A video game depicting child abuse and domestic violence has been condemned as "repulsive".

In one harrowing scene, a girl aged about ten is heard screaming as her father apparently beats her to death in her bedroom, the Daily Mail reports.

The multi-million dollar game, Detroit: Become Human, is likely to be a hit when launched next year by Japanese games giant Sony.

The UK's Childline founder Dame Esther Rantzen called the game – made for the PlayStation 4 console – "sick and repulsive" and urged publisher Sony Interactive Entertainment to either remove the child abuse scene or withdraw the game.

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Dame Esther told The Mail on Sunday: "Violence against children is not entertainment. It's not a game. It's a real nightmare for thousands of children who have to live through these kinds of scenarios. The makers of this game should be thoroughly ashamed. I think it's perverse. Who thinks beating a child is entertainment?"

Andy Burrows, of the NSPCC, added: "Any video game that trivialises or normalises child abuse, neglect or domestic violence for entertainment is unacceptable."

But the man who wrote and directed the game tried to deflect the criticism of the abuse scene by describing it as "very strong and moving".

Set in the "near-future" in the US city Detroit, the game features lifelike androids which have become part of society.

Players take on the role of one of them, cyborg housekeeper Kara, and can decide how the story unfolds by making choices with their controllers, prompted by options flashing up on screen.

Kara goes to work for Todd, an abusive father, who orders her to clean the house and look after his daughter Alice. The storyline soon takes a dark turn with Todd exploding with rage over dinner and blaming his daughter for the break-up of his marriage.

By choosing from a variety of options, the game offers players the chance to prevent Alice's apparent death. Kara can run upstairs with the girl, for instance, or lock a door or try to reason with Todd. Each option has different outcomes.

The father is not only violent toward his daughter, but Kara too. Photo / Youtube
The father is not only violent toward his daughter, but Kara too. Photo / Youtube

Peter Saunders, founder of the National Association of People Abused in Childhood, said: "Abusers will get off on this stuff and the other thing we know beyond question is that videos games end up being played by children and, scarily, the proliferation of salacious and abusive images is actually encouraging violence and abuse.

"And we know that abuse in all its forms is escalating on this planet so why not help to tackle it constructively rather than sensationalise and make money out if it?'

The game has been developed by French firm Quantic Dream. One of their previous adventure games, Heavy Rain, cost $68.5 million to develop and market and ended up banking Sony more than $172 million.

Players take on the role of Kara, choosing which actions she will take. Photo / Youtube
Players take on the role of Kara, choosing which actions she will take. Photo / Youtube

Last night Quantic did not respond to requests by The Mail on Sunday for comment.

David Cage, who wrote and directed the game, has defended it. He told an interviewer: "If you look really into the game and if you play it you'll understand that the game is not about domestic abuse. It's a part of Kara's [the android's] story – she's not a victim and she has a beautiful story. Hopefully you will be moved by what happens."

Asked about the abuse scene, Mr Cage said: "For me it's a very strong and moving scene, and I was interested to put the player in the position of this woman. I chose her point of view."

He added: "What's important to me, and what's important in Detroit is to say that a game is as legitimate as a film or a book or a play to explore any topic such as domestic abuse."

But Children's Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, said that whatever the makers' motivations "it seems to end up in a clumsy, inappropriate and graphic gameplay that is no more than an unpleasant exploitative way of making money off the back of real suffering".

A spokesperson from New Zealand's Office of Film and Literature Classification said Detroit: Becoming Human has not been submitted for classification here yet and, "without examining the game we cannot comment on its likely classification".

WHERE TO GET HELP:

Women's Refuge: Free national crisisline operates 24/7 - 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843 www.womensrefuge.org.nz
Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633 www.2shine.org.nz
It's Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450 www.areyouok.org.nz
Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and Middle Eastern women and their children. Crisisline 24/7 0800 742 584
Ministry of Justice: www.justice.govt.nz/family-justice/domestic-violence
National Network of Stopping Violence: www.nnsvs.org.nz
White Ribbon: Aiming to eliminate men's violence towards women, focusing this year on sexual violence and the issue of consent. www.whiteribbon.org.nz