Kara, an android housekeeper, bears witness to an American father’s psychological and physical abuse of his daughter, Alice. However, she is not merely a witness, but a potential foil to the antagonist within this particular scenario. She (and thereby the player, via proxy) is capable of intervention. How the player goes about doing so however, is the key factor in preventing further conflict escalation. One's choices will affect the narrative in a multitude of different ways. Does Kara try to talk to Todd in order to calm him down? How does he respond? Will she take a more aggressive approach? Does she take Alice and flee? A world of possibilities is only a button press away. Yet, every choice has a consequence...If nothing is done, Alice will end up dying, making her death the least desirable outcome.
Todd is shown to be a drug-addicted father who has been left by his wife. Having lost his job “because of androids,” he lives with his daughter in a shanty house in the suburbs of Detroit. Kara had already been damaged by Todd once before and her memories have since been reset.
There has been a longstanding status quo between game makers and players not to address taboos and political aspects in games because of a prevailing notion that this particular medium is not suitable for handling the gravity of certain real-life situations or moral choices appropriately. As such, there has perhaps been a stagnation of meaningful narrative in games. David Cage and his development team's production may work to rectify this by treading through these uncharted waters, so to speak. Addressing difficult subject matter however makes navigating potentially more perilous for the medium’s writers and designers.
"Art imitates life, but should there be a limit to what is shown?"
Despite that comparison, it is still quite possible that gamers will see the game as a trivialization of needing only to make the “correct” choices in order to resolve such situations. Many people may feel that such choice is a misrepresentation of the reality of those who has suffered from, or who knows a survivor of, domestic abuse.
Now, Kara's story isn't the only focus of the grand, overall plot. In fact, there are at least three protagonists total, all of which have interwoven plotlines. One such, involves the Android negotiator Connor, who is sent to try to determine what events transpired during a hostage situation and prevent another Android, Daniel, from causing harm to come to a young girl. By investigating the crime scene and talking to SWAT personnel, the odds of success increase dramatically within the allotted time.
The third Android, Marcus, is trying to start an Android revolution. Recently gaining sentience, he must decide whether to make his demands known through forceful protest, or peaceful persistence.
Connor and Kara's storylines seem to be the most interesting of the three (at least to me), but perhaps in time we will see more of Marcus' inspirations and motivations.
It takes an incredible amount of courage to tackle extremely unpleasant themes or portray traumatic scenes, whether it be in game design, movie making, or other artistic design. We still need to be cautious of the glorification of and desensitization to, violence.