If you saw David Cage's presentation at Sony's PS4 presser, you were witness to a crystalline example of why he's become gaming's pariah. His cavalier dismissal of The Great Train Robbery simply because it was a silent film speaks to the shallowness of Cage's understanding of the very medium he's attempting to emulate, and the exercise of defining pixels as a kind of emotional currency suggests a fundamental disconnect with the industry he works in.
A recent article by Laura Parker here at Gamespot attempted to reframe Cage's views as those of a visionary attempting to move the medium into a brighter future, but Ms. Parker's only success is in painting herself as a novie public relations rep. She says that Cage's position isn't to bash Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty, only to say that "more mature" games should exist alongside them, but this is wrong in two senses--first, Cage obviously does mean to bash GTA and CoD, otherwise his decrying of their inclusion on the list of top-selling games wouldn't have a point. Secondly, mature games already do exist alongside the top-selers...and Grant Theft Auto is one of them. Rockstar's franchise gained popularity as the finest satire in gaming history, and has grown into a series that also deals with controversial themes, and arguably handles them better than any of Cage's efforts thusfar.
Ironically, Cage's ensuing argument is that gaming needs to take its cues from Hollywood to balance the scales. Yet if he were to look at a list of the top-grossing films, he'd find cringe-worthy such as Transformers, Avatar, and Skyfall--In other words, Call of Duty, Madden, and Assassins' Creed. The top-grossing films are almost always action-filled and puddle-deep.
The most infuriating aspect of Cage's pretentious rants isn't that he's fundamentally wrong--though he very clearly is--or even that the kind of emotionally-evocative games don't already exist--even though The Walking Dead is better than anything he's ever done--but the way he makes himself out to be a martyr. Ms. Parker irresponsibly enables him in this effort by advancing the dangerously unfounded claim that Cage's critics are only critics because they feel personally threatened by him. She offers nothing to support this huge accusation, and doesn't give a voice to the people Cage is making the accusation of. This brash tactic is indicative of the apologetics Ms. Parker engages in with this fluff piece disguised as journalism.
In spite of everything David Cage does and says to damage his own reputation, one thing we can't disagree with is his insistence that the medium continues to make strides, both technologically and artistically. One of the biggest wishes from gamers prior to the PS4 announcement--and while still awaiting the presumed new XBox announcement--was vastly improved hardware. It's probably not possible today to make the obvious graphical leap from the current gen to the next as was the jump from the last gen to the current one, but that's basically what gamers want. The positive response to gripping story-based games like The Walking Dead and artistic efforts like Journey shows that gamers also want the industry to grow in that respect as well. What Cage misses is that the industry actually is growing in such ways. The stagnation he sees seems to be a projection of his own shortcomings, namely is inability to move past the weak interactive cinema experience Quantic Dream has been hung up on since its inception in the 1990s.
David Cage isn't the prophet we've been waiting for, contrary to what he wants you to believe. He's arrogant, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but he fails to back it up with the kind of innovation he demands of other developers. He comes off as a Hollywood wanna-be, evident in his constant bragging over the inclusion of Ellen Paige in Beyond 2 Souls, as if famous actors have never been in video games before. Games have been emotionally evocative since the Playstation One days, where an entire generation of gamers shed a tear at the death of Aries Gainsborough, and the tradition has carried on ever since.
What he really wants is photorealism, so he can take advantage of the talented actors he's hiring. And that's fine, if only he'd admit to it, and stop disparaging an industry that he has yet to lead by example.