Ubisoft keeps pretending its political games don’t have politics in them


Today Ubisoft officially unveiled the latest Tom Clancy release, Ghost Recon: Breakpoint. A sequel to 2017’s Wildlands, it’s another realistic military shooter — and another chance for Ubisoft to say that its games are free of politics.

It’s become something of a trend for the French publisher, which makes big-budget action games that feature settings and storylines plucked from the headlines, yet stubbornly refuse to say much of substance despite this. Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot told The Guardian last year that, instead of making political statements, the company makes games where the goal “is to make people think.”

Here are just a few examples of the company’s insistence on staying away from politics — and just how ridiculous that can be when you look at the actual games.

Ghost Recon: Breakpoint

What it’s about: Players explore an island compound in the South Pacific owned by a rich tech CEO, who made his fortune through autonomous drones and AI. “Initially interested in a remote testing site for its autonomous drones, the Silicon Valley company eventually turned Auroa into its ‘World 2.0,’ a high-tech, high-security utopia of sustainable eco-cities and robotics research,” Ubisoft explains. One of your main enemies is a rogue group of former US soldiers.

What Ubisoft says: Lead developer Sébastien Le Prestre tells Gamespot, “We’re creating a game here, we’re not trying to make political statements in our games. We’ve rooted ourselves in reality, and you’ll get what you get out of your playthrough — everybody will get something different out of their experience. The story might make you see different situations, but we’re not trying to guide anybody or to make any sorts of statements. It’s a ‘What if?’ scenario, it’s Tom Clancy, it’s purely fictional.”

The Division 2

The Division 2

What it’s about: Set in Washington, DC following a devastating pandemic caused by a terrorist attack, the game tasks players — in the role of agents of the Strategic Homeland Division — with fighting corporate militias to gain back control of the nation’s capital. (In a promotional email, Ubisoft asked players to “come see what a real government shutdown looks like.” The company later apologized.)

What Ubisoft says: Speaking to Polygon, creative director Terry Spier said, “We’re definitely not making any political statements.” He also told Kotaku “the goal isn’t to make a political statement. It’s not to reflect on any of the things that are happening in the current world, in the live world.” Later, Alf Condelius, COO of developer Ubisoft Massive said at a conference that “we cannot be openly political in our games… It’s also bad for business, unfortunately, if you want the honest truth.”

Image: Far Cry 5

Far Cry 5

What it’s about: A cult consisting primarily of heavily armed white men take over a small Montana county in order to live outside of government control. The first promotional art for the game was an Americana take on The Last Supper, complete with an alternate version of the US flag as a tablecloth.

What Ubisoft says: When The Verge asked creative director Dan Hay about how the game and its imagery were impacted by the turmoil in modern American politics, he said “I don’t think you’d believe me if I said, ‘Oh that has no effect on us.’ Of course it does. We’re human beings and we have conversations and we go home and turn on the news. Things that we never imagined would happen are happening and it affects us. There’s always room for ‘What does that mean?’ and ‘How does that impact things?’ … I think the key for us is that sometimes if you try to make something for everyone, you make nothing.”

Ghost Recon: Wildlands

What it’s about: After becoming overrun by a Mexican drug cartel, Bolivia turns into the world’s largest producer of cocaine and a violent war zone. Players, as special agents of the US government, have to kill their way through the cartel to stabilize the region.

What Ubisoft says: When the Bolivian government voiced displeasure over its depiction in the game, Ubisoft responded with a statement explaining that “While the game’s premise imagines a different reality than the one that exists in Bolivia today, we do hope that the in-game world comes close to representing the country’s beautiful topography.”

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