If you enjoy Ubisoft games, you may have noticed a trend with the company. It likes to make games that have political themes, ones that are very overt and in the open, then try to pretend these games have nothing to do with politics. It is a classic example of bait and switch, and it seems Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 is the latest game to deal with this issue. It was revealed at E3 2018, with a premise, character designs, and setting revealed. Naturally, things get very political, but then Terry Spier, Red Storm Entertainment’s Creative Director, did an interview with Polygon trying to backtrack and say that this is a totally neutral game, guys. Which is ridiculous, lessens the impact of the game, and does not give its players enough credit.
To help set the stage, let’s understand what Spier said. Polygon’s Charlie Hall said, “Taking up arms against a corrupt government is not a political statement?” Spier responded, “No. It’s not a political statement. No, we are absolutely here to explore a new city.” When the American flag on The Division 2’s character’s backpack was brought it, Spier said it was “absolutely not” a political statement. Spier keeps saying it is a work of fiction and not political.
But let’s be honest here. The Division 2 is a game about a civil war. Our characters represent soldiers of the old government, which fell to pieces when The Dollar Flu, a smallpox pandemic that spread on money distributed during Black Friday 2015, wiped out much of the United States. They are coming to Washington D.C., our country’s capital. Our avatars are people who have the supreme authority to do whatever they want to take control of the country, no questions asked. They are one side in a civil war where the opposing side came up to power when the current government failed, and our hero is being painted as a patriot with a flag on their back. Every single detail there is political. It is like trying to say Donald Trump making opinionated tweets from the official President of the United States Twitter account isn’t political. It doesn’t make sense.
I mean, let’s go over this. The idea that this plague was spread on the most capitalistic and materialistic day of the year, on money no less, makes a statement. It suggests The Division 2 offers an anti-capitalistic view of the current economic system, which while mixed, leans more towards capitalism than socialism. It is set in Washington D.C., the hub of all political activity in the country. This is where all major decisions happen, suggesting what happens in The Division 2 impacts the entire U.S. Our avatars are actual government agents. Their mission is political in nature, since they are there to wipe out the new sitting government. Their job is to restore “order.” Which is order according to the old laws. Not to mention this is happening during a civil war.
But then, this behavior is quite unsurprising. The original The Division put players in an environment where their government agents were given the power of judge, jury and executioner in a martial law situation, all in the name of getting power back into the hands of the government. That was surely political in nature, but Ubisoft brushed it aside. Then, with Far Cry 5, Ubisoft gave us a situation where a cult with very obvious political and religious overtones took over a Montana town. After all, they are dodging the actual government and installing themselves as law and order in the town. The people there have a rather Republican mindset. The cover has the cult leader at a table with the American flag used as a tablecloth. Civil wars happen when people have major disagreements over political ideals. They don’t happen when people argue over the last waffle or who owns what plot of land.
It feels like a situation where the idea of political themes is used in an attempt to be edgy or as window dressing, but no actual substance is offered. There is no questioning whether or not the behavior exhibited by people is right or wrong. While they will use the American flag as a fashion accessory or decoration in rooms and there may be actions or lines in the script that specifically align characters with a certain mindset, Ubisoft seems to consistently think that hand-waving away any questions about its nature is enough to keep things opaque enough for people afraid of any game that dares attempt to have a mature take on something.
The Division 2 is a political game. It is set in a world where money carried a plague that devastated the United States. It is set in Washington D.C., where a group of government agents with no rules governing their behavior and iconography showing their side are given free reign to indiscriminately take out people they consider obstacles to their missions during a civil war. Ubisoft can claim this and other games aren’t political all they like, but the products speak for themselves.
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