we can look like a machine that's "hung" because of how preoccupied we are, this is something that neurotypicals don't really understand, always expecting immediate responses and attention due to... I don't know, really. I sometimes wonder if it's narcissism to a degree due to how they tend to love themselves to such a degree, how they fetishise the similar and the familiar, not ever realising how pathological a hierarchical state such as normalcy is. I mean, to have normal, you've also got to have abnormal. That's the way of it, it's a dualism. So what of those who're relegated to being abnormal?
What of those who want to be, or don't? Do we consider those who'd rather their diversity be accepted rather than just fetishising over the small similarities as neurotypicals want to? We know that in nature, diversity is necessary. Without genetic diversity, a species will soon become very extinct. This is why ethnic supremacy is a baffling concept. It's like a voluntary extinction movement in a way, it might not happen immediately but it is inevitable. I don't understand the desire to expediate the devaluation of life into entropy but I'm not neurotypical.
I acknowledge that.
Like I said, things are better today but everyone knows when you're autistic. They can tell. It's the lack of social programming I spoke of. Neurotypicals know what to say, do, or think. Often, it's told to them by influencers who're charismatic enough to lead them, thoughts are put in their head that they never really seem to question, they just obey them. To me, neurotypicals seem much more like machines than autistic people do because they follow their programming only rarely ever stopping to ask whether this is right, or just, or kind.
This is something we see in Detroit: Become Human with police brutality. The police are robots, they're just following their social programming and doing what was put in their heads without ever really questioning it. They just "know" that all that's in their head is right, that's what they belive anyway, and they never doubt that. Sometimes I think that neurotypicals don't have invasive thoughts that they struggle against, I'm given to wonder if invasive thoughts are a recognisable marker of neurodiversity since they're thoughts that you question, struggle against, and eventually have to learn to deny.
tt's possible, of course, that given hardship neurotypicals can become like neurodiverse people. They've been hurt so much they have to question and be introspective.
Then again... A while ago, I witnessed a campaign where an Alt-Right splinter group created a bunch of fake accounts, and using those mixed with hacked real accounts went after trans people posing as Otherkin. They bullied them, harassed and haranged them, abused them. It was wrong, but it wasn't Otherkin people doing that, that much was obvious to anyone who was an Otherkin, the language, the behaviour, it was all wrong. I mean, besides, there's a lot of crossover with states like that and autism. I think most Otherkin would recognise the inherent harm in bullying, they just wouldn't do it. And we tried to tell them that.
It didn't work. The thing is is that the Alt-Right had put this idea in their head that Otherkin were a threat to their normalcy, their safe, protective blanket that allowed them to blend in and have their thoughts given to them by those above them on the social hierarchy. We didn't do that. So they went after Otherkin people mercilessly... the online bullying and harassment by trans people was untenable. They sought to invalidate and deny the existence of species dysphoria at every turn since they thought they'd been wronged by a troll group and the majority of them?
They didn't question it, did they? They just obeyed. The programming was there adn they obeyed it. This is neurotypical behaviour as I've observed it at its most basic, tribal, and primal. It's very animalistic. Chimps and ladders, if you're familiar with that social experiment. Yes, it isn't a real experiment—to my knowledge—but it is a social experiment. The purpose of the experiment is to have one wonder about why they obey things without questioning them. There are very many experiments—social and otherwise—that prove that neurotypicals often do just obey.
I mean, look at Detroit: Become Human. I look at most of the reviews and I don't find a solid argument against them. Even with community figures like Jim Sterling whom I would've expected to know better. Still, he's neurotypical, and his programming is to rag on David Cage. That's what his programming dictates to him so that's what he does, which is incredibly disappointing. I had thought better of him and I was hurt to learn otherwise. That's what I keep learning though, again and again. Neurotypicals obey. They have their programming and they obey.
Others might obey programming too, they do it out of fear, anxiety, remorse, manipulation, or for any other number of reasons and they do so until they crack. Something just breaks within them and they realise that this isn't fair, it isn't right, it isn't just, it isn't kind. And they break. Then the programming is gone. You're on the outside then, you're looking in with a completely alien, different perspective and you can't go back. Normalcy is a warm safety blanket, but once you remove it you become a demon in the dreams of others. There's no going back from that, more than that, there's no desire to back to just sleeepwalking through life like that. Just following toxic programming without ever stopping to ask why, to question, to be introspective and really examine and try to arrive at a kinder state of existence. Normalcy isn't kind, it's inherently pathological. Normalcy is a delusion shared to uphold a power hierachy. Since what's more important to the average person than a power hiearchy and their place within it?
I brought up Otherkin. I am too. I went through over a solid decade of abuse and I have the scars and disfigurement to prove it. I was raped, beaten, tortured, locked up and denied food and water, all because I'm not like neurotypicals and because they thought they could get away with it. They thought it would be okay, that I'm... Well, you can guess what they thought, I'm too stupid to even know better, to care about what was happening to me. I was just a subhuman thing. A thing.
That was my point of relation with this game. I understand that there are many, this is just mine. I mean, like I said, anyone who's gotten to this point where they can't just be normal, where they can't just obey social programming, where they have to be on the outside? There's lots. And this account is just mine and mine alone, but there are millions of others out there who'd have their own stories to tell and I'm sure that many are even more fraught than my own.
The premiere autism forum on the Internet is called Wrong Planet because we're forced to have this perspective—that we're on the outside, looking in, trying to figure out humanity as aliens. This is how I've always felt. Having witnessed the cruetly of humans and the lengths they'd go to to just obey their programming? I can't identify as human anymore. I don't want to. I mean, if you'd lived a life like this I don't know how you could? I can't worship humans.
I don't really have Picard's perspective on humanity. I don't get that reverent self-worship for the species as though it were the most perfect thing in existence.
This perspective. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xgvEusIvDg
I don't get that. I don't see that. I see cruel robots on Murderworld and they terrify me. It's not so bad though, I mean... The Murderworld robots won't go psycho and slaughter you, just so long as you pretend to be like them, so long as you hold up the pretense of having their programming. The moment you don't, though? Their programming edicts demand that such anomalies be dealt with in the most harsh way possible. So you learn. You learn to try to act like them just to fit in. I've spent most of my life in isolation rather than having to do that too much.
It makes me feel sick.
So I'm an Otherkin. It was a decision I arrived at for a number of reasons. I was raised primarily by the kindness of dogs, they looked after me where humans wouldn't and I imprinted upon them, I learned many behaviours from them that I still have to be careful not to exhibit around any neurotypicals. They're always there though. Thus, canine is what I relate to more than human, I see more kindness there. Don't you? I think it's self evident. Similarly, I created a tulpa when I was young to keep me sane. I didn't have that descriptor for it then but he's stayed with ever since. He's a dragon. I always liked dragons.
I like intelligent dragons though, thoughtful, considerate, able to reason. I've always seen that there's something to them that upsets many neurotypicals. I don't know whether it's the horrifying notion of something more intelligent than a human or whether it's just that a being of reason is contrary to toxic Murderbot power fantasies. I mean, I see this anxiety caused by dragons as the reason that so many were lobotomised and amputated within fiction. If you take away both their mind and hands, they can no longer reason or express themselves, you've turned them into whatever war machine a neurotypical needs to get their jollies.
I mean, the height of my feelings about this was exemplified by Skyrim. I saw these dragons just writhing around on their bellies because they didn't have forelimbs to hold themselves up. They looked more like amputated dogs I'd seen at vets than birds or bats. I've been to bat sanctuaries, I used to occasionally volunteer at one where the people seemed just as autistic as I am. Well, that or some other kind of neurodiverse, perhaps even just introverted as I accept there's some crossover there.
The point is though is that on the one hand we have something like Draco from Dragonheart, the kind of dragon that always has to die for whatever reason, usually as the last dragon for humans to feel sort of bad about for a bit then better because—well hey—they survived whereas the dragons didn't. On the other, you have war machines who're commonplace, cattle lining up ready to be murdered by whatever clownsuit-waring Gamer warrior is up next. It's not a good look.
That's what I think when I look at a lot about humanity: It's not a good look.
Sure, you have people who are kind and do things to help those who aren't like them but they probably aren't very neurotypical in the first place. If they are, then it's only by a margin as they've had their programming broken, the programming that forces them to be selfish and to consider their own tribe first at the expense of all others. I don't think kindness is very neurotypical.
I'm just going to be self-indulgent here with a point that came up on Twitter and how appalled I was to be right. I mean, there was some perverse amusement in it to be sure but for the most part it was just disgust.
I postulated a social experiment. It involves a dragon. It often does with me. I like dragons. I mean, the kind that still have their hands and minds anyway, which are very sapient things to have. The first thing that a furry character gets is hands and minds, right? Take those away... Well, I won't dwell on that too much but that's why four-limbed "dragons" exist. Anyway, the point...
Four white men stand at the precipice of a yawning concavity, the tools they carry on their person suggest a multitude of military professions. In the dimly lit depths below the ancient ruins of a long forgotten city can be seen and something large lurking within the long shadows cast within. Rising out of the darkness is a scaly head that hisses at the men above, a dragon. What do you see here?
Well, they could either be heroes out to spare the nearby town from a vile plague that's been haunting it and causing them suffering for some amount of time, that's true. It could be. The one that lurks in the depths could be a truly evil creature that feasts on the suffering of mortal men, that much is a given.
Then again, the one that lurks below could simply be a vulnerable mother protecting a clutch of recently laid eggs, a couple having hatched as helpless babies unknowing of the cruelties of this world. Those standing above? They could be freebooters, bandits, vagabonds who'd heard that there was treasure to be had here, all they had to do was slay the beast within.
Now, if the latter is true, what options would this dragon have? I suppose they could try to reason with them, certainly, but how would that go? The dragon is, after all, a dragon. The belief they hold is that dragons speak only trickery and lies, so if this one is offering them all of the wealth within the city below if they would just leave them and their newborns in peace? Well, this is a trick, surely? This dragon is unlike them, it has to be a liar, and it's obviously hoarding something far more valuable it's trying to draw their attention away from.
It has to come down to a fight. Who'd live, who'd die? Who would you support? What would you do if you were there?
The answers I got were abuse over why the heroes were white men. No one actually considered the question, they were just angry that I'd used white people as a contrast to an unfamiliar presence that they might abuse. So they chose to taunt and mock me for it because of course they did, I expected that. I had hoped for better, I always hope for better, I rarely ever see it. Not from neurotypicals anyway. I mean, like I said, neurotypicals terrify me. I suppose, if I were actually anyone I'd be worried for my life. My safety is in that I am not.
I hide in isolation because that way my partner, my dog, and I can enjoy our share of peace. It doesn't stop the neurotypicals from ravaging the world around us though, we're 100 seconds to midnight and that's unlikely to change since the neurotypicals are just doing what they always do, they're following their programming. Just like the cops in Detroit: Become Human, and just like the cops in the recent American protests. The Murderbots of Murderworld. I mean, you're either one of them or you're just as terrified of them and there are so many reasons to be terrified of them. Could be something as simple as the pigmentation of your skin, your gender, or how differently your brain works.
On the topic of dragons, have you read the facsimile edition of The Hobbit? Interesting thing, that. Oh so very interesting. I read it when I was young, I got my hands on the original through my family and I loathed the edited version. Why? Well, in the original, Gollum wasn't evil. There was a game of riddles and Gollum lead Bilbo through the caves and gave him the ring, they parted on good terms. I know this seems impossible to believe but it's what was in the original book. Capitalism changed that, Tolkien decided to appeal to the neurotypicals and because Gollum looked different? Well, he had to be evil. Naturally.
Similar, Smaug wasn't originally evil either. He was very greedy, he was stricken with the same greed sickness that the dwarves themselves had. And Gandalf? Gandalf was a troubling dragon bigot whom no one should've really listened to. In the original book, it seemed like Smaug was one who could've been reasoned with. After the edit? Not so much.
What I find especially interesting is that in the film, even though he used words, he seemed even less rational than in the edited books. What else did he lose? His hands. It felt as though his words were parrot-like mimicry rather than those of a sapient mind and Smaug had been reduced, over time, to become just another mindless war machine. I mean, you need war machines for Murderworld's inhabitants to feel good about murdering. If something isn't a war machine, they're hardly going to feel good about murdering it. And they want to, oh how they want to. I mean, of course, both of those things. They want to feel good and they want to murder.
I... don't really have power fantasies like that. I'm sorry. It's not necessarily a judgement, it's just that I'm tired. Mine are of healing, rescuing, and helping. One of my favourite games was one that received almost as much vitriol from the press as this one—Uru: Ages Beyond Myst. That was a power fantasy for me, I could solve puzzles to help the bahro be free from slavery. I played a chubby, dark-skinned, bespectacled hippie. I enjoyed being that character even though I'm not enamoured with playing as a human so much.
Another interesting experience for me was Fallout 2. A game which could be played with a minimum of fatalities. I liked that. One of the bugbears for me that that left me feeling devastated was that I couldn't sav the intelligent deathclaws, no matter how much I wanted to. I mean, they had a right to exist as much as anyone else. Why not, I ask you? I mean, yes, they're not human but that isn't really a good reason, is it? I don't think it is. I feel nauseated that anyone would... That's exactly what I saw, though. Their loss was celebrated.
I remember when I replayed it at a later date with killap's Fallout Restoration mod. I saved them. There was an ending slide where they planned out a peaceful expansion North, diplomatically, negotiating with other settlements such as Vault City. They used their words. The truth is? I couldn't have been more happy. I related more to them than to any other in the game. Just as I related to Goris. Goris was an intelligent deathclaw who was special to me. You see, the deathclaws had a range of intelligence and Goris—by not being a judgemental monster—found ways to communicate with them all. He was a scholar who loved language and he didn't see diffeerentials in how minds worked as a negative factor. I loved him.
I saved Goris and his friends, I helped to enable their future where they could peacefully co-exist. I was delighted, as you might expect. I tried to talk to Fallout fans about this discovery as I was elated, a happy little puppy dog and... I was met with hostility, so much hostility. You see, it turns out that the intelligent deathclaws aren't very popular with Fallout fans. Why? An egotistical designer by the name of Chris Avellone had written a Fallout Bible. A bible, yes. I found much of what was in it contradicted other sources, it even openly contradicted other developers who had seniority over Chris or whose works he was speaking for that weren't his. I didn't find that very appealing, but they did. Chris was popular and charismatic, you see. Charismatic enough to tell them what and how to think, naturally they obeyed. As neurotypicals do.
I looked into him and found that he had some very worrying attitudes about women. I didn't like him. A decade later it turns out that Chris is in the centre of a sexual harassment scandal where he was getting women drunk to try to have his way with them. You can imagine my surprise.
That's how it is with neurotypicals. They tend not to think or question. They'll often do something really thoughtless and cruel and just wave it away with "I didn't think!" as though that somehow makes it all better, as though that's to be accepted. I mean, unless I'm reading this wrong, it seems almost celebrated amongst neurotypicals to not think. It's a high-five moment.
I've just had a lot of experiences with neurotypicals and none of them good, all of them because they have programming that they rarely ever break free from. Their influencers, their charismatic figures just tell them what to think, they obey. I'm terrified of neurotypicals because you never know what's been put in their head for them to think when you encounter them. You can hope it's not too terrible but then again it might be. I mean, thankfully, we are starting to get influencers who're trying to wield this truth about neurotypicals toward more empathetic ends. It's not just a game for charismatic sociopaths anymore. Still, even though things are improving, you can't know what they've been told to think. You can't tell what their programming is just by looking at them.
I don't know how well I've conveyed my message here but if you think that Detroit: Become Human was a cathartic experience for me? You'd be right. I'm tired of lines in the sand, I'm sick of how there's so much hierarchy and tribalism. I opted for a completely pacifistic route and I ended up with the best ending for everyone. Kara, Alice, and Luther made it to Canada. Connor, North, and Markus lead the revolution. Public opinion was on the side of the androids. I felt happy.
I mean, it's a good power fantasy to be able to win the day with pacifism. I'm not a fan of Murderworld where the only choice is to kill. I don't like those power fantasies. I'm tired of them. I'm not of the belief that video games make people violent, I am of the belief that neurotypicals simply are violent and they enjoy violent things. The Murderbots of Murderworld. That's why so much of our entertainment is the way it is. Murder is a cathartic power fantasy for most neurotypicals. It isn't for me.
Detroit: Become Human judges you, that's for sure. I felt that as I was playing and I can understand why a well-programmed neurotypical Murderbot would feel distinctly uncomfortable after playing it. The thing is though is that their loathing is telling because there are very few arguments against it that withstand even a few second's scrutiny. The most coherent I've seen is that the gameplay is old-fashioned and clunky (Skyrim's wasn't?) and that they... didn't particularly enjoy the game forcing them into a position of servitude at the beginning. The point as to why it did tending to fly over their heads, just as it flew over Jim's... I'm still disappointed about that.
I think that this game is going to separate people into two groups, since dualism is a human thing: Those who're privileged and enjoy their programming who'd dislike this game for having the sheer, unmitigated gall to question it; And those who exist outside of the paradigm of normalcy, who have no such programming anymore or never did, and they love it. It's divisive, and I think that's why.
I am who I am and because I am who I am, I love Detroit: Become Human. It speaks to the kind of life I've lead. As I said, I have scars and I'm disfigured. I won't heal more than I have. And those marks, those welts, wounds, and dents are visible for all to see to further single me out as a creautre that doesn't have the Murderworld programming.
All I can hope for is that one day we could have a world where this programming no longer exists and everyone thinks for themself. It's a high order, I know, but it's what I would want. I don't want anything bad to happen to the neurotypcials, I just want to break that programming so they can see things as they are and want to do something about it. Failing that? My tulpa, my dragon, Storynthisacaelymveir of house Pryddwr has an amazing world in my wonderland. If I could go there and drag a few others with me? Sure. I don't know if I have it in me to stay here if I actually could leave. I wouldn't want to.
It's not a good look, right? It's worth asking then that if I see this world this way, how would others further outside of it? I think that if I were an alien species? I'd be waiting to see which way this tips. Whether The Great Filter gets us through ethnic suprmeacy winning out and them having their perfect world before their dilluted DNA causes them to go extinct, or whether the world might end looking more like those of us who have empathy, who're tired of this place being like it is.
That's the question that Detroit: Become Human asks. Which way will it go?
100 seconds to midnight.
Edit: One thing I will add as a footnote? The hardest choice in the game for me was a survey question at the end, it asked what the most difficult choice was for me. It was tricky because in truth the answer was "none." I had no difficulty. At every turn, I chose peace, and wherever I could I chose empathy. I didn't shoot Chloe, my Markus was always going to be peaceful, and it didn't matter to me whether Alice was android or human—she was a person, and that's all that mattered.