The Division 2

Cue the resounding and gleeful “I told you so” from yours truly.

You know, some people like to pretend video games exist in an a-political bubble. Now of course I know better, everything is to an extent political, but game developers, especially big ones like say, Ubisoft, really like to exploit this delusion. But it looks like a shift is occurring or at least is on its way to finally happening.

Case in point: The Division 2. During E3 in an interview for Polygon, the Division 2’s creative director Terry Spier argued that Ubisoft’s games are “not political”. Which sounds weird when you’re talking about a game set amidst a recent terrorist attack, corrupt vestiges of government arming up and a second civil war brewing.

Ubisoft’s CEO, Yves Guillemot, later gave a slightly different response in this interview for the Guardian. He stated that Ubisoft’s games are “political but neutral”. Which, if I’m understanding him right, means they strive to depict a political reality without taking a side.

Which, while admirable, isn’t always going to work out. I’m gonna give en example here- say, climate change. Your political opinion can be that it doesn’t exist, but that unfortunately won’t change the fact that, well, it does. Now Ubisoft is free to depict a world of many political views on the issue, but if they want to be neutral, they have to present the sheer facts and follow with the consequences of the political opinions about those facts, which will always seem like they did in fact take a side.

And they don’t have the best track record on this. The Assassin’s Creed series is known for its history-spanning, crazy alien conspiracy, while a game like, say, Far Cry 5, does present a political landscape, but doesn’t go into details on what made this landscape what it is. The cult of Joseph Seed is almost a parody of cults more than an actual cult. The crazy cultists from Outlast 2 make more sense.

Coming back to the point, while the Division 2 is more about shooting people than any political story, I worry it will fall into the sape pitfal Far Cry 5 did- that of presenting a political issue, throwing opinions about it around, but never examining the facts bellow it.