My Take on Detroit Become Human

My escapism through video games has taken me many places throughout my life- one of the most recent being a futuristic version of the city Detroit.

I played the game a few weeks after it came out and had some strong things to say about it then and now, with more careful consideration, have decided to write a full piece about them.

I will be covering my thoughts in three sections-

1- The games treatment of women

2- The games treatment of minority groups (Disabled/ Ill characters, POC and LGBT characters)

3- The handling of abuse and addiction based storylines

The first part is the games treatment of women, more specifically how the women are portrayed and what messages are being sent by these portrayals.

There are 10 main female characters in Detroit Become Human (according to a gamingph article that I will link below) all of which fall into stereotypical and often harmful roles that we see across most media types.

I have separated these 10 characters into 4 main categories Carer, Servant, Tyrant and Damsel in Distress.

The most notable category here is the carer. This role is undertaken by the majority of our “Good” characters- Kara, Rose and Lucy all fit in this category. These characters are able to intuit the needs of those around them, and provide support in either a maternal or medical role to the other characters. It is important to mention that this category includes the only playable female character which means that we see significantly more screen time of a woman in a maternal caring role.

The next category is the servant. While this category only includes tertiary and almost background characters, this category still makes up almost a third of the women portrayed. Chloe, Traci and ST300 (Every female receptionist) take on a role of servitude. Chloe falls slightly outside this if you include her menu screen storyline, however, if you only include her story within gameplay she fits exactly in this category. Traci obviously falls into this category, as she was essentially a slave- the same goes for ST300.

Tyrant, I decided to call this category tyrant rather than leader for one main reason- both of these characters are portrayed as the enemy in the pro-android play throughs (Pro-android being the most common opinion amongst playable characters and players). These women are the president (who looked suspiciously like Hillary Clinton) and Amanda- both of which hold an anti-android stance and both are portrayed as powerful, independent women.

And finally, the damsel in distress. These characters include North and Alice. Alice is helpless and requires constant saving and protection- as she is a child this is understandable. North is in this category because the only plot service she provides is as a love interest- she is there to be an angry survivor whose problems are all solved when a man shows up.

These portrayals of women are either an obvious negative depiction or slightly more subtle in their misogyny. The obvious being that almost a third of the female cast are in a position of servitude- generally to men and the more subtle being the jabs at women in power. The contrast between the good characters being mothers and the bad characters being women in power was obvious to me after one play through. In this game a “good” woman is a carer, a servant or helpless- only there to be helpful to the men in their life or to fix the emotional damage they left behind. The “bad” women are the only one in charge of their decisions and have full control over, in this case, the largest android distribution company in Detriot and the Presidency of America. The message sent by these portrayals is that women are bad leaders, that women are only supposed to be caring for others and that if a woman is not serving a man, she is evil- and these are not the messages that I want to be seeing in any media, not just video games.

On top of these harmful portrayals that I have already mentioned, 6 of the 10 female characters are victims of abuse or violence, and only after this abuse are the characters able to take control of their situation- if they ever do.

The second point is the games treatment of minority or oppressed groups, including people with disabilities or mental illness, POC and LGBTQ+ people. I would like to note that I am both white and an atheist, so any points made about religion or racism should be taken with a grain of salt.

Within a chapter of the game there is a quest set in an android brothel, the main characters that you interact with are the owner, the memories of the androids and a lesbian android couple who are trying to escape. The lesbian couple are the only openly LGBTQ+ characters in the game and you are interacting with them as Connor, an android who is against any androids who have “broken free” and shown emotion. Most lesbians already face the issues of fetishization, dehumanisation and discrimination based on their sexuality. Viewing a lesbian couple in a situation where they are shown to be 1. Sex slaves, 2. Broken in the playable character’s eyes, and you get the option to kill them means that this is not a positive representation of lesbians as it contributes to the issues that most of them already face.

There are some stereotypes enforced about POC throughout the game. The playable character Marcus is thankfully well developed and I put that down to his actor being Jesse Williams who is an activist and very well suited to the role. Stereotypes are mostly seen in the secondary and tertiary characters however it does not make them less harmful. Luther, a character who accompanies Kara and Alice, is introduced as a bodyguard/slave to a white guy, and then continues as the strong and silent type. This stereotype enforces the idea that communicating your emotions is not a good thing and that black men should be or are intimidating. On top of all these stereotypes there is a blatant and superficial discussion of segregation and slavery that is present throughout the game, such as android being forced to stay on the back of the bus and the option to use the phrase “I have a dream” in your protests. These comparisons are done poorly and without consideration of their past and the very real issues that continue to plague or society today.

At the beginning of the game we are introduced to Carl Manfred, an elderly paraplegic man who Marcus takes care of. Carl, given his experience of life, is fairly pessimistic and easily exhausted by social obligations that come with his line of work. He often complains about his medical issues and age, describing himself as “”just an old man clinging to his brushes”. His portrayal, while likely accurate for someone of his age and life experience, implies that if you are disabled your life is not enjoyable.

Ralph, an android introduced to the player in the chapter fugitives, is depicted as having issues with speech, emotional regulation and rational thinking due to prior trauma. His portrayal as violent and unpredictable is an attempt at representation of a person with a trauma-based conditions, this attempt exaggerates the condition to make him seem like a threat and contributes to the infantilization and fearmongering that surrounds the topic of mental illness and the mentally ill.

Towards the end of the game, depending on your actions the characters are faced with a poorly masked and insensitive comparison to the holocaust. Detention centres set up to burn as many androids to death as possible can be seen on the outskirts of the city. The comparison and imagery are insensitive, distasteful and disgusting, it is ignorant of the past associated with the imagery and glorifies the hatred and death that was caused.

The third thing I would like to discuss is the games handling of addiction and abuse based story lines.

The game portrays domestic and sexual abuse as something that is easy to escape and something that can be thrown into a story simply to add emotion. This implies that the victims are somehow complicit and wanting to be abused which is insulting and untrue. These stories also either gloss over or completely ignore the long-term effects of the trauma such as paranoia and mental illnesses. To make matters worse all of the victims of domestic or sexual abuse are either women or sex slaves.

Many of the characters we see throughout the game, especially criminals, abusers and the homeless, are addicted to a drug that exists within the game called red ice. Hank, the work partner of playable character Connor, is an alcoholic. The red ice addicts are portrayed similarly to Ralph, violent and unpredictable, and thus have the same issues of fearmongering in regards to addiction as a mental illness. Hank’s alcoholism however is portrayed lightly, as something that is relatable and amusing rather than a serious addiction, this may be put down to the fact that alcohol is legal however it does not excuse the fact that the storyline was not handled appropriately given the serious nature of addiction and alcoholism.

In summary Detroit Become Human, despite its impressive technological elements and original gameplay style, is hindered by its poorly done storylines, handling of social and political issues and blatant ignorance in in regards to historical movements.

Gaming PH Article – https://gamingph.com/2018/06/list-of-real-life-characters-in-detroit-become-human/amp/

Title Image – https://www.gamepur.com/guide/29130-detroit-become-jericho-nest-walkthrough.html?amp

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Deciding to Learn from Home

So 2019 is holding some big new things, the biggest of them all being that I have left mainstream school. This is, as change tends to be, terrifying to me – and it certainly doesn’t help that I have no clue what my classes are.

There are so many reasons I could give for this decision but I’m not going to bother explaining that too much- instead I’m going to explain how I decided to do distance education.

Step one was realising that I wasn’t happy at school. I already knew that it was getting harder to motivate myself to get to school but it took me a while to even consider that it wasn’t just that my anxiety was getting worse. (Context: I came off of my anxiety meds in January 2018 after almost 7 years of being on them.) So I spent some time just using as many coping stategies as possible just to get through the day- this was roughly mid year.

Once I realized I wasn’t happy step two began- trying to find solutions. We talked to teachers, we asked for extension work, the whole shebang. This is where we got stuck for a while, we’d had meetings in previous years with the same issues and we always got the same answer “It will be better next year,” By the fourth meeting of 2018 I was so sick of hearing that phrase that I genuinely wanted to scream every time I heard it.

Step 3 was the worst part- looking at new schools. Mum and I spent a month or two researching schools. The one I prefered was too far away for us so we went and toured one locally with my dad. This is where it got hard, I was fine on the car ride in but for almost the whole tour I was either holding back tears or trying to cry as quietly as I could while dad tried to calm me down. It sucked, I felt so vulnerable and distressed and I didn’t have the right words to describe what was going through my head- I still don’t. But I knew that going to another school wasn’t the way to go. Thankfully one of my favourite cafes was nearby so we dropped dad off at the train station then got coffee and sandwiches (because coffee fixes everything.)

We took a break from looking for solutions for a bit after that, it was just too much to think about. It took about two or three weeks before I was ready to talk about school again.

Step four was figuring out if distance ed was right for me. We talked to our psychologist, psychiatrist, other doctors, family members. It was a lot. My sister had done distance ed for a year and had found it difficult so mum was a bit hesitant at first. I almost completely rejected the idea until we talked it through with the psychiatrist. But eventually we decided that it was best that I studied from home.

Step five, paperwork. So, so much paperwork. We had to get letters from so many people for me to even be allowed to do distance ed. I took a while to do my part of the paperwork. It felt very final. Like I was giving up on something and just leaving it behind. This quickly changed when I started doing work experience instead of going to school, I was significantly happier when I wasn’t at school and so I decided that it was time to finish the paperwork.

Step six was telling people. This was hard because they started to change once I said I was leaving. They were nicer to me and treated me as if they hadn’t been my friends for years already. I told as many people as I could either in person or over voice chat, it was harder than announcing it online but it felt like the more respectful thing to do.

I finished school on an ok note. I didn’t bother with a proper in person goodbye to my friends- I hadn’t been at school for a few weeks anyway. I sent them cards wishing them a happy holidays and thanked them for being there for me while I was at school but that was it. I was done with school and I was happy to move on.

Holidays are almost over now and it feels weird knowing that I’m not going back to school, at least not a physical school, and I still don’t know what my classes are. But I do know one thing; I can finally study Japanese after 3 years of asking to and I’m super excited. That and that I definitely made the right decision.

I’d also like to thank my mum for being there for me throughout this whole thing. I know that I was a pain in the butt for a lot of this process and I’m so glad we stuck with it.

Screw NAPLAN

Yes, NAPLAN. For those who don’t know, NAPLAN stands for National Assesment Program Literacy and Numeracy. It is a standarized test that helps the government decide which schools to fund.

This year the government put NAPLAN online, this is great for the environment and costs less but makes it a lot harder for students to read and has many variables that were not accounted for, such as students not owning computers or headphones and poor wifi. This meant that many students missed the test or had to repeat it.

NAPLAN is the perfect example of an easily avoidable high stress situation. Even without the added variables that come with online testing, NAPLAN is known to be a hellscape for students.

Reasons it is a hellscape:

1. During NAPLAN all normal school work and assesments go ahead regardless of the added pressure. I personally had 3 assesments due the same week as NAPLAN and missed performing for another one because of the make-up sessions.

2. NAPLAN has no topic specific study areas. Given its broad assesment NAPLAN has no specific areas to study in, this causes stress for all students and teachers trying to prepare. Tests from prior years can be used but aren’t reliable.

3. The knowledge that your report impacts the schools reputation and funding. This is less of an issue for the early years of NAPLAN, however the knowledge that you are directly contributing to the judgement of your school and teachers is extremely stressful, even if your impact is minor.

4. NAPLAN is designed with no consideration towards the needs of the person assessed, whether those needs are extended time to read the questions or if the person doesn’t speak English as a first language.

5. NAPLAN is a standardized test with one answer per question, this leaves little room for critical thinking and the differences between student thought processes.

What could be done instead of or to minimise the stress of NAPLAN:

1. The attitude to schools survey. The Attitude to School Survey is used alongside NAPLAN to choose what schools to fund and what programs to use in schools, if this survey got further elaborated on it could make it easier to choose the schools that prioritized people, more specifically students, over their performance in the limited areas of literacy and numeracy.

2. More communication with classroom teachers. Many of the government officials who made NAPLAN aren’t classroom teachers or are teachers who aren’t in the same area of teaching as many primary and highschool teachers. The disruption of routine caused by NAPLAN makes a classroom harder to work in for students and teachers therefore making the voices of the teachers more important.

3. Assess schools based on the quality of student wellbeing and student encouragement instead of a standard grade. This was mentioned in the attitude to school survey however it could be brought up in regards to the schools’ wellbeing programs or the students’ access to help services within the school. Eg. Does the school have a safe space for students to go when overwhelmed or frightened? Does the school encourage the students to support each other emotionally and to get help when needed? Etc.

4. Accommadate the students during NAPLAN. Put regular test dates on seperate weeks to NAPLAN or have specials at the canteens for that week, let the students know that NAPLAN is optional and tell them that it’s okay to be stressed if they are participating. Remind the students that they are more than a grade on paper. If the student needs more time to finish the test because they read slower or can’t type as quickly give them more time to finish the test. It’s not hard to help the students, ask them what they need.

5. Look at the schools art, music, drama and sport programs. Promote creativity and self expression rather than fitting into the HB pencil shaded bubbles. Literacy and numeracy are important however they tend to draw away from the thing that will show student potential the most: passion. Literacy and writing in particular can show the students potential creatively and numeracy shows analytical thinking and pattern spotting, however the students who don’t excel at either of these components get left behind in school because there is a lack of encouragement from a governmental standpoint.

To conclude, NAPLAN isn’t a positive reinforcement of learning nor is it a useful for students. Please share to any Australians you may know to spread the message.

Written by Darrell, an annoyed student who very much dislikes NAPLAN.

Continue reading “Screw NAPLAN”

Road Trip

We are home! The seemingly endless drive from the Gold Coast to Melbourne is done and it wasn’t awful.

Roadtrips are awesome. New places, new people and most importantly, new book shops. Unfortunately we didn’t stop in as many places as we would have hoped but here are some we have seen.

First up is all the empty fields:

And the toiletless rest stops (Much to mum’s dismay) :

We went to Dubbo Zoo,

As well as the Parkes Telescope (So cool):

Overall, it has been a lot of fun, very tiring, but lots of fun.

Sleeping Bendy

Mum says I “sleep bendy,” I’m not entirely sure what that means but it makes sense. I think “sleeping bendy” translates to a few things that people don’t realize about BJHS.

I sleep bendy so I need more pillows to avoid injury in my sleep.

When I fall asleep in chairs I curl around them.

When I sleep wrong it means more pain for a few days.

I sleep bendy and it means that I am an excellent cuddle partner (who needs to worry about space when I can curl up into *the* tiniest ball ever.)

Sleeping bendy can hurt, it can mean paying extra for more pillows, it can mean using people as pillows when necessary (sorry mum), sleeping bendy means being tired because you couldn’t sleep because you were too bendy sometimes.

To all those sleeping bendy, it’s okay, keep doing your best. Sleeping bendy is better than no sleep at all.

Sensory Stuff

Autism does weird stuff when you’re overwhelmed.

I love swimming, it’s why we are travelling for the commonwealth games but when you’re autistic the things you love can get overwhelming.

I had forgotten to pack my swimmers, mistake number one, so I had to get new ones. The ones I got were in a style I don’t usually wear and I had to get shorts to wear over them, another new thing. I usually swim in indoor, chlorinated pools or the ocean and I was in an outdoor, salt water pool.

The water was cold and too shallow for me to swim in properly, I tried backstroke but the new swimmers plus the hot/cold contrast from the air and water started to cause sensory overwhelm. I couldn’t swim and I was desperate for the familiar feeling of the water, not a good time. I (thankfully) was able to verbalise the overwhelm and mum found an amazing alternative, the spa!

It was warm, chlorinated, under cover and deep enough to cover my whole body. Definite win. I spent a long time in the spa and by the time i got out the overwhelm from earlier and the anxiety of being in an unfamiliar place had passed.

Autism is funny sometimes, in the way that it makes little things, like the lack of chlorine in the pool, feel distressing.

So next time you see a person with autism trying a new thing, think about all the smaller new things inside it, you never know how much energy it’s taking them just to try.

Flying with BJHS

BJHS (Benign Joint Hypermobility Syndrome) is a pain in the everything to fly with.

I woke up at 3am for the flight and everything was okay, no joint pain. And then came the sitting in the taxi, and in the airport, and in the plane, and on the bus. Sitting down hurts because of the pressure on my back, cushions help but there weren’t any to use at the time so that would hurt by itself, add in that I hadn’t had my anti-inflamatory medication for a week and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

Once off the bus breakfast and anti-inflamatories were my top priority, however medication can only do so much. So my next step was buying heatpacks, this took longer than expected (3 frickin hours) and the pain was making it hard to walk.

^ My nutritious breakfast ^

Once we got home I spent about two hours lying like this:

(Those things on my back are heatpacks. Aka: Life Saving Magic Bags)

^ The heatpacks are only $9 each! ^

In conclusion:

Heat packs = Yes

Hard chairs = No