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Detroit: Become Human stars one of the best characters of 2018

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One of the year’s most frustrating games features one of its very best heroes

Connor smiling in Detroit: Become Human Quantic Dream/Sony Interactive Entertainment

Saddled with a director notorious for sifting through complex issues with the delicacy of a jet engine, Detroit: Become Human never managed to ground its political, historical, and cultural themes. Worse, it showed disturbing insensitivity, with smug allusions to real-world problems (the game all but shouted “android lives matter”) and surface-level interrogations of race and human rights. It’s one of the year’s nastiest games. But it gave me Connor.

Connor is the silver lining in this raincloud of a video game, an empathetic police android whose story deserves to be told on its own, albeit in a game far less hackneyed. Had Connor’s been the sole storyline in Detroit, I have a feeling the game could have found a much fonder audience. Because I know for a fact that the internet loves Connor, and so do I.

Connor is one of the three androids whose parallel paths cross to create the overarching story of Detroit. The other two androids contend with the kind of stuff found in tearjerking prestige dramas and after-school specials. We’ve got the intersection of race and politics on one side (Markus), and domestic abuse on the other (Kara). Director David Cage’s heavy hand ensures that both are handled gracelessly, leaving players to fend off discomfort as they use button presses to avoid getting walloped by aggressive men, or choose between different parodies of legitimate black power slogans.

Connor holds a gun with an image of Markus in the background in Detroit: Become Human.
You don’t have to play Connor as a good android. But you’d be missing out on some of the best moments if you don’t.
Quantic Dream/Sony Interactive Entertainment

Connor’s story stands alone. He works for the police force, made up of humans who resent androids — especially his partner, Hank. This struggle could easily dip into a Cage-ian treatise on racism, and at times, it does.

But Connor’s is a much more intimate story. He grows from a robot built to enforce anti-android laws created by humans into something ... human. Or more appropriately, he shows that androids can share that spark we associate with human life.

There aren’t a lot of characters this year who went through the same trajectory as Connor, or at least, there aren’t a lot that were so likable. He is a perfectly chiseled man who’s attractive on the outside, yes, but he’s also, as the saying goes, good on the inside too.

He insists on earning Hank’s respect, and they bond through Connor’s repeated efforts. At one point, Connor saves Hank from a suicide attempt (at least when playing him as a positive, selfless figure). But he isn’t solely a defender of humans, something presumably baked into his programming.

Connor and Hank stand together in Detroit: Become Human
Hank (on the right) provides an obstacle to Connor’s attempts at integrating into regular human society.
Quantic Dream/Sony Interactive Entertainment

By the game’s end, he takes a stand for personhood, joining the side of the other androids that revolt against the humans’ treatment of them. It’s a touching moment that highlights Connor’s growth from monotone machine, to emotional android, to something new, something of his own.

Unlike Kara and Markus, Connor’s story has that heart-wrenching twist of having a human best friend, adding a fragile gray area to his endgame desire to stand up for his fellow androids. It’s the one part of Detroit that moved me. And just take a look at the passionate Tumblr fandom that fell in love with Connor, both because of his sweet friendship with surly Hank and his own mild-mannered nature. (A lot of those fans haven’t even played the game!)

Detroit is a game about making choices, so it’s easy to bypass the good version of Connor’s story. That’s a mistake, however; taking Connor down the bad-android route means missing out on some of the best characterization in game of 2018.